BY DAVID PISARRA
109 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Aussie invasion, via New York, has landed on Santa Monica Boulevard, just a few feet away from ocean vistas in the form of a hip new burger joint called Little Ruby.
This West coast offshoot of an East coast small chain known as Ruby’s Café is a delightfully charming open air experience.
I arrived on a Sunday to a mostly packed restaurant for lunch. The general manager, Tim Sykes, was a charming host.
I was seated streetside and said my server, Bree Cummins would be along shortly.
As I read the basic menu, which has some unique items for Southern California, Bree made her appearance and asked if I had questions. Not sure what I wanted, she suggested I try the Vegemite and toast.
Being of a certain age, her suggestion immediately produced a soundtrack in my head of Men At Work singing Down Under. Against my instincts, she was able to talk me into trying this crazy Australian breakfast staple.
“You just put lots of butter on the toast and a very little amount of the Vegemite” she said. “okay, bread and butter has to be a good foundation. I’ll give it a go.”
Minutes later she and Tim arrive to explain how one Vegemites. The plate had two pieces of inch and a half thick, crusty, yeasty bread with a huge ramekin of butter and a medium one of some black tar looking stuff.
It had the consistency of toothpaste and smelled fermented.
Following the instructions of Bree, I slathered bread with loads of butter and then a tiny dollop of the Vegemite.
I bit in the toasted bread and the warmed butter brought a familiar flavor of joy, and then the Vegemite hit.
It was tangy, and salty, with an effervescent note of yeast.
I liked it. The Vegemite was a strong but not overpowering complementary flavor to a traditional taste.
What Bree said, and I realized was my problem previously, was “it’s not like peanut butter. You use it as a seasoning not as a main ingredient.
” That made all the difference in the world to the experience.
Less is more in this case, where more is overpowering.
Next up was the Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado and Tomato sandwich.
Bacon being bacon, more is always better.
This sandwich arrived with a humongous amount of Australian style bacon on well toasted bread and slathered with mayonnaise and ripe tomatoes. This was a winner of a sandwich.
To be noted though Aussie style bacon is more like a smoky bacony pastrami than the streaky bacon that we Americans are used to.
It doesn’t come cooked to a crispy consistency that shatters upon biting. It’s more like strips of meat that resemble a sliced brisket.
I found this style similar to the British bacon I had while living in England.
It’s akin to Canadian bacon as we call it.
I didn’t have room for the enormous burgers and salads, all of which looked superb.
I’m just going to have to return and try some other items on the menu. It won’t be a hard sell to get me to go there thanks to the great service by Bree and the charming eyes of Tim, along with his accent, I’ll be happy to drop in and say Hello anytime.
There is a nice selection of pastas that I want to try, and the desserts range from a standard chocolate cake, to Banofee Sundae Pot, and a Sticky Date Pudding that sounds delish.
Parking is available in an adjacent public lot and a few spots on the street. Being downtown, there’s the parking lot complexes and some additional spots on Ocean Avenue.
Little Ruby rates a solid 4 out of 5 stars for food, service, and environment. Presentation is rather typical and nothing to write about.
Prices range from $9-18 for small plates, Brekkie is $10-15 and for salads, pastas are $ 13-15, lunch specials, and dinner mains are $10-25. Hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.