Holidays are triggering for a lot of people. You’re surrounded by distant relatives, answering the same invasive questions as last year, and debating how soon is too soon to start drinking in your childhood bedroom. But for all the social anxiety and awkward conversations that occur, a holiday can always be saved by one thing - a great meal. Dishes you only see once a year, spread across a giant table... it’s not just about eating good food, it’s about embracing a sentimentality that sets this meal apart from all the others throughout the year.
That’s exactly the effect a meal at Birdie G’s will have on you. With tremendous comfort food that manages to be both familiar and interesting, this Santa Monica spot has built a restaurant experience that’s intrinsically nostalgic and also completely new.
Located on an industrial stretch near Bergamot Station, Birdie G’s looks more like an Arts District mega-restaurant than a comfort food spot in the middle of inland Santa Monica. There are exposed rafters, cement brick walls, and a massive, leafy indoor/outdoor patio. If that all sounds familiar to you, it’s because - as nice as it is - the space doesn’t look much different from other upscale restaurants these days. Luckily, once you examine the menu, you’ll realize you won’t be grinding through another over-priced, run-of-the-mill meal tonight. Birdie G’s serves comfort food, but it’s comfort food we’ve never seen inside an LA restaurant before.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
This isn’t to say Birdie G’s leans on obscure ingredients or elaborate plating to make their most familiar dishes seem interesting. In fact, it’s the opposite. Whether it’s twice-baked yams, house-made matzo with cultured butter, or a sweet and spicy cornbread, Birdie G’s is unrelenting in creating an experience that feels like an elevated version of childhood. Maybe you grew up eating some of these things, maybe you didn’t - that’s not the point. Everything that hits the table at Birdie G’s is so unique that even dishes you’ve never had before will invoke some form of personal nostalgia.
Birdie G’s menu covers a lot of ground, but at the end of the day, a marathon holiday meal without leftovers is a meal we want nothing to do with. You’ll order perfectly roasted chicken in a tropical sauce, sweet noodle kugel that could pass for dessert, and a flour-battered mushroom dish that ranks among our favorites in the city. At $49, you might initially pass on the lamb “a la salass,” but don’t. The lamb itself is perfectly-cooked and rubbed in a secret house blend of Persian spices that gives it an herbaceous kick that balances nicely with the crispy rice underneath. Will you have room for the striped pass in lobster bisque or the malted chocolate layer cake? Probably not, but you’ll order them anyway, because at this point, you just want the meal to keep going.
When the time does come to pack up and leave, you’ll probably have forgotten you were inside a restaurant and not at some extended family gathering. That’s a tremendous feeling to have, particularly because no great aunt asked you why you can’t keep a significant other.
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Aaron’s Beets and Smoked Trout Roe
Hiding amongst Birdie G’s more aggressively comfort-forward dishes, this beet salad might not seem like an obvious must-order, but it is. Topped with smoked trout roe, mustard cream, and “everything” seasoning, this is one of the most unique - and delicious - plates of beets you’ll find in LA.
Matzo Ball Soup
Admittedly, matzo ball soup isn’t at the top of our order during the summer, but come colder months, this dish is a no-brainer. It’s extremely dill-forward, not overly salty, and the matzo ball itself is light while still being dense enough to soak up the broth as time goes on.
This traditional Jewish casserole will easily be the most polarizing dish that hits your table. It’s a delicious version of the Shabbat staple, but the ricotta and sage brown sugar almost push it into dessert territory. That’s not a bad thing in our book, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind as you’re ordering.
Rice Flour-Battered King Trumpet Mushrooms
After some deep reflection, we’re ready to say it - this is our favorite dish at Birdie G’s. The mushrooms are perfectly-battered so there’s a nice crispy skin on the outside - without feeling deep-fried - while the rosemary and parmesan on top provide an aromatic sweetness that elevates the whole thing.
Lamb “A La Salass”
We like almost all of the big meat dishes on Birdie G’s menu, but if we had to pick a favorite, it’d be the lamb. The meat itself is soft and tender while the Persian spice rub on the outside provides an herbaceous kick that goes perfectly with the crispy rice hiding underneath.
Not Your Grandma’s Grasshopper
The cocktails at Birdie G’s are exceptional (be sure to check out their seasonal drinks if you’re there during the holidays), but one that stands out is the grasshopper. Yes, this is absolutely more of a milkshake than a cocktail, and under no circumstance should you order one until dessert, but there’s no denying how delicious it tastes–and how nostalgic it makes you feel.