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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.

                        1. Any 'hounds been to Chinois recently, that was one of Wolfgang Puck's early successes, might be interesting for a visitor from Vienna to sample a place that was made famous by a countryman.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ChinoWayne

                            I was there a few weeks ago on a Sunday night. A lot of open tables. Food was very good. Short ribs were amazing. I thought that the prices were reasonable for the large portions. I hope that they have bigger crowds during the week because there might have been more staff people than patrons when I was there.

                          2. Someone above mentioned Monte Alban, which is a very good suggestion: They serve Oaxacan food (Oaxaca being one of the states of Mexico), which I would venture to guess is not available even in Wien. It is on Santa Monica Blvd. between Barrington and Bundy in west Los Angeles a few blocks east of the Los Angeles - Santa Monica border.

                            If you have never been to the L.A. area, by the way, you should know that there is one large city (Los Angeles), many smaller cities, and unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County -- a county being sort of like a Bezirk -- ALL OF WHICH ARE CONTIGUOUS; that is, you will not necessarily be able to tell when you have left Santa Monica, or Downey, or Compton, and entered Los Angeles, or vice-versa. To add to the confusion, there are many, many areas that are part of the City of Los Angeles but bear names as if they were separate cities -- Woodland Hills, for example, or (closer to Santa Monica) Mar Vista. If you are going to be driving around the greater Los Angeles area, I would STRONGLY advise you to obtain a Thomas Bros. Guide -- a multi-page road atlas, essentially -- before you arrive, and to spend a little time studying the large fold-out map at the front; that will give you some idea of how the different parts of town relate to each other, and (just as importantly) how the freeway system is laid out. I don't know if you are from Vienna, but if so you know how spread-out that city is; if we take Vienna as X, Los Angeles is X squared.

                            Definitely Langers for your pastrami sandwich; it is by far the best in L.A., and some say the best in the U.S. (Be warned: New Yorkers will disagree violently). It is only open until 4 PM, so go for lunch. I suggest ordering a basic hot pastrami sandwich rather than, say, the "Number 19," which also includes cheese and cole slaw. The #19 is very good, but in my view the unvarnished pastrami blast of the basic sandwich cannot be beat. Be sure to put some mustard on before digging in, and nibble the excellent pickle in conjunction with the sandwich. Someone above suggested ordering hand-sliced, which is a good suggestion (it adds a few dollars to the cost of the sandwich), but is not really necessary: Langers pastrami is so good that the machine-cut is just fine. If you are driving, they have a parking lot located one block east on 7th St, at the corner of 7th and Westlake. Have your parking ticket validated at the restaurant when you pay for your lunch, and parking is free. If you are not driving, there is a subway station (red line, I think) one block north of the restaurant, on Alvarado. People say the neighborhood is "iffy," but I have never felt it to be unsafe -- not during the day, anyway.

                            Finally, I concur that with respect to good eating in L.A., you will never go wrong trusting what Das Ubergeek says. And by all means, sit at counters and meet us; there is nothing better, when traveling in a foreign country, than meeting the local folks.


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ozhead

                              My 2 cents on Langers. The #19 (highly promoted) is good but I agree that the cheese and slaw dilute the pure joy of the simple pastrami on rye, with mustard added by you. Hand cut is absoutely essential, and I haven't noticed that it adds any additional cost to the sandwich. The machine cut tastes fine but the hand cut adds a sublime texture and "tongue feel" which I crave. If you are a pickle fan their New Pickles have tremendous crunch and cucumber flavor; I much prefer them to the regular dills. And the Bay Cities rec is right on.

                              1. re: TomSwift

                                having been brought up in new york city, i agree with Tom Swift about NOT every having cheese nor cole slaw on a good pastrami sandwich.

                            2. Oh, one more suggestion since you will be in Santa Monica: Bay Cities Deli (Lincoln Blvd. between Santa Monica Blvd. and Colorado Ave.) for excellent, and very large, sandwiches. It is very crowded at lunchtime, but moves fast. You take a numbered ticket when you come in, and then order at the counter when they call your number. Best choice if you are only going to be there once is the Godmother sandwich with "the works." If you are unaccustomed to spicy food, tell the counterman that you want the mild (rather than hot) peppers. And unless you are extremely hungry, order the smaller rather than the larger sandwich. Get a bottled drink from the refrigerated case at the back, pay at the front (like a grocery store), sit on one of the tables outside and enjoy the sunshine -- of which there should be plenty in September, even in Santa Monica.

