Santa Monica, Abbot Kinney, or Main St. dinner recommendations
I am entertaining friends from NYC on Wednesday for dinner. I am looking for a place with good, quality food (no sushi or Thai), fun scene (but not pretentious), reasonably priced (entrees in the mid-20's range), and maybe an outdoor space. They are staying in Santa Monica, so I was thinking somewhere there or Abbot Kinney/Main St. would be fun areas for them. Any suggestions? I tried making reservations at Gjelina, but they don't have anything until 9:45pm, which is too late. Thank you!
Depending on how many you are, don't write off Gjelina yet.
It meets all your criterea and will impress NYCers (food-wise) more than most options in the areas you have mentioned. What I would do (if the group is 5-6 or less) is go to Abbot Kinney a bit early and get the group on the Gjelina waiting list then swing a few doors down to the Brig for a cocktail.
Here's the secret. Don't freak out when they tell you at Gjelina, "I'm so sorry but it will be at least [fill in your own euphemism for "eon" here] until we can possibly seat you." I guarantee the wait will be a whole lot less then they say. Gjelina will be ringing your cell phone faster than you thought and you may have to scarf down your second -- but probably not your third -- drink at the Brig.
Westsidegal, I'm shocked that you would recommend Lilly's! You seem to have excellent standards when it comes to quality, and Lilly's has been nothing but letdown after letdown every time I've been there, many times for lunch, a few times for dinner. (Always at the behest of other people.) There's just absolutely nothing special or unique about their food, and the service is often spotty. Just a couple weeks ago I ordered gazpacho as an appetizer and they brought me beef carpaccio, I s**t you not. And it wasn't because the guy couldn't hear me, it was because he had no idea what the difference was. No I'm not gonna blame anyone but that particular server, but it just sums up nearly every experience I've had there in terms of both food and service.
Not like it's horrible or anything, but it's just so blah that it's definitely one of the last places I would take out-of-towners to in that area.
thankfully, i've NEVER had a bad experience at Lilly's, as you did.
#1) i always stick to french food, would not have ordered the gazpacho in the first place
#2)i've never been there for lunch, so i can't comment on what goes on there midday
#3) i always have fish as my entree, so i can't comment about their other menu items. their fish has always been fresh, well prepared, and has been generously portioned. also, i'd recommend their escargots.
#4) the place is VERY pretty and is a lovely place to go on a date when i want to wear something nicer than jeans and when i want to actually converse with my date.
#5) their wine list is pretty good
#6) their price/quality and price/quantity ratios have always been high in my experience.
do i think of lilly's as being in the league of gjelina? absolutely NOT
do i think of lilly's as being FAR superior to the galley? YES
given the choice of going to lilly's or going to chinois, well, tomorrow night i'll be at chinois so that answers the question. . . .
years ago i was a regular at joe's until a string of bad experiences (much like the one you had a lilly's) soured me on the place.
anisette, for some reason, is just not a comfortable dining experience for me. dunno if it's the way the tables are set up or the noise or the room. the food is good, but the experience as a whole leaves me cold.
Westsidegal - thanks!! Had a similar request as the OP, and ended up at Lilly's, following your advice (go French, for dinner, with a date). We sat on the patio at a well-spaced table for two. I had filet mignon, wife had roast chicken, started w/ mushroom-asparagus pastry and duck confit (yeah, pretty rich, but hey, it's a French restaurant).
My expectations weren't super high, but the food was simple and solid, sort of a throwback in its straightforwardness (like, the roast chicken with eggplant and fries was just that, not its deconstructed version), and a bit uneven in preparation (the asparagus used in the tart was thick, and sort of dominated the dish). Though the service wasn't great - nothing was whisked away after we finished, for example - but it's a small enough space that the waiter was usually around to be flagged down.
I have to say also, that not knowing much about wine, the guy really took the time to ask us what we liked or didn't like in a wine, what we were ordering, etc My one complaint would be that the chairs on the patio were pretty uncomfortable (sort of a hard plastic wicker), and the "inside" section, incl. the bar, had really loud music (and was empty, no wonder).
All told, this probably *isn't* the place to impress visiting NYC-ers, but for a date-night in Venice, or maybe with some old friends and few bottles of wine, it's a good option.
Anisette, Cache [3110 Main St Santa Monica], Fig, Joe's and Riva come to mind. Chinois would be great but would exceed your price range unless you were just splitting dishes.
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
2709 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405
225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401
312 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
FIG Restaurant Santa Monica
101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA