Cora’s, Bruce Marder’s lunch place in Santa Monica, is a nice place to spend an afternoon: strong coffee, a leafy patio a block from the beach and a relaxed style of California-lunchroom cooking that admits both carnitas tacos and Italian sausage with polenta, burrata omelets and a decent mac ’n’ cheese. As odd as it sometimes feels to chase a plate of San Daniele prosciutto with iced tea instead of cold white wine — there is no alcohol — an afternoon at Cora’s is never wasted.
House Café, Marder’s new diner in the old Pastis space on Beverly, might almost be a tribute to Cora’s, with a photo of the restaurant just inside the door, a similar early-’50s vibe and a menu that copies Cora’s right down to the typeface. House, too, has albacore-salad panini, chicken-breast burgers and orange pancakes with blueberries; vegetables and fruits straight from the Santa Monica Farmers Market; and a prime New York steak with eggs. Cora’s is kind of the user-friendly version of Capo, the fiercely expensive Italian restaurant next door in Santa Monica, and House splits the difference a bit — here you can get a sea bass tagine, filet of sole or a côte de boeuf for two; and french fries, which the tiny Cora’s doesn’t have room to prepare. Are the roasted artichoke, the oddly creamy linguine with clams or the dense meat loaf as dreamy as they might be seasoned by an ocean breeze? Not quite. And the Wagyu-beef burger, even ordered rare, lacks the drippy majesty of the original. But there is a decent wine list here, and Racer 5 on tap, and churros for dessert.
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HOUSE CAFÉ: 8114 W. Beverly Blvd., L.A. (323) 655-5553, housecafe.com. Open daily, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. AE, MC, V. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking. First courses, $6-$14.50; salads $9.50-$14; pastas $12-$16.75; main courses $16-$26; desserts $7-$9.