Santa Monica without a car
I will be staying at the JW Marriott on Ocean Ave for about a week with some friends, but we won't have a car. Can anyone recommend some good restaurants within walking distance of the Marriott? We like all kinds of food, but are hoping to stay away from anything too expensive ($40 pp or less and we don't drink). Some suggestions that you think are a little trendy and fun would be greatly appreciated!
Three places come to mind:
Jiraffe is California/French cuisne. They use the freshest farmer's market ingredients. Monday bistro night--three courses for $35.
Musha offers an array of interesting and tasty Japanese small plates. Reasonable prices. It gets busy so go early or call for a reservation.
Bar Pinxto, a new Spanish tapas bar. I haven't been to but looks like fun.
They all require a little bit of walk but should be manageable. Also, you should walk over to Arizona & 2nd on Wed. morning for the Farmer's Market.
502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401
424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
109 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Promenade Area (Walking Distance from where you'll be)
Dinner: Jiraffe (a bit pricey but worth it), Musha, Sushi King (whole in the wall but great sushi), Ma'Kai (for small plates, drinks, and a scene), The Lobster (nice seafood)
Lunch or Breakfast: The Penthouse (for Brunch or Breakfast & a great view), Bay Cities (best deli sandwich you can find)
Main St. (long walk or short taxi, but definitely worth checking out:
Via Veneto, Library Ale House, Farmer's Market (Sunday) for breakfast
$40/pp is a decent budget. Some good choices here already mentioned.
I would add Cora's for breakfast.
Richie Palmer's and Joe's are two places with good NY style pizzas. RP is more of a sit down joint. Some like the sandwiches there.
The Lobster has already been mentioned, but it's the best place for a combination of good food and an ocean view.
CeFiore has the best frozen yogurt in the area.
Father's Office on Montana is a bit far, but maybe the best hamburger around.
You're across the street from Chez Jay, which is a great dive bar. The food they serve is actually pretty good, so you shouldn't rule that out.
If you walk south from your hotel, you'll hit Main Street and Venice, where there are many options. You could get Italian at Piccolo, a tiny restaurant just off the Venice boardwalk that usually is packed, so reservations would be wise. Or you could head down Main St. and check out Library Alehouse for a casual place with burgers and salads. And on Sundays, you could eat at The Victorian House, which is adjacent to the farmers market on Main Street.
I do have to make one suggestion, though. You're going to be visiting for a few days. This is a driving city, so you really might want to reconsider not having a car. You don't need to drive all over the city, but even in Santa Monica/Venice, a car would be helpful.
If the weather is nice, take a walk down to Joe's in Venice. It's a 5 minute cab ride and probably a 25 minute walk but go down Main Street past all the cool shops. I think Joe's is probably the best restaurant in SM/Venice/Marina del Rey. It's probably $50pp unless you don't drink but it's totally worth it.
I'll try to add suggestions that haven't already been made.
South of your hotel, on Ocean at Pico, is Cha Cha Chicken, inexpensive but very good caribbean-flavor food, primarily chicken. The sandwich is good; so is the chicken combo. Their aguas frescas are also nice.
East on Pico is Texate, and Oaxacan place that's nice. Main Street also has Urth Cafe, and there's a raw foods restaurant just a couple blocks down Main from Pico (I forget the name) if you're into that.
On Fourth Street at (I think) Santa Monica, there's the Border Grill, which is still pretty good, though sometimes overrated. On the opposite side of Fourth in the same block is La Serenata di Garibaldi. Both are excellent Mexican restaurants in the finer mode.
On Lincoln is Warszawa, a Polish restaurant, and they have a moderately priced Happy Hour where you can get delicious appetizers like piroshki.
On Santa Monica in the 700 block is Sham, a Mid-Eastern place that has very reasonable prices and excellent food.
I'm putting in a plug for the Big Blue Bus, also. They have a shopping shuttle that should be enough to get you anywhere from the south end of Main Street to Montana, and will widen your horizon a little without having to rent a car.
Ocean Avenue Seafood for raw oysters and steamed clams...amazing light mexican food at La Serenata de Garibaldi...Broadway Deli for something casual, I love their soups and love to eat at the bar, or a great place to stock up on gourmet groceries and deli items for your hotel room.
My gosh, you're walking distance to some of the city's greatest restaurants! Le Merigot is smack in the middle of all the great places on Main Street and all the great places on Ocean Ave!! Lots already listed here --
You don't need a car. There's also a 25cent Tide Shuttle that takes you around SM, your hotel will have details, or go to bigbluebus.com
Penthouse wasn't mentioned, and well worth it for the view.
Chaya Venice also wasn't mentioned, a consistently great restaurant.
