Nostalgia Bar & Lounge wants to bring people back to simpler times, yet its food and drink program is anything but basic.
Dreamed up by Chefs Chris Sayegh and Jared Ventura, the bar bites menu features whimsical takes on childhood classics like a PB&J reimagined as a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, peanut mousse, raspberry sorbet and candied peanuts. Similarly, Bradley Fry’s cocktail offerings play with blasts from the past such as an Otter Pop inspired cocktail made with vodka, orange liqueur, blueberry, raspberry, honey, raspberry lemonade terpene and a berry fruit popsicle as a stirrer.
The bar and lounge space at 1326 Pico Blvd. is the brainchild of Chris Sayegh, also known as the Herbal Chef, who seeks to bring a sense of play and levity back into the dining experience after a turbulent two years for the industry.
“So much has changed in the past couple of years and so many things have gotten derailed that we won’t go into, but a lot of people in our industry lost their livelihood after working for 10, 15, 20 years,” said Sayegh. “And so essentially Nostalgia is like reminiscing about what’s always good in life, which is imbibing and eating with your friends and family and the people around you; playing games, having drinks, listening to music.”
Nostalgia is set up to facilitate all of these activities. Both the interior lounge space, with its comfy leather sofas, and the outdoor patio space, with its bright picnic tables, are well suited for group gatherings. There’s also a wide variety of classic games on deck—including Operation, Sorry, Jenga, and Battleship—as well as a small stage that will host live music and DJ sets.
Although Sayegh is known for creating gourmet cannabis infused meals under his company Herbal Chef, Nostalgia’s offerings will not feature any THC due to local legislative restrictions. Nevertheless, Sayegh’s philosophy of cooking with plant medicine is present throughout the menu.
“The true nature of what we do is showing people that plant medicines are extremely versatile and helpful in every which way, so at Nostalgia and everything that we do for Herbal Chef, we don’t use any inflammatory seed oils, we only use avocado oil and high quality olive oil,” said Sayegh. “Both the bar menu and the food menu uses roots and herbs known to have anti-inflammatory healing aspects to them.”
Even though the menu features a lot of comfort foods, Sayegh has imbued his dishes with hidden touches of plant medicine. For example, something as simple as ranch dressing incorporates the anti-inflammatory ingredients of ginger and turmeric roots. The cocktail menu also features herbal, CBD and terpene infusions.
Sayegh said that he one day hopes to be able to bring his signature THC infused offerings to Nostalgia and seeks to establish a close and cooperative relationship with the City.
“Essentially, what I’m doing is trying to destigmatize plant medicine. The way in which people feel most comfortable consuming something is eating, because it breaks every social barrier; it breaks every racial barrier, every language barrier… it’s something that every human being on this planet does,” said Sayegh. “Fine dining is a creative outlet to get people talking about the nuances of cannabis consumption, and then also to show them that it can be done in a sophisticated way.”
Nostalgia has a limited menu, due to the constraints of the building’s small kitchen, but nevertheless features a refined food and beverage program. Located in the former space of The Speak Easy dive bar, Sayegh felt that a bar bites and limited big bites menu with creative cocktails would be an ideal fit.
Some favorite bar bites include the fresh kampachi crudo with nori dressing, allium oil, avocado puree and whipped creme fraiche; as well as the ‘fire and ice’ oysters paired with smoked furikake sabayon and pineapple habanero granita. Among the stand out big bites is the lightly torched kobe beef served on freshly baked sourdough toast with mustard aioli, marinated radish, turnip and microgreens; and the lobster roll with herb aioli and the option to add kaluga caviar.
While Sayegh has extensive restaurant experience, including cooking under Michelin-starred Chef Josiah Citrine at Mélisse in Santa Monica and launching his own catering and personal chef business, Nostalgia is his first brick and mortar dining space.
“We’re super excited to show people what we can do and very excited to feed people in the way that we think it should be done in terms of the quality of ingredients,” said Sayegh.
Nostalgia Bar & Lounge is located at 1326 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Hours of operation are Wednesday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. with daily happy hour from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and live entertainment on weekends.