I confess, Plan A was to hit Huckleberry. But Monday being the day many service-oriented businesses such as restaurants, salons, etc. are closed — particularly restaurants that I drive out of my way to visit without making sure they’re open — I was left trying to come up with a quick and easy, non-chain option in Santa Monica. Sometimes picking a place to grab a snack or meal in a neighborhood I’m rarely in is like going to the video store (back when we did such things), only to find that your running mental list of Need to See movies has suddenly evaporated. Thankfully while heading east along Wilshire at the corner of Euclid I spotted the new Westside outpost of La Monarca, the Mexican bakery that began in Huntington Park.
The self-service cases loaded with fresh pastries are always a big plus (part of the reason I love Paris Baguette on Western in K-Town), and appealing for kids who want to see their options up close and pick out their own item(s) of choice. You simply take a round metal tray and a set of tongs and load up, and/or select the other cookies and cakes that are safely displayed behind the counter. I’ve never been super into those dry, light, crumbly conchas and other similar pan dulces, but the mini ones proved popular with my boys, and I like that these treats are modestly sized. I’d definitely go back for dulce de leche croissants, and at $1.50 a piece, the quality and value is much better than what you’re likely to find around these parts. The company’s claims to not use artificial ingredients in the baked goods is a bonus, too. La Monarca’s house blend coffee is organic and strong, plus there’s a menu of other specialty coffees and hot chocolates. All those earth tones are quite soothing and fit into the Santa Monica vibe, too. Quiches, cazuelas and other savory items take care of more solid lunch needs. But I’m more interested in sampling the tres leches next time, either at one of the other locations or in Santa Monica. In a neighborhood that’s increasingly dominated by generic national brand names, La Monarca serves a welcome purpose.
Update: As of early 2013, there’s a new location in South Pasadena directly across from the Gold Line station that’s a near replica of the Santa Monica store.
1300 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica (plus additional locations)
Hours: 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., Daily