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Santa Monica: Huckleberry or Bite Bakery.....?

Funwithfood Aug 17, 2010 09:46 PM

I'm heading out to SM Farmer's Market tomorrow from the OC.

I like Huckleberry, but want to try Bite Bakery. What is best at the latter?

Any other new places to try? Wasn't there a new Joan's on Third style bakery that opened in SM?

Thanks in advance for any and all advice.

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  1. Servorg RE: Funwithfood Aug 17, 2010 09:55 PM

    Are you going to be at Bite (or Huckleberry) for breakfast or lunch? For breakfast at Bite I have really enjoyed their savory bread pudding. My wife had their steak sandwich one day and it was also quite good. Didn't really care for the waffle and I'm not a big fan of their version of a panini breakfast sandwich (blanking on the name right now). Wonderful croissants and chocolate croissants. I keep meaning to try their chocolate bread pudding for dessert, and they keep being out of it when I'm there. But it looks wonderful. Have heard a lot of good things about their crab sandwich and their burger, but I have not tried either yet.

    Check some of the other threads you'll see if you go to the place link. There have been quite a lot of very detailed write ups for both breakfast and lunch items.

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    Bite Bar & Bakery
    3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

    1. b
      bulavinaka RE: Funwithfood Aug 18, 2010 07:25 AM

      In general, both places have a strong focus on quality and execution. Huckleberry has tons of pastries, some cakes and cookies, and salads that are ready to go. They have some of the best breads I've tried around town. They tend to underseason their salads, but are well-executed and very fresh just the same. The problem I have with Huckleberry is the dining space itself is small, crowded, loud and frenetic. I almost always grab and go. They could double the size of their space and I think I'd still dislike it just because it would still be loud and frenetic.

      Bite is the anti-Huckleberry in this case. The dining area is thoughtfully laid out - it's relatively calm in there. The seating is very comfortable, well-spaced and visibly appealing. The colors are calm. The atmosphere is laid back and casual but in a very thouightfully executed way.

      The food in general gets very high marks across the boards. Not everything has been perfect, but I think if you check this board for posts on Bite, you'll find that most have been very favorable with a core of followers (including yours truly) who have been very high on this place. The pastries and desserts are displayed on the counter and cold case - not with the breadth of Huckleberry - but just about all are at least as good as Huckleberry in terms of quality and execution.

      Huckleberry is relatively more established, and in a part of Santa Monica the is easier to access for their core clientele. Bite is a relatively new start-up, and has been going through a soft-opening series of phases since (I think)March or April. Bite puts a lot of thought into everything, and they want to make sure they get everything right for their customers.

      Huckleberry wants to assure the best food and drink within its perimeters, despite its space's issues. Bite strives to give it to you all - great food and drink in a great space, despite its more obscure location.

      Huckleberry has parking in the back as well as street parking, but parking can still be a challenge. Bite only has street parking, but I've never had to park too far away. Huckleberry is on Wilshire by 10th, closer to the Farmers Market on Arizona and 3rd. Bite is much further away, on Pico at the east end of the Santa Monica city limits.

      Huckleberry would be pretty tough to eat at during the prime time breakfast and lunch hours. If you go there, go for late breakfast or late lunch. Bite shouldn't be a problem for either service, but some very reputable Hounds (like Servorg who I deeply respect) have reported some initial service issues relating to stem times between ordering and receiving their food, and getting their coffee refilled. These and any other issues that are expressed on the food internet sites are closely followed by the folks at Bite - they want to keep their fingers on the pulse of their clientele, and rectify any issues asap. I have no idea about Huckleberry in this sense, but service there, despite the space's issues relative to the crowds, has always been at least satisfactory. Many of their employees have been there since Day One, which helps in this sense, but also shows how dedicated they all are, and I'm guessing how the owners treat them as well.

      You can't lose at either. I'm partial to Bite, but it's because I like the relative calm insideof the multiple times I've been and the tons of food I've eaten there, I've only had one food item there that had one of its many components to be somewhat lacking, the folks working there are really nice and attentive, and I appreciate the receptiveness and response to customer issues.

      I really like Huckleberry as well. The food there is wonderful, they have some inventive dishes served by the kitchen, the staff tries to get it right every time (although I have gotten my takeout orders wrong on more than a few occasions), and their breads are in the top tier of LA.

      If I were coming all the way from the OC to try one or the other, one might think Huckleberry would fit better logistically. Ideally, I'd go get breakfast right when they open, but then you'd be an hour behind the hard core FM shoppers in your hunt for excellent produce. I would rather hit the FM first - as early as possible - then hit Huckleberry for a late breakfast/early lunch.

      Conversely, you could hit the FM right at the open, be done shopping in one our two hours, jump on the 10, exit at the Bundy/Centinela exit which will dump you onto Pico, hang a right, and you'll be Bite's door steps for late breakfast. I'm guessing you'll be taking the 10 to the 405 back to the OC any way, so this wouldn't be any more of a detour than going to Huckleberry. Bite's kitchen is usually pretty strict about separating their breakfast and lunch services, so if you want lunch there, please call to confirm what time it will start and what the specials are.

