santa monica restaurant to take out of towners?
hello all. I have a couple friends from high school coming to visit me from pennsylvania tomorrow night. I live and work in santa monica. I go out in santa monica pretty often, and i'm still stumped as to where to take them for dinner tomorrow night. I spoke with one of the aforementioned friends this afternoon and he said he wanted to eat at gladstone's. i've never dined there, but i believe it to be a cheesy, touristy spot that i would prefer not to go to. Ideally, the place would be not too expensive and still fun for out of towners. please help!!
Enterprise is just a step ahead of Red Lobster -- Venice and Santa Monica have so much more to offer. Father's Office, Rockenwagner's 3 Square, Joe's in Venice, Musha, and Josie would have all been fine choices for food that someone from Pennsylvania cannot really get much of and that show off LA, which has an abysmal reputation in Pennsylvania (sadly).
Gladstone's is horrible and overpriced.
F.O. is absolutely my favorite.
Joe's (well, in Venice...)
I'm guessing your friend falls into one of three schools of thought:
1) He remembers Gladstone's from his high school days - he probably has fond memories of this place? If this place has nostalgic value, how can one deny a visit? You might have to suck it up and go. But if this is the case, you might forewarn him that it's like yearning to see your size 2 high school sweetheart at the 20-year reunion, only to find that she's now added a 0 to that size 2. I think cherished memories of the past are better left intact, if at all possible.
2) He heard from others in Pennsylvania who had visited LA that it's a great place to go. Folks who aren't fortunate enough to regularly take in the Pacific can be so easily mesmerized by places like Gladstone's. I think most cattle-cart tourists really get swept away by the Gladstone's concept. I mean how much closer can one get to the vast Pacific ocean while having a meal? The portions are pretty generous - the quality is what most Hounds have an issue with. Wantonly discarding your peanut shells on the floor is kinda fun - it's almost like the otherwise well-behaved can indulge themselves for years of towing the line. If I recall, a good number of the staff have the chiseled looks and sheen of Baywatch extras. But I'm sure almost all of them are college students who are from out of state as well. And the kitschy, almost ceremonial wrapping of the leftovers in foil, shaped like some half-recognizable animal is grand. This only to be outdone by the monstrous lackluster desserts. When I look back at my visits here (honestly - I recall three times but this was back in the days of item #1), I feel like Gladstone's was a concept developed by people like the Sham-Wow guy. There's a lot of hype, a lot of schtick, the pitch is just a little too slick, and if looking at the experience with a good pair of glasses, one is left feeling like he got taken.
If you want to take your friend(s) somewhere casual where they can wriggle their toes in the sand right on the beach while taking some seafood, I'd head to Paradise Cove Beach Cafe. To me, it just fits better with what most visiting LA would want from an eating-by-the-ocean experience. It's super casual, the food is passable, and you're literally right there on the beach in Paradise Cove. This is the beach that has been used for so many beach scenes in TV, commercials and movies - you'll probably recognize it instantly.
3) He wants to have a few drinks and a nice meal while taking in a panoramic view of the Pacific? This somewhat overlaps item 2, but in this particular case, he truly wants a pretty good dining experience. Gladstone's obviously fails this test for the most part. Even if the food were better, the dining environment wouldn't pass. It's too casual, the service isn't up to par, and Gladstone's cuisine is (again - even if it were up to par) is too basic.
Geoffrey's would probably work for this ideal - the food is good, the view is nice, and the sunsets are amazing at this time of year. But it's not cheap and the seating is outdoors on a patio. It can get cold at this time of year (no Pennsylvania cold though), so one should dress warm. The service is not great but adequate.
Since you're in Santa Monica, there is a place to consider that I'm guessing most from Pennsylvania would consider to be unique. Musha is unique even by Santa Monica standards. It's a Japanese izakaya, and by this standard, it's a little unique even still. They do serve some of the basic izakaya dishes (buta no kakuni, croquettes, seafood prepared various ways) but they also do some pretty unique dishes as well. Cheese risotto prepared in a wheel of parm, ponzu duck, and tofu fries. The shicirin (tabletop) grill is fun as well. The smell of the food grilling in front of you truly gets the appetite going. I personally feel that their beverage menu could use some better additions, but it's adequate. As far as budget, izakaya food is small plates fare, so you can pretty much decide when to stop. I personally prefer the Musha in Torrance for its larger size, broader menu and "salary-man" environment, but the Santa Monica location is more than fair.
27400 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
1725 W Carson St, Torrance, CA 90501
424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Paradise Cove Beach Cafe
28128 Pacific Coast Hwy Frnt, Malibu, CA 90265
I agree with bulavinaka's idea of taking out of towners places that they don't have access to back home...which usually translates into Japanese and Mexican. Agree that Musha is a good choice--good food, fun, and reasonably priced. Another good alternative might be Border Grill for upscale Mexican in a festive environment. Maybe ask your friends what kind of food they are interested in and use that to guide you?