Grilled Cheese Sliders, Blue Cheese Fries & More Comfort Food at The Upperwest in Santa Monica

For Chef Nicholas Shipp, you don't overthink your food. Rather, keep it simple and have fun, he says. Inside his newest venture in Santa Monica, with 28-foot exposed ceilings, The Upperwest carries a relaxed vibe with a touch of New York (think TriCeBa) that nicely complements Shipp's high quality (yet fun) dishes.

Shipp takes your regular American fare and adds a very intentional high-class spin to it. His chicken dish is a pan roasted half free range bird served with tomato, yellow hominy and collard greens ($17). The savory mac and cheese is shell pasta with asiago, goat cheese, irish white cheddar, mozzarella, fresh tarragon and a crunchy parmesan crust ($12). The out-of-this world vegan tomato soup is topped with a small black bean-corn salad and served with grilled ciabatta toast ($8) — and it goes wonderfully with the amazingly rich grilled cheese sliders filled with cheddar, goat cheese, blue cheese and caramelized onion on a buttered sourdough ($11).

You also might recognize some items like the Blue Cheese or Chipotle fries ($6) if you've been to Pete's in downtown. Shipp was most recently the executive chef there and before that, he worked for Wolfgang Puck.

Locally sourced food is also an important factor for Shipp and The Upperwest. Every Wednesday, he heads to the Santa Monica farmers market to gather ingredients and develop a new special (this last week, it was a sesame crusted tuna loin--seared ahi tuna, mizuna - citrus salad, water chestnuts and Japanese goma dressing for $23). Other intresting items include the Ahi Tuna Cripsy Tacos ($12), Panchetta Wrapped Prawn ($12), Pork Gorditas ($10), Chile Spiced Salmon ($20) and the Sherry-Bourbon Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions ($6). See the full menu here.

The beer list could definitely be beefed up (such as with local beers from Eagle Rock Brewery and Craftsman in Pasadena), but all in all, The Upperwest is a restaurant that works to deliver high quality food and has proved that thus far.