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Two weeks in Santa Monica...what to eat, where to eat it!

Hey all,

Foodie-in-training (and on a budget) from Manhattan heading out to Santa Monica for 10 days in mid-August and want to taste some of the city's gems! I'm staying with a friend near the Third Street Promenade area and will be without a car for most of my weekday breakfasts and lunches. I'm an adventurous eater, and don't mind walking far, I'd love to explore the area beyond the promenade/mall/pier.

I'm looking for:

-A few places for breakfast and/or lunch that have solid food but are either very casual with a friendly staff or take-out. I'm one of those people who is relatively uncomfortable sitting at a restaurant alone, but will have a few days where my host will be working during the day and I'll be on my own before another friend flies out to join us. (Last time I was in town, I made myself brunch every day before heading out for the day to avoid sitting awkwardly alone at restaurants, but my inner-foodie was appalled at missing so many opportunities for great eats...I'm determined to overcome my fear this time around)

-Any other great breakfast/lunch spots in walking distance of Lincoln Blvd/Santa Monica Blvd for when I'll have company

-The best brunches in Santa Monica; I'll have company and a car for this one!

-Some great, budget friendly happy hour and/or dinner spots (with friends and a car) I've heard that The Yard has a good happy hour...any thoughts? Is the HH menu enough to get a sense of the restaurant, or is it better served with a dinner visit?

-Any interesting places for my fellow east-coast friend and I to occupy ourselves during the day
while our friend is at work (aside from the obvious promenade)

I have a great appreciation for craft beer, so I'd love to make it out to Father's Office, I've heard great things about their bar snacks as well, any thoughts?

Any advice is much appreciated, thanks so much!

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

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  1. This thread will get you started on Santa Monica breakfast spots: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/788256 Since you say you don't mind walking you can also easily go south to Pico Blvd. and the little breakfast, lunch and dinner place (Michael D's) attached to the bowling alley on Pico. Also drop down on Main St to places like M Street Kitchen http://mstreetkitchen.com/ (what was Le Grande Orange) and the great Japanese snack place, Sunny Blue for fresh made O Misubi...Another very "old school" breakfast place on Main St. is Joe's Main Street Diner. You're going to be close to Swingers (which I think has slipped a bit but is still serviceable) which has long hours so you can go early or late. Finally, Jinky's over on 2nd Street is another good place to do breakfast or lunch.

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    Swingers
    802 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Jinky's Cafe
    1447 2nd St Fl 1, Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Joe's Main Street Diner
    2917 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

    Michael D's Cafe & Catering
    234 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

    sunny blue cafe
    2728 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

    1 Reply
    1. re: Servorg

      It is no longer called Michael D's, SO, it is now named Oceanside Cafe.

    2. For lunch: A bit south of where you're staying is Bay Cities Deli, on the east side of Lincoln a couple of blocks south of Santa Monica Blvd. An Italian deli, not extraordinarily different from what you might get in NYC, but very popular and known for their delicious Italian rolls. Good sandwiches, but I like the hot side even more (and no lines) -- meatballs, lasagna, and fantastic potroast.

      Tacos Por Favor, on the S/E corner of Olympic at 14th. Good, basic Mexican, the best hot sauce on the westside. A large menu, but I'd start with the soft tacos -- many love the chorizo and cheese.

      Amandine, in W.L.A. a few blocks east of the Santa Monica border (see the "wave" sculpture) on Wilshire. A wonderful bakery with the best croissant in L.A. Omelettes good, french toast and quiche better. A short bus ride from where you are staying.

      For dinner (or a splurge lunch) -- Gjelina, on Abbott Kinney in Venice a couple blocks north of Venice Blvd. Known for vegetables from their woodburning oven. Great gnocchi, interesting salads, I love their charred pizzas, great butterscotch pot de creme for dessert. Shared dishes, moderate by L.A. standards, inexpensive by NYC.

      Those would be my don't miss recs.

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

      Gjelina
      1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

      25 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        NB - Bay Cities Deli is not open on Mondays. And if you regularly eat Italian food in Manhattan, you won't find this place very extraordinary at all.

        Zengo, in the Santa Monica Place Mall on 2nd and Broadway, has the best deal on brunch, according to some recent recs on this board.

        Most places that are "walkable" for you may not be in your budget, you are in an expensive part of town, on the ocean, and in a tourist area.

