Forman’s Tavern brings a rustic feel and smoky savor to Toluca Lake.

The Sauce plans to hold off dropping in on Forman’s for a taste until its August 21 “soft opening” hardens up a little. (Restaurants are like pudding; they take time to gel.) But those who make a habit of restaurant-hopping on Riverside Drive can’t help but notice that the doors are open at the new tavern, created by the group behind Studio City’s Laurel Tavern.

The food and whiskey lodge, open for dinner, has moved into the space most recently occupied by Lucy’s 51 dining and entertainment lounge. In the 1950s and ’60s, this address was The Money Tree, notable for serving drinks to Hollywood celebs including Dean Martin, W.C, Fields, Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra. The restaurant borrows its name from General Charles Forman, the East Coast native who founded Toluca Lake (click here for a little of the general’s fascinating history from the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce).

In case you decide to visit before The Sauce does, Jonny Valenti, principal of ACME (the group that operates Forman’s, Laurel Tavern and a few downtown establishments), tells us patrons may expect more of the group’s “signature elevated pub food” with a different spin: Executive Chef Nick Coe employs an 801-pound Texas smoker and tosses his house-ground burgers on a wood-fired grill. Small-batch whiskeys are served, as well as cocktails from beverage director Dylan Snyder that include fresh fruits and herbs.

In keeping with Forman’s rustic hunting lodge look, also expect some taxidermy on the walls, including a jackalope and assorted pheasants. Vegans should probably keep their eyes on their plates and try the wood-grilled artichoke.

10149 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake, 818-760-6900, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily

Source: Ventura Blvd. Magazine