Friday, March 28, 2014

Review of Ivy At The Shore

 
I gave Ivy At The Shore an overall score of 3.5, or 3 stars, based on the following 7 categories:
number of visits2 of 5
price range1 of 5
family friendly?3 of 5
% menu vegan3 of 5
quality of service2 of 5
quality of food5 of 5
local mainstay?4 of 5

Comments:
Na, this place isn’t a flower shop; though I am sure I’m not the only one to make this mistake. After finally clearing that up, we decided to brave the floral jungle and see what’s coming out of the kitchen.
The floral jungle itself is separated into a couple large rooms and a narrow outdoor seating area with no view. Picture your parent’s house and the high end party planner bringing in 50 tables (and 500 flower arrangements) for the wedding reception.
For vegans, options are limited; one entree, not really listed on the menu. But the vegetable plate is something that you’ll wanna come back for. Very simple with spinach surrounded by carrots, zucchini, asparagus, corn, broccoli, and avocado served with a hot marinara. What makes it something to come back for is that it’s cooked to perfection; flavors kept separate and heat removed before texture removed. Oh, and tell them you want some bread cause they will serve you non-vegan muffins if you’re a Silent Bob.
Don’t expect to have the wait staff reading your expressions, looking for the right tell to jump into action. In a naturally ironic twist, this visually relaxing floral paradise is a buzz with waiters hopping from table to kitchen and back, not spending too much time at any one place because the next understaffed and packed in table is requesting some honey for their tea. Again, don’t be a Silent Bob or you will view this as bad service.
Deep from the middle of Ivy at the Shore floral jungle, we found that the good food and wine made it easy to tune out the commotion of the staff, colors, flowers, and bourgeois adventurers. And, after a somewhat entertaining wait, we finally found what was coming out of the kitchen, apart from the always in motion wait staff; a single plate of exceptionally tasty, though inordinately expensive, fresh cooked vegetables.



 Additional Info
Address: 1535 Ocean Ave, 90401
Area: Mid City
Reviewed Meal: Lunch
Ethnicity: American
Click for more info.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review of Z Garden on Wilshire

 
I gave Z Garden and overall score of 4.5, or 5 stars, based on the following 7 categories:
number of visits4 of 5
price range4 of 5
family friendly?4 of 5
% menu vegan5 of 5
quality of service4 of 5
quality of food5 of 5
local mainstay?2 of 5

Comments:
I reviewed Z Garden on Pico and gave it one real strike; they use disposable plates and utensils. I was stoked to find this 2nd location and that they not only fixed the disposable problem, but they have a better spot, place, and vibe.
This narrow building at the end of 3rd Street Promenade has the counter to order in the back, seating up front, and a few more tables up the stairs on the indoor balcony. It’s a good layout with comfortable seating and interior.
As with the other location, service is solid and they understand and work with vegans. When I asked if the falafels are vegan, they responded, “yes, we don’t use egg,” putting my “don’t understand vegan” fears to rest. It has a family feel and the people they hire, whether they are family or not, are always friendly and helpful.
The food is very tasty and they seem to use good ingredients. Most vegan selections like hummus and baba ghannouj are olive oil heavy, so it appeals more to my sense of taste than to my sense of health. For entrees, they have a vegetarian kebab and a vegetarian plate that are both filling and delicious. There’s plenty on the menu and you can’t really go wrong.
This 2nd Santa Monica location is a step up from the place on Pico, but that’s not taking away from the Pico restaurant that still has the same good food with its own vibe. I am thankful that they fixed their disposable problem, and gave them an extra star for doing so.



