Santa Monica is saturated with beachside hotspots, but venture further inland to the area’s lesser-known district along Pico to find this gem of a spot. A worldly menu and bustling ambiance make The Upper West a place for the palate to explore and the mind to relax and be itself. The place is trendy enough for any hip LA Foodie to have room to play, but keeps it real for the rest of us seeking a truly satisfying dining experience.
Executive Chef Nicholas Shipp is a gregarious gentleman with fascinating taste. While The Upper West builds its base on upscale American fare, its repertoire expands through Asia, India, Italy and Latin America. Shipp doesn’t try to do too much with each dish though; every item stands out with its own distinct taste, forming a menu that appeals to curious palates and traditionalists alike.
You must start with the Applewood smoked blue cheese chips. For that matter, you can continue with them as your main and get a third for dessert. Housemade chips, smoked blue cheese sauce, handfuls of rich bacon and truffle, all served piping hot…is there anything else you could ask for? On the lighter side, the ahi tuna crispy tacos are a house favorite, with fresh-tasting fish complemented well by a plantain shell.
The roasted corn soup is another intriguing must, also made in-house and served with a black bean falafel that should be its own entrée. On the note of mains, the short rib is certainly tender and tasty but may not be worth the investment price-wise. The Giselle, or ‘Krabby Patty’ crab cake sandwich, comes out quite nicely and may fit better into the mix. A side of caramelized cauliflower or roasted corn with avocado butter would also make a fine addition.
Triple chocolate torte and exotic ice creams such as toasted marshmallow and peanut brittle finish with a sweet touch, and a fun cocktail menu adds another dimension to The Upper West’s creativity and execution. The place may not be in Santa Monica’s most trafficked area, but always expect a big crowd here. Looks like word is getting out.
The Upper West is located at 3321 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split side, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$72/person. Call The Upper West at (310) 586-1111 or visit them online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.