Clayton's Public House
Happy Hour: $$
Clayton's Public House- Gastropub
541 S Spring St
Everyday 3:00 - 6:00 PM
If you have wondered around the Spring Arcade building in the recent year you may have noticed it’s becoming quite the hub for DTLA residents and visitors. With it’s ever changing scenery, it was hard not to notice when Clayton’s began making some serious moves on it’s real estate right at the entrance on Spring st.
Truly, it’s what most residents really wanted, a nice bar to go with the late night tacos, perfect gelato from Uli, and finesse of the French wine bar down the hall, a common waterhole for all and the anticipation only grew in 2018.
Locals couldn’t wait for Clayton’s to open up, but the grand opening date kept getting pushed back, doubts began rising but then one sunny June afternoon we all got a happy surprise. Clayton’s was finally ready, and when you step inside you can tell- this place was worth the wait.
The patio itself is wide enough to fit plenty of guests, but inside the magic really comes together as it feels like you’re stepping back in time to a Victorian-era pub mixed in with cultural icons that inspired the cocktails themselves, including the first woman tattoo artist.
All part of the mastermind behind the drinks list, Krisi Jensen, excellent mixologist and sommelier who was kind enough to sit with us and explain drinks menu and what's the overall response from the locals during Happy Hour.
Firstly, we’d like to compliment the ample seating, there is plenty to go around, you won’t be on your feet long unless you choose to. No one is on top of each other and more importantly, they have their own restrooms! (A rare thing inside the old arcade.)
The ceilings are high, carefully decorated and adorned, plus there are two life size paintings of owners Tony and Elizabeth on both sides of the bar. They hilariously depict what we imagine is them in their natural habitat, their dog accompanies Tony’s.
They truly capture their charisma, and you’d know because they’re a very hands on team, Tony is present nearly everyday and he loves to meet his guests, so don’t be shy and say hi if you see him!
So much time under construction has gained Clayton’s a loyal crowd that waited patiently for them to open their doors. Locals were happy to recognize familiar faces working behind the bar and on the floor, Tony knew he wanted a true neighborhood watering hole and there’s no better way to do that than by hiring locals.
Given the name, the English origins, and the vibes of the place you’d probably think Clayton’s has the traditional pub grub, well that is only half correct.
Part of being successful in owning a bar, especially one in LA, is knowing your audience and that’s exactly who Tony had in mind when the food menu came about.
There are traditional pub staples such as Fish and Chips, but they have not forgotten about people with dietary restrictions, and with a spark of creativity they have put together plenty of options for those looking for a good meal and a stiff drink.
We ordered all we could eat and we assure you there is something for everyone, from light salads to fried delicacies like the Crispy Polenta.
As for the drinks, the beer stays in constant rotation but they always have 32 taps. They have employed some local breweries such as Boomtown. The menu is divided into categories to help you navigate
The cocktails are where Krisi’s creativity shines and she truly outdid herself. When we got the chance to sit down with her, she told us that her inspiration came straight from the century Clayton’s embodies (the 1800s) but obviously those outdated recipes don’t match up to the crazy, “cocktail revolution we are experiencing today,” as she put it.
So with the primary ingredients and popular spirits remaining of the past, she added and played around with new favorites such as Aquafaba and Japanese whiskeys. Much like the food menu, there is something for everyone cocktail-wise.
Being a sommelier is another one of Krisi’s strengths so despite it being the least ordered drink during Happy Hour, the quality is as high as the beer list.
The rosé is one to note, it draws attention by the name alone - LA Wine Project. A story on its own worth hearing from Krisi as she describes the passion behind empowering those in the community. Something she is all too familiar with having been around the mixology scene in DTLA est. 2007.
That being said, Happy Hour at Clayton’s goes on daily from 3:00 - 6:00 PM and the menu is simple- everything is 25% off. The Belgian's on the beer list (which rotates) are what is ordered the most, for cocktails you can’t go wrong with Modesta Avila or the Harry Johnson if you’re feeling brave, wine lovers- Krisi recommends the Sauvignon Blanc.
So if you shy away from what is considered expensive, Happy Hour is the time for you to indulge in the best Clayton’s has to offer, and trust us guys their best is worth it. On to what we ordered!
The HHC Team Sipped On:
A: This is a very light, extremely refreshing, fizzy cocktail. It’s great for hot days like today, I can certainly taste the apricot. It’s a strong drink, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at it. It won’t weigh you down, the grapefruit doesn’t make it bitter, it’s by no means a “too sweet” drink. The dry ice is a nice touch, but don’t actually touch it!
M: It’s like a spritz without the Aperol. I am not usually one to go for gin-based cocktails, but I applaud it when it is well masked, and this drink has so many delicious flavors that I can’t wince a the gin. For me, the apricot and lemon flavors are the dominant ones- had no idea it contained cognac until I read it on the menu. The presentation is truly above and beyond, it reminds me that cocktail mixing is a sort of chemistry. Hilarious that they put on the menu to not touch the dry ice. I like it a lot!
