This year has already seen a trio of new eateries opening in Santa Monica, each offering a selection that differs significantly from many, more conventional fast food outlets.

“I’m excited to see so many new restaurants opening because Santa Monica has such a strong focus on healthy living and exercise is the perfect market for opening health-focused, new dining options,” said Susan Hojer, Vice President of Membership and Development for the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

Located at 2200 Colorado Ave, Hummus Xpress offers exactly what the name suggests. And while the food there is really rather tasty, some confusion is commonplace since the store has chosen to adopt the phrase “a taste of Italy” as part of its branding.

Store owner Timmonique Burnett insists that garbanzo beans also known as chickpeas, the primary ingredient in hummus, originate from Italy.

“People don’t do their research when it comes to the origin of chickpeas and garbanzo beans. So if you really look up where it comes from, that’s where we got Italy,” Burnett says.

Still, while the jury is out on the origin story, at the very least it gets customers looking up history, culture and foreign cuisine. And regardless of their origins, Burnett uses them in a wide variety of different and delicious ways, including a pizza with a base made from pita bread.

Originally from Compton, Burnett recently had to adjust her own diet and saw an opportunity in Santa Monica to open a business because “people here focus on healthy dining,” and she has no intention of keeping to just one outlet.

“Our goal is to start franchising in 2024 and we already have some people on our radar who are interested in trying to partner with us. So right now I’m working with an attorney to get all the logistics together,” she said.

Highlights from the menu include the lemon pepper pizza (pita bread pizza base, hummus spread, lemon pepper chicken, cheese and tomatoes) but for the best experience, ask what for whatever the chef recommends.

Meanwhile, on the Promenade, a new concept from Chipotle called Farmesa has opened at the Kitchen United Mix space (formally the Gallery Food Hall) at 1315 3rd Street and “features a robust, customizable menu of fresh ingredients served in bowls.”

Customers can place an order either via onsite kiosks, on the Kitchen United website or for pickup and delivery through marketplace apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats. Farmesa serves a variety of bowls ranging in price from $11.95 to $16.95. Each bowl features a protein, green or grain, two sides, a choice of five sauces and a topping option.

“One of our strategic objectives is to create or invest in emerging culinary spaces and restaurant concepts that fit within Chipotle’s food with integrity mission and make fresh food daily,” said Brian Niccol, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in a press release. “Our New Ventures team, which was created in 2022, developed a unique restaurant concept that uses classic culinary techniques with flavorful ingredients in a fast casual setting that we’re excited to test and learn on before we determine a broader rollout strategy.”

Farmesa launched with a limited run menu to begin with adopting the full menu that includes dishes like classic Santa Maria-style grilled tri-tip steak, spice-crusted ora king salmon, whipped potatoes, golden beets, sprouted cauliflower and sweet potato chips.

Finally, the popular, Southern Californian salad shop chain Health Nut is opening its fourth location in Los Angeles County, located at 1447 Lincoln Blvd. According to the website, it’s scheduled to open sometime in the spring, although no official date has yet been confirmed.

What started in 1988 as a family-owned vitamin store, the chain has evolved into a successful series of healthy eating outlets and even has plans to open a fifth location after Santa Monica, in Culver City.

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Scott Snowden

Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.