If you hang out in Highland Park, chances are you’ve been to The Greyhound Bar & Grill. Opened by Mateo Glassman, Ryan Julio and James Bygrave, the bar serves craft beers, wine, cocktails and a menu of wings, burgers and more to a bustling crowd of locals. The neighborhood hang out just celebrated its one year birthday, but they’re just getting started.
We spoke with Glassman about his experiences opening and running The Greyhound and his feelings about Highland Park.
HHLP: How did you get started in the restaurant business?
MG: My father owned bars and restaurants when I grew up. I worked in his kitchen when I was like 11 years old. Then in college I delivered pizzas before graduating to bartender after school. I put myself through grad school bartending in Hollywood & Santa Monica before deciding I could be better running a place of my own.
Where did the idea for The Greyhound come from?
It came from a few places. I think the biggest was longing for the bars/cuisine from my hometown in Cleveland, Ohio. I love Los Angeles…like, love it. But I missed places back home that had great beer, great wings, great burgers, and no fuss. They weren’t sports bars or dive bars, they were just BARS. And I missed that. I thought there were enough Midwest transplants out here that even if the natives didn’t get it, a few Midwesterners would. Then I hooked up with James and Ryan and they both have such different backgrounds (James is from England via Hong Kong and Ryan is from Torrance). We all kind of put our heads together about what we thought a neighborhood pub was and created this Frankenstein of a pub. We kind of started living by this “Seinfeld of bars” thing, like a bar about nothing. And lo and behold, we have this creation.
Why did you choose Highland Park?
Highland Park was the only neighborhood we ever looked at. I lived in Echo Park about eight years ago and I moved downtown five years ago. I watched those two neighborhoods really start to develop and I thought Figueroa had some really great potential to do the same. But there were a lot of neighborhoods we thought that about. The thing with Highland Park, more than other “developing areas” is the people. We just felt there was a NEIGHBORHOOD here to support a neighborhood pub. I don’t think The Greyhound works in Hollywood or Santa Monica. But here, the neighborhood has made this place their own. I think that’s what makes this part of Los Angeles so different…that sense of community that doesn’t necessarily exist (at least not in the same paradigm) as it does here. It’s why we chose Highland Park.
How did you choose the building? What were renovations like?
The building was the right size and the right location. Honestly, this was the only location we ever really pursued. James and I found it on accident, and when we showed it to Ryan he fell in love before he even went in. I remember him saying something like “Dude, all I care about is that location.” And he had never even been inside. It was just perfect for what we wanted. The renovations were tough. James is sort of a ninja builder so we were his little workers. The only original thing we kept from the previous tenant was the floor; so there was a lot of demo, design, and building, and on our budget, much of it was done by us. I’ve never built anything in my life, and here I am climbing 20’ ladders, digging trenches, drilling, and demoing, it was really a trip. But now, when we’re slammed and there are 100 people in here ordering beers, I think about the fingerprints the three of us have on everything. It’s a cool feeling.
How did you come up with the menu?
The one thing the three of us had never done was cook. So for the menu, I consulted an old friend of mine, Gabriel Gordon, who owns this incredible BBQ place down in Long Beach. He helped us put together our menu and then we added our own personal touches. As far as drinks, that’s what Ryan and I have always done. We put together really great beer lists at Father’s Office, so this was pretty easy. The really fun part was doing the wine list. We wanted the wine to be different than almost every bar in Los Angeles, and I think we’ve done a cool job. I don’t know too many bars in Los Angeles that carry as diverse a selection of cool wines to pair with things like chicken wings and fish & chips. That was really fun for us.
Do you feel like you’ve accomplished your goal of creating a neighborhood bar?
I do. That really was our only goal and when you see the crowds that come in to watch Dodgers games, I think it’s hard to argue that we haven’t. The biggest surprise has been just how diverse the clientele is age-wise and lifestyle-wise. When we ironed out the details, we were sort of inadvertently creating a bar for US. Ryan and I are similar in age, in socio-economic status (read: bartender), and in a lot of other vital life history ways, so our interpretive community was pretty small. Then we open and the amount of families, and older couples, and gay couples that started coming in here was totally mind-blowing. We never expected so many different types of people to enjoy coming in here and that’s been the best part of this on a day-to-day basis.
What is a typical day like for you at The Greyhound?
I don’t have a typical day. Every day is pretty full and unique. There’s a lot of dealing with staff, menu development, event planning, meetings, paperwork, more meetings, even more paperwork, bartending and expoing until we slow down, then more prep for the next couple of days. If I’m lucky, I get to catch a Cavaliers game in the winter or an Indians game in the summer. Those are generally my two-three hours of relaxation. Then back to running the floor. It’s a lot.
What is your favorite drink on the menu?
I’m a wine drinker so I would say, right now this funky Italian white wine we have called Di Prisco Coda Di Volpe. The grape is named for the tail of a fox. It’s super minerally, not too acidic, and actually has some faint characteristics of a red burgundy as weird as that sounds. Or I love the FX Barc Chinon we pour by the glass. Really great bright red fruits on the front palate and a super dirty earthy midpalate. It is the epitome of French red wine and something that I wish every single guest would drink!
What is your favorite dish?
I mean, it’s probably between the wings and the burger. The wings are unlike other places in Los Angeles in that they’re a bit smaller (we serve more per order than other places). They crisp up a little bit more and the sauce is more of a player. I eat the wings here almost every day. The burger is the creation of my partner Ryan. It’s a SUPER simple, “burger-stand” burger that is the furthest thing from the gastro-pubby burger that has taken over in the post-Father’s Office-post-Umami world. But it’s one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.
What are your goals for The Greyhound moving forward?
Honestly, we want to see The Greyhound move in the same direction is has been as the neighborhood pub of the Figueroa Corridor. I think our goals in 2015 include expanding our musical presence in the neighborhood, bringing in some cool DJs to complement our house guys, DJ Bumbaclot & DJ Butters. But keep on growing in this community and do what we can to give back.
What are your favorite spots in Highland Park?