        With that said, my recs for walkable spots, but may be a bit pricey for your budget are:
        Joe's of Bleeker St (pizza)
        Blue Plate Oysterette
        Bar Pinxos
        FIG in the Fairmount sheraton
        Musha for Itzykaya
        Border Grill
        Cha Cha Chicken
        Chez Jay

        Don't know the Yard House's HH menu, but if you like craft beer, it should appeal.

        -----
        Chez Jay
        1657 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

        Border Grill
        1445 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401

        Musha
        424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

        Cha Cha Chicken
        1906 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405

        Zengo
        395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, CA 90401

        1. re: Phurstluv

          I LOVE Chez Jay!!! It is so much fun and very...retro is not the right word...rat-packish? that's not quite right either. My husband and I were in for business, staying at Le Merigot and had such a fun time there w/ another friend! Good food, good drinks. I do enjoy a drink in the lovely windows at Casa Del Mar esp during June Gloom fog. Drinks at the Viceroy are quite nice too.

          -----
          Chez Jay
          1657 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

          Casa Del Mar
          4552 Riverside Dr, Chino, CA 91710

          1. re: MRS

            Chez Jay has a great funky charm. But I'd skip the food. Drink it up! And there are place you can walk to and do a little prowl. Food is much, much better at Casa Del Mar and Whist. But both places are also good for a drink.

            -----
            Chez Jay
            1657 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

            Casa Del Mar
            4552 Riverside Dr, Chino, CA 91710

            1. re: foodiemahoodie

              Oh. TOTALLY agree about the food, but OP states she's on a budget, and even though I fudged and rec'd FIG, I doubt FIG, Casa del Mar OR Whist would be in her budget.

              1. re: Phurstluv

                Fig is half off from 5:30 to 6:30 - everything on the menu is half off.
                Fraiche has happy hour all night long, and well worth a visit. Bar menu is fantastic. Loews has happy hour from 4-8 every day and the food is great, with great views.
                Father's Office is a must, all the food is good.
                The Yard for beer selection, also Otheroom

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                Otheroom
                1201 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                1. re: yogachik

                  Great points, yogachik. Forgot all the places are offering great HH deals.

                  1. re: yogachik

                    I like the Yard overall, the fish tacos are great, and even better when they are have price at happy hour for like all of fucking 6 bucks or so, their tap beer list is swell, and they even had turducken over thansgiving, kinda eclectic if you ask me. the skirt steak with horseradkish creme fraiche and grilled grapes is good, and there burger, ground up in house is pretty darn good so good that you can eat sans any veggies or cheese and it still tastes pretty damn good. usually, i like double fried or even thrice fried french fries but it just diddn't seem to work here.

                    joe's pizza.

                    that new italian on broadway and 7th.

                    Cora's coffee shoppee shoppe for some homemade caramel ice cream, a slice of peach pied with fresh whipped cream and great loosely formed Wagyu style kobe beef burgers. and nice frittatas to boot, before the whole aritisanal frittata craze started up.

                    1. re: kevin

                      I've gone five times or so. Never had a bad experience there, but never had a great experience there either.

                      1. re: sushigirlie

                        coras, imho, is a good blind date place to go.
                        food not too exotic, not too messy, isn't a huge investment, and not so interesting that it will take your attention away from the date.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          I like Cora's too. I just think we happened to have a ton of Chez Jay's b/c that was the goofy mood we were in. I didn't think the food was amazing...but it wasn't awful, either. It was food. We had a ton of drinks, had dinner and had a ton of laughs.
                          That said, we met other friends at Casa Del Mar for drinks and apps the next night and also had a great time-justa very different vibe.

                          -----
                          Chez Jay
                          1657 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                          Casa Del Mar
                          1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                          1. re: MRS

                            Chez Jay's = Casual Eaters & Serious Drinkers

                            -----
                            Chez Jay
                            1657 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                            1. re: Servorg

                              oh...well, good to know. we were in from NY. Had already eaten at all "the" spots during the week. I guess we were up to serious drinking at that point in the week. I just recall it being an awfully good, carefree night for all of us. Definitely NOT the BEST food ever...

                              Also walking distance from our hotel b/c didn't have car service that night as I recall..

