You cannot write about a restaurant called The Last Word and not indulge in at least one corny line. So let's get that out of the way now: We very much hope this is not the last word on The Last Word, because Livermore's newest hipster bar and eatery is a delight.
Nestled next to the Bankhead Theater, this fun little gastropub offers cushy couches and chairs and a cocktail-height communal table, as well as standard four-tops in a space that straddles the bar-with-food/restaurant-with-cocktails divide comfortably. Rick and Theresa Dobbs have created a warm and welcoming venue with all the requisite hipster touches, from the Edison light bulbs to the chalkboard-painted wall and witty booze menu.
Rick, a former bartender and cocktail writer (he founded the Cocktail GoGo blog), brings that spirited expertise to a craft cocktail menu ($11) that ranges from Bee's Knees and daiquiris to twisty riffs, such as the Manhattan-esque Spaghetti Western and the rum-based Tormenta Violenta, which includes "gentle flowers picked from a super model's garden." The bar offers beer on its "Barley Legal" menu ($7), as well as wines by the glass. The chalkboard list didn't include a single Livermore wine the night we were there, though, which we hope was an anomaly. The restaurant is in the heart of Livermore's incredible wine country, after all.
The food side of the equation is the work of Theresa, a former personal chef, and the menu has an easy flow as it moves from small plates to large, from spiced nuts ($3) and sausage bites ($4) to asparagus-topped flatbread with comté and truffle salt ($10) and chicken-and-waffle sliders with maple and sriracha ($12). A Sunday Dinner special ($20) ups the ante by including a small cocktail along with the main fare. On this particular evening, it was a port-based Age of Exploration that accompanied a grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes and veggies. The restaurant also does a tacos-and-beer combo they've dubbed Tacos and a Rio Grande ($8). A sense of whimsy and fun permeates the entire affair.
The main misstep here -- and the reason The Last Word is getting a 2.5- and not a 3-star rating -- lies in the disconnect between the glacial pacing of the bar service and the relative swiftness of the kitchen crew. It's as if the bartender doesn't realize you're planning to eat, too. By the time our cocktails finally arrived on this not-particularly-busy evening, we had not only finished our appetizers -- psst, get the crisp, crunchy, freshly made chips with caramelized onion dip ($7) and you will never touch an ersatz onion soup mix-dip again -- but were well into our entrees. Perhaps the makeup of the wine list doesn't much matter, if you're going to have tequila with dessert.
That said, we thoroughly enjoyed the rather messy Bassian Farms skirt steak "gyros" ($14) -- thinly sliced steak, really -- served on flatbread with cucumbers, tomatoes and a yogurt sauce. The cheeseburger ($12) also was terrific, topped with aioli, cheddar or blue cheese, house-made pickles and arugula, with crisp fries on the side.
The Last Word offers three desserts, including a chocolate budino ($6) and an affogato ($7) served with chocolate chip cookies on the side, but who could resist a waffleized take on Bananas Foster ($8)? It was a playful dish with its hot, crisp waffle bites, chilly organic vanilla ice cream and boozy caramelized bananas -- a bit too sweet, but delicious nevertheless.
Sync up the bar and kitchen and The Last Word will be "splendid."
The Last Word
* * ½
WHERE: 2470 First St., Suite 100, Livermore
HOURS: 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, and until 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday
VEGETARIAN: Several small plate options, including lentil soup ($7) and an asparagus salad with quinoa, feta and hazelnuts ($9).
BEVERAGES: Craft cocktails, beer and wine by the glass.
NOISE LEVEL: Medium loud
PARKING: City parking garage on Railroad Avenue, behind the Bankhead Theater
KIDS: Get a sitter
PLUSES: Great cocktails, good food and a fun hipster vibe
MINUSES: Uneven service
DATE OPENED: December 2012
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Restaurants are rated on a scale of one to four, with four representing a truly extraordinary experience for that type of restaurant.
$ Most entrees under $10
$$ Most entrees under $20
$$$ Most entrees under $30
$$$$ Most entrees under $40