The Independence

Santa Monica’s bright and breezy home for comfort food and cocktails

By Joshua Lurie

LA native Jonathan Chu’s modern gastropub—which replaced his long-running Buddha’s Belly in Santa Monica a few years back—combines an all-hits menu of eclectic comfort food with Vincenzo Marianella’s vaunted cocktails. On the corner of Broadway and Second Street, The Independence beckons all comers from a glass-fronted space that 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 labeled “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 fraîche, and served with crunchy, paprika-spiced potato chips.
Since The Independence is fairly strong on share-friendly small plates, you’ll do quite nicely sticking with them. But if you’ve got a hunger that’s snorting at the very thought of this, tackle that plate of crisp-skinned roast chicken with root vegetables, the beer-battered fish and chips, or the favorite—steak frites, with a 10-ounce ribeye, steak cut fries, and herb butter.

For dessert, don’t overlook the strawberry coconut 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.


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)