mid twenties foodies heading to santa monica
we are 3 ny-ers headed to santa monica in a couple of weeks. we are all foodies and are looking to enjoy santamonica/LA's best. Suggestions for great restaurants with good vibes and a good scene as well as bars with the same. suggestions please!!!
My favorite restaurant is Santa Monica is far from a newcomer -- Chinois on Main is Wolfgang Puck's seminal fusion place, and is now well into its third decade. All dishes are served to share, the flavors are bold, and the decor and vibe is loud and energetic. I recommend ordering almost all starters -- they are mostly well over half the size and under half the price of the entrees, so you can share several more dishes. Definitely order the stirfried lamb in radicchio cups and the fried rockshrimp. The best large dish is the sliced filet in szechwan pepper sauce, unless your heads are turned by the whole fried catfish with ponzu. Save room for desserts. Service is always excellent and professional there, and as foodies you may want to sit at the counter looking into the open kitchen (though that doesn't work with parties larger than three).
Musha is a favorite of this board, with small plates to be shared. But if you have transportation I'd send you to Orris, a small-plate restaurant on Sawtelle, just east of Santa Monica in West L.A. Or if wine is a focus, Upstairs 2, which is yet another small plates restaurant sitting atop a major wine store on Cotner in W.L.A.
Stop into the Penthouse, on top of the Huntley Hotel on 2nd Street a block north of Wilshire, for a drink and the panoramic coastal view. Do NOT waste a meal there.
Since you don't get good Mexican in NYC, you'll want to get some here. The best that is closeby is at Tacos Por Favor, on the S/E corner of Olympic at 14th. Or La Playita, on Lincoln near Rose just south of Santa Monica in Venice (though many would send you to one of two taco trucks near there). For sitdown, table service go to Monte Alban, a Oaxacan restaurant in a minimall on the north side of Santa Monica Blvd. at Brockton in W.L.A., and stop in a door down for a carnitas taco at El Super Taco so you can sample their amazing habanero salsa for just over a buck.
I think Musha is a great call. Maybe grab a drink at the Penthouse and then walk to Musha for food. Or go to the Penthouse for brunch. I went last weekend and it was very good, but dinner there is lame and overpriced. Chloe is a bar/restaurant right in that neighborhood. I haven't tried the food but it's a good scene. You might also consider Whist at the Viceroy one night. My meals there have been less than impressive, but it's a beautiful place with a very LA pool-side bar scene. Father's Office is a cool bar with an amazing burger and sweet potato fries. If you're here on a weekend, go for lunch when you have a better chance of being able to snag a seat without having to wait in line.
To add to the above recommendations, also consider Chaya Venice, a real California experience with consistently great food (Asian fusion but decidedly California Cuisine), a great room, great bar scene.
Be sure to have a drink at The Viceroy, by the pool, and at The Penthouse (not on the weekend, if you can help it, it gets too packed).
Another idea is Wilshire, especially sit outside. It's not in downtown Santa Monica, but well worth the (short) drive from the cluster of bars (which you can explore on foot)
You might be here when Anisette is open, a highly anticipated (for me) new restaurant in the area from a top chef.
Don't go to El Super Taco for a taco, especially the bland listless carnitas taco. It is not a taco to judge the city on. It's below average.
At Tacos Por Favor, make sure to try the chorizo and cheese taco. I try something else alongside it everytime and everytime, it's the best thing there. I'd get these tacos and be done with Westside Mexican.
I like the Wilshire for drinks and their bar menu. I haven't had their dinner menu.
I also like Valentino and have always enjoyed dinners there. There's a tranquility there that you won't find in other restaurants these days. It's not hip by any means.
I second the Father's Office weekend lunch recommendation.
By all means, you guys should have a fun dinner in Santa Monica and there are several places to choose from ... but know that you are NOT getting LA's best in Santa Monica. That's not to say you can't have a great time and some great food, but if you have the time then you should definitely branch out to some other areas further inland on other nights. There's no shortage of "best for visiting LA" threads that you can search.
A few more suggestions for straight Santa Monica ... definitely consider Via Veneto. It's a fantastic Italian resto (if not very cramped and very expensive, but hey you're probably in the mood to splurge...), and as out-of-towners you may get a kick out of this recent story:
Personally I would do that over Chaya (which is right across the street), which is nice especially if you are limited only to that area, but nothing to write home about.
Also you should *definitely* check out Abbot Kinney street for both food and shopping/browsing. Technically it's Venice not S.M., but it's very close. Some great places there include Axe, Joe's, and Primitivo.
Oh, and for bars on Abbot Kinney The Other Room is a must do.
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
3009 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405
1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
Hmm...I don't know how I feel about telling visitors from NYC that Italian food in LA is a must visit when it's not really one of the city's relative strengths. Joe's and Axe are really good suggestions. Also on Abbott Kinney there's 3 Square which would be a great place to grab brunch.
For breakfasts and lunches... You should stop into 3 Square for a meal or pastry. Amandine on Wilshire is another option for croissants. Snug Harbor and Bread and Porridge are good brekkie places too. For lunch, try and grab a sammy at Bay Cities Deli on Lincoln. You might also want to hit somewhere in Venice like 26 Beach or Lilly's French Cafe.
If you're here for a weekend brunch, try Joe's in Venice.
To add to dinner recs, Jiraffe is a good choice. I'd also consider getting drinks, if not at the Huntley, at the Lobster to watch the sunset. [Definitely agree w/ other recs for Monte Alban, but that's lunchier to me, as well as Via Veneto and Wilshire. Valentino is great, but it's certainly not a sceney/vibey place.]
And don't know if you have any interest in driving, but farther east, you could hit some Thai, Ethiopian, Peruvian, etc.
Bar Hayama is a great place for Sushi, they have an outdoor dining area which has a fire pit in the middle. They also have a great sake menu.
Another great place to go is Rustic Canyon (which can be hard to get into so make reservations) They have a sophisticated bear selection and great champagne cocktails. The food is amazing -- you really cant go wrong with anything you order.
Musha is good, but i find you need to know what to order, so if you want to go you should ask for recomendations.
Lastly, in Venice ( on Abbot Kinney which is a cool street) they have a "Other room" which is a bar that started in NY.