The Ultimate Vanderpump Bar Crawl: An Insider’s Guide to Snacks and Sips in the Shadow of Scandoval
The day after the 'Vanderpump Rules' finale, we hit up every bar and restaurant featured on the show. Here's what we learned about the best way to visit the Pump pubs, and what they tell us about the current state of the 'VPR' universe.
It's 5:01 p.m. on a Thursday evening, and I'm one of seven patrons standing inside Schwartz & Sandy's.
Less than 24 hours since the explosive season finale of Vanderpump Rules hit the airwaves — which saw the scandalous cheating scandal between co-stars Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss finally come to light — the restaurant located in the Franklin Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, co-owned by Sandoval and his co-star and business partner Tom Schwartz, has just opened for business.
As with every bar or restaurant featured on Vanderpump Rules — Sandoval and Schwartz also co-own West Hollywood's TomTom, and the inner workings of Lisa Vanderpump's Pump and SUR, both also located in West Hollywood, have been fodder for Bravo cameras for over a decade — there is a noticeable chill in the air these days.
In the wake of the Sandoval/Leviss affair, aka Scandoval, there's never been a more fascinating (or controversial, depending on who you ask) time to patronize the Vanderpump foursome.
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Does it make me a bad person to give money to businesses with Tom Sandoval's name, literally, on the outside of the buildings? What would Ariana think? Are these places even any good?
All very valid questions, indeed.
So, I decided to find out. And, to take things one step further, I created a helpful guide to do your own Vanderpump bar crawl, including pro tips for the most logical order to visit the establishments, the best food and drinks to order and what to expect from the entire Pump pub pilgrimage. Or, if you can't make it to Southern California in person, consider this a way to vicariously experience the reality TV revelry.
Raise your glasses high.
Stop 1 - Schwartz & Sandy's
1917 N. Bronson, Los Angeles, CA 90068
What to eat: Fried chicken and waffle bites, cajun fries, lobster corn dogs
What to drink: Thai Tea Manhattan
Schwartz & Sandy's makes sense as the first stop on the crawl for a few reasons, but mostly because it's in an entirely different part of town from the other three spots. It's about five miles away from everything else (which, in L.A. traffic, is no joke), so let Schwartz and Sandy's kick off the expedition. The place opens at 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday (it's closed Sunday through Tuesday, so don't go then), and I'd advise getting there as close to opening as possible. That way, you can probably have the entire bar to yourself and your pick of booths and tables. However, the place is pretty small, so a reservation isn't a bad idea.
It's important to acknowledge that Schwartz & Sandy's is in a strip mall, next to a dog groomer and around the corner from L.A.'s Upright Citizens Brigade theater. But don't let the outside fool you. Once inside, you'll be transported to a tropical, tiki-inspired locale. Or something like that. Honestly, with its hodgepodge decor and chaotic color scheme, it's a little hard to tell.
On my visit, the very helpful and friendly bartender recommended the Thai Tea Manhattan, made with Thai tea-infused cognac, and the Wendy Peppercorn, named after Wendy Peffercorn from The Sandlot and made with mezcal, watermelon juice and topped with crushed pink peppercorn. The Manhattan was the better of the two cocktails, but they were both tasty.
Schwartz & Sandy's also makes sense as a first stop on the crawl because you can grab a few small things to get the evening started. In an effort to be as much of an L.A. cliché as possible, I'm vegan, so I went with the little gem salad and the shoestring fries (with the cajun seasoning, per the bartender's recommendation). Our photographer Glenn also ordered the fried chicken and waffle bites, which he acknowledged were a little strange, but mostly successful. I have it on good authority from two other Schwartz & Sandy's patrons that the lobster corn dogs are shockingly good, so those are also a good bet.
Ultimately, Schwartz & Sandy's is a bit of a bizarre experience. It's very dark inside, both literally and — given the Scandoval state of affairs — figuratively. And yet, much like Vanderpump Rules itself, there's something utterly transfixing about its brand of chaos.
Stop 2 - Pump
8948 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
What to eat: Hummus plate
What to drink: Pump and Glory
Next, race over to Pump to catch the end of Happy Hour, which runs from 5-7 p.m. And I do mean race because the restaurant has announced plans to close on July 5. It's the end of an era at the corner of Santa Monica and Robertson.
Entering Pump is a bit like walking through a house of mirrors. There are enough rooms, hallways and hanging plants to make you dizzy. Keep it simple and head straight for the outdoor bar in the back of the restaurant.
Once there, sit at the bar itself, if possible. Not only is it fun to talk to the pink-shirted Pump bartenders — including one who told me he "wasn't surprised" about Pump's impending closure — but it gives you a front-row seat to watch the wizardry up close.
It's best to view Pump as a stop in between appetizers and dinner because the food is better at the next location, so do your best to keep things light. The happy hour hummus plate hits the spot, although nobody can really explain why it comes with skirt steak.
As for the cocktails, if you can get past names like Pumpagranite Margarita and Lisa's Big Pinky, you might be pleasantly surprised. I had a Pump and Glory (made with vodka, St. Germain, cucumber and mint) and a Famous Pump-Tini (made with vodka and fresh grapefruit juice). I'm not calling it "famous"; that's just how it's listed on the menu. Both are available for $10 at happy hour which, all things considered, is pretty good. I'd go with the Pump and Glory.
With Pump's days waning, the staff told me that business has started picking up. It's almost like eating and drinking at a funeral home, but in a fun way?
Get there while you still can.
Stop 3 - TomTom
8932 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
What to eat: Spicy cauliflower wings, farmer's market board, zucchini and artichoke flatbread
What to drink: Doc Holiday, Kentucky Muffin
The hard truth that we must face is that TomTom is good.
