While walking down the Third Street Promenade with my friend Michel, we were lamenting about the absence of French restaurants when we saw George’s Bistro. Well, a bistro is French, and George is a common French name, so in we went.

George’s bistro is not French. It’s eclectic American, which means Italian dishes and a lot of fried foods. But, that being said, what we ate was pretty good.

We tried the meat lasagna, which came in a hot baking dish, and consisted of well made pasta, a tomato-based sauce, and ground beef. At $15 it’s a bargain, and enough for two. The salad that went with it was pretty much like back in the Midwest: lettuce, croutons and bottled dressing.

Having been saturated with ads for McDonald’s hot wings while watching my favorite sports events, I noticed hot wings on this menu. I actually tried the McDonald’s version a few weeks ago, and found their version a bit dry, and the only thing hot was the attractive young woman taking the orders. But the hot wings at George’s were really good: they were not over-fried, and the chicken was moist and tender. The hot sauce, on the side, had a bit too much vinegar taste for me, but was in fact hot, and the cool white sauce was just right. At $11 for six pieces it seemed reasonable, although it cost a lot more than the $.50 per wing offered at McDonald’s.

Having seen their prowess in frying, we felt compelled to try an order of fried calamari. Often these come overcooked and taste like cardboard. To George’s credit, these were as good as I’ve had anywhere. They were very lightly fried, and had perfect texture. The dipping sauce was a bit heavy on the tomato flavor, but that’s probably how most people like it. I prefer a bit more spicy sauce. At $13 this dish might be a bit more than charged in most places, but I found it well worth it, especially in a tourist area with a view of the promenade.

According to the wait staff, the favorite dish at George’s is the pasta with chicken and pieces of tomato. And, in the evenings many customers order a 12-ounce rib eye at $32. The staff is very competent, and the head waiter and chef have been on board for almost 20 years.

To go with my coffee I decided to try the cheesecake. Now cheesecake is a subject on which one could write a book. It’s been around for over 2,000 years and was quite a delicacy in ancient Greece and Rome. A good feature about cheesecake is that it relies on cheese, cream and egg yokes for thickening, not flour.

There are many different kinds of cheesecakes, and they vary both in the kind of cheese used (cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, quark), if it is baked or not, and what region it is made. There are at least 12 different regional types of cheesecake.

But when all is said and done, there are two distinct types found in almost all American restaurants: one comes with the cheesecake layer on a crust and a layer of lighter, creamier cheese on top, and the other is more like a baked cake, but of course much lighter because of the absence of flour. Personally I like the one with two layers, the creamy layer of soft cream cheese on top, and the more dense cheese filling over a graham cracker crust.

At George’s Bistro the cheesecake fails the Merv Test. It’s the baked cake type, over a forgettable crust, and too heavy. There is little, if any, cream cheese taste. For $8 we can do better.

There’s a lot more to be said about cheesecake, and Michel and I are going to visit some delis around town to get more information for you. Meanwhile, I’m going back to George’s soon for more fried calamari and a rib-eye steak.

If you go

George’s Bistro

1321 Third Street Promenade

(310) 451-0436


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 mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

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