A taproom to accommodate the beer nerd and the traditional nerd, Thee Elbow Room came into existence on notoriously adorable Honolulu Avenue in Montrose in 2013. The beer selection is surprisingly extensive and diverse for such a small venue, and the food is both scrumptious and utilitarian (your run-of-the-mill carb-based tavern fare). But these aspects are but mere distractions from the true draw of Thee Elbow Room: Wednesday trivia nights.
HQ, Triviacrack, even “Jeopardy!” infatuation has reached an all-time high recently, especially among younger folks. Who really knows why; for me, personal insecurities drive my incessant need to know it all (that was mostly a joke, don’t worry). For others, it’s simply a great way to get social. Trivia rules state that if your phone is out, you’re disqualified for cheating. Thus, bar trivia is a great way to have some actual quality bonding time.
Strictly speaking, the trivia night is not brought to you by Thee Elbow Room. A nationwide third-party trivia troupe called Geeks Who Drink sends a representative weekly to play these nerdy pub games. Geeks Who Drink pops up all over the greater Los Angeles area throughout the week, and I’ve visited a few others, but Thee Elbow Room’s quizmaster, Brian, is unrivaled. He probably has a day job, but this is his calling. Brian is a jovial friend to all — patron or employee — and knows when it’s time to crack a joke, engage with players and get down to trivia business. His post-game rounds to chat up teams are full of friendly quips that leave you with a grin. Of course, Elbow Room team members are equally as lovable. Bartendress Kiki sings along to all the piped-in music as she glides around the premises dropping off drinks and picking up orders with a big ol’ smile. Liza will stay and chat with you in her calming voice if it’s not too busy.
Aside from cultivating a lovely staff, this location has truly evolved with me, so I have an attachment to it. It was there for me as a little cafe when I needed somewhere to study for my AP exams in high school. When I returned from college a few years later, it had transformed into this charming tavern. I remember the cafe feeling cramped and misutilized. Now, under Thee Elbow Room’s tender love and care, the venue is cozy. The below-street-level garden seating area strung with Edison bulbs gives a secluded yet breathable feel. It’s easy to snag a seat at the bar to watch the game or a table outside to escape screens for a little while and chat with friends.
The only bad thing — and I suppose this is very much a matter of personal preference — about Thee Elbow Room is the music selection. Maybe the crowd does want eight-bit remixes of rock classics interspersed with early 2000s top pop-punk hits. At least it’s a stray from the expected alternative and/or bluesy rock with which one so often washes down craft beer. My most recent visit was met with a nice mix of tunes, however, including some modern soul, so perhaps Thee Elbow Room soundtrack is on the up and up.
Speaking of beer, let’s discuss the tap. For such a little place nestled away on a sleepy street, the selection is quite vast and diverse. The just-shy-of-20 which make up the tap list nearly always includes multiple sours, IPAs for the most delicate to the most masochistic beer drinkers, usually a few complex stouts, a hearty red or two, refreshing wheats and ales, etcetera, etcetera. That’s to say nothing of the bottles and cans which almost double drinkers’ options. Though the tap rotates often (the current menu is fairly fruit-heavy in preparation for summer), there are long-lasting highlights to be sure. On my weekly visits, I almost always start the night with one of the five-buck specials (usually Icy Bay or Goose Island IPA) and then try my luck at winning the bonus beer to expand my palate. That’s right: Every round, one lucky team wins a free bonus beer just by answering one question correctly. In my time as a knowledgeable/lucky player, my team has had the pleasure of tasting a few new favorites. For one, the Black Forest cake stout from Victory Brewing. Cherries and chocolate come through clearly without being overwhelming or sweet and without leaning too heavily on traditionally coffee-esque notes to bring these flavors to mind. The Sour Monkey constitutes another winner from Victory: Intensely tart yet enjoyable, this is my go-to when the specials aren’t doin’ it for me (though I should be noted that I am a huge sour fan in general).
Looking for something less conventional? How about a Unicorn Juice Passionfruit wheat beer from Artifex in San Clemente? Though it is a sour, the flavor is less Warhead and more Jolly Rancher. A tulip is about all you need of this brew, which is light and tasty but a bit sweet. Relatively new on tap is a bright but not overwhelmingly fruity apricot wheat beer by Wiens in Temecula. To me, this is a preferable alternative to the famed Portland-based Pyramid Brewing variety.
If you ask nicely, you can taste anything from the tap before committing to a full pint or tulip. In my experience, any friendly bartender here is sure to pull you a generous sample, so don’t get too carried away with the tasting requests or you’ll be tapping out after one pint. If that happens and you need to lay down a layer of carbs, invest in a giant Bavarian pretzel. There simply is nothing better. This beautiful creation is soft, warm, salty, and served with spicy mustard and deliciously artery-clogging pub cheese. There is nothing here for Keto fiends or the gluten-free as far as food goes (maybe the occasional soup of the day or a plate of deviled eggs), but there’s plenty in the way of atmosphere no matter the dietary restriction.
Thee Elbow Room
2418 Honolulu Ave. Montrose | (818) 248-1769 | Alcohol Served/Major Cards Accepted