As day turns to night in Burbank, the one-story businesses lining Magnolia Boulevard shut down, leaving the street so dark and quiet you'd swear the trees were watching you. But don't head for the Hollywood Hills yet, night owls -- brave just a few more blocks, and at the corner of Magnolia and Reese, you'll find a light at the end of the suburban tunnel: Tony's Darts Away.
Celebrating its two-year anniversary this week, Tony's is the predecessor to Echo Park's Mohawk Bend and Glendale's Golden Road, completing owner Tony Yanow's craft beer bar trifecta. Forty taps pour California-only brews, housed by wood-paneled walls and exposed airshafts covered in stickers. A floor-to-ceiling shelf stuffed with classic board games is situated next to the most crowded area of the bar, the pool table. Incidentally, no one's playing darts.
This is Mike Kim's favorite bar and he wears it on his sleeve -- literally. An environmental risk manager by day and an avid cyclist by night, he is outfitted from head to toe in an official Tony's Darts Away cyclist kit. If you're not familiar with the term "cyclist kit," just think spandex. Everywhere. Joined by his girlfriend, Jordan Machado, Mike sits at a wooden table on the patio to accommodate our conversation.
Rebecca: Judging by your outfit, I take it you come here often.
Mike: I come here probably two nights out of the week, usually on Monday or Tuesday and definitely every Thursday.
Rebecca: What happens on Thursdays?
Mike: On Thursdays I ride with a group called the Bicykillers.
Rebecca: You mean one of those giant bicycle gangs you see holding up traffic late at night?
Mike: No, no. Those are party rides. I stopped doing those years ago. Bicykillers is a riding group. We go on training rides. It's been going on since 2006 or 2007 and once I got serious about riding, I joined. It's a fast ride, very challenging.
Rebecca: How far is a typical ride?
Mike: Thursday nights can range from 25 to 60 miles. If we do something short like 25 to 35, we usually ride around the Hollywood Hills or go toward the Montrose area. For longer rides, we head toward the Santa Monica Mountains or Topanga and come back here.
Rebecca: Yeah, 35 miles. So short.
Mike: The longer, faster rides hurt. Your whole body is in pain. It feels like your face is melting.
Mike: But I like being a part of the Bicykillers because it's an intimate, tight-knit group -- a bicycle fraternity, in a sense. Not a college fraternity, but you know what I mean.
Rebecca: Well, if you're a fraternity, it makes sense that you'd drink beer together.
Mike: Yeah, we're always in search of good beer and that's what really started us at Tony's. So now we all come together on Thursday nights after our ride at about 11:30 or so.
Rebecca: You must be pretty tired and hungry at that point.
Mike: It depends on how hard of a ride I've done. If I'm super tired and hungry, I'll go for one of the bratwursts they have here. My favorite brat is the vegan tailgate dog. It's funny because I eat a lot of meat, but this is the one place I get vegan stuff.
Jordan: My favorite is the vegan smoked apple sage sausage, but I am a vegetarian.
Rebecca: Do you ride with the Bicykillers too?
Jordan: No, but with Mike's biking and our work schedules, it's hard for us to spend time together, and that's the cool thing about Tony's. We've been coming here ever since it opened, and it's a convenient place to hang out late with our friends. And we can bring our dogs on the patio!
Rebecca: Mike, let's talk about this spandex ensemble you're sporting.
Mike: Tony, the owner, and Paige, the general manager, are so great to us, so we wanted to get the cyclist kit going. Might as well have a kit to rep our favorite bar! A lot of cyclists think I designed this, but I want to give credit to Justin McMillan who actually designed it.
Rebecca: Way to represent.
Mike: Yup! When we end our ride here we make sure to wear our kits so we get the 24 oz. beer glass. The commoners only get 19.75 oz. glasses.
Mike orders his usual Team Tony's glass of Racer 5 and Jordan opts for a craft root beer. Ana, our server, sets down two red baskets, each containing a flash-fried form of potato: house-made russet potato chips and Pyntch's mad sweet potato fries.
Mike: The one thing here that's really famous is the sweet potato fries. That's the one thing everyone gets. They're really, really good.
Rebecca: They smell like pancakes!
Mike: And the chips, they're like fries, but like potato chips. Just really crispy and potato-y and really good. And not greasy! But the frizzled onion rings, those are definitely greasy.
Rebecca: What does frizzled mean?
Mike: I don't know.
Ana returns with three baskets, each containing a fresh-off-the-grill sausage: the vegan tailgate dog, the vegan Italian stallion and the pork hot n' spicy.
Rebecca: Ana, how do you feel about all these bikers hanging out at your bar?
Ana: I like them all! It's like a really nice, well-behaved party comes in. They're healthy and fit but enjoy their beer. They're not like a Hell's Angels bike gang.
Rebecca: A different kind of biker bar.
For a moment, the only sound is the rustling of the biodegradable paper that lines the red, plastic baskets, as we scramble for our brats -- it's late and we're famished.
Jordan: The Italian herbs in my sausage are just so good.
Mike: Like I said, this is one of the very few places where I get vegan food.
Jordan: Yeah, he's definitely a big meat eater.
Mike: It's just really tasty and it's not that you can't tell it's not meat, it just tastes good period.
Rebecca: This hot and spicy one is actually spicy. Usually when I order a hot and spicy sausage, it never lives up to its name.
Mike: They don't really skimp out on spice here. They have these pico de gallo chips -- a lot of my friends like them, but they're too spicy for me.
The conversation halts and we finish our meals. Cradled in warm, locally baked, white buns, each thick and juicy sausage bursts with its own original flavor. The crispy potato chips and sticky sweet potato fries, made unique with a maple-chipotle glaze, round out the experience. Wash it all down with Belgian ale and you can roll yourself home -- who needs a bike?
But Tony's is not an eat-and-run place, and not because you physically can't run after eating here. There are more attractions than just food and beer, including upbeat music, friendly faces, billiards and perhaps the highlight: board games.
Jordan: Last time we played Yahtzee!
Mike: I like Battle Ship. I think we played Mousetrap too. That was pretty fun.
It starts to drizzle so we head to a dry table inside. Mike breaks out the Monopoly and he's greeted by a fellow Bicykiller also looking for beer and a bite late on a Tuesday night.
Mike: This is Rocky Castro, one of the fastest guys in our group. Trying to catch up with him makes me puke. It's not uncommon for someone to puke on our rides.
Rebecca: Which probably explains why you eat sausages and fries after a ride, not before.
Rocky orders the disco fries: A basket of French fries doused in gravy and cheddar cheese.
Rocky: If we don't get food and beer after a ride, it's not finished.
As the two cyclists carry on about "fixies" and quadriceps, I try to finish my Rye IPA, but am defeated by its 7.2 percent alcohol by volume. A warm and fuzzy feeling comes over me, and not from the contents of my tulip-shaped glass, but from the sense of community in this environmentally conscious gastro pub. At Tony's Darts Away, cyclists celebrate, meat-eaters turn vegan, beer drinkers play Battleship and no one plays darts.
Tony's Darts Away
1710 W. Magnolia Blvd., 818.253.1710
[Photos by Hagop Kalaidjian]