What is going on with Santa Monica lately? It’s the recession and it seems like there are new restaurants popping up everywhere in the seaside republic — Riva, The Fig, Santa Monica Seafood. And add to that Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery, brought to you by Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, the folks behind Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen.
The week-old cafe/bakery, in the former Pick-Up Stix space on Wilshire Boulevard, is perfect for those who can’t get enough of Rustic Canyon quality food as the wine bar is only open for dinner. (It used to have Saturday breakfast hours but no longer.)
Now you can enjoy Chef Zoe Nathan’s baked goods — tea cakes, Valrhona chocolate croissants, savory bread pudding, layer cakes, Niman Ranch maple-bacon biscuits — for breakfast, lunch or the 3 o’clock snack attack. And every morning at 8am, fresh doughnuts!
A buttery scent of fresh-baked bread and pastry fills the light-drenched industrial space. “Early bird gets the glazed donuts,” says a voice beyond the open kitchen.
There’s also a nice selection of coffee drinks, artisanal sodas (Bundaberg Ginger Beer!) and fresh squeezed juices. And for an actual meal, you can enjoy gourmet sandwiches, pastas, salads and even a selection of rotisserie meats.
Naturally, I had to stop by for lunch. I’m so sick of the usual lunchtime choices around my work. Panera, again? And here comes Huckleberry, offering fresh-from-the-farmers-market ingredients and high-quality food.
I was glad that I took my Vespa over during lunch since the free parking behind the restaurant was nonexistent. It was all taken up and cars kept circling the lot like vultures. So realistically you’ll probably have better luck at metered street parking on Wilshire. With my scoot, I just parked it in an available corner. Yay.
During lunchtime, the restaurant was a-buzzing. All the tables were taken and there were two lines flanking the counter. I took this opportunity to study the chalkboard menu hanging overhead. So many yummy-sounding choices! Fried egg sandwich with bacon, gruyere, arugula and aioli ($9.50) or roasted free-range chicken sandwich with cheddar cheese and aioli on ciabatta ($12). Hmmm…
In the end, it had to be the warm turkey meatball sandwich ($12). For a drink I got an iced caramel latte ($4.50) made with housemade caramel. And just so I wouldn’t have to get back in line again, I ordered a slice of chocolate vanilla layer cake ($5) for dessert. I know, I really should practice some discipline. But it just all sounded and looked so good! And, hey, it’s for research.
Anyway, my turkey meatball sandwich was pretty good. The meat was tender and savory but I only wished it had more sauce in it. That may just be because I’m used to getting meatball subs from mom and pop Italian restaurants where the sandwiches are swimming in marinara…mmmm! But not the case here.
The layer cake was soo good. It reminded me of the Duncan Hines cakes my mom used to make for my single-digit birthdays. Sigh, good times. This was moist, light and the chocolate frosting wasn’t uber-sweet. If I was at home eating this cake I totally would have licked that plate clean.
I would love to check back with the cafe during breakfast on the weekends when it’s served all day, but I can just imagine how much more packed it would be. I bet there are folks waiting in droves outside so they can get in and enjoy some green eggs and ham or Niman Ranch brisket hash with fried eggs.
As for making this a regular lunchtime destination, I would have to say no. $12+ for lunch is just more than I can afford to spend. Perhaps on payday Fridays, though!
_Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery
1014 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, California 90404 (map)
Opening hours: Wednesdays-Sundays 8am-4pm*_
_* Plans to open 7 days a week in a couple months_