Socalo – Santa Monica

The chefs behind Border Grill, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, opened their latest restaurant in Santa Monica. Located in a former IHOP, Socalo serves seasonal Mexican fare, using local, sustainable ingredients and antibiotic/hormone-free meats.

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The interior has been redone nicely (unfortunately not currently open due to the pandemic restrictions). There is, however, outdoor patio available for dining. 

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I came during Dine LA to take advantage of their $15 three-course lunch – starter, entree and dessert. The price is about the same as a lunchtime entree, so it’s like getting a free appetizer and dessert. My food was well-packaged for takeout, with my name written in a dramatic font on the bag. 

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We had two starters – the shrimp campechana and baby gem TJ Caesar. The campechana was a shrimp cocktail, consisting of one large shrimp, avocado, cucumber and tomato. Sure, it would have been nice to have more than one, but at this price, it was a better to have quality over quantity.  

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The Caesar salad was a departure for the norm, nicely executed with roasted tomatoes, pickled chiles, queso enchilada and croutons in a creamy garlic dressing. The tomatoes were incredibly sweet, offseting the spiciness of the pickled chiles. 

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Since my husband doesn’t eat meat, he chose the Impossible chorizo Socalo Burrito as his main. The burrito was generously filled with chorizo, along with beans, cheese, coleslaw, potatoes and avocado salsa, and came with a side green salad.

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I opted for the Vampiro steak and shrimp tacos, that had griddled cheese and salsa macha on blue corn tortillas. They were slightly spicy and had so much steak and shrimp, that the filling kept falling out when I picked them up. My clothes were a mess afterwards, but it was worth it. The tacos were served with your standard rice and beans and some farmers’ market vegetables – mostly tomatoes and cucumbers, though there was a mint leaf and pomegranate seeds, which were a nice surprise.

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For dessert, there was a mini guava empanada. My daughter, who is not a Mexican food fan, sampled, and then proceeded to finish off one of the little pastries, likening it to rugelach. Let’s just say, she’s become an empanada fan.

With Feniger and Milliken at the helm, you’re guaranteed that the Mexican food will be high quality. I had feared that the food might be a little bland, but it wasn’t, leaning more to the slightly spicy side. A bag of freshly made tortilla chips, that were too hard to resist devouring, were included with our meal. I definitely felt that a lot of effort had been put into my meal to make it special. If the goal of Dine LA was to introduce diners to new restaurants, they succeeded. Socalo will now be on my list of restaurants to definitely revisit. 

Location – 1920 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404
Website – https://www.socalo.com
Kid’s Menu – No
Vegetarian/Vegan Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes

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