Looking for a new place to congregate after a long day at the office? Loosen up your tie, let down your hair, and relax with friends at The Independence, a hip, high-end tavern that just opened to rave reviews in Santa Monica. You remember the space — for seven years it was Buddha’s Belly, a neighborhood favorite — but it’s been transformed into a tasteful dining room, with wooden tables and a beautiful mural bursting with color. The whole place has a beachfront island vibe, but once you step into the bar area, you see that this restaurant is made for serious lounging.
The high ceiling and large windows overlooking Broadway make it easy for you to converse with all your coworkers, but it’s not so spacious that you can’t carry on an intimate exchange with new friends. The bountiful food menu gives you plenty of options to keep your group well-fed while mingling — the plates are great to share, so there’s no need to agonize over which dish to get. Hit the primal spot on your hunger bullseye as you bite into spicy chicken wings with salsa verde and lime. Or get fancy, buttering the smoked whitefish toast with pickled shallots, apple, and fried capers. Satisfy your fungus-loving pals with savory roasted wild mushrooms with poached egg and hollandaise.
And of course, you order some drinks from renowned London-trained barman Vincenzo Marianella, the “Godfather of Cocktails,” who will make you an offer you can’t refuse: A list of drinks, each overflowing with a magical mix of flavors. You can’t go wrong with any items at The Independence, but best to start the party off with the wolfskil: a complex combination of bourbon, bitters, smoky mezcal, and a little sweetness from liqueurs made with rhubarb and elderflower. Or get into the Caribbean spirit with the Buenos Ayers – a tropical combination of Jamaican rum, smoked banana bitters, and cayenne pepper, with a festive sugar rim.
They’ve also got tasty mocktails made with freshly squeezed juices, and Intelligensia coffee for your designated driver. After an evening of great food and inspired drinks – and maybe a decompressing walk along the beach – work tomorrow will be a breeze.