Simmzy's Is Breaking Down the Wall
There are no walls at Simmzy's. No, really, there aren't any outside walls. Every seat along the border of this street-corner bar-cum-restaurant is essentially on the sidewalk. There used to be two presumably non-load-bearing façades enclosing the space that was once the Shore House Cafe, but that might as well be a million years ago. This, you think to yourself, is what all present and future pubs should look like, where there are no visible boundaries between your glass of ale and the street. Because of it, the place seems to possess a magnetic pull. Whether passing via vehicle or foot, you see that everyone's here, curvy vessels of beer in hand, pizza pies between them—so why aren't you?
Simmzy's is new to Belmont Shore. The original in Manhattan Beach, started by Mike and Chris Simms (the founder of Lazy Dog Cafe), is just as lively, but a fraction of the size. This one is several orders of magnitude grander—the difference between LAX and Fullerton's municipal airport. Neither takes reservations. In fact, there's no host podium—just a guy standing by the door, next to a chalkboard on which your name and party size are scribbled, first-come-first-served. You'll likely be offered a communal seat at a long biergarten bench that parallels the bar, the table stretching as far as the restaurant is deep. Take it. There's no point in waiting for a two-seater because you're going to be inches away from the next party anyway.
Anywhere you sit, it's loud. You'll barely hear your own thoughts, let alone what your date has to say. Instead, you'll catch bits and pieces of conversation from strangers and get familiar with what your neighbor is having. A man I didn't know remarked that my plate of food looked good. "It's the caramelized Brussels sprout," I said, my finger locating the item on his menu. And it was, indeed, very good—one of the tangiest, most fulfilling I've had in recent memory, and lately, I've had a lot of Brussels sprouts. The vegetable seemed to have absorbed a whole lemon's worth of juice, but it was also dotted with capers and crispy bits of anchovies and sat atop a thick piece of grilled bread I didn't see until I dug in.
The rest of the menu offers the essentials of salads, appetizers, thick-breaded sandwiches, and—in an upgrade from the Manhattan Beach location—nightly rotating dinner plates such as a strange-but-in-a-good-way chile verde macaroni and cheese garnished with a dollop of sour cream and a shower of crunchy tortilla matchsticks. Unlike the original, this Simmzy's also produces excellent pizzas. The pies, each flattened from a ball of dough by a gentle palm, are baked to a pliant burnt crust in a wood-fired oven, the results good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Mozza's. But these are twice as hearty and are unafraid of toppings. Some are buried with so much arugula and salad-like things Simmzy's has actually given up on calling them pizzas, refer to them instead as "foldovers."
If you're going to order a pint from the well-curated list of 31 craft beers, it seems wrong to not also get the burger. The patty is as thick as a steak, cooked to a juicy medium as pink as your inner cheek. And if you're going to do that, the fries are a necessity. Each shoestring stick is rendered crispy—as all fries should be. Counter that with maybe the shrimp, citrus and avocado salad, a simple plate of crisp greens harboring hand-cut orange wedges and grilled shrimp freckled by the smoky char of an actual fire—an overachieving salad if there's such a thing.
Simmzy's also does the familiar restaurant tropes of ahi tartar and Buffalo wings extremely well. Micro greens and a supply of substantially thick wonton chips with a satisfying skull-rattling crunch make the cylinder stack of sushi-grade ahi cubes sing. The so-called "15-Minute" wings came out in half the time, coated in a carefully modulated orange-hued sauce that wasn't too hot, too sweet or too tangy. But the revelation isn't the beer, the pizza or even the restaurant's design; it's the chocolate s'mores pudding, a dessert deceptively simple but oh-so-ingenious. A bittersweet chocolate pudding, already great on its own, is given a shower of crushed graham crackers for texture, then topped with real marshmallows. The dish is then torched like a crème brûlèe, the once-puffy pillows melting into a crispy gooeyness. It'll stick to your spoon, your teeth and your memories—the best thing you'll ever eat in a restaurant with no walls.
This review appeared in print as "Breaking Down the Wall: Simmzy's replaced Shore House Cafe, and all is now right in Belmont Shore."
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