Over the past year or so, Son of a Gun (or SOAG, in Twitter-friendly shorthand) has been my favorite and most frequented restaurant in Los Angeles.  Started by chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, SOAG is the seafood-centric sister restaurant to Animal, which is itself an LA destination for creative head-to-toe cooking.  I’m not sure how I first ended up there (although I think it was this Aziz Ansari tweet).  The number of visits kind of snowballed from there – I must have gone once a week for the first few months.

Son of a Gun wall decor, Hemingway style.  I think it’s plastic.

Beyond the food, what I found satisfying was the communal experience – the restaurant has a handful of tables set aside for reservations, but the space is dominated by a long table specifically for walk-ins.  The feeling of being elbow-to-elbow with strangers, all of us drooling and wide-eyed, must be in some ways what a pilgrimage feels like – having gathered at this spot, sharing comments and menu suggestions, making animal noises mid-bite, occasionally eye-humping our neighbors’ food.  I hadn’t been to many places with as delicious of cooking that was also focused on making the dining experience casual and social, and still haven’t, at least stateside.

Then, some months later, I saw Thomas Keller and Michael Voltaggio chow down in the same night, I had validation aplenty to continue feeding my SOAG addiction. As the year went on, I brought new friends and old.  Case in point: my roommate Noah, who thought that two fried chicken sandwiches would be a great idea.

Noah Doublefisting Fried Chicken Sandwiches

Let’s just say the food at SOAG is heavy.

The Aftermath.  I can only imagine the kind of fried chicken-induced dreams that would put a smile like that on a man’s face.

We also got to know the manager, Daniel, and the staff during the last year as well, who were exceptionally friendly and accommodating.  That rapport added a unique degree of comfort to our many visits.  Here, the crew knew our favorites, and recommended similar dishes and let us try new prototypes – I wasn’t looking for some gold-plated Michelin-starred experience, and SOAG was definitely not that – the space is loud, dark, and often crowded.  But to have a sense of being among friendsin a restaurant, to almost always have a place at the table (and to have earned that place at the table), to be able to share a stick of buttery cornbread or a tabasco-butter-drenched leg of Alaskan king crab with a neighbor, to see the menu evolve over time and new dishes replace old favorites – these are aspects of a dining experience worth seeking out, I think.

So for my last visit, I went a little overboard (although I was ordering for seven people, so it wasn’t ridiculous).  Okay, maybe a little ridiculous.

Country Ham Hush Puppies with Honey Butter
Santa Barbara Spot Prawns
Lobster Roll
Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Sriracha
Gem Lettuce with Beets
Mussels and Toast
Brandade and Soft Egg with Toast
Hamachi, tangelo, kiwi, palm sugar vinaigrette, habanero
Peel-and-Eat Shrimp Boil with Mustard-Lime Sauce
Linguine with Uni and Clams
The Almighty Fried Chicken Sandwich, with spicy bread & butter pickle slaw.

Son of a Gun
8370 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048

To start: (1) Shrimp Toast Sandwich, (2) Benton’s Country Ham Hush Puppies with Honey Butter, (3) Lobster Roll.  Great (4) homemade ginger beer.
For something lighter or healthier amid the carnage: (5) butter lettuce salad with smoked trout or (6) hamachi
Mains: (7) Fried Chicken Sandwich, (8) Peel-and-eat shrimp boil, (9) skate wing with baby broccoli and pancetta.  The (10) Alaskan king crab legs with Tabasco butter have been off the menu for a while, but if available, definitely order those.
Dessert: If available, the (11) peach and berry pie.

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