05/17/2012 05:18 pm ET Updated Jul 17, 2012

Brick + Mortar: The Next Santa Monica Hot Spot

Tucked away, off charming Main Street in Santa Monica, is a hot new restaurant serving modern American cuisine in an indoor/outdoor setting. Brick + Mortar occupies the space of the former Salute wine bar. The set-up and décor is first-date-worthy and the vibe is relaxed with a little energy mixed in. The crowd is lively and fairly described as hip. The bar is prominently featured, and with good cause -- this is a gastropub. And a good one, at that, thanks largely to Executive Chef Laurent Saussy (Jiraffe, Waterloo & City, 72 Market Street and Towne Restaurant are among a few of his local credits).

BRG restaurant group partners Travis Lester and Justin Safier opened Brick + Mortar's doors in February, but on May 1, the restaurant celebrated its grand opening, and now offers lunch, in addition to brunch and dinner. The prices are reasonable and there are specials in addition to a good happy hour.

As for lunch, there are four varieties of salad -- Caesar, Cobb, mixed greens, spinach -- and a couple of soups available each day. The sandwich list includes such gems as pork belly reuben, made with gruyere, served on rye bread and hummus, pepper jack, eggplant, cucumbers, red onion and tomato on seven-grain bread. As for burgers, what the menu lacks in selection, it makes up for in quality -- consider the tuna burger with market slaw and wasabi mayo on a brioche bun. And all sandwiches are served with fries or greens.

Brick + Mortar will soon develop a reputation for its pizza. In fact, with Stella Rossa Pizza Bar just down the road, Main Street Santa Monica may soon develop a reputation as one of the best places in town to go for pizza. The mushroom, kale, ricotta, reggiano and mozzarella pizza is a must-try. There are more exotic varieties, as well -- green curry chicken, cherry tomatoes and cilantro; short rib, bleu cheese and arugula; and asparagus, squash blossoms, reggiano, ricotta and egg.

The charcuterie board is very good -- the meats and cheeses are paired with pickles, mustard and bread -- and the perfect accompaniment for many of the house specialty drinks -- but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The hummus is different than what you're probably used to. If it's possible for hummus to be feral, this is -- it's not the domesticated variety we've come to expect. And I love that, but others might not, so there you go -- a heads-up.

As for the entrees, I have to mention the chicken pot pie. If you truly like classic American fare, this is a dish you have to try. My grandmother would be proud. If you're dieting, the salads are great -- don't get me wrong -- but the pot pie is worth the guilt that will inevitably follow. Every bite is a masterpiece. Another knockout is the half Jidori chicken, served with mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and balsamic sauce.

This is a prime location to meet for drinks. And if you like specialty cocktails, you're in for a treat. The beer selection is great -- there's a chalkboard featuring the latest selection, which includes some hard-to-find microwbrews -- the wine selection is equally impressive, and includes half-off bottles on Mondays, and there's a long list of top-shelf liquors.
Brick + Mortar is the rare place that's ideal for brunch, lunch or dinner. It would be a great joint just for drinks, but the food is too good to resist. Better bring your appetite.