After a day at the beach, you really, really don’t want to sit your sunburn in the car with every other beachgoer in the city. It would be great if there was a place where you could hang out, relax, maybe chill with a fabulous beer and the kids (and you) could replenish all that energy you spent in the sea. The people at Firestone Walker Brewing Company read your mind, because their newest endeavor, The Propagator Restaurant, is now open in Venice. Read on to find out why we think it’ll be your family’s new favorite post-beach hang.
You may have heard of Firestone Walker because of their pioneering craft breweries in Buellton and Paso Robles. They’re big in the beer world; in fact, they are now California’s fourth largest craft brewery. The Propagator is Firestone Walker’s first restaurant and lucky for us, ti’s also their first foray into LA. Conveniently located near the local beaches of Marina Del Rey and Venice, The Propagator is a great place to hit after a big day of sun and fun with the kids. The restaurant offers a great mix of your favorite things about a sports bar, a family-style restaurant and, of course, a craft brewery.
Gastropub has become as ubiquitous a term as farm-to-table, but what does it really mean? It’s basically a pub (beer!) with high quality food. With the feel of a hip, industrial NYC-style restaurant and bar, The Propagator offers a menu full of tasty, sharable food and a vast selection of interesting craft beers and fine Central Coast wines to boot. So it’s pretty much the textbook definition of gastropub, a place you want to visit anyway, and the fact that it’s family friendly is icing on the cake.
At the front of the bright and airy dining room is a bar area with big TV screens, for sports fans and beer enthusiasts alike. Beyond this, cozy wooden booths and tables abound to relax in and shake off the sand of the day. The dining room with its enormous windows and skylights is awash with natural light and easy to navigate with big kids, little kids, and even a double stroller. The restrooms are large and efficient, with sleek, trough-style metal sinks. Alas, there are currently no changing tables on site, so diaper checks should happen before you roll up.
If it’s not too crowded, see if you can get seated at one of the large booths made from an old fermentation vessel; kids find them fascinating. The waitstaff is friendly, knowledgeable and great with kids and their endless questions. While nearly everything, including salad dressings, are made right there in-house, the famous Rockenwagner bakery supplies all the yummy breads and pretzels to the restaurant. The state-of-the-art kitchen even boasts a traditional wood-fired stone oven for the freshly made pizzas.
The menu is mid-priced with starters and pizzas in the $9-$12 range and salads and large plates from $11-$18. While the kids’ menu ($9 including drink) features classics like a cheese quesadilla, chicken fingers and cheese pizza, the main menu is so chock full of delicious choices, you may decide to get eclectic.
Watch with awe as your kids devour the very foods they won’t touch at home. Like Braised Short Rib with cheesy grits and crispy Brussels sprouts. Seriously, you may have to order two plates if you want a taste. The Lion’s Fish and Chips with Tempura Battered Alaskan Cod, French fries and homemade tartar sauce is also a huge inter-generational hit.
All the pizzas are thin-crusted and baked to perfection. The basic cheese version was pronounced “OMG—delish!” by our team of kid experts. The shareable items like the Skewered Chicken and Drunken Shrimp are real crowd pleasers as is the Fried Chicken Cobb Salad, if you’re trying to get them to branch to salads.
But what about the beer? Work your way through the beer menu (sip a selection of Firestone Walker favorites, including taps dedicated to Barrelworks wild ales, guest taps and beer engines for select cask favorites) or if you don’t happen to be a beer drinker, try wines from the brewery’s Central Coast neighbors. Kids won’t mind how long you sit and sip, because you can tempt them with a selection of sweets, including Churros and mini-servings of Key Lime Pie and Chocolate and Peanut Butter Parfait.
After your meal, feel free to wander around the novelty gift shop and stock up on all things Firestone, including T-shirts, assorted glassware and cold-stored packaged beer. Firestone Walker has plans to build an actual brewery on the premises and to host beer education seminars and develop specialty beers just for the LA market (they’ve been held up with permits, but decided to open the restaurant when it was ready, rather than hold up everything) so stay tuned to the latest evolution of the property. It just keeps getting better and better.
Located in Venice at near the corner of Washington and Lincoln, there is plenty of convenient parking. The Propagator is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
—written and photos by Elizabeth Kate