There’s a homespun quality to Ashland Hill that makes it feel more like the familiar address of a friend than a popular Santa Monica hangout. At dusk, when the twinkling lights strung along Main Street match the cheerful atmosphere of gathering crowds, the restaurant beckons passersby with a subtle archway and the glow from a window into its cozy bar. Much like a beloved crash pad, there isn’t much exterior fanfare: everything that makes the place worthwhile isn’t just for anyone to see.
Wait for your group at the indoor bar, where a celebrated list of beers includes local and international pours, and sip on a pint while the regulars gather. Once the gang is assembled, head to the heated outdoor patio and claim a bench for the feast. Dig into an order of Leo’s "loco moco" – a plate of lemongrass pork sausage, kimchi rice, and an egg – or opt for a ubiquitous kale salad topped with pumpkin seeds and spiced croutons. After a second round, stake a claim on the namesake burger made with red onion bacon jam and paprika aioli, and grab a handful of herb-parmesan fries. Then, scoop up creamy white cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese layered with charred shishito and pickled cherry peppers. A friend with a sweet tooth may convince everyone to try a market blueberry crumble with ginger ice cream afterward, which shouldn’t be refused. Even if happy hour turns into dinner, and then into late-night drinks, that’s fine. Everyone should feel right at home.
Photo courtesy of Anne Fishbein.