In a World of Casual Eateries, Bistro of Santa Monica Stands the Test of Time...

The other day, I was visiting a friend who recently had a baby at Saint John’s Hospital. She was sleeping and not seeing visitors.  I decided I would grab some lunch and come back. I agreed to met my associate  at a place that was walking distance to Saint John’s to discuss business with a potential client. There are not very many places that are walking distance from the hospital that was suitable for a formal new business meeting.  Yes, there was a pancake place, a take-out grill, snack shop and other very informal places to eat.  The only establishment that was fit for this meeting was a place called The Bistro. Set in a brick building from the 1890s, we walked in to discover that it still had its original tin-stamped ceiling and stained glass.  Current owner Michael Rogers purchased the restaurant (formerly called the 23rd Street Cafe in 1986.  In 1994, the Northridge earthquake violently shook the neighborhood and its destructive force caused the restaurant to temporarily shut down.  Two years later the Bistro of Santa Monica reopened, with an exceptional menu of simply prepared, Northern Italian dishes. Michael greeted us at the door, and gave us a big hug.  He’s the quintessential host, and treats everyone like VIPs.  He sat us in a roomy booth, and sent out waiter over.  While we browsed the menu, Michael surprised us with an order of fried calamari – one of my favorite things!  Served with a spicy tomato sauce, they were fried to perfection  – golden brown crust on the outside and chewy calamari on the inside ($8.95).  Yu-um. I ordered the Penne Alberto, ($10.95) which is the house special.  It’s so good, that I’m thinking that I’ll swing by and pick up a...

My Secret Mexican Meat Market...

Ok – I don’t mean the kind of meat market you might be thinking this is — it’s a real meat market in an unassuming little shop in a barely-noticeable mini strip center, called Carniceria Reynoso Meat Market, and it’s located on 17th and Pico, right across from Santa Monica College. I found this place on the internet; I was doing a search under “meat markets in Santa Monica.” I read the online reviews: Zarah wrote, “My local favorite! The good: meat, spices, sweet bread, Bolilos (dinner style rolls), friendly service and great prices.”  Juan wrote, ” Awesome chorizo! Fresh meat and tortillas! Plus they got great Mexican bread – yum! The only place in Santa Monica to have authentic Mexican products!” This sounded great. The next day, my companion and I visited the market, and felt a little out of place. There was a large sign in the front written entirely in Spanish, which I could not read, because I did not know the language. I walked in, not knowing if I could communicate with the proprietor. (I’m such a gringo!) When I introduced myself to Alex Reynoso, he explained in perfect English that he and his father have owned the market for more than 20 years. They are the only Mexican meat market in Santa Monica and cater to a predominately Latino customer, as well as Santa Monica College students from across the street. Alex informed us that the Spanish-language sign outside the door listed the cuts of steak they offer, as well as other meat specialties. Ranchero (specifically for making Carne Asada) Espadilla (a marinated thin steak,) Chorizo (Mexican sausage), Castillo De Res (Beef Ribs), Trosos De Res (Beef Stew), Pollo (chicken – I knew that one), Bagre (Catfish) and Jamon...