Beach Garden Social House owner Ben Gutierrez. Photo by Matt Miller.

Walking into Beach Garden Social House, you momentarily feel a sense of déjà vu. Café lights are strung across the open patio draping everything in a warm glow as the sun starts to fade. Fire pits warm the general vibe on the patio, and succulents line the walls working with the rest of the greenery to draw the brine off the ocean and into the air making you feel like you really are in a beach garden.

You start to think: I’ve been here before, haven’t I? But you know you haven’t. It’s almost like trying to explain a location in a dream to someone.

The first time I walked up to the door of 1923 E. Broadway, at the corner of Cherry Avenue (10 years ago), I looked through the scratched plastic window into the courtyard and thought: What a great garden!

The former occupant, the Greek diner Café Ambrosia, closed after a long-sputtering demise, leaving behind an idyllic patio, across from Bluff Park, where families gather for cookouts and yogis seek inner peace while looking out over the ocean sand.

“It was important to me to be able to create a space where the community can get together,” owner Ben Gutierrez told me when I caught him one afternoon at his new mostly open-air restaurant, which launched in mid-October.

An outdoor fireplace on the patio at Beach Garden Social House. Photo by Matt Miller.

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, he told me: “It’s important to me to be able to create a space where the community can get together, especially now post COVID,” because people can’t always feel comfortable being inside in many of the bars on the street. “I wanted to be able to create a place where people can sit, be comfortable, have a cocktail, have a quick bite to eat … that’s kind of my main focus.”

Gutierrez is no stranger to the restaurant business. His family owns Roxanne’s on Wardlow Road, and while this is his first solo venture, it’s his family that’s inspiring the food at Beach Garden Social House.

“A lot of the recipes are inspired by my family, like my dad’s ceviche and my mom’s chilaquiles, so it’s a lot of recipes that we’re taking and elevating them a step above,” Gutierrez says.

Beach Garden Social House owner Ben Gutierrez. Photo by Matt Miller.

He enlisted the help of his cousin, chef Andy Figueroa, to lead the kitchen and get things started to help Gutierrez in building his New American/Mexican cuisine into more than a restaurant, but into a place where all members of the LGBTQIA+ community and friends can “sit down and have a nice long brunch.”

Appetizers, or botanas (snacks) range from $4 to $14 and include basics like homemade salsa and chips, or guacamole ($4). Esquite with chipotle butter ($6): grilled street corn that can be ordered as a side to any entree. Or fresh tuna with ponzu tacos ($14): Three small tacos made with a fried crispy wanton shell filled with fresh ahi tuna and slightly spicy ponzu sauce.

Larger dishes range from $10 to $16 and include tacos, both chicken and jackfruit (vegan) ($12 / $13). Carne asada fries ($12): Cilantro-based marinated steak served with sour cream, black beans and sprinkled with Monterey jack cheese. And the family recipe for Pop’s Ceviche ($16): A citrus marinated shrimp and mahi-mahi mix with tomatoes, onion, and Serrano chili.

Weekly events include trivia night on Wednesdays, bingo on Thursdays and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

Beach Garden Social House, 1923 E. Broadway. Instagram: @beachgarden_socialhouse