Yes, Tom Sandoval's name is on the marquee! Yes, he's done some terrible things! Yes, the spicy cauliflower wings are very tasty! Multiple things can be true!!!
Just steps away from Pump is TomTom, where the bulk of the eating on the crawl will take place. I am secure enough in my self-worth to admit that I have frequented TomTom multiple times. And not ironically. I've been to TomTom for the food, for the drinks, just for the heck of it. I am a brave soul.
TomTom has a distinctly different vibe from any other Vanderpump-adjacent establishment. It's, dare I say, elevated? The interior is chic and modern, the front patio provides a perfect perch for people watching at bustling Santa Monica Boulevard, and the menu is diverse and interesting enough to please any palate.
This time around, I sat at the bar, which comes with its pros and cons. Pro: You get to chat with the bartenders and watch them work their mixology magic. Con: The barstools are terrible, and the bar top is super high, so you end up feeling like a little baby while you choose between Tom Sandoval's cute cocktail creations. If you can get past that, it's worth it.
On that note, as any dedicated VPR viewer can tell you, Sandoval and Schwartz spent a lot of time on their cocktail list at TomTom. Some might argue too much time. Whatever the case, it paid off because the drinks are always pretty on point. I had the Kentucky Muffin, a bourbon-based cocktail with wildflower honey, lemon, ginger beer and champagne. Despite the fact that the drink is named after a sex rumor started about former Vanderpump Rules star Brittany Cartwright, the Kentucky Muffin is a winner.
If you don't mind a little spice in your cocktail, the Doc Holiday — named after the real-life American gunfighter and spelled wrong on the menu — is a tequila-based concoction made with guava nectar, red bell pepper, mint and Fresno chili. It is also quite good.
On the food side of things, TomTom has a wealth of vegan and vegetarian options, which I appreciate. I ordered the Impossible sliders on this visit, which were sadly quite limp and underwhelming. However, the spicy cauliflower wings are great. The name is a bit of a misnomer because they're equal parts spicy and sweet thanks to the brown sugar citrus glaze.
If you're with a group (or your appetite is voracious), the farmer's market board comes with a plethora of vegetables, dips and other assorted accoutrements. It's very pretty and makes for a great picture, if you care about that sort of thing. (And let's be honest: If you're doing a Vanderpump bar crawl, you probably do.) The zucchini and artichoke flatbread has also earned high marks.
On this night, the vibe was noticeably a bit off. It's hard to say whether that can be attributed to Scandoval or not, but the crowd was as small as I've ever seen it, and the sound of Dua Lipa radiating from the speakers made me more sad than it should have.
Detour - Something About Her
640 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
What to eat: Sandwiches, eventually
What to drink: Cocktails, probably?
Speaking of things that make me sad, Ariana Madix and Katie Maloney's sandwich shop Something About Her still isn't open. Let us support you during this difficult time by purchasing Greek salad sandwiches, Ariana! Our wallets are literally falling open!
During part one of the Vanderpump Rules reunion on Wednesday, Madix and Maloney predicted a late May opening for the shop.
In the meantime, the future location of Something About Her is on the stroll from TomTom to our final spot, SUR. Gaze into the windows to see the vacant space and fantasize about what's to come.
Would love to update this space soon, ladies. Don't let us down.
Stop 4 - SUR
606 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
What to eat: Goat cheese balls, blackberry cobbler
What to drink: Greenfield
It's ironic that SUR is our final stop on the crawl because it's where everything started.
When Vanderpump Rules aired its first episode in January 2013, it followed the restaurant's baby-faced waitstaff and suddenly names like Jax, Stassi and Scheana were part of the pop culture lexicon.
Today, SUR (which, unfortunately, is an acronym for Sexy Unique Restaurant) has started to show and feel the passage of time. Much like the cast of Vanderpump Rules itself, it's abundantly clear its best days are behind it. The place almost feels like a reality TV mausoleum, with episodes of Vanderpump Rules playing above the bar, DJ James Kennedy's perch slowly being devoured by cobwebs, and most of the clientele staring around with a quizzical "what are we doing here?" look on their faces.
After a short walk from TomTom, I arrived at SUR and sat at a completely empty bar. The friendly bartender was in a great mood and assured me that business has been booming lately, but the scores of empty tables and barstools suggested otherwise, at least on this night. I ordered myself a Greenfield — made with tequila, cointreau, lime, cucumber and sage — which was fairly light and refreshing. The bartender then recommended The Hippie Bliss — made with rum, lime juice, raspberry syrup, mint and club soda — which was truly one of the worst things I've ever tasted.
I was still stuffed from dinner, so I didn't eat anything at SUR. However, the goat cheese balls are a popular choice, and the blackberry cobbler is a nice way to round out the crawl with a little dessert treat.
After four different stops, eight cocktails and a stomach full of hummus and cauliflower, I couldn't help but wonder: What does the future hold for these places? Vanderpump Rules is in the middle of a renaissance, but some of the faces behind the bars and restaurants have never been more reviled. Pump, of course, is already on its last legs. It feels like SUR can't be far behind. In so many ways, a crawl like this is beginning to feel like an exercise in nostalgia rather than a relevant pop culture expedition.
And yet, if you squint hard enough, that evocative shimmer and shine is still there. While sitting in these places surrounded by so much Bravo history, you start to remember why, despite the Scandoval of it all, you ever cared so much in the first place.
These might not be the best days of our lives anymore, like the Vanderpump Rules theme songs suggests, but they're still pretty darn fun.
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