Photos by Asia Morris.
I ate at the Hofman Family's new restaurant, Saint & Second, due to an invitation from my parents, because, let's be honest, it's not the type of eatery I would smartly choose on a writer's budget, even if I'd deemed the uneventful day a reason to splurge. They'd made a dinner reservation during one of Second Street's infamous Stroll and Savor events and the place was packed.
We settled into a booth by the bar on the first floor, underneath the impressively high ceilings. The parental unit and I avoided the $12.50-a-pop cocktails and went straight for the vino, while I indulged with the only sour beer available.
The decor and design is very similar (save for a few grand details) to Tavern on 2, Simmzy's, The Shore Public House down the street, downtown Long Beach's BO-beau kitchen + roof tap's upstairs bar and just about any of the eateries you can think of that have caught the industrial charm bug. Exposed brick, wood-paneled everything, lighting via many an antique bulb, mid-century modern furniture and exposed piping seem to be today's overused formula for what is considered an upscale, overpriced, yet somehow "casual" dining experience.
It's like owner Craig Hofman saw a trend and decided to not only follow it, but to ramp it up to an entirely new level. Saint & Second is like the amusement park version of this design direction and I'm hoping it's the last that Second Street allows, because before you know it, everything is going to look the same.
As far as the New American fare is concerned, the $26 Skuna Bay Salmon nestled under the menu category charmingly labeled as "Bigs," was a plain disappointment. You're certainly getting your money's worth when you consider the size of the dish, but the basil brown butter, hazelnuts, green beans and white bean puree created a combination that was, well, quite tasteless. It was a filling entree and typically plated, with the green beans cooked to perfection, but I couldn't quite put a finger on what exactly it was missing. Some zest perhaps? Some citrus flavoring?
The Lobster & Dungeness Crab Cake was fantastic. I deeply regret not asking for a side of the tarragon tartar sauce it came seated upon to drizzle over the mostly lackluster brussels sprouts and salmon entree, both of which were fairly unoriginal. You receive one cake for the $12 menu item under "Smalls" and it's absolutely packed with enticing textures and flavors, give or take a few hard-to-bite pieces of what might have been shell.
The Black & Blue Hand Pie was easily the winning part of the entire dining experience. I could have eaten five. The crust was buttery, warm and wonderful, while the rich berry filling was sweet, but not too sweet. The vanilla ice cream was the perfect topping and ending to a slew of savory dishes already eaten.
Saint & Second certainly has a few kinks to work out. Our waitress apologized profusely for the lengthy wait for our drinks, as the downstairs bar where they had to be poured, was the most bustling section of the restaurant. It really wasn't a bother, to be honest, because no one was in a hurry and she was possibly one of the kindest and most attentive staff members on deck.
Not that it matters anymore, but I miss the original Hof's Hut that once stood humbly on the corner of St. Joseph Avenue and Second Street., that I was lucky enough to have experienced as a Belmont Shore-bred kid. I certainly hadn't developed any kind of a discerning palate before I'd turned 10, but I can't shake the nostalgia I still have for the plain buttered spaghetti with garlic bread I'd order every time. Second Street seemed a bit more welcoming back then, but what do I know, I was probably too young and easily amused to be critical.
I would definitely recommend dining at Saint & Second at least once. It's an experience to say the least, with two floors to peruse and a host of artwork made by local creatives adorning the walls. The balcony bar overlooks Second Street and St. Joseph Avenue and might be an alternative to spending all your bones on a full-blown dinner. It's a decent place to grab a drink before you head to Murphy's Pub or elsewhere on Second for a less expensive rest of your night out.
Keep an eye out for Editor-in-Chief Keeley Smith’s interview with Executive Chef Shelly Bojorquez, who formerly held the same position at 555 East American Steakhouse.
Saint & Second is located at 4828 East Second Street. If you're not fond of waiting, make a reservation by calling 562.433.4828. For more information, visit the website here.