Hidden in Hollywood: Birch
There was a collective sadness in Culver City when Waterloo & City closed its doors for good after five successful years. Without skipping a beat, acclaimed British Chef Brendan Collins has opened an international plate-sharing-centric eatery (we don’t mean small plates, but larger ones that you will want share), on Cahuenga in Hollywood revamping an old Japanese burger joint to a stylish-Scandinavian wooden enclave called Birch. If at all possible, the food is even more inspired here with rabbit baklava served North African ‘brik’ style, rolled and slightly sweet with dates and pistachio; and the most tender, gigantic pork shank cooked for 12 hours then served with za’atar flatbread being standouts – beware that it can easily feed a party of two. There are some creative cocktails on the menu, but the Graham Beck sparkling brut rosé from South Africa would pair well with any of the dishes–in our opinion, and is not seen on most wine lists, so go for a bottle. The best kept secret of this fabulous spot is the tiny outdoor patio in the back utilizing a brick lined alley space that feels more Soho in London that Hollywood Boulevard. http://birchlosangeles.com/
Arts District for Veggies: Zinc Cafe
If veggies are a way of life for your palate, along with sipping a good rose alfresco, head downtown to Zinc Café + Market Cafe. Not only do they have one of the best patios in town tucked away in the shade of a few industrial lofts on a restored loading dock, but the vast wood-fired pizza selection will make you forget about meat entirely (well, at least for this one night.) The kitchen also gets props for the ‘sliders’ with brown rice and mushroom patty and the ‘Reubenesque’ with baked beets. The adjacent Bar Mateo has started a Biergarten Thursdays, for the warmer months, which takes place on the patio and features a seasonal beer paired with the Ploughman's Plate of rustic bread and artisanal cheese. One tip for the ladies: don’t wear spiky heels as they will dig into the gravel and make it almost impossible to walk after a few drinks – go for an espadrille or flat sandal. http://zinccafe.com/
The Classic, Class-Act
Michael’s in Santa Monica has been a dining staple for over three decades and has endured as one of the top alfresco tables on the Westside. Owner Michael McCarty has recently revamped the entire restaurant making it easy for the bar crowd and patio diners alike.
Gone are the white table cloths and fine china of previous days. Now you can relax on the patio with a local halibut crudo, braised pork belly tacos or genius chicken wings dipped in waffle batter that puts a delicious new spin on the dish – and feels like less carbs to us, so a win-win. These items can be ordered in the communal bar table area from open to close Monday through Friday, or in the main dining with the rest of the Modern American menu. Larger plates include Mediterranean loup de mer, the 28-day dry-aged NY steak or the tagliatelle pasta with oxtail ragout that is actually listed as an appetizer but is large enough to be a full size entrée. Don't forget to try Michael's house Pinto Noir made in Malibu with your meal. http://michaelssantamonica.com/