We ventured to Sawyer for a Sunday afternoon brunch on a cold*, wintry January day. Of course, since I’m a wimpy Angeleno, my definition of “cold” is anything below 70 degrees. So I bundled up and braved the frosty 67 degree weather (64 with the wind chill factor!), and was shocked to find the restaurant’s front window was open! Wouldn’t the diners be exposed to frostbite? Nonetheless, we had heard good things about the restaurant, so we buttoned our jackets and decided to try it anyway.
Turns out, the open window is part of the charm. The place is so breezy and filled with light it feels as if you’re eating outside. And you can also choose to dine on the lovely uncovered rear patio warmed by a real fireplace and surrounded by bougainvillea.
As if that wasn’t enough, the food is delightful too. Chef Alex McWilliams’ seafood menu features fresh seafood with a southern twist. You’ll find raw oysters, a splendid warm Maine lobster roll in a soft roll with melted butter, (see featured image) and shrimp tacos. But there are also dishes inflected with a southern accent (hence the Twain-inspired name), like the crisp-but-not-fried chicken and waffles with sweet corn and maple glaze. And then there are items that are neither Southern nor seafood, but just good–like the cheesy scramble with fennel sausage, fontina and broccolini. Best of all were the blueberry cornmeal pancakes, which had the sweet grittiness of cornmeal without being dense or heavy. Even the drinks are light and breezy, like the carrot/ginger vodka cocktail with turmeric.
Southern California is filled with wonderful quasi-alfresco restaurants, where the glorious California sun is the real star. But few have food worthy of the atmosphere. Sawyer is the kind of outdoorsy place that’s worth a visit even if the weather’s cold*.
What’s your favorite alfresco restaurant?
*Not really cold at all.