Drunk After Work: 320 Main
The Place: 320 Main, 320 Main St., Seal Beach; (562) 799-6246.
The Hours: 3-6 p.m. daily (including weekends); all day Sunday. Closed Monday.
The Deal: $4 draft crafts, $4 house wine, $4 well drinks, $4 appetizers. $5 speciality cocktails Tuesdays.
The Scene: 320 Main is a small restaurant tucked into one side of a building wedged in the third block of Seal Beach's increasingly hip downtown. The bar is appropriately dark and takes up nearly half the space; there are four tables crammed into a tiny patio at the front. While most of Seal Beach's drinking establishments cater to the young surfer crowd, 320 Main attracts the folks for whom Jägermeister is in the rearview mirror, including the OC 562's "ladies who lunch". This isn't a place for beachwear casual; while you don't need to put on the monkey suit, guys, consider wearing pants.
The Sauce: One of the best places for cocktails in the county, this is a place where you can order the bar staff's creations with confidence. The odd-sounding cucumber daiquiri is immensely refreshing after being out in the pitiless sun. A Sazerac was quite well blended but had far too much bitter pith on the flamed citrus zest.
There is a second menu of speciality cocktails available for the asking; these are original creations. The Sweet Bricia, named after the scion of the Oaxacan family who own La Guelaguetza, has an inconceivable parts list: mezcal, tequila, apricot liqueur, crème de cassis, citrus juice and nutmeg. The result is an outstanding, slightly smoky, slightly earthy creation served tall over chipped ice; creating a great drink from such a licorice all-sorts of ingredients takes derring-do.
The Eats: Better than standard bar fare, and mostly a good buy at $4. Pesto clams were a dozen plump and moist steamers, whose juice mixed with the pesto to create a thin but very appealing sauce. Duck fries were a miss; while the plate of very well-prepared frites went down easily, they were topped with a few strips of smoked duck, which called to mind Canadian bacon and didn't integrate into the dish. It was served with a horseradish aïoli which was oddly sweet and came a little too close to tartar sauce. Bruschetta was a better choice, three thick slices of airy bread grilled and topped with tomatoes, basil and good olive oil.
The Verdict: A great place to get both the classics from the Age of the Cocktail (Sazeracs, Manhattans, etc.) and new inventions created by mixologists with good palates. This is a place where the cocktail menu is not overrun by sticky vodka-and-schnapps syrups sold as "martinis". What hurts is the cost for these treats, which brings LA prices to the laid-back suburbs. While the prices for the happy hour are a good bargain, ordering anything more than a well drink will bump the cost up to $10-$15 per drink.
The Grade: A-.