Charcuterie plate? Check.
House-pickled vegetables? Check.
Flat breads from a wood-fired oven, located just outside the kitchen, in view of the dining area? Check.
Main Street Santa Monica’s Fork in the Road opened in late 2013 and had all the essential ingredients to make it a hit with “food enthusiasts” (my alternative term for “foodies”), like Waterloo & City or Gjelina. Yet it had only a smattering of pre-opening coverage from Eater LA, one mention on LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog, and nothing I could find in LA Times’ Food section, which isn’t that unusual as the Times can’t possibly cover every new restaurant that opens in the greater Los Angeles area.
However, with the number of food bloggers in L.A., I was surprised to not have found any independent reviews of the place longer than a paragraph blurb. What’s more surprising was lack of recon on Chowhound LA, which, with its grassroots army of food enthusiasts, generally covers much more ground than the above publications. I could only find a handful of mentions on the board, all of them positive, but light on details, so my wife and I decided to check it out for ourselves one early evening last week.
We arrived about a half an hour before their Happy Hour wrapped at 7 PM, without reservation, with the restaurant and bar about half full. We were seated at the bar, and, after perusing the menus, we ordered three items from the Happy Hour menu and one additional, not realizing exactly how much food we would get. This is definitely a place for sharing.
Salmon Tartar[sic] Jar ($8 at Happy Hour, $15 otherwise), with capers, beets, dill crema, toast: Served in a large, squat mason jar, garnished with edible flowers and house-pickled vegetables, with more on the side in the jar lid, this dish made my wife very happy, as she loves all things salmon (see: our salmon-centric birthday lunch). I managed to get a few bites, and I found the tartare to be very well balanced, with the brininess of the fish cut by the tart capers, and the earthiness of the beets balanced by the crema. The pickled vegetables were excellent, especially the caper berries, which I am always excited to encounter. An amazing deal at $8 during Happy Hour!
Charcuterie ($13 at Happy Hour, A.Q. otherwise), with pickles, mustard, relish, olives, sourdough: A selection of salumi, including prosciutto and salami, with cornichons, more caper berries(!), a great chutney-like relish, this was a larger-than-expected charcuterie plate. Not sure how much the as-quoted price would be, but for the portion, this was another great deal at $13 during Happy Hour!
Mushroom Flat Bread ($12 at Happy Hour, $15 otherwise), with truffle, manchego, garlic confit: You can’t go wrong with these ingredients. This arrived after we polished off most of our first two dishes, which were no small amount of food. A generous portion in itself, the flat bread probably measured 6″ by 18″. We ended up taking most of it home and had it cold as a midnight snack, and it held up surprisingly well.
Pig Tail ($15), with red hot, cheddar tot’s[sic], smoky blue, celery. This was our one non-Happy Hour dish. Having sampled pig tails from the likes of Animal, Night+Market, Spice Table, Tar & Roses in Los Angeles, and Tosca Cafe in San Francisco, when I saw it on the menu, I knew I had to order it. While the accoutrements are obvious nods to buffalo wings, and therefore may invite comparison to Animal’s preparation, unlike Animal, or any of the aforementioned establishments, the pig tail I had at Fork in the Road was not prepared bone-in. Instead, the tails were cooked until the meat falls off the bone and then made into essentially giant croquetas de jamon, with crispy breading on the outside, and the tender, fatty, flavorful meat on the inside. This was a creative, and, more importantly, delicious, dish! (The bottle held more hot sauce, to be applied as needed by medicine dropper.)
Truffles ($1 each), with organic chocolate, smoked almond: Since we were quite stuffed by this point, we opted for a light dessert. We didn’t expect a show in the form of a burning rosemary branch. The truffles were good, though I didn’t get too much of a sense of the smoked almonds.
The conventional wisdom among some food enthusiasts seems to be that Main Street Santa Monica is not worth much culinarily, and perhaps that’s why Fork in the Road has been somewhat overlooked by food media. I definitely think the place deserves a little more attention than it seems to be getting online. But it seems to be doing alright. It has 4 stars on Yelp across 100+ reviews, 5 stars on Facebook with nearly 800 Likes, and it usually look busy when I’ve driven by.
Fork in the Road may well be that real neighborhood spot that people who live nearby actually walk to, rather than a destination restaurant that requires valet parking. And that’s fine. Let it fly under the radar of the fooderati. I know I’ll be back!
Fork in the Road
2424 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405