Dialogue, Dave Beran’s Michelin-starred tasting menu restaurant on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, is the latest fine dining establishment to rethink its service model as the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on.
Starting Aug. 6, Dialogue will reopen as Tidbits by Dialogue, a 30-seat outdoor patio space serving wines and small plates.
Beran said that up until a few weeks ago, he had planned to reopen Dialogue in its previous form, but given restrictions on indoor dining and other considerations, he decided to convert the restaurant into a casual wine bar, a concept that he and wine director Jordon Sipperley had discussed previously.
“I don’t think many people want to sit at a table for 2½ hours right now,” Beran said. “This was an idea we’d wanted to do for a while, and for better or worse, we have an opportunity to test it out and see how people respond.”
On the second floor of the Gallery Food Hall, Tidbits by Dialogue occupies the former Paperboy Pizza space next door to Dialogue, providing access to a large covered patio area where diners can sit at physically distanced tables.
Beran and his staff have also altered the restaurant’s menu significantly, shifting from elaborately plated dishes to a dozen or so unfussy small plates, though the former Alinea chef says that the food is still rooted in the ambitious seasonal cooking that defined Dialogue.
“We essentially took the summer menu we had planned and made those dishes a little simpler and straightforward, almost like pinxtos or tapas,” Beran said. “It’s not tweezer food like what we were doing, just comfort food that’s really flavorful and easy to share.”
Dishes, which range from $12 to $30 and will change weekly, include pork belly with peach jus and konbu, grilled hanger steak with sea grapes and cauliflower, choy sum with strawberries and avocado, roasted broccoli with anchovy vinaigrette and prawns a la plancha.
Dialogue’s popular Basque cheesecake will be available by the slice for dessert, and a drink menu will feature wines by the glass, a few beers and lower-alcohol cocktails made with vermouth or sherry. Along with outdoor seating, food and beverages can also be ordered for takeout online and picked up from the restaurant’s takeout window.
Beran said Tidbits by Dialogue will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 4 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays. Reservations are encouraged, but not required.
“If it’s viable and it works, we’d love to keep the wine bar going even once we’re able to open Dialogue,” said Beran, who noted that the foot traffic on Third Street Promenade was all but nonexistent these days. “We’re hoping more people in the neighborhood will come to dine with us, since there’s not the tourist crowd that used to be in the area.”
Beran’s second Santa Monica restaurant, Pasjoli, has converted to outdoor dining as well, with about 40 tables spread among a front and back patio. Beran said he planned to expand lunch and dinner service at that restaurant soon.
“Right now, we’re just trying to see what works,” he said. “If there's a good response, you keep doing it, but if not then you figure something else out.”
1315 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, dialoguerestaurant.com