Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, so accordingly, we drove by several Mexican-ish places looking for a place for chips and salsa, and of course, margaritas. Every place was ridiculously packed through overflowing. Baja Cantina in Marina Del Rey was a veritable Mardi Gras celebration, with college aged kids lined up at the door in front, with beads around their necks, sombreros, and holding foot long glasses filled with beer or pre-mixed by the gallon margaritas. Uh, I left that kind of madness behind about 10 years ago. Lula was the same, just a slightly older (but not necessarily more mature) crowd. We opted instead, to celebrate the victory of the small, sorely outnumbered Mexican militia over the French at the Battle of Puebla by going to a less-chaotic place, World Cafe.
In the grand galaxy of L.A.’s nightlife, World Cafe is a quiet planet. It’s a neighborhood restaurant/bar/lounge that’s walkable for the local beachfront and not-exactly-beachfront-but-still-as-expensive residents. Even with a fairly large street corner presence, and lit up by tall trees with large nets of small white lights (which I hate, by the way), the vibe is more mellow than nearby bars and clubs and because. It’s also at the top of the street, making World Cafe a likely place to begin a bar crawl along this strip of Main Street.
There’s a chalkboard sign out front announcing Cinco de Mayo specials. Though both the bar/lounge and the restaurant have entrances from the sidewalk, tonight, the lounge entrance is blocked with a make-shift bar to accommodate the margarita madness. We could see that it was crowded with many revelers who have already stepped inside for $5 margaritas. We stepped through the front patio of regular restaurant diners and bar flies who had spilled out for a quick smoke, wiggled our way through the small, very crowded, inside bar, and finally circled into the lounge.
The lounge is dark, but not as dark as the inside bar, and is furnished with low wicker furniture. One large group of young, Santa Monica-trendsters surrounds three small tables that have been pushed together in the middle of the lounge, and the rest of the patrons are in pairs and trios, crowded around the periphery. By a stroke of luck, we managed a space along the vinyl-cushioned wall-bench with a small side table. Margaritas were on the way.
World Cafe isn’t exactly a gourmet dining destination, but they do a decent job with their food. Appropriately named, the menu is all over the place – appetizers like hummus, spring rolls, quesadillas, and caviar; salads, pizzas, pastas, and entrees that are fusion-y, with a definite bent toward asian. Maybe it’s called Eclectic California World Fusion cuisine. Most of the menu items that are easy to eat while standing or squatting over a low table, i.e. everything except the entrees, are available in the lounge. Things to keep your mouth busy as you let the alcohol do its business on your brain.
Our spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese pizza was good, but no Abbot’s. It's not a thick crust, but not exactly thin, and fired in their wood burning oven. I loved the giant blops of goat cheese, and I supposedly don’t even like goat cheese - the margaritas were knocking out my tastebuds. We had to take half of the pizza home, along with half the basket of onion rings, since, at 9:45 pm, we weren’t really at World Cafe for serious dining. And though I say World Cafe’s food is only decent, I will say that they definitely know how to fry an onion ring. They were thickly sliced, fried deep dark, but in a light tempura batter, and served with a somewhat thinned out spicy Ranch dressing. The onions were not only sweet, but soft enough to bite all the way through. No long onion noodle that comes slipping out of the deep fry batter casing, leaving only a hollow doughnut of fried air. I hate that.
Though I’ve eaten in the main dining room of World Cafe before, it’s not likely that I’d go back for dinner. But complete with liquid lubrication, and some light food fuel, World Cafe works as a launch pad for a long evening.
2820 Main Street (@ Hill)
Santa Monica, CA 90405