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Tar & Roses

At some point you would think Santa Monica would max out on its new-­age American beef-
tartare-­in-­your-­face scene, but this city by the sea seems to have other plans. Now, Santa Monica admittedly has been dealt a tricky card. No place in LA has to balance the wide-­eyed hordes of Midwest tourists and picky, rich white people quite like Santa Monica. You need to stick out to people, but still get them through the door. And elevated American dining fits that bill.

Tar & Roses opened a few years ago to medium fanfare, but bucking the trend of almost every other restaurant, it appears to have only gotten better with age. Despite sitting uncomfortably close to the sun­visor hellscape that is 3rd Street Promenade, Tar and Roses exudes a classy calmness not often seen in this part of town. And even though it's on the ground floor of a mix-user that was probably built 5 minutes ago, it gives off a sense that it’s been around way longer than it has. That's a compliment.

Tar & Roses works well because it can be as casual as you want and as formal as you want. You could roll in with a group of friends and take over the back patio, or impress a date or your parents in the dimly-­lit front section. Your choice. The menu is tight but varied and has some pretty amazing stuff on it. The oxtail dumplings in particular are so good they should come served in an extra-­large AMC popcorn bag (with free refills), and the lamb belly is absolutely amazing.

Are there some dishes that leave a little to be desired? Yes. The duck is good but not other­worldly and all the veggies seem to be a bit of an after thought. But life goes on.

All that being said, Tar & Roses has clearly hit its stride and is doing some really unique things in a neighborhood not necessarily known for its authenticity. So as long as they keep pushing themselves, we’ll keep pushing for reservations.

Food Rundown

Oxtail Dumplings
Two of the best words in the cooking language. So when put together, you can only imagine the beautiful result.

You can mix and match to your heart's delight, but YOU MUST GET the bacon jam. This is not a suggestion, it's a demand. Our eyes will be watching.

Lamb belly
To say this melts in your mouth is an understatement. It’s so tender you honestly don’t even know if its in your mouth. But it is. And it's wonderful.

The “it” veggie rages on. Tar & Roses version is good, but we wanted a bit more punch out of the anchovy pesto.

Fried Baby Artichokes
Just a little too fried and a little too covered in ricotta.

Duck Breast
Good but other versions around town are better. However, the corn cake that comes with it is SO GOD D*MN GOOD OMG REJOICE.

Kale Salad
Surprise! Kale salad in Santa Monica. But this version is surprisingly savory and immensely fulfilling.

Strawberry Crostata
Wooooooaaaaaah, this thing is good. Like, really REALLY good. Please save room in your belly home.

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