99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Milo & Olive

photo by Anne Fishbein

Eating at Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s sunny Santa Monica bakery-restaurant, Milo & Olive, you’ll either be squished into a counter seat or seated at one of two communal tables — either way, you’ll share space. The wait for these coveted spots, and the communal eating itself, feels like a ritual — the ritual of obtaining some of the best casual food on the Westside. From the open kitchen, now run by longtime Cube chef Erin Eastland, come beautiful crusty pizzas, gorgeous pastas (the gnocchi with pea tendrils was one of the most delicious dishes of the winter) and simple but lovingly conceived vegetable dishes. Butternut squash, roasted and served with honey date butter, hazelnuts and crispy sage, felt decadent and wholesome all at once. Baby broccoli with garlic and lemon was sweet and vital, tasting like vegetal life-force. At brunch and breakfast, food tends toward hearty and comforting: farro with kale, feta and poached eggs; eggs in a basket. Don’t bother resisting Nathan’s baked goods at the end of a meal — to do so would be to miss half the point and half the joy of eating here.

-- Besha Rodell