beer at Tony's

Tony’s Darts Away, in Burbank, California, was first founded in 1978, aspiring to nothing more than a place for locals to come grab a beer and play some darts. This year it came under new ownership and though the layout stayed the same, there are quite a few subtle, earth-friendly differences now. There’s an emphasis on recycling – the menu boards were fashioned out of pieces of wall left over after the refurbishment, for example – the food is something people might get in their car for, and the beer list is very carefully curated.

The sausages are high quality, as are the accoutrements, making any combination an almost sure-fire winner. (Four toppings are included in the price.) The chicken sausage with fennel and asiago is simple and tasty with aioli and blue cheese crumbles, while the pork Andouille with mayo, brown mustard, sharp cheddar and apple slaw is practically a work of art. A fork-requiring work of art, sure – but very much worth the trouble.

The small menu is one of the more conscientious I’ve ever seen. The produce, sausages and bread are all sourced within California, as close to Burbank as possible. But taste is never sacrificed: Tony couldn’t find a vegan cheese product made in the U.S. that was both sold wholesale and delicious, so he went with a Canadian purveyor. He is a vegan, but happily offers meat and dairy, believing diet to be a personal decision: he just wants to sell good food.

The beer list is quite extensive, and entirely Californian. For beer-lovers who couldn’t possible make a decision between the dozens of artisanal choices, a tasting flight is available: four small glasses for $8, served on a custom-made plank. Try an IPA, a witbier, a Russian stout, and a brown ale, all fresh from the draft: there are no bottles used at Tony’s, in an environmental initiative aimed at eliminating glass waste from the bar. The no-bottle rule applies to the wine as well, which makes for a small, but interesting, wine list.

There are no desserts here, but there are sodas on tap, made by a home brewer who makes deliveries in his vintage VW Bug. It’s a very homey setup, as is everything at Tony’s. Beer aficionados come from all over Southern California to check out the brews, but it’s a comfortable scene, where indulging in sweet potato fries with maple-chipotle glaze and crushed almonds (some call them “candy fries”) and playing a few games of Connect Four, is the order of the day.