Gastropub is the term of the moment in the argot of food cognoscenti. It’s the high end food/good drinks concept that really took off with places like Father’s Office in LA and The Spotted Pig in New York. At the time of their opening these were revelations. You could eat fantastic food and do it wearing shorts and your college t-shirt. There might even be a TV playing the game above the bar. Nowadays gastropubs are everywhere; Waterloo and City/The York/The Six/Ford’s Filling Station/Larry’s and on the list goes.
What seemed the least likely entry into the fray is Next Door by Josie. For anyone who has been to Josie, it can be tremendous food/dead environment. It is the antithesis of the relaxed, convivial, neighborhood spot that gastropubs aspire to be. So The Monster gave it a go with mixed feelings going in.
Trepidation aside, Next Door by Josie proves a fun addition to the neighborhood. After work when you want a few drinks and something to nibble on, with friends out for the night but you don’t feel like putting on your grown-up clothes, want a beer while watching football but don’t feel like sitting alone in your living room like you always do, Next Door by Josie is your kind of place.
The menu has a selection of small snacks (chipotle – rosemary bar nuts; beer & bacon caramel corn; deviled eggs, duck cracklin’, pickled beets, scallion), bigger snacks and appetizers (dry rubbed pork riblets, creamy calico slaw; baby kale salad, crispy parmigiano tuiles; allen brothers’ grits, molasses-glazed bacon, spicy shrimp)’ a charcuterie selection, soups and sandwiches (prime dry-aged beef burger on bun #4, cheddar cheese, house-made thousand island; sloppy roast pork, fried rapini, aged provolone, garlic mayo; natural beef hot dog on bun #2, fennel kraut, ballpark mustard) and larger plates (tarragon-roasted half chicken, garlic mashed, sautéed greens; farmers’ market vegetable pot pie, white cheddar crust) along with vegetables and sides. The beer and wine list isn’t as comprehensive as some other similar spaces but there are interesting choices to be had to quench your thirst.
The Monster decides on the house pickle jar the roasted baby beets, brown butter, hazelnuts the mai’s duck confit ‘bánh mì,’ pickled daikon, cucumber. To wash it down on this day is a Pimm’s Cup.
Anything pickled works in The Monster’s book and this now ubiquitous menu item didn’t disappoint. Cauliflower, orange and yellow carrot, pickles are all included.
Likewise, the beets were wonderfully dressed and the hazelnuts worked perfectly against them adding a textural balance to the dish.
As for the duck bahn mi, it’s spicy and crunchy and the type of sandwich that once you pick it up never leaves your hands. It makes The Monster wish Vietnamese cooking included more duck.
The only loser of the evening proves the Pimm’s Cup. It looks like a drink you get at the Ohio State fair with maraschino cherries floating in the bottom and a nuclear orange color that makes one feel they should test it for radiation. To the joint’s credit, the bartender came over and admitted he’d never served the drink before and would be happy to prepare a different cocktail if it wasn’t to The Monster’s liking. Class touch even if they should have thought of that before making the drink.
With friendly service and a hopping scene, Next Door by Josie is a worthy addition to the Santa Monica restaurant scene.
Why go? Those sweats aren’t coming off.
Monster rating: 4/5 Monsters
2420 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405