                              1. If you're coming to Santa Monica you should be open to traveling to other spots around L.A. If you are bound to SM, there are places for you. Burger: The Counter. People will say Father's Office, but I find their variety to be weak. At the Counter, they have everything. For a more low scale burger go to Tommy's on Lincoln. Cheap and good. Fatburger on the promenade isn't bad either. For Pastrami try Izzy's Deli. Pretty good food, not great, but good. Aged steak can be had at the Buffalo Club on Olympic. The place looks sedate on the outside, but it is super tasty on the inside. Call for reservations, this is one of those "industry" hangouts. Happy eating. While you are in town you must stop by Bay Cities Deli on Lincoln. Best sandwiches in the greater L.A. area. I like the turkey and swiss and the meatball. Others rave about the God Mother. All are good choices. Be prepared to wait though. For NY style pizza try Joe's on Broadway. Super thin, super tasty. I know locals won't like this rec, but you really should head to the pier and get Hot Dog on a Stick. I know they don't have that in Austria. Happy eating.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: ohdaylay

                                  Good call on the Counter... but Izzy's Deli is not good food to me. I'd sooner eat at Jerry's Famous Deli than Izzy's.

                                  (I used to live a block and a half from Izzy's and ate there because it was close -- but... meh.)

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    ohdaylay, all your recs are good EXCEPT for izzy's.
                                    stay away from izzy's.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      I agree on the Izzy rec. Santa Monica is pastrami challenged. Kinda sad really. If I had my pick any where in the city I'd pick Oinster in Eagle Rock. It's on 20 miles from Santa Monica but worth the trip. I work in SM and live near Eagle Rock so I'm kinda lucky. Best of both sides of L.A.

                                      1. re: ohdaylay

                                        When Izzy's belonged to his cousin and was called Kenny's Deli many, many decades ago, it was good. But now. it's sadly gone way downhill in flavor.
                                        Will never go there again.

                                    2. re: ohdaylay

                                      "you really should head to the pier and get Hot Dog on a Stick. I know they don't have that in Austria."

                                      What? You have never heard of the delicious, and very melodiously-named, Heisse Hund auf 'nem Stoeck? All the rage in Salzburg.

                                      1. re: ozhead

                                        I'm dreaming of a battered kasekrainer on a stick now.

                                        Since the OP is looking for classic American food, what about some good Southern-style BBQ? There's been a few on the west side that have been mentioned favorably, though I haven't tried them out yet.

                                        1. re: ozhead

                                          I thought of snitzel after I made my post. They really like breaded meats in that part of the world. I just thought they didn't have an official Hot Dog on a Stick. I love that place. Viva breaded meat!

                                      2. I'm a local who loves to read the chow threads. This one by far has touched more than my belly and, I DON'T even like food from 4 footed creatures!!!
                                        Who needs a movie house, Leno or Letterman when we have Chow.com!
                                        You all are a hoot and Guybrush is fortunate to have your guidance.

                                        1. For just a great deli style sandwich, you MUST go to Bay Cities Deli on Lincoln.

                                          I know you're looking for casual fare, but also check out Jiraffe on Broadway and 4th if you're ready to spend some money on good food. It's an upscale restaurant run by a classically trained French chef born and raised in Santa Monica and who spent summers in Provence. He does some excellent food and he has many European devotees.

                                          1. Thank you very much!
                                            Kitchen Queen is right. I am really fortunate to have your guidance.

                                            I will visit as many restaurants as posssible. You mentined a lot.
                                            It is difficult to find the perfect steakhouse. I am dreaming of a well aged tender medium rare steak with a fully red warm center. :-)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Guybrush

                                              Happy eating. Cheers! One more tip. Try to visit a farmers' market while in town. Really one of the best in L.A.

                                              1. re: ohdaylay

                                                Strong second. The SM farmers' market is a great Southern California show, even of you don't buy anything, a terrific showcase for California produce and low-price, tasty lunch items. It has sort of the ambiance of the Naschmarkt in Vienna, but is of course not a permanent installation as the Naschmarkt is.

                                            2. Warsaw Restaurant is fabulous .... Also, Chez J for steaks, Don Antonio's for Mexican ....

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Melvin Surdin

                                                I had not been to Don Antonio's until I went last night. Sort of a traditional Mexican place with and without combination plates. I think I like Lare's down the street on Pico better, but this was not bad. I think the best thing was that when they served the chips and salsa, the chips were hot. You don't always get that.

                                                1. re: mc michael

                                                  They have a very good albondigas soup. Not Mi India Bonita or Teresitas quality, but it's something not to miss if you like Mexican meatball soup. We add a small cup to our dinner's most every visit.

                                              2. For the burger, go to The Counter. I love Father's Office but the SM location is tiny.

                                                1. I like the chocolate brownie at 3 Square Cafe and Bakery. They also have a big chocolate-chocolate cookie that I personally think hits my rich chocolate craving even better.

