Summer House Santa Monica is a breezy, light-filled, California-inspired dining spot in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago. We had the best brunch there on our last day in the Windy City, and it was a fantastic experience. Here’s why we loved this gorgeous, culinary destination, that’s perfectly laid back and very allergy-friendly.
Summer House Santa Monica
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Address: 1954 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
Food Type: Californian
Dining Experience: Indoor
Price: $80+ per Person
Dress Code: Business Casual +
Reservations: Highly Recommended
Special Diets: Pescatarian, Vegetarian,
Gluten Free (not GF dedicated), Vegan Options
Summer House Santa Monica Ambience
I’ve mentioned before that I struggle to stay positive in the winter time, because the seemingly endless dark, freezing cold, and dreary days really seem to wear on me more than most. I’m not exaggerating when I say that visiting this beautiful, bright, and sunny restaurant cheered me up in a way I completely wasn’t anticipating. I couldn’t stop smiling because not only was the food amazing, the decor, the abundance of plants, and the sheer joy of being able to sit in the sunshine and feel like I was outside was exactly what I needed.
The restaurant’s beach aesthetic is truly transformative, and made me feel as though I’d been transported back to California. The walls looked as though they were made from drift wood planks, and the whitewash paint job all around the restaurant made me feel like it was truly summertime. A count down to summer sits just past the entrance to the eatery, and there were a few stacks of white beach balls on them at the edges of the restaurants and cozy seating topped with piles of Serena & Lily pillows (a California-based brand) that really hit home the summertime vibes.
Our Meals at Summer House Santa Monica
We had so much amazing, refreshing food here. I love feeling satisfied without feeling weighed down or bloated after a meal, and the filling, light fare at Summer House Santa Monica left us both feeling refreshed, energized, and completely satisfied. The restaurant was very accommodating to the fact that I cannot eat gluten and choose not to eat meat (making me a gluten-free pescatarian), and they were very careful to prepare my food away from food that might have made me sick, which I thoroughly appreciated.
We ordered Wood-Grilled Shishito Peppers from Japan, that were prepared with a gluten free sweet soy sauce glaze, shichimi togarashi (a Japanese 7 spice blend), and toasted sesame seeds. These were so delicious and flavorful, I’d eat them every single day if I could.
Robin and I also split the Ahi Tuna & Watermelon Tartare, which was a raw tuna sashimi and watermelon mixture atop house-made guacamole with Thai chili and house-made tortilla chips. This tasted like summertime, and was so refreshing.
I ordered the Costa Mesa salad made with charred corn, pico de Gallo, avocado, quinoa, tortilla strips, a lime vinaigrette, and chipotle crema. This was so delicious, but it was too big to finish even with Robin helping me eat it. If you’re in the mood for a massive salad, this is what you’re looking for. To drink, our server talked me into trying the Post Water Malone drink, which was a non-alcoholic beverage with pineapple and watermelon. It was truly delightful.
As his main course, Robin ordered the Idaho Rainbow Trouted, which was served with red quinoa, toasted pecans, and brown butter.
He also ordered their house specialty of cinnamon rolls in a small tin bucket, which he said was like eating the inside of a cinnamon roll, without the firm exterior. Tragically, these weren’t gluten-free, but they smelled delicious and he said they were some of the best baked goods he’s ever had.
The Staff at Summer House Santa Monica
Our server, Tony, was such a great help during our meal, and he made our dining experience one of the very best we’ve ever had. He was so helpful, friendly, upbeat, and attentive to not just our table, but all of the dozen or so tables he was managing simultaneously, all without breaking a sweat. By the time we left, he felt more like a friend than a waiter, because despite being extremely busy, he made time to chat with each table he was serving, offering up friendly advice about what to do in the area, and giving us a list of his favorite things to do in the city. It also turns out that he went to university in the same state I did, just down the street from me. If the Summer House Santa Monica team reads this, Tony deserves a raise/promotion for his outstanding service and sunny disposition!
Final Thoughts on Summer House Santa Monica
Everything was absolutely excellent, and we loved our meal here. Summer House Santa Monica has everything I wanted, from light, refreshing food and drinks, plenty of gluten-free and pescatarian options, an incredible staff, and a welcoming, uplifting atmosphere. I can’t wait to visit again on our next trip to Chicago!