Once the Pasadena Playhouse returns (we have faith that it will), the Playhouse District will really have it goin’ on, now that Elements Kitchen has added a proper bar to the neighborhood. Lined with windows to the street and the Playhouse courtyard, the space is comfortably furnished with a few low, upholstered seating areas for small groups, some tables for two, a row of barstools, and room for minglers to stand. The crowd is diverse, from young after-work business guys to hip-senior friends meeting for a drink and a nosh before or after a movie across the street. Although the music gets a little louder after 9 p.m., it’s quiet enough for good conversation without seeming too quiet.
As for the cocktails, look for a short menu organized (as in the restaurant) by elemental ingredients, like lime and lemon. Aside from the relatively short list of house cocktails, all skillfully prepared and generously poured, you’ll find small-producer Scotch, artisanal beers, reasonably priced wines and all the greatest-hits cocktails. If you get peckish and don’t feel like moving next door for a full dinner, there’s a bar menu with several choices, including a hugely popular burger with many toppings options; tasty steak kimchee tacos; crisp tofu sticks with a spicy soy dipping sauce; and duck confit egg rolls.
Our only complaint: There’s no happy hour. Well, on Thursdays there’s a deal called Liquid Sketches, with a few $5 cocktails made from a weekly-changing ingredient (green tea was the most recent), but it’s just that one night. Here’s hoping they institute some sort of happy-hour special on other nights, so we can afford to stop in more often.
Elements Bar, 37 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626.440.0044, elementskitchen.com. Tues.-Sun. 4 p.m.-midnight.