The shtick: Something-for-everyone brunch with a dose of Vitamin D.
The vibe: The sprawling, multi-room restaurant channels L.A.’s breezy beach feel on a cement-heavy stretch of Lincoln Park. There’s cushy lounge chair seating, bar seating, and “Vitamin D Room” seating in a pretty, glass-ceilinged dining room where sun pours in as beautiful people (aged 0 to 50) sip their mimosas (or, for the underage types, just plain OJ).
Though the attitude is easy-breezy, this ain’t the place to show up sporting last night’s jammies and disheveled hair: Much like many of Lettuce Entertain You’s other spots, it’s a real see-and-be-seen scene—yep, even before noon. On that note, it’s also not the place to come when famished, because you’re looking at upwards of a 30-minute wait without a reservation. 7 out of 10
The drinks: We were feeling the faux-healthy Cali vibe, and, as such, focused our attention on the menu’s “zero-proof cocktails,” a collection of booze-free creations enlisting ingredients such as kale and basil (and simple syrup sometimes, but whatever). The cucumber cooler was essentially a rum-less Mojito. All well and good, but absolutely not six bucks good. 6 out of 10
The food: Whereas Summer House’s dinner menu makes schizophrenic jumps from sushi to pasta to tacos, this one’s divvied up into comparatively logical categories (with the exception of the weird “very special” section).
When in pseudo-Santa Monica, one must consume lots of greens, and as such, we ordered the spinach and kale omelet, a manageably sized portion served with a slab of rustic house-baked bread and topped with arugula. But the eggs were weirdly buttery, the kale and spinach seemed in short supply, and the Wisconsin cheddar the menu promised was nearly undetectable. An utterly unremarkable omelet.
A lemon-cottage cheese pancake had its merits: The cake was chewy but not dense and the cottage cheese added interesting texture and tenderness. But overall, this was bland. And the lemon? Absent–or so we thought. Unfortunately, neither the menu nor the food runner informed us that what appears to be butter (which we'd avoided using it in an attempt at being “good”) in this photo was, in fact, delicious, game-changing lemon curd. We discovered this when the pancake was nearly finished, and only got to enjoy a few bites of the flavors as they were intended.
The best part of the meal, hands down, were the treats we picked up from the bakery counter on our way out: Summer House stocks some of the gooiest cookies (try the salted chocolate chip) and most decadent bars (the marshmallow-studded Beach Blondie is a gem) in the city. 5 out of 10
The service: Our server, a good-looking young dude, looked like the type you’d come across in actual Santa Monica. But unlike the stereotypical L.A. server (“I’m just doing this until my acting career takes off”), he seemed genuinely pleased to be there. It was nice when he came by shortly after our food arrived to ask, “Is everything perfect here?” However, by the fifth time he asked that very same question, verbatim, it was just goofy. But hard to fault the guy for wanting everything to be “perfect.” 9 out of 10
Overall: Too scene-y for our liking, and the menu underdelivers. But the baked goods alone are worth the trip. 7 out of 10
Summer House Santa Monica, 1954 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park