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Jun 4, 2009 02:58 PM

Please help an Austrian tourist to find great food in Santa Monica


I am heading to Santa Monica in September and need advice. I don't know a lot about the US cuisine but I would love to try a real good burger, an aged steak and a pastrami sandwich. I am also looking for a place to have a fudgy chocolate brownie. I am traveling alone. I don't need an upscale interior but good food made from good ingredients.

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  1. For the pastrami sandwich everybody is going to tell you to go to Langer's, which is not in Santa Monica at all but at the opposite side of town, closer to downtown. For the rest I will let the chowhounds chime in as I don't really know SM, but if you get close to say, LACMA, try to have a burger at Umami.
    I hope you will have a car, or it is going to be a bit complicated to find food delicacies.
    While you're around I strongly suggest you try Mexican food, maybe start at Tacomiendo or even Tacos Por Favor, and other type of "ethnic" foods not so easy to try in Europe. Happy stay in SoCal!

    6 Replies
    1. re: bad nono

      Santa Monica is filled with amazing restaurants - finding great food here is not difficult.

      Burger -- Father's Office on Montana Ave at 11th. You can't make any changes to it, they are very strict, but you won't forget it. It's famous.

      Pastrami sandwich - Langer's, as mentioned. But also try the Reuben sandwich at Houston's or R+D Kitchen, both owned by the same group, and both in Santa Monica. This is a corned beef sandwich with cole slaw, on rye bread with baked in parmesian cheese and it's fantastic.

      For aged steak, it's worth going to Beverly Hills to either Cut or Mastro's. But you can find a great steak at many restaurants in Santa Monica, so let us know if you are set on finding this here, only.

      Other restaurants you should go to - and eat at the bar, meet the locals:

      Chinois on Main
      Chaya Venice
      Catch at Casa del Mar

      Father's Office
      1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

      R+D Kitchen
      1323 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

      1. re: yogachik

        Parmesan cheese?? On a REUBEN?? Oy, gevalt! Only a goy could have come up with that.

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          AND the goy could not be a new york goy

      2. re: bad nono

        Langers is not in Santa Monica. And besides, it is way overrated. I personally think Oinkster in Eagle Rock is far superior. Different, but better.

        1. re: ohdaylay

          Eagle Rock is not in Santa Monica either!

          1. re: OCchowman

            True, but does taste know mileage?

      3. Certainly Langer's for the pastrami despite the distance. Bear in mind that Langer's closes at 4 PM (may be 5 PM). Also make sure to ask for your pastrami to be hand-cut.

        For the aged steak, my personal preference is Mastro's, but if you have some extra money to spend (I don't) I have heard great things about Cut. Both are in Beverly Hills. If you do want to stay in Santa Monica, the Houston's on 2nd St. and Wilshire is very good (much improved) but I would make the trip to Beverly Hills given the choice.

        While a car is certainly helpful, Los Angeles is certainly quite navegable by public transport, I've done it off and on for years. From Santa Monica, the #720 "Rapid" bus goes straight down Wilshire Boulevard, straight past both Cut and Mastro's (get off at Beverly Drive, Cut is on the corner and Mastro's is four or five blocks' walk).

        Another nine stops and you're at Alvarado St., one block from Langer's (or you can transfer to the Metro red line at Western, Langer's is essentially on top of the Westlake/Macarthur Park Metro stop).

        Fudgy brownies are everywhere. I remember the one at the Broadway Deli (on Broadway and the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica) having a decent one and Urth Caffe (on Main Street in Santa Monica) having a very good one, though they do run out.

        You might also want to try California cuisine, which is done very well in Santa Monica with the likes of Jiraffe, Mélisse and Michael's. Also, Santa Monica has an amazing market on Wednesday mornings at the corner of Third Street Promenade and Arizona Ave., with a smaller (but still good) market Saturday mornings in the same place, and smaller markets at Pico and Cloverfield (Saturday mornings) and on Main Street (Sunday mornings). In September we will still be in the middle of fruit season here, and you should be able to get very good plums, peaches and figs both black and white, and the earliest pomegranates and apples too. (My memories of September in Switzerland, which I realise is not Austria, is that it was mostly apples and turning colder.)

        Los Angeles in general is a huge melting pot of ethnic cuisines so you could certainly dine your way round the world without having to go too terribly far. Mexican cuisine is probably not well-represented in Austria (but then, what do I know?) so perhaps try Mariscos Chente (in Mar Vista) or Monte Alban (in West Los Angeles).

        Santa Monica is a very compact city and its transit system (the Big Blue Bus) is extremely efficient. I would avoid most of the restaurants on the Third Street Promenade, though, as it's very touristy and generally not a good value.

