Better than the Average Bar
By Bill Gerdes
I don’t expect much in bar food. I don’t expect every dive bar to suddenly become a gastro pub. I don’t expect porcini mushrooms on my “sliders,” nor artisan parmesan on my sweet potato fries-and don’t, by the way, most sweet potato fries suck? I don’t expect “art” at all. What I do expect is a hearty snack, preferably with only a modicum of grease, and if there’s some actual thought or a hint of fun involved in the dish, even better.
My initial reaction when entering The Hood in Palm Desert though was the light—the green light specifically. The front entrance, along with the old (Packard?) parked out front, is swathed in green, almost foggy really. Inside, the stage too is subtly lit up in green. Combined with The Hood’s slightly dive bar vibe it gives the place a Bukowskian-meets-Jay Gatsby aura, a place to drink whisky, eat something slathered in bacon and ponder the goddamn green light.
You really don’t come here to eat. You come here to drink and then realize you’re hungry. And if you find you are starving, well then you’re in the right place—the vittles are tasty, quirky and, like the drinks, cheap enough to overindulge in.
Brandon Henderson, the booking manager at The Hood, advises I try the tater tots, those kitschy nuggets of ’70s and ’80s nostalgia. So I do, although to be specific here they’re called Killer Tots and they sort of live up to the hype, covered in melted cheddar, bacon bits and featuring crisp and lovely tots; The place makes great bar food and a full meal too. My only regret was that I was basically sober when I ate them—Killer Tots being a meal designed with a serious buzz in mind.
I’d advise a slice of pie if you have a clear head. The Hood has got the usual stuff-heavy on the carne, but I went with the Spud Pie, a near overdose of potato considering I’d just wolfed down the Killer Tots but worth the risk of tater fatigue. I suppose the first thing to mention is the size of the slice, giant, hulking over the plate; metaphors fail. Barry Bond’s head during the Steroid era big? The coolest thing about the spud slice though is the way baked potato stands in for the tomato sauce—much better than you’d think, almost a Scottish or Irish spin on pizza, really. And the slice is given a delightful dive bar twist with the addition of cheddar cheese, bacon and mozzarella.
I also sampled the Buffalo Chicken Salad, basically marinated chicken and cheddar atop a bunch of greens. Tastier than it sounds the chicken cheese portion is almost drinkable, and I’d wager this is the perfect bender salad, for those weekends out with Charles and Jay (Gatsby didn’t drink—designated driver problem solved) closing the bars and pondering it all.
And they might have ended a night like this at The Hood, this unassuming place with a couple of pool tables, a few tables for eating, a stage and a patio out back for chilling out. The Hook books great shows too; you’re unlikely to hear “Brown-Eyed Girl” for the 90th time. More likely you’ll catch an old band you’ve heard of or a new one you’ll be hearing about soon, all the while enjoying some original and funky bar food.
The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Hwy 111, Palm Desert, (760) 636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com. Sun-Sat, 11am-2am. V.