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Jakob Layman

Tar & Roses

Written by
Jakob Layman

Titanic is one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and for that reason alone, people despise it. Sure, 195 minutes is a long time to watch anything, and Rose definitely could’ve made room on that door for Jack. But in reality, these people hate Titanic simply because everybody else likes it. They’re the same people who squirm when Top 40 radio comes on or proudly proclaim they don’t watch Game of Thrones because they read the books first.

Those are probably the same people who don’t like eating at Tar & Roses, the Santa Monica restaurant that’s had a line out its door since 2011. But just like record-breaking blockbusters and perfectly-produced pop anthems you can’t get out of your head, Tar & Roses is popular for a reason - it’s actually fantastic, and everybody you take here will agree.

At first glance, Tar & Roses reads like a restaurant that should’ve peaked a few years ago. The dimly-lit space is nice to look at, in a slightly generic, 2012-restaurant-design-expo kind of way. And the food is “globally inspired” small plates, which translates to a menu that’s kind of all over the place. But when you’re actually at Tar & Roses, none of these elements seem tired. There’s a genuine excitement here - from both the waitstaff and the patrons - and it’s because the food is better than ever.

Jakob Layman

Tar & Roses is a restaurant you go to impress people while basically eating comfort food. Nothing here is changing the standards of California dining, but by the end of the meal, all that visible work stress you walked in with is nowhere to be found - all thanks to the mushrooms with soft egg, the duck rillette charcuterie, and a plate of oxtail dumplings you’ll tell your therapist about. The menu frequently changes, but not completely - which is good news, because this city should never have to lose that plate of dumplings.

There will always be people who are too good for the popular things. And to them we say, Game of Thrones is a better TV show than book series, we can’t sing “My Heart Will Go On” at karaoke without scream-crying, and Tar & Roses is still a restaurant where you should be eating. Jump on the bandwagon.

Food Rundown

Jakob Layman
Oxtail Dumplings

This appetizer has been available at Tar & Roses for years and is still the best thing on the menu. There are only four dumplings per order, so plan to re-up several times throughout dinner. If you think driving to Tar & Roses just to eat just these dumplings is a red flag, you’re a red flag.


We’ve had better plates of charcuterie in LA, but this one certainly holds its own. You can mix and match from 20 different meat and cheese options, but if the duck rillette doesn’t make it on your board, you’ve done it wrong.

Jakob Layman
Octopus Skewers

The octopus itself is actually cooked extremely well. It’s just a shame that you can’t appreciate it because it’s so overpowered by the chorizo vinaigrette drizzled on top.

Jakob Layman
King Trumpet Mushrooms

The vegetable section changes frequently at Tar & Roses, but if this dish is there when you are, get it. The mushrooms are cooked perfectly and the soft egg makes this the kind of dish you think about on Tuesday to help you get to Friday.

Jakob Layman
Shellfish Pot

The scallops, clams, mussels, and shrimp are all good, but it’s the Thai curry broth that makes this special. If we could order it as its own entree, we would.

Jakob Layman
Strawberry Ricotta Crostata

Outside of the oxtail dumplings, this is probably Tar & Roses’ most popular dish - it’s sweet and savory, and the honeycomb ice cream on the side might be the best part. Save room for this.

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