Santa Monica's secret fine-dining spot

Deep within Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade on the second floor of a food court located above an ice cream parlor, you’ll discover Dialogue, one of America’s best restaurants. Finding your way will require a little spy-like intrigue, including entry through an alley and a backdoor service elevator followed by the punching in of a secret code to access the dining room.

Once that mission is accomplished, you’ll be rewarded with a fixed multicourse menu grounded in plates featuring modern techniques, pristine Southern California produce and naturalistic beauty from James Beard Award-winning chef Dave Beran.

Dishes might feature unique accoutrements, like bespoke scented candles made from leftover kitchen fat and chopped herbs. As befits the name, the tiny dining room and its open kitchen ensure that chefs can carry on lively conversation, or dialogue, with guests across the counter while preparing your meal.

Our Inspector's Highlights

  • The Santa Monica restaurant is very small — 18 total seats at three tables and a kitchen counter. If you have a party of one or two, request a spot at the counter, where you’ll get the most interaction with the chefs and the best view of the action.
  • If you’re drinking, splurge for the reserve wine pairing. Sommelier Jordan Sipperley offers up some serious gems, including rare champagnes and bottles you won’t find elsewhere.
  • If you like one (or all) of your wine pairings, email the restaurant and a staff member will send you a menu of everything you drank (you get a copy of the food menu after you dine).
  • The brightly colored jars of vegetables that rim the dining room aren’t just decoration — they’re pickles and preserves made by executive chef/owner Beran. Many of them show up on your plate throughout the night.
  • The staff of Dialogue aims to provide a rich experience, not just a meal. The chefs will show you how they work their antique duck press or tell you where you should eat breakfast in the morning (Destroyer in Culver City).

Things to Know

  • Reservations are available online only via Resy in 30-day blocks. Fridays and Saturdays book up quickly, so if you want a weekend table at a reasonable time, reserve a spot three to four weeks out.
  • There are no refunds. Reserving a spot is like buying tickets to the theater: if you don’t show up, you lose your money. You can transfer your reservation by emailing the Los Angeles restaurant with the new guest’s name.
  • Technically, you don’t have to access Dialogue through the alley. You can enter the restaurant through the front of the Third Street Promenade, but following the back alley entrance directions texted to you the morning of your reservation is a lot more fun.

The Food

  • Dialogue showcases seasonality through thematic emotional touchstones. Fall might be channeled by chamomile spice in one dish — a nod to the chef’s childhood and his mother’s tea habit — while winter is conjured via candy-cane-like meringue.
  • Though modern techniques are employed, even the most imaginative plates invite nostalgia. For example, the deep-fried onion soup (a flaky, caramelized Gruyère-topped pastry stuffed with a hot liquid center of beefy broth) is as comforting as the classic French bowl.
  • Courses are often linked, so that a flavor from your previous plate is found in the next dish. A persimmon fruit roll-up bite might be preceded by a trout dish sauced with persimmon hot sauce.

The Design

  • The large, modern floral display in the front of the L.A. restaurant is arranged by chef Beran based on greenery he selects from a local market near his home.
  • The warm woods, plain linens and soft overhead lighting make the space feel more like a friend’s kitchen than a fine-dining restaurant — a nice change of pace from some of SoCal’s more established eateries.
  • Much of the woodwork at Dialogue was done by Sean Kaysen, the older brother of another James Beard Award-winning chef, Gavin Kaysen of Minnesota’s Spoon and Stable.
  • Look out for the quirky gold spoon mounted on a piece of wood over the kitchen counter and be sure to ask for its story. Sean Kaysen stole the spoon while installing Dialogue’s woodwork and returned it as a piece of art.

Reservations required
Getting There
1315 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401
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