      Which ever you choose, bring a decent-sized cooler for your FM finds as well as any potential items you choose to bring back with you from either Bite or Huckleberry.

      Servorg made mention of Bite's chocolate bread pudding. It's really dense, decadent and not for calorie-conscious folks. This would be best in a cooler as opposed to riding in your cab for your hour-plus ride back home. Serve at room temp or gently heat it so it's just warm and serve with a little creme fraiche and a nice cuppa joe or even an Irish coffee, and you'll be set...

      1. Funwithfood RE: Funwithfood Aug 18, 2010 09:46 AM

        Thanks guys. It will be a late lunch. Agree Huckleberry's space is untenable.

        Maybe we'll eat lunch at Bite, then go to Huckleberry for pastries (got to get that salted caramel bar!)

        Yes, I always bring a cooler!

        I'll let you know how it all works out, thanks again for your input.

        (P.S. and a trip to SM wouldn't be complete w/o a trip to Bay Cities for their meatballs, fresh pasta and bread!)

        1 Reply
        1. re: Funwithfood
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          bulavinaka RE: Funwithfood Aug 18, 2010 01:30 PM

          If bacon is your thing, please do try the maple bacon biscuit at HK. Their passion fruit poisset (sp?) is excellent as well.

          Bite does croissants like nobody's business, but these need a space of their own if you bring them home. Consider it like a fried food. Keep the lid only partially closed and out of the sun or they will start to sag go south. The lemon bars are exceptional. I feel they're better even than Euro Pane in Pasadena. Lunches at Bite are great. If it sounds good, most likely you will really like it. I think their crab sandwich is the West Coast equivalent of the perfectly made Maryland crab cake. There's not a whole lot getting in the way of the sweet crab. Whatever is in there is either a foil for displaying greatness, or is like jewelry setting off an already stunning beauty. A great aioli and a wonderful sourdough that is panini-pressed by someone with a panini press Phd makes this sandwich pretty darned memorable.

        2. Funwithfood RE: Funwithfood Aug 18, 2010 09:48 PM

          The market was great--got LOTS of O'Henry peaches!

          Now don't hate me, but I was underwhelmed by Bite Bakery. Firstly, I was disappointed that they only had 4 items on their lunch menu!

          The gal at the register recommended the tomato soup & grilled cheese sandwich over the crab sandwich. The soup was good enough, but the grilled cheese sandwich was ordinary (make it better myself).

          The lemon bar was pretty good...but the caramel espresso bar was FANTASTIC!

          The croissants were good, but Amandine's are lighter and more buttery. I found Bite's to have a heavy, non-buttery flavor.

          Sorry, I really wanted to love the place as much as everyone else does...but went away wishing I'd eaten at Huckleberry (where we did stop by to pick up a few desserts).

          Sorry to report my disappointment, I so much wanted to love the food & experience.

          13 Replies
          1. re: Funwithfood
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            bulavinaka RE: Funwithfood Aug 19, 2010 07:16 AM

            Thanks for reporting back and sorry to hear Bite didn't do it for you. I would have gone with the crab sandwich my self. :) I'm surprised they only had four items on the lunch menu. I haven't been in about a month, but they usually have at least 10 lunch items on the chalkboard.

            Croissants, like anything else, have a high degree of personal preference to one's liking. I think the light and airy that you describe about Amandine can be found at many places. Amandine does it really well, if not the best. I was there last week and enjoyed one myself. Bite's croissants are a rarer breed. They are more dainty in size, its layers of pastry dough are more robust and pronounced, the outside layers being crisp to the point of shattering, and the inner layers a bit more toothsome. I offer the comparison between runway model Elle MacPherson and French actress Marion Cotillard. To me, both epitomize beauty in different ways. Elle's leggy and a sight to behold. She is a major culprit of whiplash in men walking down the street. Marion, while far more petite, is stunning and has that je ne sais quoi that femme fatales often exude. Her beauty is deep and layered, in her eyes, her sense of style, and of course her acting. Vive le différence!

            1. re: bulavinaka
              Funwithfood RE: bulavinaka Aug 19, 2010 08:57 AM

              Yes, I like everything that you described about their croissant, but it missed a key element: butter flavor. If it had that, it would have pulled ahead!

              1. re: Funwithfood
                Servorg RE: Funwithfood Aug 19, 2010 09:15 AM

                Strange. I find them to have an incredible buttery taste. There can be no doubt....we all live with our own taste buds and noses.

                1. re: Funwithfood
                  b
                  bulavinaka RE: Funwithfood Aug 19, 2010 06:42 PM

                  I have to agree with Servorg. In fact, some have complained that the butter component to their croissants was a bit too much. Unless there's something different going on in their recipe, I'm baffled...

