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Casual dinner spot in Santa Monica/Venice?

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Looking for suggestions for a nice, casual, inexpensive (~$20-30/person or less) dinner spot in the Santa Monica/Venice area. This will be the first time in LA for my two dinner companions so something a little "touristy" isn't out of the question. Maybe something along the beach? I was thinking of maybe The Counter (it was recommended by some friends) but am looking for other options.

Any suggestions would be great!! Thanks so much!!

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  1. Er, the counter is just a diner that serves a burger to order...

    Without alcohol you could make it out under 30, with a little bit of atmosphere in my area:

    Father's office in Santa Monica (waay crowded, have to find your own table) or Culver City (less crowded, still a bit of wait/line): "gastropub" with microbrews, gourmet burgers, kebabs etc.

    Orris: small asian-influenced plates

    Nook: industrial decor, tucked away spot in a strip mall, good solid food

    If instead of dinner, you decide to show em LA through drinks...:

    Wilshire
    Bodega wine bar
    The bar at Viceroy

    1. 26 Beach would work.

      Musha for great Japanese pub fare.

      w/o drinks or just one, Chaya Venice.

      farther inland, but great oaxacan for LA, Monte Alban.

      Violet on Pico.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Emme

        Monte Alban would be my choice, but it won't fit the bill as a touristy place and it certainly is lacking in charm and polish. It's in a strip mall, the decor is over-the-top, and the food is outstanding. It will definitely fit the budget. If they're not used to real, good mexican food, then this would be my suggestion.

        Another option could be Hide Sushi on Sawtelle Blvd -- lively, relatively inexpensive sushi place. It's not the greatest sushi in LA, but it out-classes most sushi in other cities.

        Musha would be very good if they are more adventurous eaters and really want to be in Santa Monica, near the beach. It doesn't have a view or anything like that, but it's convenient if you're down near the beach or promenade.

        Father's Office is great for less adventurous eaters (burgers, fries, etc.), but the burger is outstanding and the beer selection is excellent. Lines are a good possibility, though.

      2. 1.) Killer Shrimp on Washington in Venice.
        2.) C&O on Washington in Venice (there are 2 restaurants on closer to the beach than the other).
        3.) Baby Blue Barbeque on Lincoln before Rose Ave. near Smart & Final.

        21 Replies
        1. re: meowth

          FYI: Killer Shrimp is closed.

          What about 3 Square, on Abbott Kinney? It fits into your price range and is in a cute part of town.

          I also second many of the recommendations already made: Orris, Violet, 26 Beach, Nook...

          If you want to be really touristy, you could drive up the coast to Malibu Seafood.

          1. re: recovering_vegetarian

            What's the story with Malibu Seafood? It looks like a cool experience and some good seafood .. but perhaps a long drive up the coast. Do you buy food and then sit outside or are there tables provided? (Couldn't tell if it is essentially a fish shack or actually a restaurant.) What are the chances of having a good selection of fish available come dinner time on a Friday? Thanks so much!

            1. re: KrazyB

              I think it's worth the drive, which is lovely anyway. They have a good selection of very fresh fish. Place your order inside and then find a table. I like to sit on the covered patio further up the driveway - the view is better. They don't sell alcohol, but you can bring your own. Don't forget a corkscrew and glasses or plastic cups. We also bring a tablecloth and depending on the group, candles and flowers. Our out of town guests really enjoy it.

              1. re: KrazyB

                There are tables, but I personally like to pick up my order, then walk across PCH and enjoy it picnic-style on the sand. It makes for a really fun, casual "only in LA" experience. Just remember to bring a few extras--a bottle of wine, a blanket, cups, etc. Oh, and there will definitely be plenty of fresh fish options on a Friday night. They really don't tend to run out of things, as far as I can tell.

                PS: Please don't do C&O. Honestly, if you've been to Bucca di Beppo, you've been there. There's really nothing special about the place. The fact that the best thing on their menu is the free garlic knots says it all.

            2. re: meowth

              I think Killer Shrimp is closed.
              You might be able to do Hal's for under 30 if you order two apps per person. It's not touristy, but you might see a star there. And it's more interesting crowd that the touristy places. 3 Square is good, quiet at dinner, but a bustling lunch. crowd. If you stick to two apps per, you could even do Anisette. Which is the hottest restaurant in town (Santa Monica anyway). And a serious culinary destination.

              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                Killer Shrimp closed more than a year ago, sadly.

              2. re: meowth

                Thanks for the suggestions all! How is Baby Blues BBQ?

                Also, is there anything within walking distance of the Santa Monica Pier that might be decent? That is our plan for after dinner (walking along the pier). I don't imagine there is much in the way of good eats actually on the pier but it would be nice to park in one place for dinner and be able to walk directly to the pier.

                1. re: KrazyB

                  Baby Blues BBQ is mixed. Some of the meats are good (pulled pork, ribs) and some are weak (the brisket which is not sliced but in strings) as are the sides (some love the roasted corn-on-the-cob, which I found dry, though I liked the mac'n'cheese). The place has a Venice vibe -- informal, fun, tattooed and pierced servers, prices a bit high for BBQ but within your price range. But it is nowhere near the Santa Monica pier -- way down on Lincoln and Rose.

