Hal’s Bar and Grill Along with their Sister Restaurant CasaLinda Mexican Grill Review – Casual Fine Dining on the Westside

Casual Fine Dining

Hal’s Bar & Grill has been a Venice neighborhood favorite for decades. With a very cool Miami/New York vibe this California restaurant famously features art from local Venice artists including Ed Moses. Having been a regular since 1980 I can tell you the food is always top notch and the bar was renowned as a singles hot spot. Recently they moved just down the block on Abbot Kinney Blvd where they now sit alongside their sister restaurant CasaLinda Mexican Grill where they both boast outdoor patios which the old Hal’s location didn’t have. They have opened a second location in Playa Vista in a brand new building that is spectacular. It is here in the new Hal’s Bar & Grill in Playa Vista where we had dinner.

Hal’s Bar – Great place to meet friends and catch a ball game

The first thing that strikes you when you walk in is that it is perfectly sized. Spacious and casual, large enough for privacy while enjoying your meal, yet with the warmth of a neighborhood cafe. The front large wall window slides up in good weather giving the restaurant an indoor/outdoor openness. Keeping with their tradition the walls boast wonderful local world class contemporary art.

Local Contemporary Art

The impressive bar sits in the middle of the restaurant with three large screens on the wall making it a great spot to mingle with friends new and old while catching a ball game. Here you will enjoy specialty cocktails, top notch wine and craft beers. Enjoy live Jazz during Sunday Brunch and on selected nights. There is also a terrific private dining room for throwing parties.

Private Dining Room

The night we dined a famous shoe company was throwing their corporate dinner there. The staff here is friendly and knowledgeable and will help you pair wines and cocktails with the menu. Executive Chef Manuel Mares has created a superb menu featuring distinctive seasonal cuisine. Using carefully selected market fresh meat, seafood and poultry.  Family style and sharing plates is encouraged here.

Duck Ragout, Sweet Potato Dumpling, Penne and Sausage
We started our dinner with the Small Plates portion of the menu and enjoyed a Tahitian Squash Soup, and shared Sweet Potato Dumplings made with a coconut reduction.  Both were very deliciously delicate and flavorful. We then enjoyed two pastas, Garganelli with Duck Ragout, made with duck confit, fixed sage bread crumbs and agro dolce roasted eggplant. Here in L.A. it’s hard to find a restaurant that does duck well and here it is terrific. The Penne with braised Pork Sausage, prepared with shallots and herbs was one of my favorites of the evening. There is much to choose from in the Small Plates portion of the menu from salads, to assorted meats & cheeses dish, mussels or even scallops. All beautifully presented and scrumptious.
Muscovy Duck Breast and Lamb Osso Bucco
Moving to the Hungry Eyes portion of the menu we shared Lamb OssoBucco, so moist and tender you didn’t need your knife and truly one of the best lamb dishes I have ever had. Then being the duck lover that I am I couldn’t resist the Seared Muscovy Duck Breast, served with cumquat marmalade and blood orange segments to dip the sliced duck in, accompanied with a sweet potato. If you enjoy duck this dish is terrific. Choose from Dover Sole, Organic Chicken, Aged Bone Ribeye, Niman Ranch Pork Chop, to Turkey or Beef Burgers. There is something for everyone here in the Hungry Eyes portion of the menu.
Hal’s Famous Bread Pudding and Hal’s Sunday
Save room for Hal’s famous Bread Pudding served with vanilla ice cream, and we also shared Hal’s Sundae, one scoop of vanilla and a second scoop of chocolate with dabs of whip cream, caramel & chocolate sauce. Both desserts were exceptionally tasty. Come here once and you will be a regular. They do all three meals exceptionally well, whether its breakfast, lunch or dinner. And check out their happy hour. Ask the staff about the art galley they own next door and see if there is a current show going on. When we dined they had an Ed Moses show running through the month.
There is a beautiful new Cinemark movie theater directly across the restaurant making it easy to take in a film before or after you dine at Hal’s Bar & Grill Playa Vista.  Breakfast is served Friday through Sunday 8 AM – 3 PM, Lunch daily 11 AM – 3 PM, Dinner daily, hours vary, Friday & Saturday 5 PM – 10:45 PM, all other days 5 PM – 9:45 PM.
Hal’s Venice Exterior
Hal’s Venice Interior
That weekend we headed to Hal’s Bar and Grill Venice on Abbott Kinney Blvd to try their famous brunch. They share their brunch menu with their sister restaurant CasaLinda Mexican Grill which is right next door. Both restaurants have a very nice outdoor patios which is an inviting spot for brunch.
Hal’s Venice Patio
We started the morning with some Bottomless Mimosas, which went nicely with the French Toast and an order of Blueberry Vegan Pancakes, with seasonal berries.
Bottomless Mimosas and Vegan Pancakes
Hal’s French Toast
We followed that with Frankie’s Breakfast Sandwich, two fried eggs, jalapeno-bacon, lettuce, tomato on fresh sourdough toast.
Frankie’s Breakfast Sandwich
Leave Room for a taste Dessert

All three dishes were terrific. If your taste runs more to a Mexican slant, try the Wet Breakfast Burrito, Huevos Rancheros, Chorizo Skillet Bake, or the Chilaquiles Verdes. There is a full bar of specialty cocktails to keep you happy.

The Walls at Hal’s Venice Feature Local Artists
The next night three of us decided to dine next door at CasaLinda Mexican Grill. For drinks we sampled a Spicy Pineapple Mezcalita, Watermelon Margarita, and a Yellowbird which has tequila, fresh lime juice, mango, ginger, finished with a spicy salt rim. Both restaurants share the same bar and are a great place for top notch cocktails and they have over 20 fantastic selections of specialty drinks to choose from.
CasaLinda Mexican Grill Interior
A Full Bar of Specialty Cocktails

We started the meal by sharing a Steak & Cheese Quesadilla, along with CasaLinda Chicken Nachos.

Asada Quesadilla, and CasaLinda’s Chicken Nachos

For our main dishes we enjoyed Crispy Jumbo Shrimp Tacos (combination plate comes with two sides), Two Halibut Taco combination and an order of Chicken Mole Enchiladas. All 5 dishes were wonderful and the sauces were delicate and flavorful.

Some of the Best Mexican Food LA has to Offer

For dessert we shared the Apple Pie with a scoop of ice cream, and an order of the Bread Pudding. A perfect choice to end a great meal.

Bread Pudding and Apple Pie A La Mode

If you love really great Mexican food then Casalinda Mexican Grill should be on your radar. There is a warm casual energy in both restaurant interiors, which by the way are connected. I love how their walls also feature interesting local artists. The staff at all three restaurants we visited is very friendly and helpful in advice when choosing from large menus filled with endless choices.

Warm and Inviting Atmosphere
Take a look at all three websites for more details on their restaurants and locations.
The Photos were provided by Matt Oxman

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