When outsiders think about Los Angeles, they typically think of three things: movie stars, traffic, and the beach. When it comes to the reality of living in Los Angeles, the first two are certainly prevalent - it's impossible to count the celebrities we've seen over the years, and we've come to accept that half our lives will be spent behind the wheel - but the beach, for some of us, remains elusive. Many L.A. residents go weeks (months?) without seeing the Pacific, let alone do we find quality time to enjoy an ocean view over a nice meal. Ocean view brunches are just not a big thing here in L.A., and we think it's about time that changes. So, over the next few weeks, we're going to share with you our top picks for brunches by the beach - starting with SALT in Marina del Rey.
Originally built in 1964, the Marina del Rey Hotel recently underwent a massive renovation, reemerging in early 2015 as a chic waterfront destination. To match, the hotel needed an equally chic and appealing restaurant, and Chef Mark Gold, formerly of Eva on Beverly, stepped up to the plate. As any proper hotel restaurant should, SALT offers three meals a day, as well as a happy hour each evening and brunch on weekends. Gold's cuisine highlights California's abundance of excellent produce, sourcing seasonal ingredients from local farmers markets, and as you might expect, also features a healthy amount of seafood.
Like the rest of the hotel, the restaurant is beautiful; bright decor and light woods offer an upscale-beachy atmosphere, and marina-view patios on either side of the space provide an indoor-outdoor feel. Outside, cozy couches surround fire pits, and tables are lined up under giant heat lamps. There's not a bad view from any perch on the patio; it's easy imagine how romantic this must be at happy hour during sunset.
At our recent brunch, SALT was lively but not packed, and felt a little bit like a spa for the senses - a perfect spot to ease into your day if you'd had a little bit too much "fun" the night before. The menu is surprisingly long, offering both the items you come to expect at a hotel restaurant (a "continental breakfast" with pastries, yogurt, and fruit; a caesar salad) as well as some more inventive selections (brûléed oatmeal, a Croque Madame, Shingoku oysters). There's also a healthy list of craft cocktails, though at 16 bucks a pop, this may not be your new go-to spot for marathon day drinking (it's perhaps a more choose-one-and-sip-it-slowly kind of place). Luckily, the coffee's good, and the staff is generous with the refills.
While we attempted to come to terms with the massive menu, our server suggested a starter - the Avocado Hummus. Two undeniably delicious things mixed together, and it's dairy free (for my allergic husband, of course)? Sure, sign us up. This was a perfect way to ease into our meal - the hummus was creamy and light, and we loved the tang and crunch from the capers and seeds on top. The variety of vegetables is nice too, and I'm always a sucker for a caper berry.
For our mains, we stuck to the breakfast half of the menu. First, a classic breakfast called the "All American Sailor" with cage free eggs, ham, roast potatoes, and toast, served with coffee or tea - a typical hotel-breakfast perk (and hey, we're not arguing with it). The flavorful ham was a real standout, and the eggs were perfectly cooked. While simple, this breakfast staple is satisfying and will fit the bill whenever you're craving good ol' eggs and potatoes.
Next was SALT's take on the craze that just won't die: toast. This version started with a base of grilled country bread, then was topped with soft scrambled farm eggs and roasted wild mushrooms, and finished with brown butter and chive. The flavor combination was subtle and pleasant, with a lovely warmth provided from the roasted mushrooms and the brown butter. The heaping side of salad offered balance and lightness, resulting in an all-around satisfying meal.
Finally, for something bordering on decadent, the Croque Madame. Bathed in sauce mornay, this gorgeous brioche sandwich featured Fra’mani ham, gruyere cheese, and a sunny side up farm egg. Again, the wonderfully flavorful ham was the real star of the dish, but it was complimented nicely by the sauce and cheese. Our egg was a bit overcooked, so we missed out on a #yolkporn moment, but the dish was still delightful. Besides, just look at that sauce mornay - maybe we can embrace it as #sauceporn instead.
While SALT tends to be a little pricey, we love this spot for a special occasion or for entertaining out-of-towners. Its pleasing menu and modern elegance, coupled with that gorgeous view, will leave you feeling like you're finally living that glamorous L.A. lifestyle that everyone assumes you are.