Hollywood & Vine. It's been the epicenter of Tinseltown since the time of the Hayes Code. The glamour of Hollywood is still alive and well at the iconic intersection in the form of Lexington Social House.
The decor has an air of elegance that wafts one back through time. And at first glance, the menu might appear to be vintage as well, but make no mistake -- this is modern American cuisine.
Chef Jared Simons found his calling after being sidelined by a wrestling injury in high school. The serendipitous event eventually landed him in a kitchen of a popular local hangout in the surfside community of Carlsbad Village. After studying at the California Culinary Academy, Simons returned to Carlsbad and at 22, opened his first restaurant concept, a French-style bistro called Le Passage.
It doesn't take long to discover Simons' influence -- the beet salad, for instance -- something that might seem universal -- bears his unique signature. Locally grown beets are served with candied pistachios, aged goat cheese and kumquats. For a salad, it offers some flair.
Another inspired dish is the Jidori chicken liver toast. For those of us with Southern roots, much of the menu may trigger childhood memories, and this is one such item. However, Simons has updated the traditional chicken liver by serving the liver as a lighter, but intensely rich spread.
Continuing with the theme, the Jidori fried chicken with smashed potatoes, bacon-braised greens and mustard sauce is yet another modern take on a traditional Southern dish. For the many who have forgotten what fried chicken is -- with a particular fast food chain even adopting an abbreviation to hide the word -- there are times it is worth the indulgence, and this is one.
One of the highlights of the menu is the braised boneless beef short ribs. While they're a lot of places serving braised short ribs, Simons' version is one of the better ones you'll find.
With more of the Southern overtones, the monkey bread, starring brown sugar, pecans and banana ice cream, is one of the hits on the dessert list. Also worthy of consideration is the white wine-poached pears with golden raisins and cheese turnover. And of course, there's the flourless chocolate soufflé.
If there's anything glaring about the menu, it is probably the lack of complete cohesion. Part of that flaw, however, is due to the fact that American cuisine by its very nature is all over the map. But there are some dishes that seem tacked on and others that feel omitted.
In addition to a great dining experience, Lexington Social House is also a cool place to come for cocktails. The patio is essentially an outdoor lounge with its own bar and plenty of shade trees and comfy furniture. Inside, the centrally located white marble bar is the locus of the scene.
The cocktails themselves are also special. The Lexington, for example, is a concoction of Earl Grey-infused woodford reserve bourbon, honey, lemon juice and orange bitters. For the daring, consider the Polynesian: Peligroso Blanca tequila, pineapple gum syrup, lime juice, Peychaud bitters, basil, cayenne and crispy prosciutto -- yes, you read that right -- prosciutto. The drink is all right, but just like a few of the items on the menu, feels out of place on what is for the most part, merely an update-on-tradition sort of list.
Lexington Social House is at its best when it accomplishes what it ultimately wants to be, which, as Simons puts it: "A place where people feel welcome." With multiple dining rooms, indoor/outdoor bars, and a casually classy ambience, one feels as welcome as if it were an intimate gathering at a friend's dinner party.
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