It was a quiet Monday night and I decided to drop into the “New York in Santa Monica” sports bar on Wilshire. Nestled between two standouts in the Santa Monica restaurant scene, the relatively new Wilshire and the “I think it was here before the dawn of time” Casa Escobar, is the very new Gramercy.
Sporting a modern, clean, aesthetic, the bar and restaurant has some hip New York elements without the grit, grime and stench. From the custom-made bar elements of wrought iron and leather to the black banquettes the feel is black wardrobe east coast, with some west coast flip flops.
Founded by seasoned restaurateurs Travis Clemens Santos and Troy Donnell, who also operate The West End, Bruhaus and The Belmont, this latest venture is a mix of sports bar, a list of cocktails named for East Coast locales and a pretty standard selection of typical bar food with some outré elements. There are the sriracha chicken wings instead of Buffalo wings, a duo of mac and cheese, tater tots (where did this trend come from?) the now ever-present avocado toast that everyone has their own take on. For lighter healthier fare there’s the Ahi Tuna Poke and a design
your own flatbread (I’m pretty sure this is called pizza in New York.)
They may be striving for New York but are smart enough to realize they better have some kale and quinoa on the menu for the vegetarians in the room. A burrata salad made the cut as did a farro bowl and a buddah bowl.
For those who are starving watching their teams win or lose, the Gramercy Burger is a ½ ground beef that can be upped with bacon, egg and avocado. In a ‘tip of the hat’ to the northeast, the Maine lobster roll can be ordered hot or cold.
There is a happy hour menu are at play from 4p.m. to 7p.m. which includes both food and beverages. There is a Game Day special drink menu with nachos for $6 and a $25 wing platter.
On this particular Monday night, I was one of three parties that were being served by the lone bartender and some woman who could be a bar back, but she didn’t seem to do much. There was a party of three, a couple down the bar, and me. I ordered the grilled vegetables with balsamic reduction and an order of the traditional mac and cheese.
I was surprised at how long it took to prepare what would normally be mostly prepped dishes. The mac and cheese was not an adventuresome preparation. Cavatappi (the corkscrew pasta) was the base and it was cooked properly for my liking, it still had some of that needed tooth that lets you know it’s there. Often pasta is overcooked and mushy – this wasn’t. The cheese sauce was nicely seasoned, not the typical salt lick so many restaurants default to. However, it needs work. As a sauce it was a pale impression of what one expects from mac and cheese. Pools of clear oil were forming as the cheese proteins separated and clung to the pasta. It might have been a bad batch, it could have been just a lazy Monday night cook, but this cheese sauce needed more roux or less cooking or something. It was tasty but not appealing to the eye and lacked that creaminess one expects with mac and cheese.
The vegetable platter was a huge portion of yellow and green zucchini that was properly grilled to the point of high flavor but not cremated. A nice amount of cooked but not destroyed mushrooms added an earthiness to the selection. Sweet red peppers had been charred on a grill and they were delightful and not slimy. The biggest failure of this dish was the asparagus which looked overly cooked, wilted or too old. The spears were also not properly separated when one prepares asparagus one should break off the ends, which will naturally remove the hard woody bottoms. They did not do that here, rather they were cut, so I had a few hunks of something that resembled an oak tree’s roots. Not good.
I’m not sure this restaurant has found its footing yet. It’s not clear what exactly it wants to be. The neon sign on the wall said ‘eat drink social’ so does it want to be a restaurant, a sports/wine/ high-end cocktail bar, or a nightclub? I was told they have some streetside seating starting next week which will make for nice evenings I’m sure.
Gramercy clearly has fans, when the driver for Postmates stopped in, the bartender asked which of the three orders he wanted. I think that is a new major source of business, especially on a Monday night. As a sports bar, the food was fine. As an upscale restaurant, this will not do. As a nightclub, I doubt it would last with so little dance floor available.
Gramercy deserves 3 stars out of 5. Prices range from $9-18. There is street parking.
2460 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 9040