Nomad Eatery: How a Life-Changing Backpacking Trip Became a SoCal Dining Destination

By Ben Brown

Nomad Eatery in El Segundo. Los Angeles, CA.

More than 30 years ago, Owner Scott Cooper set off on a four-month journey across the world. He returned to the US vowing to continue exploring the far reaches of the globe. And while another trip of that magnitude still remains on his bucket list, Cooper now relives his travels every day, and shares them, in a sense, with all who walk in through Nomad’s doors.

Nomad Eatery, located in El Segundo, celebrates the discovery of global fare, a physical culmination of its namesake. Cooper has gone through great lengths to make patrons feel like culinary nomads in their own right, creating their journey through vibrant, indigenous flavors from the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The restaurant’s superb design provides that exact kind of transportive experience. A rustic interior quickly leads to an intimate covered patio, lined with handing greenery and tasteful string lighting that washes away any sense of being just off Rosecrans Ave. The large fireplace in the corner further pushes the feeling of being a traveler invited into someone’s home. An uncovered patio is in the works as well, set to add a third layer of ambiance that simply demands yet another visit.

After settling in, your attention is immediately captured by the broad pateras being carried across the room, the flicker of the fireplace sometimes reflecting off their curvature for a bit of theatrics that warms the heart. Extremely friendly staff take the time to guide groups through a relatively small but wildly diverse menu where geographical focus and global fusion weave in and out of one another. Portions are smaller than average, encouraging guests to order a range of dishes to share among each other.

The pateras, dishes in wide, shallow bowls, are Nomad’s foundation. An homage to culinary traditions spanning back to the ancient Romans, Nomad’s pateras incorporate elevated complexities of the modern world. Epitomizing Nomad’s elevated approach to cuisine, the grilled salmon esquites, with perfectly cooked salmon atop their take on Mexican street corn and pinto beans, reveals bold natural flavors. The steak frites, with thin-sliced prime flat iron steak soaking up a vivacious chimichurri, are finished beautifully with perfectly crispy fries and a simply addictive toum, or Mediterranean garlic sauce.

Namad spares no expense in choosing quality ingredients, which resonates with great clarity in their lamb shish-kebab. The lamb’s tenderness is in a league of its own, served with fresh baba ganoush, cucumber-bulgur salad, tahini and a flatbread that comes out puffed up like a basketball. Pair it with one of their wildly creative cocktails, such as the raised by wolves with a smoky mezcal base and pistachio orgeat that adds an intriguing layer of creaminess, to take your palate on a truly memorable adventure.

Their signature dessert, kindly named warm chocolate heaven, provides the perfect finish as a flourless chocolate souffle with fresh whipped cream. It takes some time to make, so remember to order it at the onset. But then again, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying that beautiful patio and sipping on another worldly cocktail for a few extra minutes.

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