Local Gem In Coastal LA: Zoe Nathan

She’s Our Huckleberry

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It’s pretty tough to talk great food in coastal LA without gushing about Zoe Nathan’s justifiably burgeoning eatery empire with husband Josh Loeb. Known for Gather standbys Rustic Canyon, Milo & Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery and (our personal favorite) Huckleberry, as well as the red hot newcomers Cassia and Esters, the pair has the classy-casual dining experience down. We talked off-duty faves and the universal appeal of bubbling hot cheese with the big-hearted baker at the center of all this culinary success.

Everything in Generosity

That’s really the essence of who I am – from my family to our businesses, it’s the way we live. Whether it’s that willingness to give or the abundance on the plate, it’s incredibly important to me that you feel that kindness and generosity of spirit when you walk into one of our restaurants.

Coastal Angelenos are messy. In a good way.

There is a casual quality here that you don’t get from a lot of other places – westsiders have really embraced that whole “messy pretty” look. It takes the pressure off so you can focus on the fun of entertaining. Perfection isn’t the point. My version of a “perfect” blueberry pie is entirely different than what you might see on the cover of a magazine. I believe in gooey, oozy, drippy food – that always tastes better than the clean version!

Shoeless fridge raiders welcome.

Wine is always essential, but a casual atmosphere is the most important part of entertaining. When I have people over to our house, it’s not necessarily that I’m going to be ready with a drink in my hand when you come to the door, but I want to welcome you to go to the fridge and pour yourself something. I want to make you feel comfortable enough to kick off your shoes without asking whether you can take your shoes off. There is music on, every door in the house is open and kids are running through – that’s my style of entertaining.

Cheese is always the answer.

The way that my parents entertained was really inspiring. No matter what, they always had enough food for everyone. There were cheeses, meats, butter, breads. Fifteen people would show up at our house and they somehow always had appetizers and a big salad and an awesome bowl of pasta without really having to think about it. I’ve tried to follow their example. We live in kind of a big crazy house with people coming in and out, and it has been really inspiring to me to have the ability to open our house always at the ready.

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When in doubt, braise.

I do love a good dinner party where you plan every detail for days and days but that definitely happens less often now that we have two – soon to be three – kids. I’ve been a kitchen person my entire life so I definitely prep, keep everything very organized and go into my cooking mode. I do a lot of roasts and braises because when people come over, I want to hang out! I don’t want to be that person back in the kitchen stressing out because everything isn’t ready.

The oven is your friend.

I love to prep a bunch of croques ahead of time, have them on a big sheet tray and just pop them into the oven when guests arrive so that they come out all hot and bubbly and ready to enjoy. With a big Greek salad, it works works for brunch or dinner and it’s fun. I also love an old-fashioned meat lasagna like your mom would make with a big salad and bread and butter. I like to keep it really simple!

The first rule about house rules? Don’t have any.

I think there are a lot of parenting guides that would tell me I need more rules! But it’s important to have fun and make sure everyone feels really included. I don’t like separate tables. We have a lot of family so sometimes gatherings can get really big but I seat everyone at the same table even if it’s flimsy and shakes crazily. I like to have something for everyone, too. We live in west LA so you know everyone is on a new diet or restriction every week – this person doesn’t eat dairy, that person can’t eat gluten. It may be annoying but I pride myself on having something for everyone. It makes me happy to give them what they need or want.

Her LA go-to’s begin and end with the seafood.

The Hungry Cat is a go-to spot for cocktails and oysters. I especially like the Greyhound Proper. The Reel Inn on the PCH in Malibu (a Gather fave) is a great, dive-y place for fresh fish. Blue Plate Oysterette (also a Gather faveand Blue Plate Taco are casual, family-friendly spots for great seafood and tacos.

Turndown service and wines by the glass. Yes please.

The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica is the perfect staycation. I love to walk up and down Abbot Kinney in Venice – it’s the best for shopping and exploring. Hotel Casa del Mar (a Gather fave) is a great spot to unwind with cocktails and a view. Venice Beach Wines is a fantastic teeny little wine bar where we love to grab a glass of wine.

Let traditions unfold organically.

We did start hosting Thanksgiving which is a really big, fun crazy time and we have a pool so that’s the center of a lot of activity, especially in the summer. We’re a young family so we’re really just in the beginning of starting our traditions. I think we’re still discovering what we like and who we are – it’s kind of new for us.


The chef gives us the scoop on her kitchen must-haves starting with this crucial tidbit: “If your oven isn’t the right temperature, you can do everything right and your dish won’t turn out.”

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Special Thanks to Matt Armendariz, contributing photographer.

© Local Gem Coastal LA: Zoe Nathan of Huckleberry, Rustic Canyon, Cassia, Esters and Milo & Olive restaurants.