SANTA MONICA’S CHEZ JAY
OFFERS COOL, RELAXED ‘BACKYARD’ SETTING
In addition to celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019, Santa Monica's iconic Chez Jay debuted its cool Backyard, which proved to be the perfect place to chill and hangout. While it may not offer a view of the Pacific Ocean, you couldn’t ask for a more relaxed place to nosh and drink.
The original idea for The Backyard was to create a place for guests to enjoy outdoor dining under the stars.
“Everyone fought me at every turn, but I was not going down,” said Chez Jay owner Michael Anderson. “I just kept thinking of Robert De Niro’s line as LaMotta in Raging Bull during one of his fights with Robinson when he says, ‘Hey, Ray, I never went down, man! You never got me down, Ray! You hear me, you never got me down,’ and he kept going.”
While The Backyard eventually morphed from a place to dine alfresco to a cool hangout, it was designed by Chez Jay General Manager Chris Anderson and Nataly Lopez with the thoughtful mission to create to a comfortable and welcoming gathering space for family, friends and longtime guests. The space features picnic tables, couches, Adirondack chairs, fire pit, wine barrels, hanging vintage lanterns and string lights, large off-white canopy, and bright blue fence that backs up to Santa Monica’s Tongva Park.
The Backyard features a simple cocktail menu and hearty comfort food. While not as elevated as the Chez Jay dining menu, The Backyard is the perfect place for a younger generation to get a little rowdy or for folks to simply unwind.
The drink menu features a margarita, an Old Fashioned, a michelada, a Dark & Stormy, along with a vodka spritz and a Pimm’s Cup.
The Starters kick off the party with the out-of-this-world good Peppercorn Maple Bacon. This one is an absolute delight. It’s so addicting.
Other solid sharable items include the Grilled Street Corn; Southwest Steak Nachos, Truffle; Fries; Kimchi Guacamole; Rhode Island Calamari; Shrimp Ceviche Bites; and Baked Clams.
Let’s talk about the Kimchi Guacamole. Where has this amazing dish been all my life? I’ve been raised on guacamole and I’ve loved kimchi for years but I never thought of combining the two. It is pure genius! This is the way guacamole should always be served.
If you’re ravenous, The Mains offer ample hearty selections. There’s seafood to choose from, like the Mahi Mahi Sandwich served with a grilled filet of Mahi Mahi, lettuce, tomato, onion and tartar sauce on a toasted bun, or the Fish & Chips with Allagash beer battered cod and French fries.
There’s also the Chez Burger made with a half-pound of Angus beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, served on a toasted bun; the Crispy Chicken Sandwich made of fried chicken, house coleslaw, apple, frisée, chipotle aioli, and pickles on a toasted bun, or the Steak Au Poivre Sandwich with a Peppered Angus NY Steak, cream of horseradish, picked cabbage, arugula on sourdough.
And don’t forget about the Jay Dog prepared with a grilled 10-inch Wagyu hot dog, tomato, pickles, onions, relish, peppers and mustard on split-top brioche, or the appropriately named Mike’s Melt, in honor of Michael Anderson, prepared with a pressed half-pound Angus beef patty, melted cheddar, and caramelized onions on rye. The Melt proved to be a real favorite during our recent visit for dinner and drinks.
And if you’re in the mood for dessert, you can’t go wrong with the Fried Oreos. It’s a diet buster but what a way to go.
While Chez Jay is beloved for its peanuts thrown all over the floor, it is historic with its tales of JFK meeting Marilyn Monroe there or Warren Beatty having sex in a private room, or industry heavy hitters like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and Quentin Tarantino working on screenplays there. Whereas Chez Jay is old school, The Backyard is more relaxed and chill and just a place to get lost from the mundane and frenetic pace of modern life.
The Backyard at Chez Jay is located at 1657 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. Open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 pm to 10 pm; Friday from 4 pm to 11 pm; Saturday from noon to 11 pm, and Sunday from noon to 8 pm. Call 310-395-1741.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography by: acuna hansen