You could put a “brunch” sign up over a cell-phone store in Santa Monica and a line would probably curl down the block. But Sunday mornings at Huckleberry, the new bakery/café from Rustic Canyon pastry chef Zoe Nathan, come perilously close to full-contact brunch, a scrum of Prada, Lululemon and UCLA-logoed bearware stretching the walls of the storefront, angling for views of the chalkboard menu, bribing small children to scout the pastry case, jostling for position in front of the serene counterstaff, who have obviously done enough yoga to rise above the petty turmoil of the crowd.
Nathan is the pastry chef of the moment, beginning to get the kind of food-world attention previously reserved for Sherry Yard and Nancy Silverton, and her reputation for homey, carefully constructed desserts may be exceeded only by the buzz about the weekend breakfasts she used to do across the street at Rustic Canyon. And it is worth a certain amount of trouble to get a crack at her prosciutto-stuffed croissants, so buttery that they threaten to spurt like a well-constructed chicken Kiev, or her flaky bacon-maple biscuits; her crumbly rustic tarts stuffed with goat cheese or her ultrarich flatbread, kind of a pizza, topped last week with a mass of sautéed chard. I witnessed an actual fistfight break out over the fried-egg sandwich with Niman bacon (a tussle between 6-year-olds, but still), and green eggs and ham is re-interpreted as pesto-smeared sunnyside-up eggs over La Quercia prosciutto on a housemade English muffin.
How crowded is Huckleberry? On Sunday, Maria Shriver tapped me on the shoulder asking if it was okay if she and her family shared the table. The governor not only waited in line without pulling rank, but cheerfully got up to fetch his own coffee from the communal urn.
Huckleberry, 1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 451-2311.