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Santa Monica - Help me decide

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boingo2000 Jan 23, 2009 07:24 AM

We'll be in Santa Monica for a couple of days (coming from PHX) next month, staying about a mile north of the pier. I'm looking for dinner recs for a Friday night, preferably walking distance (not afraid to walk a mile or so). After doing a little research, the places that stood out as the best possibilities are:

La Botte
Locanda Portofino
Rustic Canyon
Border Cafe
The Lobster

I know The Lobster is a bit touristy, but it seems to get decent reviews for food...keep in mind that coming in from the desert, there's something attractive about a nice ocean view while we eat. What are folks' thoughts on these choices?

I'd also appreciate any good casual breakfast recommendations in the area. We plan to hit the Farmer's Market on Sat. morning....are there food booths there that might provide some decent breakfast fare?

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    yogachik RE: boingo2000 Jan 23, 2009 07:51 AM

    Of your list, I would narrow it down to Rustic Canyon and the Lobster (Lobster for the view). Another idea is Catch at Casa del Mar, great view and fantastic food.

    I love Locanda Portofino, but it's a local's spot in a mini mall. Don't know that you've come all this way for that.

    Have you considered Riva? It's gotten great reviews lately, they've really hit their stride. Anisette is another idea.

    For lunch on Sat or Sun, go to Father's Office. Breakfast -- Cora's on Ocean, or Anisette, after the Farmers Market.

    4 Replies
    1. re: yogachik
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      nosh RE: yogachik Jan 23, 2009 09:45 AM

      Boingo, I can certainly understand the allure of the ocean for a visitor from the desert. And yes, The Lobster is right out there on the water. But understand that it is VERY touristy, with a lot of tables packed close together inside. And you are paying a premium for not the finest food. Bear in mind that the sun sets early these days, not too long after 5 p.m., and you don't see too much in the dark. So I'd go to The Lobster for drinks, or better still The Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel (second street, a block north of Wilshire, just above the Third Street Promenade) for panoramic views at sunset from the 18th floor or whatever the level is. From there you can see up the coast all the way to Malibu, though you are sorta stuck inside the top of a highrise. From there, you are not far from Rustic Canyon, though be warned how loud that place is. For food, I'd strongly recommend Chinois on Main, Puck's fusion restaurant with bold flavors and everything served to share. For seafood I like Ocean Avenue Seafood better than the Lobster. I'd also throw Musha into the mix, right there above the Promenade near the Penthouse, for really tasty small Japanese plates.

      1. re: nosh
        J.L. RE: nosh Jan 23, 2009 01:50 PM

        Strongly agree with the Huntley penthouse and Chinois (an oldie but goodie).

        Whist at the Viceroy Hotel is quite a scene, with semi-decent fare.

        Haven't heard much about it lately, but Capo (if it's still in business, across the street from the Viceroy) is expensive but good Italian. Many go there to see stars & celebs dining (Hanks, Spielberg, etc. you get the idea)...

        The Lobster has its own share of peculiar star sightings - I saw Randy "Macho Man/ Slim Jim" Savage sitting there at the bar on my last visit.

      2. re: yogachik
        westsidegal RE: yogachik Jan 23, 2009 01:54 PM

        i'd definitely skip Border Cafe.
        you can get much better, more authentic, mexican food in phoenix.

        they do, however, make some good margaritas.

        1. re: westsidegal
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          Cebca RE: westsidegal Jan 23, 2009 02:08 PM

          Yeah, I would also skip Border, but I tried their Happy Hour Margarite for the first time yesterday and must say, I was skeptical (I am VERY picky about margaritas) but was pleasantly surprised! Not too syrupy, and a nice kick - made my salsa lesson across the street immediately following a very interesting experience indeed.

      3. ipsedixit RE: boingo2000 Jan 23, 2009 02:18 PM

        Best combo of food and view is One Pico at Shutters.

        http://www.shuttersonthebeach.com/res...

        1 Reply
        1. re: ipsedixit
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          Cebca RE: ipsedixit Jan 23, 2009 02:24 PM

          I live literally around the corner from Rose Cafe and have never been impressed by their breakfasts. In my mind, their strength is their pastries - its the perfect place to go mid-afternoon to have some coffee and share a piece of cake or something. It is a very nice spot though. Good atmosphere.

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          ohdaylay RE: boingo2000 Jan 23, 2009 03:52 PM

          The Lobster is OK if you like rubbing elbows with scads of tourists. Rustic Canyon is pretty quality, with a nice beer list. You could get a decent breakfast at Cora's Coffee House. Swingers, on Lincoln and Broadway is pretty good.

          1. Frommtron RE: boingo2000 Jan 23, 2009 04:08 PM

            The Lobster is fine as long as you know what you're getting yourself into. What's wrong with ordering a lobster and eating it with an ocean view of a sunset? Touristy? Sure. A little cramped? Welcome to the big city. They do have some outdoor seating if you want that. The timing of the sunset is critical though. And if you're looking for the most outstanding food and aren't craving lobster then skip it.

            One Pico is a great suggestion. Beautiful room and the food, last time I was there, was excellent.

            La Botte is very delicious. Very expensive, especially their wines, but very good.

            I'd skip Locanda Portofino for sure. And unless you're doing Happy Hour, skip Border Grill.

            Rustic Canyon is great. They had some growing pains so there are some on the board who aren't up on this place but it's good. The noise issue is seriously overstated. It's not a quiet meal but I could have a conversation just fine.

            I'd do Anisette for breakfast without even thinking twice. You're at the Farmers' Market already and it's the easiest option and is best breakfast in the area. Great atmosphere, but the service can be comically inept in the morning hours. The pate is out of this world and they can actually cook eggs properly. Imagine that.

            Of course, if you end up skipping Rustic Canyon for dinner you can go for their Saturday brunch instead.

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