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Santa Monica Restaurant Suggestions

We haven't been to the West Cost in over 10 years. Hubby and I are going out (no kids) for a few days - staying @ Loews on the beach.

We are mid 40's but love to party - look and act young (according to East Coast standards) Not at all stuffy, but love a nice restaurant as well as a good bar for drinks and food. I say this because i don't want to stick out like the East Coasters we are :-)

Can you guys throw us some suggestions for the following (in Santa Monica or a short drive) Preference is to be able to see the water but not a deal breaker.
1) Nice dinner restaurant but not stuff and requires suits/ties. We don't like french. Thinking of BOA - would like a Steak and a Seafood suggestion. Nice atmosphere - can be a little loud - don't like close tables
2) Good place to watch the super bowl - thinking of Busby
3) Good bar that serves dinner at the bar

Looking forward to your suggestions!!!

p.s. I'm assuming for daytime jeans and a trendy t-shirt and fashionable shoes won't cause the fashion police to arrest us? Nite time, a simple black dress?

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  1. I don't know of a single restaurant in LA that requires a jacket - there might be one, but I've yet to encounter it. Please don't goto Boa. Finding a place that has both a good steak and good seafood is a little bit challenging in Santa Monica. You'll find better food at Fig, Gjelina, Capo, Valentino, Tasting Kitchen and many other restaurants than Boa.

    Places I like to watch sports: Rick's Tavern, Big Deans, The Daily Pint. The Daily Pint would be my choice, they usually setup a big screen and they have a great beer and whiskey selection.

    Dinner at the bar...though this probably is not what you had in mind, Mori - eat at the sushi bar.

    Daily Pint
    2310 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

    1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

    2 Replies
    1. re: joshekg

      I agree. Boa probably has the right atmosphere, but the food just isn't good. For #1, I would suggest Tasting Kitchen.

      1. re: joshekg

        Also love the Pint, but they don't serve food. Barney's Beanery on the promenade will probably be really really busy, but could be fun. Ye Olde King's Head has great Fish and Chips, which could be a good thing to grub on.

        Rick's, Finn McCool's, and O'Brien's would also be fun.

        Ye Olde King's Head
        116 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

        Finn McCools
        2702 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

      2. I can't really speak to 2) and 3) since I'm not into sports of bars, but for 1) there are lots of nice restaurants in Santa Monica and nearby. For seafood where you can see the water, you might consider the Lobster. There are much better restaurants in Santa Monica, but it's still good. You might also consider dining on the patio at Whist at the Viceroy hotel. No ocean view, but the patio has a really nice atmosphere. Food has been very good there, but I recently looked at the menu online and it looked like it had changed quite a bit. A little further but still close to the beach, you might consider Jiraffe.

        Restaurants in LA are generally not stuffy (much more casual than the east coast) and a suti/tie is not needed anywhere. You will be fine in jeans and a trendy t-shirt during the day and a simple black dress at night. You can even dress down more at night if you want--you would actually be fine in dark jeans and a dressy top in most places. That said, a simple black dress wouldn't be out of place either.

        Jiraffe Restaurant
        502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

        1 Reply
        1. re: Nicole

          Second The Lobster for nice seafood with beautiful view of the ocean especially during sunset.

        2. for #1, I'd consider eating maybe at Fig and then walking across the street to The Penthouse at the Huntley for drinks. I haven't eaten at Whist at the Viceroy in years, but you also might consider eating there, or at least going there for drinks. As Nicole says, the patio is really beautiful. Actually, Wilshire would be another option for a great patio and a fun vibe.

          Busby's tends to be sort of a 20-something crowd but it kind of depends on what you're looking for. I much prefer the Daily Pint, but it's more of a neighborhood bar while Busby's is more the upscale sports bar kind of feel with lots of flat screens. The nice thing about the Daily Pint is that you can bring in your own food so you could get tacos at Tacos Por Favor on your way and enjoy them while watching the game.

          I love the suggestion to eat at the sushi bar at Mori.

          Tacos Por Favor
          1406 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404

          Daily Pint
          2310 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

          1 Reply
          1. re: mollyomormon

            The Whist at the Viceroy still has the best patio, and the food & wine list are very good.

          2. The Penthouse on top of Huntley Hotel has the best view of the ocean during the day, and a bar scene that you might enjoy at night. Very loud music and lots of beautiful people. They serve dinner too although I wouldn't go there just for the food.


            1. For good seafood in a very casual setting you might try Blue Plate Oysterette on Ocean Ave (right next to Boa) Great fresh oysters and fried clams. They get very busy and don't take reservations but worth the wait.

