Elevated Jewish diner fare mingles with eclectic California cuisine, tempting cocktails and decadent desserts at Birdie G’s
By Angela Matano
Birdie G’s 2421 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica (310) 310-3616 | birdiegsla.com
With half a dozen successful eateries under their belts — Huckleberry, Milo & Olive and Cassia among them — dynamic husband-and-wife duo Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan just can’t seem to slow down. Their latest venture, Birdie G’s, opened this summer in Bergamot Station.
The enormous, industrial-style space helmed by chef Jeremy Fox suits the area and showcases the kind of hip style more commonly found in Downtown L.A., or even Brooklyn. But the restaurant also manages to feel cozy, suitable for families with children as well as couples on date nights.
The menu at Birdie G’s encompasses the usual modern California cuisine with a focus on fresh ingredients. The offerings really get interesting when they stray into traditionally Jewish culinary territory.
One of the standouts to try is the matzo ball soup, a huge step above the usual deli staple. This version features not only carrots but carrot miso, “lots of dill” and chef Fox’s wife Rachael’s chicken broth, a secret family recipe. The care and thought put into such a simple dish explains a lot about the philosophical bent toward tradition mixed with modernity that chef Fox brings to the table.
There are quite a few other items on the menu you might have expected to find in your Bubbe’s kitchen — if you had a Bubbe, that is. Feast on noodle kugel, Hangtown brei (that melds matzo brei with a Hangtown fry), or kasha cakes (with schmaltz and gribenes). The sweet and sour beets come with whipped chèvre, horseradish, and a stone fruit-pecan “charoset” for a French twist on a classic.
If you’re in the mood for something different, the menu really does offer many choices. The incredibly fresh boule from Milo & Olive can be gobbled down quickly, doused in Wonder Valley olive oil. Other Italian-leaning options, including gnocchi and chicken scallopine, feature Fox’s flair of mixing in something a little unexpected, like tamari (a sauce made from fermented soy beans).
The range of eats at Birdie G’s may be one of the restaurant’s superpowers. You can go with friends and satisfy just about everyone’s desire, from steak and duck to salads and fish. Hungry vegetarians can slurp down a satisfying yellow-eye bean stew and gourmands can revel in a selection of toasts, like steak and uni tartare.
Another nod to the traditional deli comes in the form of daily specials. Cozy classics such as Gladys’ beef tongue pot roast (Friday) or Chicken Paprikash (Tuesday) let you indulge in a “home-cooked” meal, as if you really are journeying back to a mythic grandmother’s house in the old country.
Dessert mirrors the eclecticism of the rest of the menu. In fact, it’s written on the menu to leave room for dessert, if you need a little prodding to forgo your diet. Fresh pie comes in the celestial form of rose petal, a combination of raspberry, strawberry, rose and hibiscus atop a pretzel crust. Another mouth-watering option is the “not your grandmother’s grasshopper,” updated with Fernet Mentha, Humboldt vodka and fresh ice cream from Sweet Rose Creamery.
Also not to be missed at Birdie G’s are the crackerjack cocktails. Luscious with bright flavors and unexpected ingredients, the creativity of each drink really shines through. The not-too-sweet options, like the Liberty Bell libations with cracked black pepper and fresh red and orange bell peppers, pair really well with food. Tantalizing flavors like candied kumquat and black tea milk-washed bourbon made me want to try just about every choice.
There’s also the cheeky option of ordering the “duck, duck, goose,” which lets the bartender choose something for you. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands. Didn’t grandma always say to rely on the kindness of strangers? Or was that Tennessee Williams’ Blanche DuBois?