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Help with me choose....

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My boyfriend and I will be visiting Santa Monica for two nights (Friday & Saturday) and need help choosing places to eat. From my research here's what I've come up with so far:


I would like one night to be somewhat fancy, romantic and maybe the other to be a little more casual. We will be staying at the Casa Del Mar and will have a car, but I would rather walk, if possible. Would also like a place with options for pre/post dinner drinks.

Thanks for your help.....Looking forward to our trip

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  1. If you want to walk -- and can afford it -- I would add (and go to) Capo for the fancy/romantic and Musha for casual. Abode is hit-or-miss food-wise but you can walk and it's fancy/romatic.

    1. Well, for casual you could walk to Musha. For romantic I think you want the patio at Wilshire, for which you will have to drive. But it's an easy, no chance of getting lost 10 minute jaunt down Wilshire.

      1. For romantic, I would recommend Josie, Wilshire, Abode and JiRaffe in that order. For casual, Musha and Violet, in that order.

        1. Jiraffe is walkable from your hotel, offers nice seasonal cuisine and is close to some of the other Santa Monica attraction, but it can get un-romantically loud, the acoustics aren't that great.

          My other fave would be Josie, but that's a bit more inland and would require driving.

          Violet is also nice, but more casual than romantic/fancy. The mac 'n cheese is superb, though!

          As noted before, Abode is a hit-and-miss situation ( with a tendency to be fussy on presentation, but not necessarily taste ) and I would avoid BOA that's of the Sushi Roku chain.

          Haven't been to the Wilshire, but it's gotten a fairly good review from LA Times recently.


          1 Reply
          1. re: AquaW

            AquaW, is Jiraffe really a seasonal menu? They seem to have not changed their menu at all in the past few years - regardless of the season. Am I missing something? I would really like to LIKE this place, but was not too impressed with the food and same old menu in and out of each season.

          2. romantic is the patio @ wilshire.
            casual is musha
            skip abode & boa
            if you are looking for a sunset drink or after drinks try the penthouse @the huntley hotel

            1. Thanks for the replies... can anyone tell me a little bit about the menu at Musha, I've just read good things about it, but my boyfriend is a little picky, so I want to make sure he finds something there.

              Also, I just read my post title..... Ooops.. I meant 'help me choose' =)

              2 Replies
              1. re: nicob

                My favorites at Musha include the marinated mackerel that's seared at the table, braised pork belly, parmesan risotto, musha fried chicken, tuna tartare with crispy rice crackers, anything with lobster, shrimp or crab. Close to Musha is the Penthouse at the Huntley hotel. It's a nice place to stop for a drink first.

                Another good casual place is Father's Office on Montana. Great burger and specials (like duck confit salad!), with a good beer selection.

                For romantic and intimate I'd go with Josie. Wilshire is lovely as well, but I think the food is better at Josie. If you're in the mood for Italian try Via Veneto on Main. It's loud and lively, and the food is delicious. Enjoy your stay!

                1. re: nicob

                  Well, from reports, Musha is an Izakaya, japanese small plates. Maybe a few rolls, grilled meats, vegetables. The pumpkin croquettes and risotto in Parmesan block scraped at table are well liked. They may have octopus balls. If he likes asain/japanese food, sake and beer, he should be happy.

                2. Woofer is spot on. I would just add that Wilshire, while a great choice, will be a short drive. If you are really against that then why not give the under-rated The Lobster a try, especially if you are craving fish. It's got an unparalleled view and the food is high quality.

                  Also, not so adventurous if you're staying at Casa Del Mar, but One Pico, the restaurant in Shudders, should be stunning at sunset.

                  Rustc Canyon is not bad for casual, especially if you want to focus on wine. The owner is a talented young sommelier and that's the strength of the place. The food is very pedestrian in concept but it is executed well.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Frommtron

                    Note that Rustic Canyon is insanely loud.

                    1. re: Frommtron

                      actually, catch @ casa del mar is spposed be excellent and you'll get a great sunset. skip the lobster. it's overpriced and totally touristy. and rustic canyon is very loud.

                      1. re: woofer

                        i would absolutely NOT go to catch.
                        very mediocre food coupled with high prices.