                                                  3 Square is owned by Hans Rockenwagner, from Germany, but the guy who pretty much runs things, is Wolfgang Gussmack who is from Austria. I don't know if this plays for you or against you since you are from Austria as well, but both are very strong and well-respected in the business here.


                                                  1. For the best American fast food experience you should head to an In N Out. Big chain in SoCal that has arguably the best fast food burgers. Extremely reasonable (~$5) too for when you're in between steak dinners :). All the locals returning home stop at the one next to LAX.

                                                    Mexican food will be your best friend for cheap and quick eats in LA.

                                                    For BBQ I'd recommend Baby Blues on Lincoln a few miles south of Santa Monica. It's not the most traditional but it has a bit of everything, very newbie friendly, and they have some great Southern desserts (Ohhh banana pudding & key lime pie)

                                                    Just about every other post is great advice, you can't go wrong.

                                                    Some general tourism advice: A car is highly recommended. You CAN do the city by public transport but you'd save a huge amount of time with a car. The city's major tourist sites are spread around. For some amazing views I'd go to the Griffith observatory and the Getty museum. September will almost certainly still be HOT... like 90+ F.

                                                    1. Please let us know how you enjoyed your trip, Guybrush.

                                                      As others have said, I'd also agree with going to Father's Office for a more high brow burger. In-N-Out for is great for that classic American burger.

                                                      As for pastrami, I think it's worth a little bit of a drive out of Santa Monica. Places to go are Junior's, Nate n Al's, Canter's, and Langers. I, too, would avoid Jerry's. It's ok, but LA offers much better options.

                                                      Guten Appetit!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: sobriquet

                                                        I will tell you how it was! Unfortunately I'll be just on a short stopover in LA.
                                                        But I am planing to visit Langers for sure! As far as I know, Father's Office ist cloesed for lunch. I have just one evening in LA and I really want to dine at Mastro's Steakhouse.

                                                        1. re: sobriquet


                                                          I've just come from Mastros. It is a beautiful restaurant with an elegant and cosy atmosphere and nice stuff. I really felt comforatable. I ordered the 18oz bone in filet medium rare and aspargus. The steak was perfectly prepared with a red and warm center. The texture was amazing - it was the most tender steak I ever had! However, I misssed the overwhelming meat taste. Perhaps it is the ageing - there was no taste explosion at all. The aspargus was competly flavorless and the sauce hollandaise too. Nevertheless I enjoyed the evening and if I come back to LA, I will try a different cut.

                                                        2. The hot dog on a stick suggestion made me think of another activity/food experience the OP might enjoy: rent a bike on the beach, and head south towards the Venice Boardwalk. Stop in at Jody Maroni sausage for a greasy, messy (but yummy) sausage sandwich. Of course pushing sausage to an Austrian is kind fo coals to Newcastle, but the bike and the beach make it something special.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: coffeebrownies

                                                            The OP could also drop by the On The Waterfront Cafe for a brew and a bite to eat.

                                                            On the Waterfront Cafe
                                                            205 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291

                                                          2. lots of good recs..the counter is real good.tommys is good.stay away from jerry's..not a meat eater anymore but when i did , pastrami was my thing every since i was a lad in detroit. but.i always had a great sandwich at roll n rye in culver city..delis are expensive to begin with and roll n rye is no exception. near by in culver city is johnnie's pastrami..that has a fan base..you can find threads on them in here,
                                                            for a great american breakfast, gotta go to rae's for some biscuits and gravy and such..since you said you will be alone ..sit at the counter..usually a long wait..site has been used for movies and videos many times..need a healthy walk back to the hotel to get some of the delicous calories off
                                                            for brownies and other sweeties and maybe a taste of home ..try vienna pastrys on wilshire..in case you want to go on a sugar rampage on the same block and doors away are a krispy keme doughnuts outlet and a see's candy store (a california tradition)..i know our chocolates are not supposed to compare with the ones back in your hood but see's works for me(and i am sure there might be one or more people out there that help knock off several boxes of the chocolates every christmas) ..try their suckers..good gifts..

                                                            have a grand time

                                                            Johnnie's Pastrami
                                                            4017 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                                                            Roll 'N Rye
                                                            10990 Jefferson Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                                                            Rae's Restaurant
                                                            2901 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                                                            Vienna Pastry
                                                            1215 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                                            See's Candies
                                                            1301 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA

                                                            Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
                                                            1231 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: dendet

                                                              one more .swingers on broadway..a take on american 1950's diners ..burgers,fries, onion rings..breakfast..ice cream fountain, milk shakes etc...cup cakes..maybe brownies..not sure..they have a counter too

                                                              802 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401


                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: SURFINRON

                                                                Any specific suggestions? (AND PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK, THIS IS NOT THE CHP'S CAD SYSTEM)