The Independence

Crispy pork belly

A modern California gastropub by the beach

By Joshua Lurie

LA native Jonathan Chu replaced his long-running Buddha’s Belly on the corner of Broadway and 2nd St. in Santa Monica with this restaurant and bar, which combines eclectic comfort food with Copa d’Oro partner Vincenzo Marianella’s vaunted cocktails, named for stops along the LA & I train route.

The glass-fronted space houses a marble bar, cushioned booths and banquettes, and a colorful cartoon cityscape from local artist John Park that encourages diners to “Eat! Drink and be Merry.” Chef Ben Golub lends a hand in fostering the culinary revelry.

His atypical chopped salad combines hearty kale, quinoa, hard-boiled egg, sweet sliced grapes, crunchy snap peas, candied walnuts, savory crumbled feta, a fan of thin-shaved avocado, and herbaceous green goddess dressing.
“Classic” meatball is a standout among what are labled “small plates.” Menu category notwithstanding, this single juicy ground beef behemoth arrives in a cast-iron skillet on a bed of soft polenta, coated in spicy, smoky tomato sauce, and showered with sharp grated Grana Padano. The silky salmon belly and avocado tartare is another hit, dressed with mandarin citronette, planted on a bed of tangy dill crème fraiche, and served with crunchy, paprika-spiced potato chips.

Since The Independence is fairly strong on share-friendly small plates, you’ll do well sticking with them, unless you really want to tackle an entire plate of crisp-skinned roast chicken, fish and chips, or steak frites.

For dessert, don’t overlook the strawberry panna cotta served in a Mason jar. Creamy panna cotta supports distinct layers of strawberry, vanilla whipped cream, crumbled shortbread, toasted coconut shreds, and mint. Perfect—though you could always get the chocolate cake instead. At The Independence, the choice is yours.

    Classic Meatball (photo credit: Joshua Lurie)
    Salmon Belly & Avocado Tartare (photo credit: Joshua Lurie)
    Paccheri pasta with Bolognese
    Angus Burger
    Panna Cotta (photo credit: Joshua Lurie)


Tue–Wed 11:30 AM¬–9 PM; Thu 11:30 AM–10 PM; Fri 11:30 AM–11 PM; Sat 11 AM–11 PM; Sun 11 AM–9 PM

price range

$19 (fish and chips) to $29 (steak frites)