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Arts District Gastropub – Little Bear

Deep in the heart of the DTLA Arts District, where sleekly refurbished “urban lofts” sit side-by-side with the last few honest-to-god warehouses and factories, is Little Bear — a spacious, friendly gastropub with Belgian flair. Situated across the street from the former West Coast headquarters of Nabisco–which now houses, what else, lofts–it can be easy to miss in the sea of grey-brown stone. But come a teensy bit closer and you’ll notice the vibrant scarlet splash of a door, flanked by an old-fashioned crest and the words “Little Bear” in mustard yellow paint. If intrigued, pass through to find yourself inside of a simple, stylish space that is, as their website proudly proclaims, “THE ONLY BAR ON THE WEST COAST SERVING DUVEL ON TAP!”

The room is cavernous, its decor stark and hipster-chic — plain metal tables, plain metal chairs, and a few wooden booths reminiscent of a church pew. Double rows of large windows bathe what would have otherwise been a dank space in natural light. Overhead, Edison bulbs hang between arcs of nautical rope. It’s a homespun detail that adds intimacy to the grand, slightly chilly dining room.

When it comes time to order, however, the food is anything but chilly. Little Bear deals in classically American fare: Mac and cheese, turkey clubs, wedge salads, etc.. This is dense, hearty stuff designed to warm you to your bones. What might seem uninspired in lesser hands is elevated to high art by Little Bear’s top-notch ingredients. The bread in the sandwiches is toasty and squishy and crunchy in equal measure — the perfect compliment for crisp lettuce and rich, delicious short rib. While fries and greens are available as sides, so is that most reliable (and reliably satisfying) of lunchtime specials: Tomato soup, perfect for dunking your piping-hot grilled cheese in.

Of particular note is Little Bear’s take on the BLT, nicknamed “The Hubble.” Enhanced here with a few thick slices of avocado, it’s a perfect blend of creamy, crunchy, and chewy. And again, the tomato soup is right there. Dunk it. You won’t regret the decision.

Beyond their food menu, Little Bear emphasizes the “pub” in gastropub with a strong selection of beers, wines, and spirits. Among these, the undeniable stars of the show are their Belgian ales, from the aforementioned Duvel to significantly more obscure regional offerings. This focus on Belgian beer has brought them several notable awards, including “Beer Bar of the Year” by Imbibe Magazine and “Best Beer Bar In LA” by Time Out. And yes, if you’re not a fan of that particular beverage, there are plenty of other options on tap.

With its great, fresh food, award-winning beer, pleasant atmosphere, and speedy service, Little Bear is the perfect place for a DTLA work lunch — we should know, as our whole office can be found there regularly. Come back later in the evening to experience a more bustling bar scene, complete with major games playing on their unobtrusive wide-screen televisions.

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