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First Time Visit to Santa Monica - Looking for Recs...

  • k

My boyfriend and I will be visiting Santa Monica for 2 days late August. Since neither of us have been there, we're looking for recommendations for dinner/lunch/breakfast. Nothing too expensive since we're both in fun loving but low paying entry level jobs. Any favorites of yours would be awesome. TIA.

*Edited to add that we're looking for recs for all 3 meals of the day...not just dinner. :)

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  1. The Newsroom Cafe is a small place but excellent for lunch or dinner.

    1. Musha
      424 Wilshire Boulevard
      Santa Monica, CA

      Japanese small plates - casual

      You might want to call ahead for reservations.

      1. I really like Musha on Wilshire which is Japanese small plates -- small but very lively, with cute little private rooms as well. It's pretty reasonable if you don't go nuts ordering plate after plate.
        Not quite in Santa Monica, but there's been a lot of raves lately for the burger and everything else at 26 Beach Cafe.
        For another very L.A. experience, hit the half price sushi happy hour at Chaya Venice on Main.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chowpatty

          Touche, Chowpatty! We could definitely eat together!

          Chaya Venice is a great suggestion; I like the feel inside! This is in a good location so that you can walk around after dinner and have lots of desserts!

        2. I forgot, if you are into beer and/or gourmet burgers, you have to try Father's Office. It's not especially cheap, but it's less than eating in a "real" restaurant, and they have an excellent beer list and arguably the town's best burger. It's kinda crowded and the service can be a bit curt, so not everybody is up for that. But it would be a shame to go to Santa Monica and not try it.
          If you just want the beer, and not the attitude, The King's Head does a nice fish and chips.

          1. drive 10 minutes up PCH to Cholada for pretty good Thai. (Right next to it is Reel Inn, which is a pretty good dive-y fish place.)

            Can also drive 5-10 minutes to Brentwood, where there are a bunch of Italian places, also a cupcake place, a good chocolate maker, etc.

            1. Hope you enjoy your visit! I'm not sure what days you are in town... but here are some can't miss options...

              I totally second the recommendation for Musha, one of my favorite places in the city PERIOD.


              For a casual lunch (Perhaps even to take to have a picnic at the beach) you HAVE to stop by bay cities. Order the Godmother with EVERYTHING. SPICY. In fact, yes, do walk take a walk to the beach with it because it's even better after it's been 'rested' a while and flavors meld. Bay Cities is also the cutest Italian Market. Great stuff they have there. :)


              For another casual lunch place, check out Famima, which is kinda like a Japanese 7-11 on the promenade. Like 7-11 has those roller hot dogs, Famina has take out Bao. Really tasty, real cheap! :)


              For a nice hearty meal, have the Fish and Chips at Ye Olde Kings Head and a Shandy! The crust on the fish is a little thick, but the portion is amazing and chipe Heaven! The rest of their menu kinda stinks tho...


              You can NOT visit Santa Monica without trying the Father's Office Burger. It's a small bar, trendy, VERY STRICT IN THEIR RULES (like NO KETCHUP!!) but the burger is my favorite in town... I tend to go there late to avoid some of the crowds!!


              For Breakfast we adored Le Pain Quotidien, wonderful baked goods for snacking too!


              If you are there Monday, one of the nicest restaurants in town, Jiraffe has a bistro night that is a STEAL considering their regular menu. Gives you guys a chance to dress up and enjoy a truly elegant meal


              Finally, you guys HAVE to hit the Farmer's Markets. They are on Wednesday and Saturday near the Promendade.



              8 Replies
              1. re: Dommy

                Wow, Dommy! With the exception of King's Head -- because I haven't been -- you have recommended all of my favorites. Can you do all of them in one day?

                Father's Office -- well worth the hassle, but it CAN be a hassle!

                And how about Jin's Patisserie on Abbot Kinney in Venice? katg -- this is a good place for an afternoon refreshment stop for tea and delicacies! If you do go there, be sure to see the canals in Venice...very interesting.

                Jin's Patisserie
                1202 Abbot Kinney

                No reservations needed -- Welcome!

                1. re: liu

                  Amen to that! Great list, Dommy! Musha's one of my favorites too, so definitely don't miss that. I'll add Amandine if you happen to be driving down Wilshire and see Bundy Street. Such incredibly good croissants and pear cake. I forget the name, but it's a fluffy white cake with white whipped cream frosting and pear filling. Wow.

                  1. re: Pei

                    Pei -- why JUST croissants and pear cake? Everything on the left looks divine, and the right case looks pretty good, too! I also love their hot green tea. They make it just right!

                    1. re: liu

                      Thanks for the tip on the green tea! I suggested my two favorites there, but you're right that everything does look (and taste) divine.

                      1. re: liu

                        I don't know if it is Japanese owned, but there is definitely a Japanese influence here. While I find the croissants very rich, indeed, I find some of the other cakes a little lighter and not as goooooey-sweet and heavy as some other bakeries. They make for a nice afternoon delight -- with a cup of tea -- between errands and don't leave you bulging.

                    2. re: liu

                      You guys are awesome! WOW! We are driving down from SF on Friday...so we'll be in town Friday through Sunday. A short trip so we want to make it as memorable as possible (It'll be our 2 year anniversary.) I'm definitely going to check out all these links.

                      1. re: liu

                        Jin Patisserie in Venice should not be missed. They don't have anything like it in the Bay Area where I'm from. Their website at http://www.jinpatisserie.com should whet your appetite. The Abbott Kinney area is definitely my favorite stretch in the westside.

                        Ditto the canals. If you're short on time, you can at least drive through them on Dell St from Washington Blvd.

                        1. re: WBGuy

                          WBGuy - Abbot Kinney is my favorite stretch as well. It has been an amazing transition to watch during these past couple of years as it has changed from the old to the now. Thanks for posting Jin's delicious website!

                    3. You didn't say where you're visiting from, it can make a difference - i.e. if your coming from NYC, I wouldn't suggest any Italian restaurants, but if from Barstow, I would.

                      If you want some history and a Pacific speality in a "Beach Dive Funky" atmosphere (think of those Frankie Avalon Beach Movies from the 60s) then get the San Dabs for $17 (complete dinner):

                      Chez Jay(s) - Dinner Menu
                      1607 Ocean Ave.
                      Santa Monica
                      (310) 395-1741


                      The other "Beach Dive Funky" is:

                      The Galley
                      2442 Main St.
                      Santa Monica
                      (310) 452-1934


                      Know for good drinks, some happy hour specials, & good Mussels in a Bucket with broth.

                      Happy Hour - Read this blogger's detailed report with pictures:


                      Border Grill
                      1445 Fourt St.
                      Santa Monica
                      (310) 451-1655


                      Happy Hour - Even cheaper eats than B.G. but fairly standard Mexican Fare in a sometimes lively fun atmosphere. Warning - If you like any decent "HEAT" in your Salsa, they don't have it except the standard bottle of Tabasco which doesn't taste good in or on Mexican Food IMHO. Whenever I've gone in the past, I've brought in my own to liven theirs up.

                      Marix Tex Mex Cafe
                      118 Entrada Dr. - Very near PCH
                      Santa Monica
                      (310) 459-8596


                      Do you want to be served your meal on the Beach with your toes in the sand? You can do that at "Back on the Beach Cafe"; unfortunately, the food isn't much so best to order something REAL simple. Difficult to find the first time - call for directions.

                      Back on the Beach Cafe
                      445 PCH
                      Santa Monica
                      (310) 393-8282

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JBC

                        JBC - I should have mentioned...we'll be coming from San Francisco. I don't know if that necessarily makes a huge difference but we like almost all types of food.