                  1. re: bulavinaka
                    Funwithfood RE: bulavinaka Aug 20, 2010 08:20 AM

                    They are rich for sure, but I don't find the richness to taste of butter.

                    1. re: Funwithfood
                      Servorg RE: Funwithfood Aug 20, 2010 08:30 AM

                      What do you find the richness tastes like (if not butter)?

                2. re: bulavinaka
                  mnosyne RE: bulavinaka Aug 19, 2010 11:55 PM

                  They re-jiggered their menus last week. I admit to not being in too much of a hurry to try the new lunch offerings (2 kinds of chicken salad sandwiches?). Check their website.

                3. re: Funwithfood
                  m
                  mrsjoujou RE: Funwithfood Aug 19, 2010 11:36 AM

                  The best thing at Bite is their crostata. If you ever go back, check it out. I agree with you regarding their croissants. They are good, but not great. I prefer Anisette to theirs. What did you get from Huckleberry and did you like it?

                  1. re: Funwithfood
                    m
                    maudies5 RE: Funwithfood Aug 19, 2010 11:56 AM

                    You are incorrect about only "4 items on their lunch menu." I was there for lunch yesterday and my guest and I had 3 items (chicken salad on whole wheat wrap for me, roast beef on whole wheat wrap for him and roasted vegetables, which were fantastic, for the 2 of us to share) I suspect that we could have chosen from a list of 8 other items or more. The new lunch menu is excellent. I am anxious to try the Caesar salad. I saw a large group ordering the chopped salad and it looked great. Everyone appeared to be very happy. Bite seems to have finally found what works for them. Service is excellent; food comes out quickly and the place is literally humming with folks enjoying the fresh, wonderful food.

                    1. re: maudies5
                      Funwithfood RE: maudies5 Aug 19, 2010 02:52 PM

                      Well the sheet I was shown had only four items. Even if they offer double that (but we missed them because we had a late lunch--there was only one on their chalk board), it's still surprising to me. If they are going to offer so few items, they had better be outstanding. Their soup was delish, but the grilled cheese sandwich tasted a bit like it was on a Denny's menu. Sorry--really wanted to love the place, but I do need to be honest about my experience.

                      (The food we had at Huckleberry once was very tasty--so many delicious things I wanted to order. On the negative side, the space was much too crowded, and the service subpar.)

                      1. re: Funwithfood
                        m
                        maudies5 RE: Funwithfood Aug 19, 2010 05:53 PM

                        Only the "specials" are listed on the chalkboard. The menu is in plain sight at the counter/register and in the front window. You might want to even look at the website:
                        www.bitebar.com and have a look at the menu

                        1. re: maudies5
                          Servorg RE: maudies5 Aug 19, 2010 06:10 PM

                          Here is the standing lunch menu: http://www.bitebar.com/lunch.html

                    2. re: Funwithfood
                      b
                      budlit RE: Funwithfood Aug 20, 2010 05:50 AM

                      I was disappointed with Bite Bar too, especially the crab sandwich

                    3. s
                      smfoodie RE: Funwithfood Aug 19, 2010 04:30 PM

                      While I like Huckelberry and Bite, I think it's worthwhile to check out Thyme on Ocean Park next time.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: smfoodie
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                        sel RE: smfoodie Aug 19, 2010 06:06 PM

                        Agree with that! All 3 are part of my breakfast and lunch rotation! Good sandwiches and sweets at Thyme Cafe & Market. I need to try some of their salads!

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                        Thyme Cafe & Market
                        1630 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                        1. re: sel
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                          smfoodie RE: sel Aug 20, 2010 10:30 AM

                          Thanks for the link sel! I live across the street from Huckleberry, but find myself driving to Thyme a lot. The prices at Thyme are much more reasonable than Huckleberry.

                          They have great baked goods and salads and sandwiches are delicious as well.

                        2. re: smfoodie
                          Funwithfood RE: smfoodie Aug 20, 2010 08:16 AM

                          Darn, I knew there was another place I wanted to try! What do you like at Thyme?

                          1. re: smfoodie
                            Phurstluv RE: smfoodie Aug 20, 2010 08:36 AM

                            Yes, I really, really want to try Thyme, on my next venture out. Heard great things about them. I find Huckleberry to be overpriced. And tho I've only been once and I intend to revisit, I was not thrilled with Bite, although the blt was good. But it did seem to have a small menu, on the occasion I visited.

                            How is their dinner service, has anyone gone yet, or did I miss a post above?

                            1. re: Phurstluv
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                              ElissaInPlaya RE: Phurstluv Aug 20, 2010 10:45 AM

                              I think that dinner service at Bite is good. The service is friendly and casual. Prices are moderate, but food quality and selection were excellent. I wouldn't drive across town for this menu, but if you need something low-key, easy and tasty, I do recommend it.

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