BY DAVID PISARRA
2901 Ocean Park Blvd #123,
Santa Monica, CA 90405
SOCIETY KITCHEN IS COMFORT FOOD WITH A TWIST
The restaurant world is one of constant change – there’s new dishes out each season with the variety of new vegetables or ‘artisanal’ salts, each meat purveyor will tout their wares with the buzzwords of the month, and locations seem to turn over with each new moon. For this moon we have Society Kitchen, located in what was Native Foods in a courtyard based mini-mall on Ocean Park Ave.
As mini-malls go this one has a surprisingly comfortable feel to its arrangement. There is a driveway down the middle of two buildings that are populated with fast food outlets like Subway, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and Fast Taco. On the fine dining end there is Il Forno, the classic Italian ristorante with its menu of pastas and pizzas and salad.
Smack in the middle of all lands. The dining experience begins with ordering at a two register setup, you are given a number for the table and you select whether to enjoy the black and white New York subway tile aesthetic inside or the luscious evening ambiance outside. Dogs are allowed in the courtyard – so we had no choice but to be outside and watch the pooches as they meet and greet all the customers.
Society Kitchen is a not too fast food restaurant, and not too expensive for great food. I stopped in on a Tuesday to try what is certainly their signature sandwich – a bacon blackberry and jalapeno grilled cheese. A finer quartet of flavors has probably never hit a griddle before. The smokiness of the bacon is complemented by the sweetness of the blackberry jam. The Swiss cheese tempers the heat of the jalapeno and all of it is encased in a robust and crispy toast. This sandwich takes comfort food to new levels of ecstasy.
Happy hour specials were listed, but unavailable as I arrived late. Which was a shame because I wanted to try some of the offerings which were on the menu even as full price appetizers – I think Society Kitchen should correct that.
I proceeded to order a wide selection of menu items for my party and clearly the kitchen was busy prepping all of them for simultaneous delivery to the table – which shows good intentions but bad execution.
There was quite a long wait for our food which I found disturbing, especially since none of the staff asked about until the wait become painfully obvious.
The pizza I ordered took longer to make than the shredded brisket sandwich. My grilled cheese was on the grill long after the shoestring French fries came out of the fryer is my guess since they were served quite cold. Either they spent too much time on the counter and the heat lamps were out, or something else happened, but when your first fry is cold – it sets a bad tone.
Luckily the pizza arrived moments after everything else did, and looked and tasted as wonderful as a spinach artichoke and mushroom pizza should. The crust was chewy but not like chewing gum. The only real issue I had was with the size the artichoke quarters – they’re a bit too big for a single bite and I think I’d prefer them to be chopped, even though they make for a beautiful presentation as quarters.
A close second for the evening was the Brisket Sandwich – served on a lovely brioche bun with coleslaw and pickled onions our was accompanied by a mix of greens perfectly dressed in a balsamic dressing.
The beef was tender and sweet, with a fragrant saucing. This was definitely one for the books and I would order it again.
In a tip of the hat to a healthy diet I tried the Cabo Salad which is romaine, avocado, tomatoes, jicama strips, roasted corn, black beans, tortilla strips (I wish they’d ban these from everything but tortilla soup!) mozzarella bathed in a cilantro vinaigrette.
This was certainly an entrée salad and had we added a protein it would be more than enough for one person’s meal.
When you order at the registers, there is a display case of pastries to tempt you, and while I wanted the Nutella Cupcake, I opted instead for the lemon bar and the carrot cake.
I’m not sure if these were housemade or sourced through a vending bakery – the quality is wonderful in either case.
Parking is available in the back and the underground lot. There is also metered street parking on Ocean Park and the side streets.
Society Kitchen rates a solid 3 out of 5 stars for food, service, and environment. Presentation was rather typical and nothing to write about. Prices range from $9-18 for small plates, $10-15 for salads, dinner mains are $10-16.