No one peaks in their tween years. Maybe you were plotting your way to playground domination by way of becoming the school’s foursquare champion. Or spending too much time playing Goldeneye and not speaking to other humans. Or maybe choreographing elaborate dance routines to boy bands was more your style. But Rustic Canyon is having none of that awkwardness. This Santa Monica farm-to-table spot might have just passed the ten-year mark, but it’s better than ever.
This is the place you go when you want to impress someone, but don’t want to be too obvious about it. The service is low-key but outstanding, the wine list is one of the best in town, and the space is a throwback to a time before restaurant interiors were designed for social media - it’s sleek and pretty minimalistic, but also doesn’t feel cold. Although it’s worth noting that it can get pretty noisy when the restaurant is full. Which is basically all the time.
You’ll appreciate the helpful service when deciding what to eat, because most things here are worth ordering. The beets and berries, pork chop, and pozole verde are all Rustic Canyon classics, but you’ll also want to investigate the seasonal stuff like whatever fish they’re serving, and a couple of salads. And while they list the farms your yams and tomatoes came from, it doesn’t feel like a showy gesture. It’s because they care about where their food comes from, and want you to as well.
We definitely liked the Rustic Canyon that was impossible to get a table at a few years back, but today’s less-talked-about version is even better. It’s casual enough that you can show up for a few shared plates and a couple of glasses of wine on a Tuesday night, but fancy enough for date night or a birthday dinner. This is now a low-key Westside classic - one that doesn’t need to do any choreography to grab your attention.
One of the simplest salads you’ll eat, and somehow also one of the best. Lettuce leaves, tossed with a tangy shallot vinaigrette, radishes, and some mashed up avocado underneath. One of Rustic Canyon’s prime examples of healthy food tasting good.
A Rustic Canyon classic, and also one you might not be super excited about ordering. But the beets and blackberries over beet hummus is great.
The thing that takes this good chicken liver mousse to great is the presence of pickled chilies. They make this normally heavy dish somehow light, and led to a table-wide fight over who got to have the last piece of bread for spreading.
Another living legend, this is a dish that, even if you’ve had it five times before, you still order on your sixth visit. Be the first to get your spoon in there and steal all the tortilla strips.
The fish changes almost nightly, depending on what they have in. But it always comes simply prepared, with aioli and roasted tomatoes. We like to order this and one of the heavier entrees to share for the table.
If you’re the type of person who will always order the giant piece of meat on a menu, this is your dish. It comes out sliced for convenience , and covered in a rich sauce.
If you see this tart on the menu, accompanied by the words “figs” and “salted caramel,” you need to get it. Helpfully, Rustic Canyon is a place where you can see your dessert options on the main menu, so you can allocate your stomach room accordingly.
The Rustic Canyon people also own Sweet Rose, so their ice cream is excellent. Again, flavors change all the time, but be on high alert if honeycomb is in the mix.