While the Mexican dining experience is well represented in Santa Monica, the Spanish is less so, but that’s all about to change as celebrated southern Californian chef Sandra Cordero is set to open a new tapas restaurant Downtown.

The incoming eatery is to be located at 516 Santa Monica Blvd, the former Heroic Italian space, and just a few doors down from Andrea Inio’s upscale Italian restaurant Orto. It’s called Xuntos (pronounced: she-un-tos) which means “together” in Galego, which itself is a dialect of Spanish from the Galicia region, sometimes referred to as the Iberian Peninsula.

Cordero has lived in the US for over 20 years but hails from the Netherlands and spent her summers in the north-easternmost tip of Spain. She previously ran another popular Spanish-themed restaurant called Gasolina Cafe in Woodland Hills. Unlike that eatery however, which had an all-day cafe feel with a plentiful supply of paella, this new endeavor will focus on classic tapas, together with one or two Californian-influenced offerings together with a unique collection of specially selected wines chosen by sommelier Scott Baker.

“I’m very excited that we’re seeing more Spanish restaurants because there’s so many different kinds of Spanish food from all of the different regions of the country,” Cordero said.

She also says that her decision to open this restaurant in Santa Monica was a very deliberate choice. “People don’t explore by walking so much in LA. Yes, there are some neighborhoods where this happens, but not as many as other places. Nobody just discovers us by walking by, so, that’s really challenging for a restaurant.

“You have to do a lot of different ways to reach out. And we have, we did become a true neighborhood restaurant [Gasolina Cafe]. And we’re very involved in the community. And we have so many regulars, which is really great. That’s the kind of restaurant I like to create, one that becomes part of the community and becomes a second home to people,” Cordero said.

“We’ve been looking on and off for a while. And then we finally feel like we really found the right spot, the right building. It’s a beautiful building, it just speaks to me, because it’s an old building and has history. It speaks to my European vein.”

Cordero is aiming for a late spring/early summer opening, roughly two months from now. The split level space will accommodate a bar with tall seats and dining availability in addition to banquette seating and two small mezzanines, making a total of about 75 covers. She says the interior decor will be classic with refurbished wooden floors and just a hint of art deco.

“I’m so happy to see this trend of Spanish food happening in Los Angeles, finally, because I lived in New York for eight years and there’s Spanish food everywhere. And you know, London or Amsterdam, you know, it’s normal, but there’s definitely a surge here now and it’s really exciting to be riding that wave, for sure.”


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.