M: Mmmm, a cocktail with both mezcal and tequila always intrigues me, you never know who’s going to outdo the other. The mezcal is definitely more prominent here, thank god because that’s what I prefer of the two. The citrus is obviously fresh, the rim is garnished with Elder Wood Smoked salt- a solid choice. I love this drink it has all the right profiles for me, that being said I knew I’d like this drink.
A: The mix of between the spice of chili with the smokiness of mezcal is a great combination. I am not a mezcal drinker, but I’d drink this with the right kind of food pairing. It’s nothing overly spectacular maybe we were spoiled by the Mr. Chaplin coming out first. Still, a great choice for those who usually go for tequila or mezcal at the bar.
Aida Overton Walker-
A: This is a drink you have to have a pallet for. I like it, it’s good, the essence of rose is the closest thing I can think of to describe it. If you use a rose water toner on your skin- that’s what it tastes like. Or if you have had a rose flavor dessert, this is the liquid form of it. There’s also a touch of basil. The cupwear is where it’s at though, great choice.
M: I pick up on the same rose essence vibe, I think it’s coming from the white flower wafer. It’s an herb-y and earth-y cocktail. Despite the strength of the rose, for me the passionfruit and lime are the stronger tastes. It’s delicious, and the vodka doesn’t really show up until the end of your sip. If you like herbal flavored drinks this is for you, I’d be interested in seeing how well it pairs with other spirits. The fact you get to pour in the mix yourself is a great touch.
A: Holy wow it’s delicious! Do not fear the lavender infused Makers Mark, it isn’t too heavy, it gives it this amazing flavor, a fantastic touch in my opinion. This drink is NOT too strong but I definitely recommend sipping it to enjoy the flavor profiles. The lemon cuts the strength but once again, don’t fear it. It’s a drinkable cocktail, unlike a Manhattan, for example. I have to say, so far this is my favorite drink!
M: I was truly terrified of the amount of whiskey I saw listed, but this drink is super good. I may be alone in this but I love me a sugar rim! The lavender infused whiskey makes it perfect for any fussy whiskey drinkers or people who might avoid Old Fashioneds, this shows them what they’ve been missing.
M: Wow okay this is actually shockingly refreshing. In all my years of drinking I have never encountered a well-made absinthe cocktail, until now. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. The lemon and lime mask the anise/licorice taste I usually detest, they work as a perfect balance. This is definitely a drink I would have to be careful around, so gorgeous, so good, so drinkable, but after 3 I might be out of my element.
A: The use of Japanese whiskey is a great choice. Since it tends to be lighter it pairs well with the strength of absinthe. For me, I can definitely taste the licorice flavor, but I love it. A light drink, I agree it’s easy to sip on. Major bonus points for using Aquafaba instead of egg whites.
A: Absolutely delicious. A very smooth cocktail. It’s a very strong drink, the strongest so far in my opinion. You can definitely taste the whiskey and all the ingredients listed. The citrus is prominent, so if you enjoy things with a zest of citrus, like orange peel oil, you’ll love this.
M: Yikes this is strong. The gin makes this a no go for me, but I agree with what Alex said it does taste/feel like I am biting into an orange without peeling it. It is very strong so sip lightly and responsibly!
The HHC Team Shared:
A: This is so delicious! The crunch of the batter is perfect, not overly battered at all. The egg is cooked to perfection as well and the piccadilly as an addition for acidity really breaks up the heaviness and brings it all together. My favorite dish by far.
M: I feel inclined to love this because, I love eggs. I agree the crust is done just right, and even after some time it did not become soggy. I am very lightly adding the piccadilly because it’s too acidic for me.
Fried Chicken Bites-
M: Krisi said these get ordered the most no matter what time of day, and I can see why. They are good! They remind me of Chick Fil A nuggets which I can’t ever get enough of, there is certainly a good amount here. They don’t come in any special flavors like buffalo or lemon pepper, instead they’re accompanied by my favorite- lemon. I love dowsing meats in citrus so this is good enough for me. Outside of the lemon, they don’t seem to have much salt or seasoning. Could probably use a pinch of salt, but overall I like them.
A: The meat is good meat that’s important. The batter is also done right, it’s not overly thick or overly coated, it has the right crunch. The menu says that the sauce that comes with it is supposed to be hot? But I don’t get that at all, maybe this is a different sauce. In my opinion, yeah the chicken lacks a bit of salt, all the other flavors are there but it’s a bit bland for me.
Seasonal Vegetable Crudite-
A: The perfect plate for vegans, though I am not one, this is very good! It’s tossed in light citrusy vinaigrette, but it’s the veggies that get me! They are so well picked, very fresh. The Green Goddess sauce is also delicious, has a nice thickness and kick of spice to it. Perfect for the summer and it is a good amount of food.
M: I was a bit confused by the thickness of the sauce, I thought it was hummus, and because I did not predict how spicy it would be I totally “over-dipped” if that’s a thing. If you’re not into spicy like I am, don’t dunk your veggies. For me, the vinaigrette is plenty delicious, plus I love fresh veggies, specially bell pepper. I can totally see a vegan that's had one too many devouring this.
