The Charleston

Candied-Bacon Cocktail
The Charleston
2460 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica CA 90403

You’re not going to get what you expect at The Charleston – but in such a good way that when you leave, you’ll be feverishly texting all of your friends about “this cool new place on the westside.”

What: Gastrolounge
…That Means: You’ll eat well and drink a lot as you relax back and listen to house-vetted music
And Will Remind You Of: A Kogi truck in Vegas with a splash of what we love from the 1930’s (but tastier, closer, and current)

Last Friday I sat down with chef Jet Tila and, as we relaxed in to the heartwarming live R&B and disappeared behind cocktail rims, he talked us through his menu, dreams, and what he had for breakfast. “We want you to leave saying “WTF-?” so  you’ll go facebook us,  tweet it, yelp it, and everything else you do to spread the word,” he explained, as I pointed out the surprising juxtaposition of live music, pork belly buns, old school chandeliers, and a drink named the Victoria Secret.

Chef Tila
Unlike most bars, Chef Tila doesn’t want his patrons to have to order pizza, smuggle chips, or wait for a food truck in order to satiate their hunger. Since this is Santa Monica, his menu spans enough genres, themes, tastes, and trends for anyone who wants a snack or a full plate to piece together a meal of utter fancy. During the flashback of 1990’s R&B we tucked in to the Short-Rib Tacos and Machengo Stuffed Piquillo Peppers for starters, followed by the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Flatbread, Shepard’s Pie, and Smoked Macaroni and Cheese for mains, all topped off with the  Chocolate Bread Pudding (a la mode) for dessert.  As we bonded over our mutual love for everything pig I hogged (pun intended) the Pork belly Bao (succulent 5-spice braised pork belly, tender bao buns, pickle and hoisin), and totally swooned over the Bacon-Wrapped Dates (marcona almond-stuffed).  The Bread Pudding was so good I’m pretty sure I blacked out through that portion of the conversation (I blame the brioche and crème anglaise) and just as I forgot I was in a bar…We got reminded with several signature drinks from the beverage menu.

With the Minted Mule, Jet 75, Victoria’s Secret, and the cucumber cooler, we were set, and began to see the transformation of the Charleston from a supper club to a sexy Santa Monica bar. And then everything went silent – well – almost: Chef Tila was telling me that he had a protein bar for breakfast when his operations manager and resident mixologist Mike delivered a drink that had a stick of candied bacon curved coyly against a cinnamon-prosciutto dusted rim.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding A La Mode
Sallie? Sallie? It took several seconds and a few calls of my name before I was able to pull out of my delighted delirium and fittingly that’s what I think it should be named, and have lobbied ever since. So if you like to drink and love bacon then ask Mike for the candied-bacon SALLIE. It’s fantastic, and sums up the Charleston exactly: surprising, delicious, and memorable.

But it gets better. While the Charleston is open at 5pm and on during the week, on the weekend it  opens  its doors several hours earlier for Jazz Brunch from 10am-2pm. A firm believer that there is always a need for more bruncheries in Santa Monica, here is the newest and coolest: live jazz, endless mimosa, and bombastic fare like Brisket Hash (Chef Tila recommends his fried Chicken and Waffle), I’ve officially added this to my GPS favorites. And so should you – for any and every occasion.

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