Anyone who's been to the old location of Los Gringos Locos in La Cañada is bound to be wowed by the transformation that's taken place there. Brady Caverly, the proprietor of the brand-new Flintridge Proper Restaurant and Bar, has spared little expense in upgrading the casual strip-mall space into a swanky venue. The service is professional, the cocktails outstanding and the energy buzzing.
One of the most interesting aspects of Proper is its clear understanding of its clientele. They appeal to every kind of La Cañadan — the connoisseur, the parent, the horse lover, the night-lifer. As one of my friends put it on our Girls' Night Out, "Proper is Taylor's-light." Most locals know Taylor's Steakhouse as the place for high-end food and drink. It is wonderful but can be dark and heavy with red meat. Proper has its share of comfort food, like pot roast and pot pie, but also has lighter fare such as chopped salad, salmon and juicy oysters on ice at the marble raw bar.
The cocktail bar was packed three people deep last Friday night and for good reason. Cocktails are masterfully mixed, many with homemade syrups (e.g. Grenadine) and fresh juices. The Aviation is an aromatic, heliotrope-hued elixir made with Death's Door gin and Bitter Truth Eau de Viollette delivered full to the brim in a vintage-style glass ($12). They specialize in high-quality gins but carry all sorts of distilled goods, entertainingly displayed in high shelves throughout the dining room.
I follow the trail of booze to where it ends at an amazing wall covered in absurdly expensive Butterfly wallpaper by English artist Damien Hirst. Elements of understated luxury are all around, stacked on mahogany shelves. "Like being in Hemingway's library," another friend says.
Even with the parking lot and a tire store just outside the windows, the atmosphere is posh and full of conversation and energy. The food, on the other hand, is uneven. The salmon on a bed of lentils and cherry tomatoes ($21) is scrumptious but the tiny half-chicken ($19) is pan-seared to an inexplicable dryness. The slow-cooked pot roast ($19) with fluffy grits and Brussels sprouts is divine but the turkey pot pie ($18) is monotonous. The smooshed potato appetizer with crab, asparagus and Hollandaise is decadently delicious but its presentation unrefined.
There was disagreement among the four of us over favorites. For instance I found it weird to put chicken on top of deviled eggs but I loved the sharp vinaigrette on the Hahamongna greens. Yet we were all amazed at the tasty clam chowder croquettes ($8). How do they bread and deep fry balls of liquid?
Breakfast was another lovely dining experience. The suited waiter was graciousness incarnate, delivering dark, smooth coffee in white china. He tried to convince me of the exquisiteness of the chef's spam and eggs on arugula but I just couldn't go there. I was happy with my house-made sausage, perfectly poached eggs, toasted fresh Sourdough and house-made jam ($9). The fabulous Proper Benedict has a saucy Bernaise and a Proper English muffin ($13).
There's a great deal that's special at Flintridge Proper and a great deal of time to enjoy it. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and a special pub menu until 11pm. The bar is open until at least midnight every night. La Cañada Flintridge can use a place like this. I predict Proper is here to stay.
What: The Flintridge Proper Restaurant & Bar
Where: 464 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8a.m. to midnight, Friday 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to midnight.
Contact: (818) 790-4888; www.theproper.com
--LISA DUPUY welcomes comments and suggestions at LDupuy@aol.com.