                        1. re: woofer

                          I felt the same way about the Lobster until I was forced to eat there (not implying anyone else didn't eat there). In fact, I was a little shocked that I liked it. Yes, it's a limited menu and yes, it's right near the pier. The fact is they do that type of food very well and the view is wonderful. Not my general go to, but come on! Who isn't seduced by the idea of a perfectly cooked lobster and a view of the beach at sunset every once in awhile. To each his own though.

                          I do like Wilshire quite a bit, though and it has a pretty active bar (you don't notice it at all from the patio) so you could kill birds with one stone there.

                          1. re: Frommtron

                            I also like the food at the Lobster, and the view is quite nice. But the reason I recommended the patio at Wilshire is because the OP wanted one night to be "fancy" and "romantic" for one of their meals, and as nice as the Lobster is I would not call it romantic, (even given the view) due to the tables being pretty darn close together and the noise level being problematic.

                            1. re: Frommtron

                              I'm lukewarm on the food at the Lobster, but it does have a sweet little outdoor bar area that's a great place to have a drink and watch the sunset.

                              1. re: Frommtron

                                I loved the Lobster at Lobster. Anything else might be a little not great. Just get a gosh darn big maine or spiny (if in season) with no frou frou, and you'll do well there.

                                then again, The Palms does good lobbie, too.

                          2. We just had a wonderful meal at JiRaffe two weeks ago for my mother's 65th birthday. The food was fantastic and very nicely paced--a great fancy and I think romantic choice, although since I was there with my mom that wasn't my focus. We sat upstairs and did not have any problems with noise. Absolutely everything we ordered was delicious.

                            I also echo the suggestions for Musha for the casual night. As someone who lives near Josie and Violet I hesitate to send visitors there over the others simply because Pico Blvd is not the loveliest of streets, while you can walk to a lot in downtown SM that's a more pleasant trip and the food is equally (or close to) as good.

                            Shutters at sunset is a great place for a drink, as is the bar in Casa Del Mar. I think one of the other choices is better for food though. Whist at the Viceroy also has a nice bar, although not ocean view--again I think the drinks and ambiance are better than the food.

                            1. No one has mentioned the beautiful garden at Michael's. It's been a year or so since I've been, but it was really wonderful at the time. Great ambiance, service and food. A terrific spot for a romantic dinner. Is it still good, or has something changed??

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: josephnl

                                Good call and it's in walking distance.

                                Still, Wilshire, and maybe Fraiche if you're getting in the car, edges it out in my opinion.

                              2. If your boyfriend is a picky eater (I am), then Musha will be difficult for him.

                                Of the list, Wilshire is the most romantic (patio) with excellent food, but you'll need your car. I'm of the few here who has had great meals at Catch, in your hotel. I love the room, the service, and always have a great meal. Capo, at the corner, is also very romantic, and very good. Via Veneto is probably my favorite on the westside, car needed, but not necessary. Also missing from your list is Whist at the Viceroy. The outdoor tables are romantic, and it's also on your corner. But really, Wilshire is your best bet.

                                For casual, I would recommend Chaya Venice. If you want to walk, head over to Chinois. Father's Office is a good recommendation for great food, but you'll be screaming at each other to be heard, and frankly, the whole experience can be a negative one. There's also Bar Pintxo, within walking distance, for tapas.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: yogachik

                                  Musha is one of my favorites but completely agree with yogachik that it could be rough for a picky eater.

                                2. Abode is within walking distance. Search the boards for reviews - we had a nice dinner there but I thought it wasn't really worth the price. Although it's a nice, intimate, romantic setting in booths.

                                  Jiraffe and Musha are a little bit more of a trek, but still walking distance. Jiraffe, I think, is romantic. Musha is not but it's still very nice - maybe a good choice for your casual dinner. Someone suggested Capo - that's very close to your hotel. I haven't eaten there, but the proprietor also owns Cora's Coffee Shoppe, which is next door, and I've really enjoyed lunch there.

                                  I have had some nice dinners at The Lobster - lobster, of course. I also enjoy Ocean Avenue Seafood for its raw bar happy hour - that's a nice walk.

                                  The Huntley Penthouse is a great suggestion for drinks - it has a fantastic view! I would definately put this on your 'Must-do' list.

                                  Josie and Michaels are both good choices.

                                  if you want dark and "old school" for your casual choice, try Chez Jay, which is a short walk from your hotel. Steaks, chops, a checkered-tablecloth kind of joint.