Sometimes you just know when you have a hit on your hands — or should I say in your mouth? The people who brought the ShopHouse to Santa Monica must be feeling that sentiment as long lines consistently jut out the door and extend onto the Third Street Promenade.
After all, the corner of Third and Santa Monica Boulevard is the prime location in town. While ShopHouse has only been open for a couple of weeks, there has been a decent amount of anticipation stirring from the many who frequent the area and knew that the old La Salsa structure had been shrouded in scaffolding for quite some time.
But that is all a thing of the past. With no grand nor soft openings, ShopHouse simply opened the flood gates and watched the people pour in. It’s no coincidence that their initial success is linked with being developed by Chipotle. Chipotle has branded themselves on serving food fresh, fast and with an emphasis on sustainably sourced, hormone-free fare. As an added bonus, ShopHouse’s menu is completely gluten and dairy free. Us Santa Monicans eat this stuff up.
Besides standing by the Chipotle mantra, ShopHouse has adopted their assembly line style of service as well. This all means those crazy lines move pretty fast. The staff seems pretty dialed in, so it’s best if you know what you want when it’s your turn to order because “ain’t nobody got time to wait! Next!”
The abbreviated explanation of ShopHouse is that it is an Asian-style Chipotle. That’s unfair considering how big of a continent Asia is. And if you’re thinking Panda Express but perhaps less gloppy, only half of that is true. Tim Wildin, director of concept development at Chipotle, helped develop ShopHouse from its infancy.
“I grew up eating traditional Thai food prepared by my mom and my aunt using traditional recipes and cooking techniques. When we were developing the menu for ShopHouse, we knew we wanted those exotic flavors as the basis for many of the dishes,” Tim said.
In other words, this place was built with Sriracha lovers in mind. The ShopHouse menu is exclusively bowl based starting with a foundation of either jasmine rice, brown rice, chilled rice noodles, Napa cabbage or kale. Then top it with chicken satay, finely chopped steak laab, pork and chicken meatballs, or organic tofu. Southeast Asian flavors sing when embellishing your bowl with an assortment of garnishes, sauces, and veggies such as eggplant and thai basil, green curry and green papaya slaw. When it’s all said and done the bowls cost around $7 to $8. Make it a meal for a few bucks more by adding a Thai brand beer.
The ShopHouse stays true to their claim of authentic Southeast Asian street food with assertively spiced curries and flash-wokked veggies. Bonus points for using non-Monsanto soy for their tofu. (Monsanto controls 90 percent of the soybean production in the U.S.) Add in some ginger, cilantro and a texture with some bite for a tofu you will actually want to eat.
There are no real complaints to report on the ShopHouse. Seating is scarce, but the bowl is best enjoyed while people watching on the promenade or in Palisades Park. The long lines move fast, prices are reasonable, and the food is fresh and for the most part very sensible. Everything is coming up roses for ShopHouse. Probably the most non-hidden gem in all of Santa Monica.
If you go
1401 Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica, Calif.
Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/greaseweek