Additional Info
Address: 313 Wilshire Blvd, 90401
Area: Wilshire
Reviewed Meal: Lunch
Ethnicity: Mediterranean
Click for more info.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review of Creation Grill

 
I gave Creation Grill an overall score of 3.4, or 3 stars, based on the following 7 categories:
number of visits1 of 5
price range3 of 5
family friendly?3 of 5
% menu vegan4 of 5
quality of service4 of 5
quality of food3 of 5
local mainstay?2 of 5

Comments:
As we walked past Creation Grill heading to Native Foods Cafe, both my wife and I looked at each other and voiced, “I’ve heard good things about this place.” So, we skipped Native Foods for the day and gave it a try.
Part of the pull is the design and décor. Though the large windows on 2 sides is the main draw, the cleanliness and hip but casual theme helped pull us in. There are a few tables outside, but the inside has a lot of sunlit seating at comfortable, though slightly packed in, tables.
We didn’t have to wait long with our number on our table; and the service behind the counter and at our table was relaxed and friendly. No complaints, but no mad props either.
“Another Middle Eastern restaurant that has good vegan options” was my thought that was pwned. The pita is crunchy, the humus is blah, and the other things, the same. The food itself was not bad, but less than anticipated. And like the food, the vegan options are less than anticipated.
Creation grill has a good spot, nice place, and decent staff; just lacking on the food side of the house. Next time we will keep walking to Native Foods Cafe. And if we are feelin’ Middle Eastern, we’ll head over to Z Garden.
 
 
Additional Info
Address: 2901 Ocean Park Blvd, 90405
Area: Sunset Park
Reviewed Meal: Lunch
Ethnicity: Mediterranean
Click for more info.



Friday, November 29, 2013

Native Foods Cafe


 
I gave Native Foods Café an overall score of 4.6, or 5 stars, based on the following 7 categories:
number of visits4 of 5
price range3 of 5
family friendly?4 of 5
% menu vegan5 of 5
quality of service4 of 5
quality of food5 of 5
local mainstay?3 of 5

Comments:
For me, it started in Westwood with a hole in the wall restaurant amongst traffic and parking pandemonium. That restaurant, now super-sized though still small, is still there. However, they found a great location for another one on Ocean Park in Santa Monica that has less traffic and easy parking.
With a large patio area, it’s easy to determine where to eat. That is until you enter and realize that the inside eating area has its own charm. It’s well laid out with the order and take a number counter to the right and the chillax eating area to the left. They have their own eco-friendly style that’s fresh and clean. And like the Westwood location, the service still has that small shop, on an eco-mission vibe.
The food is a diverse and tasty. They have everything from a faux sausage burger to Asian style macro bowls to non-traditional salads. And unlike potential competitors like Veggie Grill, the tastes are very diverse. And bonus, you can wash it down with organic beer or wine.
Native Foods Café has a good vibe, good food, and is helping spread the vegan boon. So bike, walk, bus, or if you’re into that type of thing, drive over to Ocean Park, past the other tempting restaurants in the same area, to Native Foods Café. You’ll be happy you did.
 


Additional Info
Address: 2901 Ocean Park Blvd, 90405
Area: Sunset Park
Reviewed Meal: Lunch
Ethnicity: American
Click for more info.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review of Z Garden

 
I gave Z Garden an overall score of 4.3, or 4 stars, based on the following 7 categories:
number of visits4 of 5
price range4 of 5
family friendly?3 of 5
% menu vegan4 of 5
quality of service5 of 5
quality of food4 of 5
local mainstay?2 of 5

Comments:
Once in a while, an oasis of good food pops up in a place you don’t expect. If the food is right and the owner is a business-minded mover and shaker, deal maker, then it has a chance of sticking around. Z Garden seems like one of those places.
They did the best they could with a sleepy and aging shopping center, and it’s much improved over the last tenants. The interior is trendy and clean, though, for the decorations and furniture, they have consistently chose expensive looking over quality and function. They also opened up the outside with a few tables between the building and the sidewalk.
Service has always been great and they understand and work with vegans. When I asked if the falafels are vegan, they responded, “yes, we don’t use egg,” putting my “don’t understand vegan” fears to rest. It has a family feel and the people they hire, whether they are family or not, are always friendly and helpful.
Now, as for the food, it is very tasty and they seem to use good ingredients. Most vegan selections like hummus and baba ghannouj are olive oil heavy, so it appeals more to my sense of taste than to my sense of health. For entrees, they have a vegetarian kebab and a vegetarian plate that are both filling and delicious. There’s plenty on the menu and you can’t really go wrong.
Z Garden is a fresh new place that I hope has a future in Santa Monica. They have great food and good service. The only real drawback is that they use disposable plates and utensils. But, go support them, order vegan, and slip in a comment to ditch the disposable. Then go tell your vegan friends and let’s see if we can get them to stick around.

