3940 Fourth Avenue #200, Hillcrest
American humorist James Thurber once said, “One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough.” While most of us instinctively know this to be true, there’s no better place to test its enduring veracity than Martinis Above Fourth in Hillcrest.
A short elevator lift from the entrance to Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro and Lounge, Martinis specializes in over 100 twists on the iconic beverage in a comfortably classy environment. Though the elitist may cringe at Martinis’ vodka-centric concoctions, drinks are served in generous ten-ounce pours that call for reconsideration of Thurber’s formula or, in the case of the Mega-Martini (which requires a group of three or more to order), its dismissal altogether.
Adorned with James Bond movie posters — one pictures Sean Connery sipping a dry, “shaken-not-stirred” martini while seducing a Ukrainian double agent — the intimate dining room and piano lounge is where keyboard crooner Don L. plays Thursdays (7 to 11 p.m.), the self-proclaimed “piano wench,” Carol Curtis, performs Fridays (7 to 10 p.m.), and the bespectacled Michael Sanchez sings classic ballads on Saturdays (7 to 11 p.m.).
The venue went under new ownership in October, followed by a patio renovation and a revamped menu. My attire of hoodie and cut-offs felt a little underwhelming for the atmosphere, though the drinking patio overlooking Fourth (smoking permitted) is less formal than the dining room, which serves fine entrées, including a bacon-wrapped bleu cheese–stuffed filet mignon ($29), blackberry-glazed duck breast ($26), and wild mushroom chicken fettuccine ($18).
Martinis’ happy hour (all evening Mondays and select hours Tuesday through Saturday) is an ideal start to a night of club-hopping around Hillcrest, with half-off appetizers such as the staple, spicy crab cakes ($6), seasoned fries ($3), and the chicken quesadilla ($5) to accompany drink specials, including $1 martini of the day samples, $2 Coronas and drafts, $3 wells, $4 select wines, and $5 select martinis.
Excellent service, upscale ambiance, and an easygoing mood. Street parking is available, but you’ll probably want to check out the pay lot behind Peet’s on weekends.
Hours: Mon–Thurs, open at 5; Fri–Sat, open at 4; Closed Sundays.
Happy: Mon, all evening; Tues–Thurs, 5–7:30; Fri–Sat, 4–6:30.