              Also another vote for Fig. Very creative and good food with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients from local growers and farmers markets.

              1 Reply
              1. re: wienermobile

                not that i don't like blue playe oysterette, but i wouldn't suggest it for east coast folk.
                blue plate charges a lot because they try to duplicate the east coast seafood experience (i.e. lobster rolls) for those of us who don't normally have access to such food.
                if one is from the east coast, you can have that experience everyday. i'd go to a restaurant that offers california cuisine such as gjelina, or offers more of a california view, such as the lobster.

              2. In addition to what has been listed here, I would see if the menu at Rustic Canyon appeals to you. It would be my choice of places in the area for food. As most people have also said, if you want to do dinner next to the beach, The Lobster is better than BOA and they have a better view too. If you need a fun cocktail scene, have drinks at Boa and walk to the lobster for dinner. There are quite a few other nice bars in the area (Huntley, Copa D Oro, Chloe) so you don't necessarily need to spend all your time in one place.

                1. 1) Wilshire or Capo if it must be in Santa Monica as oppsed to Venice where I would agree with joshekg

                  2) No idea but I do like the Daily Pint

                  3) Rustic Canyon but Tasting Kitchen, Gjelina in Venice are better, IMHO. Also look at some Culver City spots if you widen your horizen - A-Frame, Father's Office, Waterloo & City for good bar dining.

                  Daily Pint
                  2310 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                  Father's Office Bar
                  1618 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA

                  1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

                  12565 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90066, USA

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                    Highly recommend Rustic Canyon and Capo. Have not been to Michael's in a while but used to love it...if you want BBQ, drive down Lincoln to Baby Blues BBQ in Venice....great place for breakfast or lunch is Huckleberry (sister restaurant to Rustic Canyon)

                    Baby Blues BBQ
                    444 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                  2. 1) The Wilshire. They have an amazing steak and great seafood, sit on the patio. After dinner, go next door to the live jazz bar, Angel's.

                    1) Catch at Casa del Mar. A must for the views (and better than Lobster, which is touristy)

                    1) Chaya Venice.

                    2) El Cholo's bar.

                    3) Houston's or R+D

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: yogachik

                      Houston's Santa Monica is now called Hillstone (same food just renamed for the parent company that owns Houston's, R+D and Gulfstream)

                        1. re: wienermobile

                          And, the story I heard is that it was renamed so that they do not have to post nutritional information on the menu. Not that I ever thought their loaded baked potato and burger was healthy.

                      1. In the Santa Monica Place mall (walking distance from your hotel) I actually like Zengo, a mix of Latin and Asian. They even have a special Chinese New Years menu now. Also a very nice patio overlooking the 3rd St. promenade.

                        395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                        1. With the exception of, maybe, Fig, great food and an ocean view don't go hand in hand. For the most part, an upscale restaurant with an ocean view is, by definition, a tourist restaurant. Also, although I wouldn't even try to venture east from Santa Monica on a week day between 5 and 7, on the weekend, you will find that really most of the westside is an easy drive--no more than 20 to 30 minutes. Even downtown is only about 30 minutes away in non-traffic times. So, don't limit your choices to Santa Monica for Saturday and Sunday nights.

                          And, aside from New Year's Eve, I can't think of the last time I put on a dress for dinner. Certainly, there is a value to looking good in LA, but the actual elements of your style are less important than how you carry it off.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: coffeebrownies

                            Catch at Casa del Mar is excellent. View is fantastic. The theory of good view = bad food is dying.

                          2. ok so the Penthouse @ Huntly is a definite for drinks & the view.

                            Thinking The Catch or The Lobster for dinner. Im still wondering why someone said NO to BOA. Reviews on Yelp (over 600) rate it 4 star, Interested n hearing reasoning for not recommending it.

                            No one recommended Melisse - we were on the fence with that looking a bit too french. We love fresh organic locally grown ingredients - but some of the dishes looked a bit funky for us ordinary east coasters.

                            Not thrilled with The Pint - don't want to have to BYOF to a place,

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: lacook

                              We love fresh organic locally grown ingredients...
                              You would love both Gjelina and Fig.


                              1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

                              1. re: wienermobile

                                For organic, locally grown, ingredients: Gjelina and also Rustic Canyon.

