Cheer on Your Favorite Team at 3 Local Sports-centric Eateries—Plus New Eats & Drinks Around Town

March Madness is only part of the fun at these distinctly different venues offering eclectic menus and entertainment options.

  • Category
    Eat & Drink
  • Written by
    Karen Young
  • Above
    The Woodman
  • Photos
    Courtesy of the restaurants

HQ Gastropub

Anchored on the corner of Woodland Hills’ French Quarter commercial center is HQ Gastropub—a buzzy, modern, brick-lined building fronted by large windows that open to the Boulevard. Celebrating both music and sports, flat-screen TVs can be seen from every angle, while carefully arranged vintage guitars and thematic art line the walls. Menus bound together with album cover images marry a fusion of flavors with comfort food categorized by entertainment references.

Choose from nearly two dozen sushi selections or indulge in loaded burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese and chicken pot pie. For a lighter touch, go for a salad, chicken lettuce wraps or fish tacos. But be sure to leave room for dessert, including house-made beignets—a NOLA tribute to the center it adjoins.

Plush seating flows throughout the dining room, which features a wine wall plus two distinct bars—one for craft beer and the other for craft cocktails. Overhead a bit of glam glows via colorful chandeliers. Happy hour runs 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays, with added specials during March Madness. Catch music videos and DJs on non-sporting days. Quieter spots can be found on the patio or VIP private lounge hidden behind a curtain.

The Thirsty Merchant

Parked just blocks north of the main drag in Valley Village is The Thirsty Merchant—a casual, order-at-the-bar, indoor/outdoor eatery and sports bar that channels a playful, vacation vibe. The Riverside Drive establishment has an old-school/new-school ambience combining intimate booths with tables and a bar headed by flat-screen TVs.

Games are the thing here, whether you’re watching on TV or playing one of the many they have on tap. Find pool, cornhole, foosball and a multicade (complete with Pac-Man!). A large patio features additional flat-screens, picnic tables and a new fire pit and deck sure to be the center of activity as the weather heats up.

For March Madness, they’re serving up Dos Equis bottles in buckets (five for $22). Every day offers a special, and brunch brings bottomless mimosas, a Bloody Mary bar and beer-mosas. The daily happy hour runs 4 to 8 p.m. Daily specials include bingo, trivia, trike races and karaoke with paired deals like $1 tacos, $1.61 burgers, two-for-one wings and the “2 for 2” (buy a drink and get the second for $2). A shareable menu includes elevated pub grub such as a cheese-and-charcuterie platter and comfort food pleasures like truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, deviled eggs, sliders and flatbreads.

The Woodman

Modern roadhouse meets sports bar at The Woodman—a Sherman Oaks mainstay that is equally comfortable for those seeking to watch sporting events, drink and dine or meet up for a lively brunch. Centrally located on the Boulevard, the wide-open space with welcoming barn-red French doors features a street patio leading inside to a central bar surrounded by a tufted banquette and rustic wood tables. Corrugated metal siding and Americana farm décor accent walls adorned by flat-screen TVs that can be seen from all angles.

Doors open at 10 a.m. for March Madness first- and second-round games. However, if a local team is playing earlier, they will open to accommodate. Drink specials for the playoffs include a pitcher of Coors Light or Boulevard Space Camper IPA ($12) and March Madness mules ($8). Always available are craft cocktails, wine and a whiskey list that will impress the most serious drinker.

Food specials include Thai or hot and spicy chicken wings ($8), tinga tacos (three for $10/10 for $24) and spicy pepperoni flatbread ($8). Don’t miss the cheesy fried macaroni balls with bacon or the breakfast burrito on the regular menu—or $5 burgers on Mondays.

On non-event days, happy hour runs 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. offering select wine, beer and craft cocktails for $4. And for brain-enhancing sports, look out for Sunday trivia or grab a free board game at the bar.




New Brunch at Vintage Wine+Eats

Vintage Wine+Eats, a Studio City restaurant and wine bar, added weekend brunch to its repertoire with such dishes as baked French toast, avocado toast and duck hash. New cocktails include a bottomless mimosa, porto tónico (with Sandeman white port) and a seasonal sangria.

Taisho targets late June opening on the Boulevard

Construction is moving along at Taisho (in the former Sherman Oaks Café Bizou location), and it’s now targeted to open at the end of June, according to owner Christian Corben, who describes the theme as “modern Japanese.” All food will be prepared in the kitchen—what he calls “the heart of the restaurant.”

Robatayaki (grilled skewers) will be fired over specialty Japanese coal. Other highlights: “new-style” sashimi with such ingredients as truffle and jalapenos; sushi rolls; and eclectic salads. A full bar will include Japanese whiskey, California wines, beer and sake.

Christian, who says he lived near Ventura Boulevard and Hazeltine for years but recently moved to Calabasas with his family, shares that his goal is to open a “welcoming neighborhood restaurant that’s value-driven with high-quality food, a beautiful aesthetic and energetic vibe—without any L.A. stuffiness.” His hospitality background includes over two decades at Innovative Dining Group (Sushi Roku, Katana, BOA, etc.)—starting as a server at age 20 and working up to director of operations for all the restaurants.

The 4,000-square-foot space will feature an elevated street-side patio with high-low tables for cocktails and dining, a 19-foot U-shaped bar, and banquettes. The airy design will include sliding-glass windows, skylights, mixed wood elements and live plant walls. The back room, which held many celebrations during Café Bizou’s 25 years, will become a patio anchored by a tree and retractable roof, which Christian hopes will “continue memories for many years to come.”