                  I don't know of any decent restaurants anywhere near your price range along Ocean near the pier. With the late sunsets this time of year, my suggestion would be to stop at Bay Cities Deli on the east side of Lincoln (8th) near Olympic and the Santa Monica freeway for some deli sandwiches (fantastic crusty rolls) or Italian hot plates like chicken or eggplant parm or meatballs or meatloaf or potroast and sides. Then deal with the parking situation (you'll probably need to pay) and picnic on or near the pier.

                  1. re: KrazyB

                    I like Baby Blues BBQ. I think it the best BBQ option on the Westside

                    That said, near the Santa Monica Pier options are limited based on $20-30. 1. The Lobster would be a bit pricey, but pretty good and right on the pier. Great view. Lobster is a bit high, but the seafood options might work. I also think this might be your best bet.
                    2. Bubba Gump Shrimp provides a decent option also right on the pier.
                    3. Richie Palmers for good pizza, sandwiches or pasta is a short walk.

                    1. re: Ogawak

                      I can't see going to the Lobster for dinner and getting out for less than $50 per person, and that really isn't including beverages, tax, tip and valet parking. Unless you are going to limit yourselves to starters and budget to the point that the evening will be uncomfortable for you, the other guests, and your server.

                      1. re: Ogawak

                        although i'm responding to a very old post,
                        gotta respectfully disagree with the bubba gump recommendation.
                        the food is just this side of vile.
                        went there on a first date and it was a struggle to actually eat any of the food that was served.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Bubba Dump's is pretty inedible. They rely on "one time" tourist visits. RIP the Boat House (which, while it wasn't brilliant, outshone Bubba Dump by a country mile)

                      2. re: KrazyB

                        Il Fornaio is in walking distance to pier & should be w/in your price range particularly if you stick to pastas. Patio is very pleasant for dining; food is solid, good Italian--not an outstanding food destination, but tasty, satisfying & well-priced for its location.

                      3. re: meowth

                        I agree with C&O suggestion. Tremendous portions, killer garlic rolls, and awesome service. The pastas are fabulous...I've not had one bad dish there. If you make reservations, please make sure you sit outside. The location is closer to the beach.
                        http://www.cotrattoria.com/

                        1. re: attran99

                          Just checked out the C&O website ... it looks very promising. But they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more. Since we are only 3 ... would the wait on a Friday night (say 6-7pm) be unbearable? Can we request the patio when we walk-in?

                          1. re: KrazyB

                            I think C&O is awful food. Crowded (elbow to elbow on a busy night), noisy and really mediocre food along the lines of Olive Garden. Large portions do not a fantastic resto make.

                            26 Beach, Chaya Venice, Nook, Violet...any of these would be leagues better than C&O.

                            1. re: jencounter

                              Just looked at the 26 Beach website ... how crowded does it get on a Friday night? Do they take reservations?

                              1. re: KrazyB

                                26 Beach does get crowded on weekends, but they do take reservations. If you decide to make one, request a table on the patio.

                            2. re: KrazyB

                              In addition to the food being very mediocre, the wait at that time will be awful. If you want to stay in that area, go across the street to Mercedes Grille. It's not amazing food, but some of it is very good and so much better than C&O's. In addition to the other recs here, it would fit your budget.

                              1. re: mollyomormon

                                Actually, once you park in that area at the foot of Washington, you can drink to your heart's content and have some of L.A.'s tastiest inexpensive burgers at Hinano.

                              2. re: KrazyB

                                I think C & O would be a great place to take out of towners. It may not be the best Italian food, but its certainly good and the atmosphere is great. If you're shooting for an early dinner, around 6, than C&) trattioria isn't too crowded, even on a weekend. ANd you're right, they don't take reservations for small parties. but check with C&O cucina, which is a few blocks over on Washington. It has more of a "fine dining" atmosphere (still reasonably priced) and they might take reservations.

                          2. Are they here on a Sunday night? If so, Chaya Venice does all night Happy Hour on Sundays. Eat at one of the table in the bar.

                            Father's Office is always a hit with out of towners, but it's loud.
                            Library Alehouse on Main Street, sit on the patio.
                            Buddha's Belly on 2nd/Santa Monica
                            World Cafe on Main (food is not great, but it's nice on the patio)
                            Weird suggestion, but maybe something on the Venice Boardwalk like Fig Tree?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: yogachik

                              The Library Alehouse is a great suggestion in Santa Monica. I would NOT go to C & Os. In my head it's just a local version of Bucca di Beppos with better garlic knot/rolls. I.e. mediocre, huge portion generic American Italian food that can be found anywhere in the country.

                            2. How about La Vecchia on Main Street? Solid Italian, great location, fun vibe, and plenty to do and see nearby.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: JE33

                                even though i really like the food served at il forno, which i understand is owned by the same folks that own la vecchia, imho, the food at la vecchia was meh at best

                              2. I second Hal's on Abbott Kenney in Venice. Great ceasar salad, chicken and fries, burgers should put you within your price range and the rest of the menu is terrific as well. The atmosphere is hip without attitude, lots of artists, actors (some well known, some not so much) and locals as well as out of towners. Enjoy!