Catch at Casa del Mar - another great view, great food.
Whist at Viceroy across the street - great food, great people watching, very fun. Sit outside on the patio, poolside!
Chinois on Main for fantastic asian fusion (Wolfgang Puck restaurant)
You are from the outlying NYC area, by your previous posts. So you are used to great public transit where you take trains and subways and get close to your destination and then walk. That is NOT L.A. or Santa Monica. There is bus service, but it isn't visitor friendly. The Marriot is north of the fun, fine lower Santa Monica stretch of restaurants and stores on Main Street. The Marriot is south of the touristy, faster-paced more entertainment stretch of the 3rd Street Promenade. You could walk either way, but there are some long desolate blocks alongside the empty civic center area which is abandoned at night before you get to either area.
I'm a huge fan of Chinois on Main in lower Santa Monica. Many will guide you to the Penthouse on top of the Huntley Hotel, which has an amazing panoramic view but now has extreme prices, an attitude, and mediocre overpriced food. Or the Lobster on the pier, for a touristy jam-the-tables-together profit-maximizing seafood churn-them-in-and-out juggernaut.
I second EVERYTHING poster gsw recommended. I honestly would have given the exact responses myself! The Promenade area is tough because it is filled with overpriced mediocre food for tourists, but there are a couple of gems in the surrounding area, and gsw nailed them. I also hear the new Buddha's Belly (on 5th and SM I think) is great and reasonably priced.
As a transplanted New Yorker I sure do miss public transportation and tend to not use it out here, but I have heard only GREAT things about the Big Blue Bus, and it will surely get you down to Joe's in Venice and to the Venice boardwalk, which is a must-see!
The #1 or #2 buses will get you down near the restaurant row on Abbot Kinney. Or you can take the #1 in the other direction (up Santa Monica Blvd), get off at Brockton, and eat at Monte Alban for some excellent Oaxacan mole. (The Abbot Kinney restaurants are probably what you're looking for in "trendy", while Monte Alban is more towards the "fun" side of the scale.)
You don't have a car and maybe you don't want to rent one. However, there's nothing stopping you from renting a bike to get around Venice and Santa Monica. That would surely make your life a lot easier and it's a fairly pleasant place to bike, especially along the beach.
Public transit in L.A. is not as bad as many locals will rush to tell you (typically the ones who complain the loudest are those who don't use public transit themselves).
I'm a dedicated L.A. foodie/CH regular and I haven't owned a car for almost ten years now. I use public transit on a daily basis. Is it as good as NYC public transit? Not overall -- the lack of a citywide subway system is a perpetual sore spot -- but the bus system is generally better (given that it covers a much larger area), and it's probably more reliable than NYC. I live a good life in L.A. without a car (not to mention I save a ton of money -- more than enough to indulge my gourmand extravagances).
The area you will be staying in is *very* well serviced by two transit systems:
MTA (Los Angeles County):
Santa Monica Transit (the Big Blue Bus):
And there is an online Trip Information Planner that can get you routings between any two addresses within SoCal:
Using these links to plan your itineraries in advance, there's no reason you can't use the buses to enjoy a wide variety of cuisine of Los Angeles.
I'd recommend taking the MTA bus north on PCH (I think there's only one line though I don't know the number) to stop by Malibu Seafood. Bring a blanket or some sort of cloth to sit on. Get the fish and chips and drinks. Jay walk across (be careful!) to the beach and chow down whilst enjoying the beach and the sun. Take the same bus line back down south when you're ready to go back to the hotel.
You can take the bus by walking on Ocean ave and down the stairs to cross PCH.
PS. It won't exactly be trendy but definitely got that "california cool" vibe.
It's the #534 bus, it's a 30+ minute ride, and you can catch it on the West side of Ocean near Colorado. Don't go down to the PCH; there are no stops down there. And be sure to check the schedule first, otherwise you may wait up to an hour for the bus (depending on when you go). It's about a half-mile walk from the bus stop to the restaurant. FYI.
Here's a link to the MTA #534 schedule, going up PCH towards Nobu Malibu, Geoffrey's and Malibu Seafood:
Most of the Big Blue Buses are walking distance from the Marriott Merigot, including the #2 which goes east on Wilshire Blvd. to UCLA (Michael's), and south to Venice Beach:
The #3 covers Montana and Lincoln Blvds. to the east and also south to Venice. This will take you to Joe's in Venice and Father's Office on Montana, the latter serving the best hamburger and sweet potato fries you will ever eat in your entire life.
1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403
Malibu Fish & Seafood
25653 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
27400 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
3835 Cross Creek Rd, Malibu, CA 90265
1147 3rd St., Santa Monica, CA 90403