Sometimes a restaurant becomes so enmeshed in your memory that it becomes synonymous with family and home. That’s the way I think of Hal’s Bar & Grill.
In the late ’80s, Hal’s was one of the fancier restaurants in Venice. It was ultra cool, hosting live jazz and serving the most diverse crowd of artists, celebrities and locals on the Westside. My family and I would excitedly settle into one of their booths to celebrate birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. Hal became a true friend.
At some point during our meal, Hal would slide in next to whoever was at the end of our booth and chit chat about everything from art and entertainment to world headlines and local happenings. He was warm and welcoming, and when he smiled at you, you felt special, a characteristic he shared with my stepfather, the late actor-dancer Gregory Hines. They were kindred spirits and good friends.
The night of my high school graduation, my family rented out the entire restaurant. I felt like a big shot because I got to invite my good friends to a sit-down dinner at the hippest restaurant in the neighborhood. …
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