First Look: Summer House Santa Monica

March 27, 2021 – 02:43 am
  • Photo by: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Chef-partners Francis Brennan (left) and Jeff Mahin sit under another focal point of the dining room, a sign that reads "Made in Santa Monica." (Ironically, though, Mahin explains that there is no Summer House restaurant in Santa Monica, just the one other location in Chicago.)

  • Photo by: Barbara L. Salisbury

    The decor isn't the only thing intended to channel the feel of a Santa Monica beach house. Mahin says he also asks himself what he would serve guests in such a warm, airy environment. His answer? "California cuisine, without a lot of adultery to the produce." Indeed, many of the dishes we tried were very light — but in now way lacking in satisfaction or flavor.

  • Photo by: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Mahin says there's a sign that says "Yes" in each of their restaurants, a nod to the simple, direct hospitality motto he expects his staff to abide. He adds that the mantra comes from the "Yes and" philosophy of improv, introduced by the actor-heavy waitstaff in his California restaurant. Mahin also gains inspiration from the word "care" and views "no" as an aggressive word, saying with his Puckish smile, "You can say no without saying no."

  • Photo by: Barbara L. Salisbury

    The bar area features garage-door-type windows that will create an open-air experience in warm weather. The bar, which offers the same menu and whitewashed wooden accents as the main dining room, will highlight a variety of boutique California wineries in an effort to expose people to lesser-known vintners that don't export huge quantities.

  • Photo by: Barbara L. Salisbury

    The restaurant bakes cookies and English muffins daily for use in the restaurant as well as for sale from this case up front. Mahin says the English muffins have a following at the Chicago location, with both kitchens using a 30-year-old starter that was frozen and shipped here. The chef also says cookies are his favorite dessert, which likely accounts for why there are 50 or so rotating...


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