We've been hearing about Daily Dose for over a year now, and, yesterday, we finally got a look at the market-to-table cafe set to open “some time in April” on the same block as Church & State.
Like any buzzwords, “organic” and “local” have been tossed around so often, they don't always mean what they should. Daily Dose chef Christian Page has spent the better part of a year painstakingly curating a supply chain that goes beyond those labels to embrace an ethos he calls “fully traceable.” From finger limes in Hemet to beef in Santa Barbara, he says, “I want people to want to know where their food is coming from.”
Tucked in the alleyway next to 1820 Industrial Street, the seating for Daily Dose is entirely outdoors, where several communal tables should fit about 50 people. Inside, it's a cheerful nook with prominent marble counters and reclaimed wood shelves. Simplicity is the theme, from top to bottom, but it didn't come easy.
Page, along with the restaurant's backer, Sarkis Vartanian, and sous chef Jonathan Dye, set a lofty goal for themselves. “If it's not sustainable, we won't use it, even if it's local,” Vartanian says.
They didn't succeed in making Daily Dose's supply chain 100% local. The coffee, supplied by Intelligentsia, and some of the spices come from abroad. In other cases, Page had to broaden his search beyond Southern California. The result is that 90-95% of Daily Dose's food is organic and comes from within California, but they deal with over 100 separate vendors for produce, meat and other staples.
They first looked to farmers markets but went beyond that to find local vendors, who often don't sell at markets or deliver to restaurants. Page visited the farmers himself to make sure that when a product was billed as “sustainable” or “humanely raised,” it actually was.
Page wanted humanely raise, grass-fed, grass-finished beef and lamb. He found the former at DeyDey's Best Beef Ever in Santa Barbara and the latter at Devil's Gulch in Marin County. (Many farmers feed cattle and lambs grass for part of their life then finish them on grains to fatten them up.) The pigs come via the Sonoma Direct co-op, where they're they're pastured then finished on wheat and tortillas. The poultry comes from Mary's/Pitman Farms. Bread is baked by a baker who works just a couple of blocks away from Daily Dose and delivers the loaves on his bicycle. Dairy comes from Straus Family Creamery. Flour comes from Giusto's Mill in Northern California.
Seafood was, perhaps, the trickiest element to source. Page used to do local seafood only but after some research decided it wasn't the most sustainable. He went looking for polycultured seafood and ended up getting most of his shellfish from Carlsbad Aqua Farm.
The concept for Daily Dose features a constantly rotating menu. “You have to flip the men-creation model,” Page says. “Instead of deciding what to make and calling your suppliers, you have to think about what ingredients you can get at that time of year and work off that.” The Citrusade Disco Lemonade, made from acid-less limes Page found in Hemet, will only be available during lime season.
Breakfast ($3-7 per item) includes house-made pastries like a pecan and caramel sticky bun, granola with dates and cacao nibs, a ham and cheese bun made with Midnight Moon chevre and an updated version of British pub staple, the Scotch egg. (Page makes Daily Dose's with his own bread crumbs, sausage ground from Devil's Gulch pork butts and a French sauce verte instead of mayo.)
Lunch is mainly sandwiches ($8-12) like the ham and cheese baguette, the vegan/vegetarian Believer (made with plank-roasted veggies, pistachio pesto and optional burrata) and, Page's favorite, the meatball sub, made with turkey meatballs, tomato sauce and burrata.
Dinner, however, is only one dish per day ($15-25), although Page will likely do themed protein days (chicken on Mondays, beef on Tuesdays, etc.). He has a few, fairly ambitious, ideas: honey and cacao-braised beef cheeks, braised lamb shanks with Israeli couscous, paprika fried chicken.
Whenever he can, Page buys — and uses — the whole animal. To give the turkey meatball sub a richer flavor, the tomato sauce includes a turkey glaze made from cooked-down turkey bones. His brother, Luke Page, is moving from Colorado to serve as Daily Dose's butcher.
What does this fetish for organic, local, sustainable, humane ingredients mean for the bottom line? Vartanian claims Daily Dose will hit the same price-point as other midscale, market-driven restaurants without downsizing the portions. He hopes the quality of the food will bring customers back.
Page acknowledges that Daily Dose's business model means he's making less money than he might at another restaurant, but he seems jazzed about the challenges and rigors of the “fully traceable” ethos. “We can actually get some products cheaper than we'd get if we bought them from a wholesaler, but we have to work harder and pick them up at 4 a.m.,” Page says. For now, at least, he's fine with that.