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Best bar in Santa Monica area? (or beyond!)

looking for a bar that's more about the unique experience than anything else. this mythical bar (or restaurant, hangout spot) would be about introducing you to something dramatic/quirky/(insert adjective here) or be located in the most unlikely place, tucked away somewhere interesting. no need to see or be seen. no douchebag lines to wait in. just be authentic. and memorable. does this place exist?

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  1. There is always Chez Jay's on Ocean Ave. which backs up to (some say holds up) Rand Corp.


    You might drive a bit futher east along Pico some time and drop into the Liquid Kitty and see what you think: http://www.thekitty.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      These are both great suggestions. Chez Jay is the first place that I thought of too! You could also check out the Galley on Main Street. The back bar at Warszawa is also fun and unique, although the douchebag factor has definitely increased in the last year or so.

      1. re: mollyomormon

        Unfortunately I heard that Jay Fiondella, the owner and immensely entertaining fellow, died last week. Haven't been back to pay my respects, but somehow I get the feeling it just won't be as bright in there anymore.

    2. One possibility would be RENEE'S COURTYARD on Wilshire between 5th & 6th. Different rooms with indoor/outdoor areas. Drinks aren't expensive, serve food. It feels a bit tucked away even though you are near the busy promenade.

      4 Replies
      1. re: bruinike

        Definitely Renee's Courtyard on Wilshire.

        1. re: yogachik

          With the caveat being that if you go on a Saturday night, this place can sometimes be overrun with douches.

            1. re: nick_r

              hahaha! I was probably being overly generous. Thursday and Friday nights are generally bad too. Although Monday-Wednesday, usually much more relaxed.

      2. If you're more into good selection than some hip scene, try the Daily Pint on Pico at Cloverfield. It's got the best selection of single malts in town along with a nice beer list. No attitude, very authentic.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sku

          Casa Escobar on Wilshire, but it's not open late.

          I used to love the backyard at Warszawa. I somewhat regret talking it up like I used to. Nobody used to go there and I was concerned that they would close and I'd lose my new favourite drinking bar.

          1. re: Wolfgang

            Thank you all for the suggestions. I will look these up. (And as sku suggested, I'd take good selection/good people over hip scene.)

        2. If you just want a bar-- not a scene, not a place to eat, not a place to pick up guys or girls-- you don't want to wait in line and you like that divey Midwestern feel:

          The Joker

          2827 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

          4 Replies
          1. re: noahbites

            I wouldn't recommend anyone going to the Joker, it's been overrun with a gang element. I know of two different incidents there involving nasty fights where a "regular" beat up someone coming in to hang out and have a drink at what they thought was a cool divey bar

            1. re: yogachik

              Really? I've been there more than a few times and haven't had any problems at all. That's crazy. Do you know when they happened?

              1. re: yogachik

                That was my neighborhood bar for most of my life (at least, most of my drinking-aged life) and never saw anything like that. Sure, it's got a "rougher" element from which 99% of Santa Monica shields its eyes, but violence? I'm sure those were isolated incidents as opposed to indicative of an actual problem.

                1. re: daftpunkxl

                  Isolated incidents perhaps, but I find the place to be unwelcoming and have run into trouble there not once but twice . . . I'm not a guy who looks for trouble, I'm pretty comfortable most places, and my dive threshold sits pretty low . . .
                  I spent a LOT of time in SM bars living on the westside until 2004, and this is about the only place I found unfriendly.

                  For the same ambience without the attitude that prevails at the Joker among both patrons and staff, try --
                  The Daily Pint on Pico near Cloverfield
                  Del's Saloon on SMB just west of Bundy
                  The Speakeasy on Pico west of 14th

            2. How about the bar at the Pico Bowl at 236 pico, definitely the bigest dive in SM west of Lincoln, it could be completely quiet or filled with young hipster bowlers, or just regular bowlers, depending on the day and time. If Rennies and Chez jay's are still too hip for your taste this could be the place for you.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Mateo R

                Great suggestion. Love the bartender at this place.

              2. if we're talking dive bars, The Cinema Bar in Culver City on Sepulveda serves good drinks, no pretenses, good music starting around 9...my one caveat is it can get crowded w/ scenesters who show up on Saturday night after 10, (jmo, but the nights we've been there, those looking for a scene generally seemed clueless on the music talent that they were listening to, couldn't dance a lick, but at least appeared to be enjoying themselves).

                1. What do 'hounds think of The Arsenal on Pico? They seem to have a good menu, but a couple of friends won't go back there after a service issue...

                  I've been a big proponent over the years for the food at Philly West, a divy sports bar on the east side of Westwood Blvd. just south of Santa Monica Blvd. -- free shared parking in the back around the corner. Pretty small place. Good cheesesteaks, and even better big oblong burgers flame-grilled and served with all of the accoutrements on a cheesesteak roll. Never notice the music, but they have games and sports on a couple of TVs and a big monitor near the front door.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nosh

                    I go to the Arsenal all the time, especially love their tomato soup/dip with grilled cheese sandwich in the winter. Monday nights they have happy hour all night, with great things on the happy hour menu like yummy chicken skewers. I especially like the patio.

                    1. re: nosh

                      i like to go to arsenal from time to time. the key is to go a lil earlier and snag a table....i prefer the tables outdoors. never experienced anything by good service. their kobe burger is, surprisingly, quite good.