Kale Avocado Salad-
M: So if you’re going to go healthy, there are choices, I dig that. This is a good choice, it’s just a bit confusing… The menu reads Kale Avocado but I’d say there is more quinoa and Gouda than either kale or avocado...Perhaps a name change is in order. That being said I really liked it, it’s not a small serving by any means and healthy!
A: Yeah when this arrived I thought the chef had sent over something off-menu. There is kale but not enough to deem this an avocado salad in my opinion. It’s on the too deconstructed end for me and a bit underwhelming, but I don’t usually go to bars for salads.
A: Now this is tasty! The tortilla crumble is a perfect addition, it adds a nice texture and crunch. The fish is spectacular, the chilis give it a nice kick, the sauce at the bottom gives it a creaminess. All around great, this is my second favorite dish so far.
M: I have never had this before, but it is good. The fish does taste of quality fish it’s not cheap or boring. I like that it comes with lettuce wraps, the cilantro is always a bonus for me! It's a very fresh plate, it’s not greasy so it won't weigh you down, overall great and simple.
Fish & Chips-
A: I haven’t found Fish & Chips done right in LA yet, and this might be it… I am noticing a pattern in the way they batter things here, they’ve nailed it repeatedly, this dish is no exception. Fish is cooked very well very juicy and tender, they give malt vinegar as sauce- huge plus. They do this classic pub fare right.
M: I am realizing how uncultured I am, never have had Fish and Chips before, I really thought actual chips were going to accompany the fish. French fries are always awesome though, they give a few options for sauces, malt vinegar, tartar, and ketchup for the “chips.” I’ll take the fish plain, just dowse it in lemon and I am good to go!
Chipotle Short Braised Ribs-
M: I love, love, love ribs! Coming from the south I have had all the different kinds and these are done well. love ribs. But where is the chipotle? I don’t taste it. Mashed potatoes hold a special place in my heart, these are fantastic. The crispiness of the fried onions add the right kind of crunch to this very soft chew food. It is a heavy dinner plate, if I finished this myself I’d probably take the best nap right after.
A: I agree the taste of chipotle is missing, that being said it is very good, juicy and tender. The ribs seem to have a demi glaze that compliments the potatos surrounding it. It all falls apart the right way, the meat is cooked perfectly, the fried onion is a great addition of salt and texture. It’s the definition of comfort food.
A: I love the fact the chef was nice enough to be honest about the potatoes. The polenta was a great surprise. It has a nice crisp on the outside but tender on the inside, and given that it is a fried food it’s easy to eat. The mix of cilantro lime caramel is genius, the cojita cheese adds the perfect saltiness to it. Really really glad the potatoes didn’t work out.
M: This was the best surprise ever, I am new to polenta, Alex thought I wouldn’t enjoy it but it is super good! Never had it before. It’s like mini-French toast sticks, so make sure you pick up all the stuff surrounding it and get all the flavors in. Very, very good, will probably get every time I am here now.
Fried Chicken Sandwich-
A: This is a classic southern chicken sandwich, not sure where the inspiration came from, but that’s what I can compare it to. The touch of avocado is nice, but I do have to say, the mayo is a bit overkill. I love pickles so that was a good point but it’s just not the type of dish I’d normally go for.
M: I like that they offer this on the menu and traditionally speaking yes this is like a South Carolina chicken sandwich, and I was raised in Texas so there’s already a conflict of interest here. The mayo however, not for me… I also detest pickles so perhaps that only aids my bias, good enough but not for me.
The Overall Experience:
Clayton’s much-anticipated opening and their manners for being a true neighborhood bar exceeded our expectations. The decor and dedication to the quality of drinks and food are well noted and easy to spot throughout their options. The charisma of Tony and Elizabeth is enough to get you in the door, the decoration will blow you away, and the Happy Hour menu will keep you there for a few hours.
Krisi let us in on the sweet spot for Happy Hour, get there early and you’ll find seating at the bar, in between 6:00 and 7:30 PM there is a lull before the dinner rush comes in so be ready for all kinds of DTLA locals and visitors to swarm in. It’s a fairly popular place, so the fact that it’s 25% off the entire menu is just their way of allowing everyone to try what they are offering with a deal. That being said, the only thing we wish is that there was a dedicated Happy Hour menu, even with the discount each cocktail will run you on average $11-$12. The quality of spirits and Krisi’s dedication certainly calls for it, which is another reason we’d love to see what she comes up with if given the opportunity to make a Happy Hour selection.
Overall Score: 4.8
Happy Hour Score: 4.7
We saw the rush come in and there is certainly no lack of service. The entire staff was very attentive and we were super happy with the service. We’d like to thank Tony and Jordan for setting this up for us, Krisi for speaking to us during the busier time of the rush, and the manager who made sure everything went smoothly and in a timely manner.
If you haven’t heard of Clayton’s yet, you will, and if you have and have not visited you should before there’s a line out the door every weekend. It’s what we predict given the experience we had. They’ve made regulars out of us!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our comeback and we have so much more to share with you in August! Thanks for reading, and as always…