When The Astronomer’s family came to town last month for a short vacation, we made sure to fill their days with amazing local food and quintessentially L.A. activities. In addition to showing them the La Brea Tar Pits, the Santa Anita Racetrack, the Santa Monica Pier, and the San Gabriel Mountains, we also introduced them to half a dozen of our favorite eateries.
We dined at Mama’s Lu, Golden Deli, and Daikouya, brunched at Canele, and ice creamed at Carmela. For our designated “fancy” dinner out on the town, The Astronomer and I reserved a table for five at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen.
Opened by restaurateur Josh Loeb, Rustic Canyon serves a seasonally driven menu that changes regularly depending on what is produced by local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. The kitchen is headed by Chef Evan Funke, while desserts are expertly handled by Pastry Chef Zoe Nathan.
We happened to dine on “Burger and Beer Mondays,” a weekly tradition where Chef Funke adds two innovative burgers to the menu. While perusing the evening’s selections, we nibbled on green olives perfumed with thyme and lemon zest.
To start, we shared a small mountain of fried cauliflower accented with capers, garlic, parsley, and lemon ($12). Dusted in breadcrumbs and deep-fried till golden and crisp, the florets were perfectly cooked and beautifully seasoned. It’s amazing how easy vegetables go down when they’re deep-fried and salted just right.
We also shared a plate of Niman Ranch lamb meatballs with roasted tomatoes, sweet peppers, green olives, and pickled chilis ($14). Everyone at the table loved the lamb’s musty flavor, and the drizzled mint oil was a fitting accompaniment.
For our main courses, all five of us ordered burgers. It was “Burger and Beer Mondays” after all! I settled on Rustic Canyon’s famous “Niman Ranch Burger” ($18), which was served with hand-cut French fries, garlic aioli, and ketchup on the side.
Perched atop a toasted brioche bun, the beefy patty was prepared properly medium rare and adorned with sharp cheddar, onion fondue, bread and butter pickles, arugula, and herb remoulade. It was quite a tall specimen, but my larger-than-average mouth managed a clean bite from top to bottom. The burger’s flavors were very well-balanced, while the patty was juicy like you wouldn’t believe. It was burger bliss, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
The Astronomer ordered one of the evening’s burger specials. The “BBQ Burger” came topped with house made barbecue sauce, confit bacon, Tillamook Cheddar, and beer battered onion rings ($20). My boy has a thing for ordering dishes smothered in onion rings.
While the burger was well thought out, The Astronomer remarked that it didn’t blow him away. He found the slab of bacon difficult to maneuver. When The Astronomer and I switched burgers in the middle of dinner, I was ready to change back after just one bite of his.
For a sweet finish, the table shared a very satisfying “Black and Blue Trifle” ($10). The various layers of pastry cream, brioche, blackberries, blueberries, and whipped cream tasted so cool and refreshing after our burger binge. The bites of berry juice-soaked brioche were my favorite.
I’m quite certain that our out-of-town guests enjoyed Rustic Canyon as much as we did.
1119 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401