Update: Z Garden has opened a 2nd restaurant in Santa Monica that has a better location, interior, and vibe.  Best of all, the ditched the disposable plates and utensils.
 

 
Additional Info
Address: 2350 Pico Blvd, 90405
Area: Pico
Reviewed Meal: Lunch
Ethnicity: Mediterranean
Click for more info.



Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review of Fig

 
I gave Fig an overall score of 3.5, or 3 stars, based on the following 7 categories:
number of visits3 of 5
price range1 of 5
family friendly?3 of 5
% menu vegan2 of 5
quality of service4 of 5
quality of food4 of 5
local mainstay?3 of 5

Comments:
Every now and again, I like to swap the t-shirt for a non-t-shirt shirt and hit a posh happy hour. One of the best happy hours in all of Santa Monica can be found on the ground floor of the Fairmont Miramar; Fig. Or at least that’s what my animal consuming friends would say.
Park your bikes or drop off your car under the gigantic fig tree in the courtyard, and head in to find a half indoor, half outdoor restaurant next to the pool. There’s a nice bar on the right as you enter that serves up some good suds, wine, and wells, and tables sprinkled throughout; not too crowded but it can get loud.
Service is solid and they always spend a lot of time with me going over the offending ingredients in the menu. On the other hand, the menu is anything but solid. Heavy may be a better description; and almost everything was heavy due to dead animals. They do have one good vegan entre, vegetable curry, and a couple good sides. Oh, and the breakfast menu is a little more vegan friendly. But, even though the vegan food is also heavy, it is very tasty and I have always enjoyed.
If you are looking for a posh happy hour with good food and drinks and have an animal eater with you, then Fig is about the best there is. It has a great location, solid service, decent prices (as long as you hit happy hour where everything is half price), and good food. However, if you are looking for a place where there’s not a braised tongue on the plate next to you, throw your t-shirt back on and head down the street to Real Food Daily.
 


Additional Info
Address: 101 Wilshire Blvd, 90401
Area: Wilshire
Reviewed Meal: Breakfast, Dinner
Ethnicity: American
Click for more info.



Friday, February 1, 2013

Review of Swingers

 
I gave Swingers an overall score of 4.6, or 5 stars, based on the following 7 categories:
number of visits4 of 5
price range4 of 5
family friendly?4 of 5
% menu vegan4 of 5
quality of service4 of 5
quality of food4 of 5
local mainstay?5 of 5

Comments:
I can’t believe that I haven’t reviewed this place yet. For quite a while, this late night, irreverent, slice of hipster Americana was our weekend hangout. …though, we usually hung out at 7am when the help staff is still hung over.
Inside, you’ll pass a very small but usually crowded waiting area, Andy Warhol cows plastered on the wall to the left, Evel Knievel overhead, and red plaid booths and blue plaid stools along a cupcake lined counter on the right. A wall of windows fill the area with natural light and Bob Dylan tunes fill the airways. It definitely has a diner feel, but assembled in artsy Hollywood pickers’ style.
Vegans, you’re in luck; they have plenty of offerings on their decked out menu with iconic images from the golden age of the diner. Since I’m in early, I usually stick with the vegan breakfast burrito, which is loaded with quinoa and is spanglicious. If I am feeling like breaking out, I go for the steel cut oatmeal or the soyrizo scramble. There are good options for lunch and dinner too, though the thought of cross contam is a little disconcerting. And though this place is a diner, it’s definitely not a greasy spoon.
Overall, Swingers definitely has diner tasting coffee, but the rest of the menu is a step above. I enjoy the vegan options and miss this place being around the corner. And though I haven’t made it to the Hollywood location yet, I would doubt that it’s any more, ya, Hollywood.


Additional Info
Address: 802 Broadway, 90401
Area: Mid City
Reviewed Meal: Breakfast, Lunch
Ethnicity: American
Click for more info.