Nestled in Santa Monica’s coastal Rustic Canyon neighborhood, and just steps from the beach is Tallula’s, a new fun and welcoming Mexican restaurant opening today from the Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants—the team behind the city’s celebrated Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Bakery & Café, Milo & Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery, Cassia, and Esters Wine Shop & Bar. Tallula’s, named after partners Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s daughter, debuts just in time for the summer, making it the perfect, vibrant setting for post-beach drinks on the patio or in the colorful bar, or dinner after work with friends and family in the airy dining room. Keeping with the relaxed, Southern California vibe, the majority of the restaurant accommodates walk-ins, with limited reservations available beginning today.
Restaurateurs Josh Loeb, Zoe Nathan, and Colby Goff continue to grow their restaurant family from within, collaborating with Jeremy Fox, Rustic Canyon and Esters’ award-winning Executive Chef, here in a partnership role and overseeing the culinary side. Executive Chef Mario Alberto’s dynamic, yet accessible dinner menu reflects the rustic Mexican home cooking of Los Angeles, featuring fresh, organic, and sustainable ingredients, many of which are sourced from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. Acclaimed Wine Director and Esters Co-Owner Kathryn Coker curates an eclectic wine list from boutique producers around the world, while Rustic Canyon and Esters Bar Manager Aaron Ranf crafts the beer selection and a cocktail menu that ranges from traditional margaritas and palomas to more playful, beachy iterations that all rely heavily on housemade syrups and seasonal produce. Mary Thompson, formerly of The LINE Hotel and Saint Martha in Koreatown, joins the team as General Manager.
Tallula’s takes over the long-standing Tex Mex restaurant, Marix, which Josh and Zoe used to go to as children. “We now live in the house I grew up in, and Zoe and I have always wanted to open a restaurant we could walk to. This was the perfect opportunity to bring something fun, funky, and delicious to the neighborhood that people can come to every day, while still honoring the history of the place,” says Josh. “Mario has a real passion for Mexican culture and its cuisine, so the menu he’s crafted really celebrates the kind of comforting foods Zoe, Jeremy, and I all grew up with, but with our collective take by using the very best seasonal and organic ingredients.”
Mario, a Los Angeles native, previously hailed from Ysabel and Laurel Hardware, and has worked with top, local chefs like Ricardo Zarate as a Partner and Executive Chef at the original Mo-Chica in Downtown’s Mercado La Paloma, and as Chef de Cuisine alongside Josef Centeno at Lazy Ox Canteen. His menu at Tallula’s incorporates sustainably-sourced seafood and meat, heirloom grains, and seasonal, organic produce, with all the tortillas, chile pastes, and moles made in-house. Highlights include Grilled Market Fish Tacos with black bass, Mexican sauerkraut, malt aioli, and epazote on housemade blue corn tortillas; Heritage Turkey Enchiladas topped with black recado-quinoa sauce, burrata cheese, and sesame; Roasted Half Organic Chicken with mole casero, masa-ricotta chochoyotes (dumplings), and market vegetables; and large-format dishes to share like a Rotating Guisado del Dia (Braise of the Day) such as Lamb Barbacoa with Negra Modelo, rice, and herbs or a Dry-Aged Beef “Cowboy” Steak with smoked potatoes, three different salsas, pickled onions, cabbage, and tortillas.
Overseeing Tallula’s “sweet side” are Zoe, an award-winning baker, and Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants’ Bakery Director of Operations Laurel Almerinda, with desserts like a Tres Leches Cake with honey, chamomile, and fresh market berries and Pan Dulce with candied whole cocoa beans and a cup of raw drinking chocolate made with stone-ground chocolate from Los Angeles’ ChocoVivo.
Kathryn’s wine list features 30 options from Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Argentina, Chile, and the United States. Lesser-known varietals, such as Xarel-lo and País, and unique regions like Arribes in Spain and Alentejano in Portugal, capture Kathryn’s desire to always offer something new, yet familiar tasting, to excite diners’ palates and pair well with Mario’s cuisine. In addition to traditional Mexican drinks, Aaron’s cocktail menu features creative, post-beach day offerings, like a Hibiscus Refresco with Spirit Works Sloe Gin, Opuntia Prickly Pear Brandy, the bitter aperitif liqueur Bruto Americano, hibiscus tea, lime, and agave syrup, and The Canyon with Selvarey Rum, Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum, fresh pineapple and lemon, housemade spiced turmeric syrup, and Angostura bitters. An assortment of exceptional tequilas and mezcals best enjoyed neat, craft beers, and non-alcoholic, seasonal aguas frescas round out the bar menu.
Housed in a former Japanese restaurant built in 1984 with dark green pagoda exteriors, Tallula’s transformation was handled by L.A.-based ORA, which also designed Esters. Original features include dark wood-paneled ceilings, rustic columns, ornate Hawaiian Koa wood banquettes re-upholstered in cerulean vinyl, and vintage orange glass lanterns, now hanging above the 12-seat bar. Spanish haciendas informed the terra cotta floors and heavy wood beams, while nature and the relaxed sensibilities of Tulum influenced the coastal color palette of pink sunsets, green palms, and blue waters—all of which lend to the light and airy atmosphere. Guests are greeted by a cozy seating area with a brilliant wall hanging featuring animals and flowers hand-embroidered by the Otomi, an indigenous people from Mexico’s central plateau region. A vertical “garden” of hanging, potted plants and lush greenery at the base of the central staircase replaced a koi pond and now serve as the 85-seat main dining room’s focal point. The open kitchen has been brightened up with a yellow-tiled counter and shelves of festive, hand-painted earthenware Mario found in East Los Angeles. The bar, lounge, and outdoor patio seat 60 and feature custom, painted fabricated-steel tables with vibrant, hand-painted Mexican Talavera tiles. As an ode to Josh and Zoe’s youngest son (Milo & Olive was named after their eldest, Milo), a neon sign spells out “Felix’s Bar” in hot pink cursive along the bar’s side wall.
Tallula’s is located at 118 Entrada Drive, Santa Monica, CA 90402 and is open for drinks and dinner Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday, 4-10:30 p.m. and Friday–Saturday, 4-11:30 p.m., with Mondays being added in the next month. The restaurant primarily caters to walk-ins, but limited reservations can be made by visiting www.tallulasrestaurant.com or by calling 310.526.0027. Valet parking is available for $9. Become a fan of Tallula’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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