“An impressive array of shared plates, greens, sandwiches, flatbreads,
and entrees to suit any mood”
Two friends left the Del Mar beach, feet sandy and shorts wet. They walked through cottage retail looking for a place where they could get a sandwich and watch the game during sunset. They didn’t find one, so they created their own.
Monarch combines sophisticated comfort food with beach patio flair. The wicker lounge decor is a cohesive take on the last year of a pandemic where we collectively got more comfortable in our own backyards and are now ready to find an uplifting hang out. The wooden patio stretches around a giant bar that invites you to relax. Paddleboards, bicycles, and kayaks hang from the ceilings with a painted sign saying, “Wish you were here!” An outdoor bar and reception area fills the space with live music which can also be rented for events.
My date and I watched the blood-red sunset and sipped a POG mai tai and dragon fruit margarita while we waited for a table. A woman at the bar stood up to read a poem to wish us all a good night to cheers and applause. I forgot to ask if that was a nightly occurrence.
The food was an impressive array of shared plates, greens, sandwiches, flatbreads, and entrees to suit any mood. The wood-fired smoked wings had a dry rub which was not spicy. Their “Secret Spice” was a sweet and savory blend. The chicken was apple-wood smoked and cooked perfectly. It came with two sauces for dipping: a house made ranch and a bleu cheese. I was surprised at how good they were without being drenched in a high flavor sauce.
The server said they are known for their Yellowfin Tuna Poke. The garlic, crisp onion, and light pear combine with hearty chunks of yellowfin for a delicious bite. The purple potato chip almost broke each time I scooped some up, but that didn’t stop me. The chef allowed each flavor to speak without overpowering the fish. I started to notice a sweet-savory trend.
The farmer’s salad included seasonal cali-grown sustainable greens. Ours came with delicious butternut squash and smoked beets. The pistachio dusting gave a candylike finish. If you want the salad as your meal, you could add grilled chicken skewers, toasted farro pilaf, tuna, or Patagonia shrimp.
The mushroom burrata flatbread had a thick fluffy crust and the burrata was moan-inducing. I spent a long time on that flatbread. The dough was perfectly cooked and the cheese was very fresh.
The polenta was a point of contention and my date and I failed our compatibility test. Trust polenta to dish out some conflict. I loved the creamy fall dish with whole mushrooms. It reminded me of home cooking with sophisticated vegetables. My date didn’t enjoy it as much and was looking forward to our mains.
I looked at my date for his reaction to the Short Rib Pastrami sandwich. Envision a thick New Jersey accent as he said, “In the old days if you did something good, you got a pastrami sandwich. If someone gave you this sandwich, you must have saved someone’s life.”
The meat was thick cut, tender and juicy. It was a five-day labor of love. The chef smoked it for hours, and the next day it was firm enough to cut. You could serve this at a traditional deli or a fancy steakhouse. The meat’s quality shone through the chimichurri, aged gruyere, house mustard, pickles and rye bread. The fries were like thick-cut potato skins. Our server said the sriracha ranch was delicious to dip with but you have to ask for it separately. We will both be back for this sandwich.
The server also recommended the Cherrywood Smoked Pork Chops as a popular dish.
I got to compliment the chef on his playful flavors. Chef Craig Jimenez is San Diego born and bred. He opened a few other well-known spots in San Diego like Craft & Commerce. He trained in Nashville with Smokemasters from the Grand Ole BBQ in Flinn Springs, Texas. He brings in island flavors in his recipes like the Hawaiian Donuts: Cinnamon Ube Malasadas with Tahitian Vanilla Gelato. The grouping of dark purple balls was strange but the coconut and sugar flavors were homey and familiar.
As the night got darker, we could see the stars reflected on the ocean. I plan to go back to try all the other menu options and ask about that poem.