        Do be prepared... portion sizes are enormous... shockingly so.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          I would goto Houston's for the burger, it is one of the best around, and since it's in Santa Monica it will be easy to goto.

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            It should be noted that Mastro's steaks are wet-aged. Cut has dry-aged steaks available but I cannot recommend Cut due to very poor price/quality ratio

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              I had a quick look at Mastro's homepage: There are no prices and in most reviews Mastro's is called really expenisve. Which costs do I have to expect? Is the Bone in Ribeye the best choice?

              1. re: Guybrush

                Here you go:


                Not a steak expert so I'll let the others give recs for the best cut to get. :)

            2. If you want just a good burger, there's Fatburger on the northernmost block of the Promenade, but it's fast food, so no table service or real silverware.
              I'd go to Finn McCool's at 2700 Main Street (you can take the #1 Blue Bus on the north side of Santa Monica and the Promenade. They have great burgers, although I confess that I haven't tried the steak because I usually get the fish and chips, but whatever you do, order the GARLIC CHIPS (fries)!! Yes, it's Irish, but the owner knows about flavor; she also own''s Lula's Cocina Mexicana next door. Sorry, no pastrami or brownie (I'd go to Jerry's Famous Deli in Marina del Rey for that - take the southbound #3 Blue Bus on 4th Street, get off at Mindanao and walk east for about 5-10 minutes. Bring a BIG appetite!)
              For a change of pace, my favorite place is Fritto Misto ay 601 Broadway. It's Itallian/
              American pasta house with lots of creativity; Roberto the owner knows his wine, and everything is wonderful (because it's popular, though, it tends to be a bit loud). They make all their desserts, and I haven't tried the brownie yet because I can't get past the creme brulee.
              Anyway, willkommen zu Santa Monica! Hope you enjoy your stay!

              9 Replies
              1. re: Michelly

                Yikes, I wouldn't recommend any one of those suggestions. Finn McCools? Jerry's Deli? No no nono nono

                1. re: yogachik

                  Ditto yohgachik, good grief don't send a nice visitor to our shores to Jerry's Deli, poorly executed corporate food. Also note, Das Ubergeek's recommendations are all solid winners (with the exception of Broadway Deli in my opinion).

                  1. re: ChinoWayne

                    Broadway Deli is edible ONLY for the desserts. DO NOT EAT THE SANDWICHES AT BROADWAY DELI!! DIE SIND EKELHAFT!!

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      OK, don't get all kerflempt, Das. ;-)

                  2. re: yogachik

                    I'm with yogachik on this too.

                    For local flavor go to Hal's - burger is great, fries are some of the best in city. And you see real locals ponying up - painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, musicians, poets and professors. And a few political pundits. That's Sunday for brunch. Not sure about the other times.

                    If you have to have a steak in Santa Monica, Boa's is definitely good.

                    The three or four delis in S.M. are pretty average, venturing to Westood (Juniors) or Nate n' Al's in Bevery Hills is only 15 minutes away. But Langers is an experience. "Colorful" part of town too.

                    And if you're jonesing for German/Austrian food (hey, after a week of ** and *** dining in Burgundy every night I could wait to hit the McDonald's in Paris. Go figure) try Three Square on Abott Kinney - it's reasonably price German/California - the owner/chef is genuine German (Hans) and Wolfgang (other chef) is Austrian.

                    And their burger is not traditional, but terrific - it's a pretzel burger. On a pretzel bun with carmlized onion and Swiss cheese.

                    1. re: foodiemahoodie

                      >>try Three Square on Abott Kinney<<

                      Great rec - actually it's 3 Square - not meaning to split hairs with you - only want to make sure our Austrian Chowhound can properly search for it in case exact spelling becomes an issue. I think 3 Square has one of the best more basic burgers in the Westside. Not too gussied up but really flavorful with a great pretzel bread bun to boot. Here's Han's website as well:


                  3. re: Michelly

                    must respectfully disagree with michelly and agree with yoga chick.
                    do not go to any of gillilands restaruants: this means don't go to fin mc cools, don't go to lula's.
                    also, don't go to jerry's famous deli.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      seconded, thirded, fourthed...I actually flinched when I saw the Jerry's Deli rec.

                    2. re: Michelly

                      Please don't tell a foreigner with no car to take a bus, then walk for 5-10 mins to Jerry's Famous Deli in Marina del Rey, all to eat a brownie.

                      It maybe could work as a practical joke, though.

                      Otherwise, c'mon, you're giving Angelenos a bad name. We're supposed to be friendly and earnest...

                    3. capo for dinner (expensive but really good, steaks etc.) cora's for breakfast

                      1. guybrush,
                        just so it won't be a surprise, some of the dinner houses that have been recommended on this thread are VERY pricey.
                        you might want to check prices before going.