Santa Monica is excited to report that during the past year, resolute businesspeople have continued to open restaurants in our beatific beachside community. Now that businesses can open up and folks are feeling more comfortable dining out, the restaurant world is ready to once again welcome new and returning customers. 10 of Santa Monica’s most compelling food and coffee newcomers are particularly well positioned to thrive.
The header image is from Cult and courtesy of Muse Media.
 

Alfalfa

Childhood friends Andrew Arrospide, Daniel Sobsey, Ben Sobsey, and Daniel Londono sprouted Alfalfa at a Hoboken, New Jersey farmers market before going permanent in 2019. In early 2021, the quartet added a Santa Monica outpost on Main Street featuring a planter-lined parklet out front, a colorful coffee and donut bar, and a long mural-painted hallway leading to an airy back patio. Salads form the core of the business, all featuring a leafy “Alfalfa mix” in concoctions like Best Coast, Far East, and an Italian-inspired Soprano. Bonus: every salad is available in a wrap. Alfalfa also created a destination breakfast burrito starring spiced house-made pork sausage, eggs, ancho chile hash, potatoes, queso Oaxaca, Manchego, onion, red pepper and two salsas: tangy green tomatillo avocado salsa and spicy red chile de arbol. Raised, house-made donuts come in flavors like vanilla lavender and honey matcha. The partners also have an Intelligentsia coffee program and make fun decaf drinks like ginger turmeric lemonade.

 

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Breadblok

This gluten-free Montana Avenue bakery from the Charlier family, including sisters Chloe and Celine, graduated from local farmers markets in style. Exquisite loaves and boxed shortbreads line shelves, while pastries and tarts appear in glass cases that look like a jewelry store display. Their shop resembles a boutique with seasonal tartlets, croissants and teacakes standing in for diamonds and pearls. Soft brioche donuts come in flavors like coffee and apple cider sport monkfruit glazes. Most breads feature rice flour, though other alternative flours include buckwheat and chestnut. A relaxing parklet set out front of Breadblok hosts tables and chairs.

 

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Cafe Ruisseau

Edward Ackah-Miezah expanded his coffee bar from Playa Vista, opening last fall at the corner of glass and steel building that houses companies like STARZ. Ruisseau means “brook” in French and is also the owner’s daughter’s name. Ackah-Miezah names coffee roasts for iconic Black pop culture triumphs and figures, including Love Jones, a reference to the 1997 movie; The Miseducation, a nod to Lauryn Hill’s 1998 album; and Mamba, Kobe Bryant’s nickname. The space at Cafe Ruisseau houses mixed marble and wood tables, comfortable lounge chairs, and powerful protest images, including “Decolonize Your Mind.” A La Marzocco espresso machine powers beverages like their signature honey lavender latte.

 

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Caffe Wooyoo

Wooyoo is an amalgam of the two owners’ last names and is also what Korean people call milk. Caffe Wooyoo opened in October in the former 800 Degrees takeout kitchen. A small patio gives way to a tiny café with a powerhouse coffee bar touting a cream colored, two-group La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, Poursteady pourover bar, and Kyoto-style cold brew towers. They brew LaB Coffee Roasters beans for drinks like the Santamonicano (their version of an Americano made with espresso and hot water). V-Shield is a specialty drink featuring espresso, jujube & ginger concentrate, milk, and Wooyoo syrup (dragon fruit & strawberry). House-baked pastries include chocolate walnut cookies, fish-shaped, strawberry filled waffles, and a Wooyoo bar with strawberry Rice Krispies.

 

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Cult

Peter Trinh, his partners from The Craftsman Bar and Kitchen and Lanea and chef Kim Vu recently opened this Third Street Promenade café. Fountainside tables under black and white umbrellas complement a dining room with green cushioned booths and banquettes, and black and white checked floor. Vu designed their menu to “reinterpret other people’s famous days in homage to L.A.” That includes Howlin’ Ray’s hot chicken, the Father’s Office burger, and SQIRL pesto rice bowl. Vu hopes to add her own cult classics to the mix. She also makes donuts in-house with glazes like vanilla and matcha mint. Their dual-purpose bar yields drinks made with Brooklyn’s Sey Coffee and cocktails like Rose Quartz mixing vodka, hibiscus, rose, honey, and citrus. It’s worth visiting Cult just to peruse the coffee menu’s hilarious descriptions. For instance, cold brew is “smooth like the 2000 Grammy award winning single by Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas.”