                              1. re: Servorg

                                hahaha, i like that, ok, i'm sold i'm gonna hit up chezy jay soon.

                      2. re: yogachik

                        Thank you all for the great recs, happy hour tips are awesome! I'm willing to splurge for a couple meals, but half off the entire menu is a deal I can't really resist :)

                        1. re: CarlyNYC

                          where's halff on all the menu items???

                          1. re: kevin

                            FIG

                            -----
                            Fig
                            100 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                        2. re: yogachik

                          It's actually 5:00-6:00 pm that FIG does half off and they're only open for dinner Tues-Sat.

                          1. re: yogachik

                            Trying this again..... It posted in the wrong place. It's 5:00-6:00 pm that FIG does half off and they're only open for dinner Tues-Sat.

                            1. re: yogachik

                              yogachik,
                              the current happy hour deal now runs from 5pm to 6pm.
                              also, they've completely removed mention of the happy hour from their website, so i fear that this deal may not last much longer. . .

                            2. re: Phurstluv

                              food no good at Chez Jay, I heard the owner passed away a few years back, is it still good?

                              What drinks should i get there? Mixed drinks? just beers?

                              and if i have to order food, starving or whatever what to get?

                              -----
                              Chez Jay
                              1657 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                              1. re: kevin

                                stick to the basics at a dive bar, whether it's food or drinks.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  you have to get the famous mashed potatoes at Chez Jay (apparently, the secret ingredient is bananas) because they're famous. I don't know that the food was ever very good there, having been both before and after the owner passed....Otherwise, try to stick with something basic from the menu.

                                  -----
                                  Chez Jay
                                  1657 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                                  1. re: mollyomormon

                                    I think they are actually scalloped potatoes (at least they have always been so in the past) as they hide the "banana bombs" better than do mashed... ;-D>

                          2. re: Phurstluv

                            fwiw,
                            since CarlyNYC is from NYC,
                            i'd skip Joe's and for that matter all LA pizza recommendations.

                            bringing coal to newcastle. . .

                        3. The original comment has been removed
                          1. Happy Hour, Copa D'Oro is a must, great prices, awesome cocktails.

                            I had a fantastic sour beer (and very good food too) at the Yard last time I was there, but haven't been there for Happy Hour. This is a gem and one of my favorite places in SM.

                            Father's Office on Montana is very tiny, btw, forewarned is forearmed

                            The Rooftop restaurant at the Huntley Hotel has really good drinks, but haven't been there for happy hour.

                            Brunch at Zengo is all you can eat and imbibe for 35, sounds very worth it to me with a very foodie brunch menu. haven't tried it yet, gonna be a first date anniversary meal in a few weeks though.

                            If you're looking for something scenic for Brunch, Dukes of Malibu has a lovely sunday brunch, all you can eat, carving station, good food (not great and not foodie food), but a fantastic locale, when we were there we had waves crashing on the rocks next to our window.

                            We had a great brunch last week at Cora's Coffee Shoppe. The salmon variation on Eggs Benedict was superb.

                            Joe's of Bleeker St has maybe the only pizza a New Yorker would eat in LA. For California style pizza, Abbot's Pizza Co, a walk up joint, has a lot of unusual slices. Avoid the Pico branch at all costs, go to the Abbot Kinney Branch.

                            The Godmother sandwich (I like it spicy) at Bay Cities Italian Deli (very very close to the intersection of Lincoln and Santa Monica) is one of LA's favorite sandwiches. I would consider it a must.

                            and they're not eateries, but Cafe Luxxe on Montana has excellent coffee and Funnel Mill (very near your intersection) has phenomenal coffee. The former has no wifi, the latter is closed Sundays.

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

                            Bay Cities Italian Deli
                            1517 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                            Abbot's Pizza Co
                            1407 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                            Cora's Coffee Shop
                            1802 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                            Funnel Mill
                            930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                            Copa D'Oro
                            217 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                            Zengo
                            395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jadekarrde

                              imho, if you are used to NYC italian food, Bay Cities is not that special.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                I've only had sandwiches at Bay Cities, so I can't comment on other items there, but the Godmother sandwich stacks up to any NYC Italian cold cut sandwich.

                            2. Head to the Santa Monica's Farmers Market on Wednesday or Saturday. There is always a restaurant serving food....and there are lots of samples!