The restaurants near Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade have never been that noteworthy. Maybe they don't have to be. They're near the beach. They're on pedestrian friendly streets filled with every clothing store you can imagine, and there's hordes of tourists around who maybe don't require fine cuisine. I'd like to be wrong on a few of those points, but after dining at the newer Taberna Arros y Vi and 41 Ocean, I'm not sure I am.
The Independence took over the former Buddha's Belly space on Second and Broadway. The same owners are involved, but they had the good sense to pull a mixologist from next door's Copa d'Oro to do drinks, so you know you're in for good cocktails.
You may not expect a $21 beverage, but my friend and I were too curious not to try it. It's expensive due to the name whiskey and aging it goes through. It's smoky, warm, well balanced and makes you want to wear a smoking jacket and grab a pipe to sit in front of a fire all night.
If smoking robes aren't your thing, on the other end of the cocktail spectrum is the refreshing Palms, light and breezy with gin, grape juice, mint, elderflower and sparkling wine. It's a summer day in a glass.
The chef comes from NY and is doing a fairly standard menu of California cuisine. You got your roast cauliflower and chopped kale salad, but you also have some more interesting items on the "Sea" menu like smoked whitefish toast that brings in a lot of rich flavor from the butter soaked bread it sits on, but then it's tampered with pickled shallots, apple and fried capers. The Palms cocktail made for a nice chaser.
For something with a little more heat, try the roast cauliflower which is punched up with thai chili, anchovy and preserved lemon. It's a zippier version than most other cauliflower dishes around town.
The shaved salad is clean and crisp with fennel, endive, pear, manchego and a lime vinaigrette. Perfectly acceptable palate cleanser.
The somewhat standard grilled octopus is also on the menu, but the texture was off, so I'd skip, or hope for a more firm chew on your next visit.
The sleeper hit on The Independence's menu is the chicken wings. With no game on and no beers consumed, I still found the wings meaty, well-spiced and finger licking good with its salsa verde.
The Independence space is light and bright with windows wrapping around the simply dressed L shaped restaurant. There's something for everyone - booths, tables, communal seating, a decent sized bar in the middle for those great cocktails, and also happy hour every day for many hours (3-7pm). This is a post-Promenade spot I could see slipping into after fighting the tourists in Sephora. A cocktail with some veggies and wings makes this place I could easily return.
Santa Monica, CA