Sometimes you walk into a restaurant and you’ve got it pegged by the time you’re sitting at your table. White tablecloths? They are Serious About Food. Mason jars? They forgot that it's not Williamsburg in 2009.
This is not the case at Charcoal, a Venice restaurant that (somewhat confusingly) walks the line between special occasion restaurant and neighborhood hang. There’s lots of wood, dim lighting, and cushy booths. It looks like the kind of place Don Draper would have liked, and also kind of like a hotel lobby. But underneath all that, Charcoal is simply just a great spot throwing down some seriously high-quality food.
As you might have guessed by the name, Charcoal is pretty into grilling things. And we’re pretty into eating grilled things, so we get along. Steaks here come out exactly how you ask for them to be cooked, with plenty of the house made chimichurri and barbecue sauces on the side. The vegetables aren’t an afterthought either, and the chicken wings are some of the best we’ve ever had.
Look inside on a Saturday night, and there are people dressed up for birthdays and graduation dinners. Sunday mornings it’s a bright, not-at-all crowded brunch option. Tuesday nights you can roll up in a college sweatshirt and watch a game at the bar while eating ribs (even if they are kind of fancy lamb ribs). Yes, that’s a lot of options for one restaurant. But it works.
Once we got past the slightly-too-formal look of Charcoal, we came to realize that it's actually the kind of place Venice needed - a hangout for locals who are no longer 25 and going to Townhouse every night, with some celebration dinner potential as well. However you’re going to use it, the food here is pretty damn good, and definitely worth trying if you find yourself on the Westside.
Cabbage Baked in the Embers
This is one of Charcoal’s signature dishes, but it's not our favorite. It’s basically just very soft cabbage with a charred outside, and yogurt on the side. Perfectly fine, just not amazing.
Smoky Grilled Chicken Wings
Good. Really good. So good we had to stop ourselves from eating the whole bowl before the rest of the food arrived. Hot tip: smother these in chimichurri.
Smoked Lamb Ribs
These are nice and sticky, and the meat falls off the bone. The vinegary sauce gives them a nice kick.
This comes with green beans, almonds, and lemon breadcrumbs, so obviously it’s good.
It’s steak. But really, really good steak. Ready for all those housemade sauces (the chimichurri wins for us here again).
Our least favorite protein here. It just isn't anything that special, although dunking it in the homemade A-1 sauce definitely improves it.
If all vegetables were this good, we’d eat way more greens. It helps when they’re covered in breadcrumbs.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake
If you’re into Reese’s Pieces get this. Or even if you’re not. Super rich, and also super good.