This is going to be a real whammie, guys– but I’m a big fan of Top Chef.
I’ve seen every episode of every season, and every episode of every spin-off season. I know every Restaurant War intimately, can name every winner in order, and have cried tears of envy over Padma Lakshmi’s wardrobe. I am a fan.
I’ve had the chance to visit many a Top Chef alumni restaurant over the years, which have never failed to impress me with their fabulous food and scrumptious-sounding menus. I’ve found an almost guaranteed certainty that any restaurant headed by one of these talented chefs is going to be a winner, no matter what the offerings. (I’m talkin’ atchoo, Blaise. A raw hamachi and sweetbreads burger?! Okay, fine, I’m in.)
So imagine my surprise when I learned of one I hadn’t yet been to, in the very city of my current living arrangements! (It changes often.) I’m talking about The Yard, situated a couple of mere blocks away from the beach in Santa Monica, just off Third Street Promenade.
The Yard is my kind of hang-out. Unpretentious and cosy, like a bistro found on a side street in Boston, it’s the sort of joint you kick back and relax in after a long day at work. Or a long day at shopping. Or a long day at whoring yourself out at various auditions around town while wondering if you’ll ever work again. Ha ha! Just sort of kidding! The Yard is labeled as a gastropub, which is essentially a bar with top-notch food, and if you ask me, LA needs a whole wack load more of those. The Top Chef helming this fine establishment is C.J. Jacobson, season 3’s 6th runner-up. For those of you non-fans, C.J. got the boot from Top Chef for an overcooked and not so tasty batch of broccolini… which is fine with me, since I don’t go to gastropubs to eat broccolini. Or anywhere to eat broccolini, for that matter.
What we did go for was happy hour (revelatory, I know!). Everyday from 5-7pm– and all night on Mondays!!– you can enjoy a Pacifico for 3 bucks, a margarita for 5 bucks, or a really great Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc for $5, all while scarfing down gourmet bar food to your heart’s content. And I’m not talking chicken fingers. Grilled shrimp skewers, sauteed fresh field greens, juicy and gorgeously sloppy pulled pork sliders, and an awesome fish taco, all $6 each. Their menu during regular hours is insane, too: mac n cheese with pancetta, creamy and fried arancini (deep fried balls of risotto!) and for dessert, a chocolate cake made with pretzels, charred marshmallows, and peanut butter. Check out the wine and beer tastings with food pairings every Wednesday night, too, or The Big Cheese night every Thursday where they showcase cheese in all its melty salty glory.
Only bad thing about this place is that it’s on the opposite side of town from where we live. But with a happy hour that cheap, at least we’ve got room to spring for a cab!