Oh say can you see, these fire hot wings? The Independence in Santa Monica is an oasis in our fractured food landscape, a fully COVID-compliant, al fresco moment just two blocks from the beach.
I showed up ready for sort of a bar food experience, but what I got was so much more. The menu has its crowd-pleasers – I am crowd – but it also boasts adventurous esoteric offerings. Truffled Parmesan fries are my love language.
They really know how to nail the hits. The 5 cheese Mac and cheese was delectable, rich and savory, and had a much sturdier consistency than most gooey iterations of this dish. It felt elevated, more luxe than down-home.
I tried all three flavors of wings because I am a patriot. This is where the magic really happened. The house fire wings were perfectly spicy, a kick that feels flavorful and tasty but not so aggressive as to put you in a flop sweat. Easily the best spicy wings I’ve had all year, and I have had many.
The lemon pepper wings were tangy and terrific, an option for folks who like their wings a little tart. You salty dogs, you.
The Beyoncé of this trio was the grilled Serrano wings, which frankly were a taste I’ve never experienced. They were sweet and smoky, and my god the texture. It was like biting into your most succulent dreams.
I had a salad next so my mother wouldn’t judge me. Turns out mother knows best.
The 3rd and Arizona salad was beachy as hell: fruity and fresh and light, with just enough sophistication to make you feel like a Saint Tropez socialite. Come for millennials all you want, but avocado just makes things better. Sorry!
Next up was the brunch burger – sorry mom – a sort of more is more dish with enough flavor to get you through the end of this truly troubled year. We’re talking ground chuck, brisket, short rib, cheddar, a fried egg, spinach, and hollandaise sauce. I mean damn!
It was divine, the kind of hangover-killing, uber-filling burger I used to get back in the day in Chicago at this heavy-metal bar called Kuma’s corner. Each bite is a new adventure, with the brisket and short rib grounding the flavor experience. Brisket is my rock.
Had a Nashville hot chicken sandwich next, and it was delicious. Do you see a theme developing? First, this is a thicc bird, enough to satisfy even the hungriest chicken aficionado. Once again, I am talking about myself. It was a cut above most hot chicken I’ve had in the last few years, including a not-to-be-named Chinatown spot with a daily two-hour wait. Spicy and soft and a joy to behold, it’s gonna live in my memory for some time.
I got my beachside drink on, sucking down a Ginger A and Not Melon Mule, spiritually similar drinks with very-different base spirits. The former felt like an upscale Silverlake bar offering, something safe and tasty that would make any palette happy.
The latter, however, felt like a revelation, the abundant strawberry, lime, and cucumber juice aerating throughout, whisking you away up the PCH to an alcove only you know. Sorry, I’m just very thirsty right now.
Before I get out of here, huge shoutout to OhWaiter, the text-to-order system that pulls up the menu on your phone and lets you politely request what you need. I found it easy, fun, and best of all, efficient. Its already revolutionized service, cutting down on wait times and helping decrease contact. I’m into that!