You might think there's an egregious spelling error in the name of the new fast-food restaurant Voltaggio STRFSH. But it's intentional, to mimic the limited number of letters on a personalized license plate. Voltaggio is the last name of the Voltaggio brothers, Michael and Bryan, who have both risen to prominence through Bravo's Top Chef series. (There might be something of a sibling rivalry going on, since Michael bested his younger brother in being named Top Chef in season six; Bryan had to settle for second place.)
Michael Voltaggio opened the now-defunct temple to groundbreaking molecular gastronomy ink. on Melrose Boulevard and later replaced it with the more accessible though no less creative ink.well on La Cienega Boulevard. Bryan Voltaggion operates roughly half a dozen restaurants in Frederick, Maryland.
Now the brothers have teamed up on STRFSH, located on the second floor of the recently remodeled and refurbished Gallery Food Hall on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade (its next-door neighbor is David Beran's incredible tasting-menu-only Dialogue). You may remember this food court when it previously housed McDonald's and Falafel King.
The STRFSH menu is simplicity itself: fish sandwiches, french fries and drinks. Each piece of fish, whether salmon or swordfish (there are only two options, to keep prices down) is grilled to order with a variety of spice-rub options, from the recommended Old Bay to curry; it's then smeared with one of nearly a dozen sauces (including ocean ranch and cajun remoulade) and topped with veggies or cheese on a soft potato roll. Think of these sandwiches as a healthier option to your usual cheeseburger.
Perfectly grilled salmon in Old Bay seasoning (referencing perhaps Bryan's Maryland home base) topped with ripe avocado, oozing cheddar cheese, pickles and caramelized onions is greater than the sum of its individual parts, making for one tasty sandwich. It may even make you forget that other fast-food fish sandwich of repute: McDonald's Filet-O-Fish. Fish sandwiches cost less than $12, making them a reasonably priced lunch in pricey Santa Monica. You can make your own sandwich or choose one of the three set menu options.
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French fries are of the house-cut sort, fried in peanut oil and topped with coarse sea salt. It goes without saying that a fish sandwich without fries is like a cheeseburger without the fries. The drinks are limited to sodas, tea and, since we're in healthy, laid-back Santa Monica, kombucha.
The bottom of the menu states: "We work closely with our suppliers and fisherman to ensure that we only serve responsibly harvested and traceable seafood" — so you can definitely feel good about eating here.
1315 Third Street Promenade, Unit H, Santa Monica; (310) 844-7525, strfsh.com.