                                1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

                                1. re: wienermobile

                                  Reservations made with Fig and The Lobster! Altho the Rustic Canyon was close - we might end of switching out Fig with Rustic at the last minute. But I can't resist The Lobster - altho I am certain nothing organic sits in the pantry there :-)
                                  just need a "Sit at the bar and drink and eat tapas/small plates" place. Hubby isn't a fan of sushi so it can't be a sole sushi place (if can get some Tuna Tatar i will be blissfully happy.

                                  1. re: lacook

                                    My pint recommendation was for super bowl watching - wasn't sure you wanted food for that - but if that is important then the pint is definitely out.

                                    For a bar to eat tapas and small plates I like Bar Pinxto - fits your request perfectly.

                                      1. re: joshekg

                                        LOVE LOVE LOVE PAELLA! HAVEN'T HAD IT FOREVER!

                                        1. re: joshekg

                                          aside from their flavorful chowder, i was underwhelmed by the food at bar pinxto during restaurant week

                                          1. re: Phurstluv

                                            OP's trip has come & gone. be nice if she posted back with reports on where they ended up and how it was...

                                      2. re: lacook

                                        "Im still wondering why someone said NO to BOA"

                                        BOA is a corporate restaurant. Even if you didn't know, you would find out when you got your food. All style and no substance. If food is not as important as the bar scene then you could probably have a great time there. Incidentally this is a great example of why Yelp is practically worthless.

                                        "No one recommended Melisse"

                                        You said no French and no stuff. It's French, and It might be the only I regularly eat dinner around here that I wear a jacket to. That said, IMHO it's the best restaurant in Southern California (many hounders would probably debate me). I'm pretty sure if you asked everyone where to go for a romantic special occasion in Santa Monica, Melisse would be the only answer you got, but for what you described, it doesn't fit.

                                        Have a great trip! Looks like you may hit some great weather!

                                        1. re: la2tokyo

                                          "Incidentally this is a great example of why Yelp is practically worthless."

                                          Yelp does better in locales that are not tourist/entertainment centers. The SGV reviews entries, in contrast to the downtown SM entries, are very helpful.

                                          1. re: sushigirlie

                                            OK I take it back. You're right. Yelp is a help when there's no information available. But Yelp will also send you to Sushi Nozawa instead of Mori sushi.

                                        2. re: lacook

                                          Im still wondering why someone said NO to BOA
                                          because there are numerous options with better steak and service here in LA. BOA isn't awful, but it's definitely not a destination spot.

                                          for what it's worth, we've had discussions here on CH in the past (actually one very recently) about the disparity between Yelp & Chowhound ratings/opinions. there are MANY restaurants with high Yelp ratings that don't pass muster with the majority of CHers.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            Well we are back and had a fantastic time. Off the top of my head here's what we tried
                                            1) Appetizers, breakfast and drinks at our hotel (Loews) Very Good
                                            2) Lunch at a Mexican place at the end of the SM Pier - Good
                                            3) Dinner at the Penthouse - Excellent (staff and patrons were awesome); drinks were awesome too; OMG the Coconut/Pineapple soup for dessert was soooo good!
                                            4) Dinner at the Lobster - OK - was expecting some local seafood - they were pushing east coast lobster for $30/lb I had to laugh. I thought the place was grimy. Service was wonderful tho. I will not go back
                                            5) Dinner at BOA!!! Against advice here, my husband loves steak and really wanted to go here and since it was within walking distance to hotel we went. Was not disappointed at all. I did have american kobe with a chimchirri rub - i asked for rare and got med rare but very very tasty and tender. My husband got a prime filet mignon with blue cheese and he said it was one of the best steaks he's had and he is a lover of Prime and Jap Kobe. It was the most expensive bill ($200 for 2) but didn't feel it was too much for what we got.
                                            4) We spent Super Bowl at Barney's Beanery - we got there after kickoff to find an incredibly crowed noisy bar with slow service. We put our name in for a table and sat around 1/2 time where we couldnt' see the TV' but had a view of the street entertainer who was very good. The food was aweful (prob due to the busy-ness) waitress was very good but annoyed me a bit when she brought me another drink without me asking and was put off when I said I didn't want it.
                                            Anyway so many places we wanted to go but didn't, but the photoshoot I went for wants me to come back again for another in a few months so we will get to try the others then! Thanks all for ur advice!

                                            1. re: lacook

                                              Glad you had a good time and thanks for reporting back. I'm happy to hear your meal at the Penthouse was good because I have had some really good meals there and then a bad one. And the food at Barney's wasn't awful because of how busy it was; it's always that bad :).

                                              1. re: mollyomormon

                                                completely agree with mollyomormon re: barney's.
                                                the less food you consume there the better.