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Help! Casual dinner w/ inlaws in Santa Monica/Venice!

Hi All,

So my inlaws from Michigan are coming to visit, and hubby and I are scrambeling. We LOVE food and they are.... let's just say they think the Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse is great dining. They like very simple, casual, Americanized, not pretentious, utilitarian food. To them, food is just something you eat when you are hungry, nothing more.

Hubby and I are are total foodies. Places we've loved... Axe, Gjelina, Primitivo, The Library, Urth Cafe, Mellisse, Josie's, Jiraffe.....

So i'm looking for a place that will be simple/unpretentious/midwesten enough for them, yet yummy, delicious, and interesting enough for us.

We'd like to stay to the Malibu/Santa Monica/Venice/Marina Del Rey area... maybe stretch to Manhattan Beach

Our price range is around $15-$25-ish/entree (pre-tax).

We're thinking of going with either american or italian.. mexican might work too (have been to Lula's, and altough we've enjoyed it in the past, our last visit wasn't that great... won't be going back) but anything similar to Lula's might be perfect.

So far I"m planning on taking them to Hal's for one of the nights (hubby and I have been and we loved it), and to The Library Alehouse for lunch.... So something along those lines? Maybe more casual? Also was wondering about Lobster off of Ocean right by the pier? Is is any good? They love a good view, but is it overpriced?

They don't like weird/fancy ingredients, menus in other languages, small portions, or cramped tight tables. Also should be quiet/mellow enough that we can have a conversation.

Your help largely appreciated!

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  1. We like the food at the lobster but your price point will be exceeded by a mile and the tables are somewhat close together. So based on your criteria it's probably a miss for this excursion.

    Have you been to Lares on Pico? I think it would be a good fit for your Mexican food question. Very good carnitas along with other tasty dishes. Also I would strongly consider 17th Street Cafe on Montana just west of 17th Street in Santa Monica. Nicely spaced tables, usually a mellow dinner crowd, big portions of very fresh food and the price point would be about right too.

    Hope you'll come back when the chowing is all done with and let us know where you went, what you had and how you liked it.

    -----
    Lares Restaurant
    2909 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

    17th St Cafe
    1610 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

    1. Hal's was the obvious choice in my mind, but you've already got that on your radar. Some other ideas...

      I suspect you can eat pretty solid food at Beechwood (though the menu probably roams into some dangerous areas for people who think Outback is the pinnacle of eating).

      If you wanted to get something even more casual, you could grab BBQ at Baby Blues BBQ -- that tends to appeal to foodies and non-foodies alike.

      Library Alehouse would be another option because people can get burgers and fries, while others get more interesting foods.

      You could go to BreadBar in Santa Monica because they can get a salad, a sandwich, etc. and everybody likes good bread, right?

      Lulu is an option in Santa Monica, but in a city with Mexican food like LA, it always feels like a crime to go to a place like Lulu. Of course, your in-laws may perceive it differently.

      1. Houston's comes to mind, but it can get a little loud.
        Catch at Casa del Mar is always good, but a little higher than your budget - gorgeous room.
        I Cugini is always a hit with visitors, but not someplace I choose.
        Nook in West LA.
        Upstairs2 in West LA - which I love.
        Primitivo (outside) should have something for everyone.

        3 Replies
        1. re: yogachik

          Nook Bistro would be perfect -- simple enough, with big portions for them, execution tasty and interesting enough for you. Price point is exactly what you specified.

          1. re: yogachik

            I Cugini is pricey, being right on Ocean, and in Italian.

            You can try Chart House in Malibu - pretty basic stuff with a great view, not usually loud or crowded. And about the same price range as the Lobster. Or there's always the Golden Bull on Entrada in SM Canyon - haven't been personally, but may be right up their alley.

            Doesn't sound like the ils would appreciate most places on Main St in SM or Abbott Kinney in Venice, so I would stick to the more pedestrian places.

            One last thought - they might enjoy Tex Mex Marix on Entrada or El Cholo on 11th, if you're looking for basic Mexican, although if going on a weekend, it gets pretty rowdy in those bars.

            1. re: yogachik

              iirc houston's does not take reservations. this means, for the manhattan beach branch, that you can end up waiting for up to an hour for a table.

            2. The perennial Venice / MDR recommendation - 26 Beach Cafe on Washington Blvd just west of Lincoln. Definitely at the low end of your price range, great burgers and salads, big portions, something for everyone. I went there last night with friends who were visiting from the east coast - two adults and and two teenagers, one of whom is a vegetarian - and everyone was very happy with it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cookie monster

                second the 26 beach recommendation.
                also, you can make reservations at 26 beach which is a plus at this price point.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  third 26 beach, tho not sure if the parents will reat to the proximity of the tables.

                  il moro is also great, but it's at the top of your budget range, and some entrees break they do a nice three course prix fixe tho too.

              2. What's wrong with Urth Cafe? I think it's casual enough and you listed it as one of the places you like.

                I second Nosh's rec for Nook Bistro.
                What about James' Beach? It's pretty casual and unpretentious isn't it?

                --burumun
                http://gourmetpigs.net