 

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Edobox

This concept from local chef Makoto Okuwa and managing partner Sky Strouth opened last fall. Okuwa’s family crest is a hawk’s feather, and his origami artist son designed Edobox’s origami hawk logo, which appears above the ordering window on this patio-only, beach-friendly restaurant. A street artist painted a blue, white and gold mural on the north wall that riffs on Hokusai’s famous Japanese painting “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” Wood benches host sunburst pillows and a fire pit accompanies every table. Okuwa mainly runs Japanese restaurants in tropical places, and Edobox’s open-air vibe fits in Santa Monica. So does his modern, fast casual food. Edobox focuses on mix-and-match, four- or six-compartment bento boxes drawing from categories like salads, proteins, dumplings & noodles and vegetables. Options including dry-aged Flannery Beef dumplings, fried Brussels sprouts dressed with kimchi and chile threads, and diced Hamachi with yuzu ponzu and Mexico City inspired chiles toreados (spicy pickled jalapeño and onion). To meet customer demand, they added exquisite 12-piece and 15-piece omakase zushiboxes branded with the hawk.

 

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Interstellar

Santa Monica is the point between two stars for Chef Angie Kim and husband Daniel. The couple opened Interstellar in early 2020 in a historic building near Palisades Park. A fenced patio gives way to an airy space with green cushioned banquette, seafoam green tiles, and plants hanging over the bar. Angie put together an eclectic all-day menu, including fried chicken and waffles, a sambal butter poached lobster roll, and Seattle-style cheddar bratwurst, since her hometown hot dogs come topped with cream cheese. Daniel’s mother contributed recipes for sweet & spicy wings and galbi (Korean marinated short rib) that stars in a bowl with melted mozzarella. Cheesecake, classic or pink guava, comes with farmers market berries. Daniel is a Q Grader, an illustrious coffee world accreditation, and he’s put together a strong program with Onyx beans and signature drinks like the orange maple latte designed to mimic Fruity Pebbles.

 

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LA Puglia

To end 2020, this multifaceted restaurant, bakery and juice bar debuted along Wilshire Boulevard and has already drawn homesick Italians. Heated sidewalk tables reside under a flower-lined ledge and slides project on the dining room wall, showing pictures from Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. Inside LA Puglia you’ll find a bakery case display of bread, pizza slices, tiramisu and cannoli. An impressive white oven burns almond wood. Puccia are sandwiches typical of Lecce featuring whole wheat bread and fillings like smoked salmon, mortadella, and prosciutto di Parma. Pasta also takes up substantial menu real estate, as it should, including seafood linguine stained black with squid ink and mezzi rigatoni with swordfish and cherry tomatoes.

 

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Le Petit Chez Mimi

Longtime restaurateur Micheline “Mimi” Hebert previously ran Chez Mimi locations near Brentwood Country Mart and in Pacific Palisades, among other restaurants. She resurfaced in the fall at age 80. Le Petit Chez Mimi features a wraparound patio and hosts light-wrapped fences and heaters. Inside, find an open kitchen with lavender on the ledge and a portrait of Mimi behind the bar. A small dining room further back touts framed French posters. Poulet du jour features herbaceous roasted chicken served with a corn soufflé disc and green beans. Other dishes from the classic French canon include moules marinières and steak au poivre. For dessert, the Québec native offers pouding chômeur, a Depression-era pudding that made the most of stale bread and brown sugar and later added maple syrup and cream.

Meal at Le Petit Chez Mimi in Santa Monica

Credit: Jim Guerard

 

Papille Gustative

The name of this farm-to-table restaurant from Marina and Calin Senciac translates to English as tastebud. The homey space debuted last June and features wall-to-wall wood with a message of LOVE indoors and a parklet along Main Street. Their expansive brunch menu includes delicacies like a “bottom of the sea” omelet with shrimp, sea urchin and salmon roe; and an Anson Mills rice flour waffle with ricotta and a flurry of fruits, nuts and syrup. They also feature seeded country loaves and Danish rye bread from upstart baker Jyan Isaac Horwitz. Their Danish rye toast with anchovies, fromage blanc, avocado and Persian cucumber is a stunner. Papille Gustative also prides themselves on their coffee program, which features a stylish under counter espresso machine.

 

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Mentioned in this Blog Post

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Alfalfa
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Breadblok
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Cafe Ruisseau
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Caffe Wooyoo
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Cult
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Edobox
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Interstellar
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La Puglia
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Le Petit Chez Mimi
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Papille Gustative