There are a lot of hot new restaurants opening up in Santa Monica. In fact, there are so many I am having trouble keeping up with them and writing the other two great articles I have in mind, “Where are the best BBQ ribs in the SM area” and “Old Timers.”
The new places seem directed toward the younger crowd, the prices are reasonable, the drinks are colorful, and the food selections take into account patrons looking for healthy choices such as grass fed beef, organic vegetables from the Farmers’ Market, served in smaller portions.
A good example is the Misfit Bar, which opened up in the old Anisette space where most of the French brasserie décor remains with more comfortable bar stools inside and outside (good move) and paintings of two old fashioned nudes above the bar.
And it’s really a great bar. Some of my readers may be old enough to remember “Cheers” on television, stories about a bar where “everyone knows your name.” At the Misfit, probably no one will remember your name because it’s so busy, but it doesn’t matter because there are a lot of people to meet and everyone seems friendly without knowing who you are.
The staff says that the food is designed as “bar food” to go with the general concept that it’s a bar. But it’s really better food than that, and a much wider selection than one usually finds in a bar. The most popular dish seems to be the burgers, which are served on toast instead of a bun. The Misfit burger with cheddar cheese (and green chilies on request) is terrific. The “bit” burger with pancetta, gruyere, and arugula is also good, but tends to overpower the delicious flavors of the grass fed prime beef.
The wild mushroom soup is a good example of the healthy attitude. Instead of a thick creamy soup that one usually sees when mushroom soup is on the menu, this turned out to be a rich flavored mushroom broth filled with flavorful mushroom slices, and a bit of cheese sprinkled on top. And a French onion soup was also quite good, if a bit sweet.
The shoestring potatoes are as good as anywhere in town. And although the waitress said that the BBQ ribs, made from lean Danish pork, were “great to share,” they were way too good for me to share them.
The only dish I didn’t care for so far has been the raw Hamachi, which didn’t taste too fresh. Anyway, when it comes to eating raw fish, I like to stick to Japanese restaurants. When one of our guests complained that there was nothing on the menu that was salt free, the waitress alerted the chef, Bruce Kalman, who showed up a few minutes later, apologized to our friend, and worked out a dish with her that he could prepare salt free. Now that’s service.
A similar thing happened one time when a young man at the next table complained about his steak being tough. The waitress snatched it away and brought him a new one the he pronounced fine. In other words, this staff is well trained and — maybe because it’s new and enthusiastic — is out to please.
But wait! Did I tell you the good part yet? It’s the prices! The burgers range from $11 to $13 (beef or tuna). Nothing is over $25, and in fact you can eat and drink well for around $20. The prime rib French dip sliders are $12, and the surf and turf sliders, one lobster and one prime rib, are the same price.
While the plates generally come with small portions, the food is rich and suffices when you’re out for a light supper. But if you are still hungry after a plate you can always order the hummus, muhammara and raw vegetables for $8.
You want to be healthy, right? OK, there are no desserts on the menu, and none for sale! But you will be offered a very good chocolate chip cookie with a taste of salt in it (the salt cuts the sweetness just right). Of course you don’t have to eat it!
The bar offerings include about 18 beers, a half dozen specialty cocktails, and a couple dozen wines. The nice thing about the wine list is that it’s appropriately priced for this kind of restaurant. Almost everything is under $50, and there are 10 whites by the glass and eight reds by the glass, mostly in the $8 to $12 range. All of the major grapes are represented, so there’s something for every taste.
The Misfit Bar is a nice place to go out to for a drink in the evening, meet some friends (or make new ones) and share a few plates. It’s not fine dining but it’s fine fun. And, unlike the old days at Anisette, the bar is full almost every evening. Amazing what good management can do for a restaurant.
If Yo Go
225 Santa Monica Blvd.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org