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Group Birthday--bar or restaurant locations in WLA/SM/Venice (and maybe WeHo?)

I am wanting to get a group of friends together (I am guessing 15 people MAX and it could be as little as 5 people--everyone is dragging their heels to RSVP--you know how it goes!) for a casual-but-nice birthday which is on a Saturday night in early August, and to go out for some good food and drink and a good "hang out" time. A patio would be a nice bonus but is not required. Farmer's market/local ingredients-type establishments are strongly preferred. Nothing too stuffy or formal. Places that have small plates, or heavy appetizers, or items that can easily be shared are great, and I'd like to avoid places that only have $20 entrees and not too many appetizer/small plate choices.

I plan on bringing my own cake--no idea about cake cutting fees, but I prefer to avoid them.

I don't want to go to: Fig (I've over done it lately), Rustic Canyon (too noisy, better for smaller group)
and want to avoid Mexican, Chinese, sushi and red-sauce Italian places that are heavy on pasta.

Places that come to mind: Gjelina (I've only been there once for lunch but liked it--love that they have a patio and a "lounge" room--the trick will be getting the reservation), Wilshire, Pourtal Wine Bar (been there once, only had wine, but the food menu looked good), Copa d'Oro (again, I've only been once, and had a "dip" and a "spread", so I don't know how their food is) Primivito Wine Bar (I've never been), Lily's (never been there either, just know it's another Venice option). Never been to the Viceroy, heard it's a great location but know nothing about the food/price points.

I noticed that Village Vines (which is now called Savored) has a 30% off dealio at many establishments and thought that maybe Bar Marmont would be good? I've never been there before so I know very little about it. Parking would be a trick on a Sat night, though.

I'd really like to hear from folks who know these places!

Thanks!

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Bar Marmont
8171 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

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  1. You have some good options there, and I would add Salute and 31Ten to the mix. Maybe Beechwood too? I lke the patio, but haven't had the food there in quite awhile. I remember it being fine but not memorable. I really like the cheese and meat selection at Salute.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Juji

      Great suggestions, thanks! 31Ten looks beautiful, the only thing that scares me is that they have a lot of reviews on Yelp that suggest that service is an issue there, and that there can be long lines on Sat night even with a reservation. So I am thinking that Salute is probably a better option of the two.

      I know nada about Primivito, Lily's, etc, except what I've read on Yelp, so if you have any thoughts, I'd be happy to hear 'em!

      Seriously going to check out Salute--it looks like a much comfier option than Pourtal!

      1. re: sablouwho

        I really like Primitivo, but usually just sit at the bar. The food is solid, I like the dates and the pulled pork tapas dish. Huge selection of wine. I've only been to Lily's twice, but it's a very nice space and the food is good. But I don't remember what I had so I don't have any specific recommendations. And Wilshire has a great patio area, I'm jut not sure they'd have a large selection of dishes to share. But the food is very good and the ambiance lovely, especially on a warm summer evening.

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        Primitivo
        1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

    2. as much as i love the food at gjelina, i would NOT consider it as a comfortable place to hang out.

      6 Replies
      1. re: westsidegal

        Oh, thank you for telling me that, Westsidegal! Are there any other places already mentioned that you think would be good (or for that matter--someplace not already mentioned?)

        1. re: westsidegal

          Just want to double check something--do you think that you would still feel that way if was a large party with a reservation for either a large table on the patio (on the sofa/banquette thingie) or in the little room that they call the "lounge"?

          1. re: sablouwho

            even though i love the food at gjelina,
            it is still one of the hottest tickets in town, and they normally will fit as many people in there as they can. when the food is consumed, they will try to turn over the table.
            they will place tables in doorways.
            they will seat so many people at a table that you are all basically in physical contact with your tablemates.
            if i were in their position, i'd do exactly the same thing. it maximizes their revenue.
            but you are not in their position, you are the customer, and i am presuming you are hoping to get a little physical comfort and a sense of a leisurely meal along with the food. you are also, hoping to achieve this on a saturday night, the most crowded night of the week (and the night that most restaurants rely on to carry their rent payments for the rest of the week).

            i'd recommend that you go to gjelina on a different night of the week and go for a different occasion.

            1. re: sablouwho

              I have been to many large parties in that room. We ate, drank and lingered with no pressure to hurry-up at all. the food is as good as any in town and the prices are reasonable...not cheap by any means but fair for the quality and quantity. It sounds perfect for your group...if you can grab the ressie.

            2. re: westsidegal

              lilly's would be much better imho, in part because it will be less crowded (i.e. less likely to rush you out as soon as you finish your food).
              their house-wine-by-the-glass is actually decent and pretty cheap.
              their patio area is lovely.

              i used to go there all the time until they changed their menu and stopped serving my favorite dish.
              nevertheless, their price/quality/quantity/ restaurant ambiance ratios are still excellent.
              it has always served me well as a first-date restaurant because the restaurant is so pretty, the prices aren't too high, and the food is good.

              1. re: westsidegal

                Thank you for your thoughtful comments! I will ditch the Gjelina/birthday idea and go some other time instead, and will def check out Lily's. :-)

            3. If you are open to WeHo, Yatai fits the bill quite well.

              1. Most of the places you're mentioning are "newer", but how about the patio at Joe's? Also...a place with a smaller menu, and a somewhat small patio....but you could probably reserve it...is a charming little French restaurant in Santa Monica called Madame Chou Chou. French. Charming.
                A lovely couple owns it. Check it out and see if it could work.

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                Madame Chou Chou
                2518 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                1 Reply
                1. re: perk

                  Love the patio at Joe's, but it's too pricey and I'd like a menu that "feels more casual" (whatever that means, LOL). I actually had a birthday brunch at Joe's a few years ago that was really nice, though.

                  Mme Chou Chou looks like a find--I will def check it out! :-)

                2. I've noticed that Primitivo has a 30% off-the-entire-bill dealio when you make rezzies thru Savored. I'd really like to make my guests happy (since everyone will be paying their own way) by saving them some dough, thus I am kind of leaning in this direction right now. That and I love paella.

                  But I've never been there before...I wanna make sure it will be good?

                  Right not the other place I'm grativating to the most is Salute Wine Bar and perhaps, Madame Chou Chou.

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                  Salute Wine Bar
                  2435 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                  Primitivo
                  1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

                  Madame Chou Chou
                  2518 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sablouwho

                    actually, the patio at Primitivo was going to be my first suggestion! the food won't blow your mind, but it's good...and the atmosphere out there is lovely and festive - perfect for this sort of thing. i've been to several group birthday celebrations there (ranging from 6 to about 20 people) and we've always had a blast.

                    you can't go wrong with Hal's or Whist either. Lilly's is fine, but it doesn't say "birthday" to me.

                    Zengo at SM Place could be fun too.

                    it's too bad Axe on Abbot Kinney hasn't reopened yet. next year? ;)

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                    Whist Restaurant
                    1819 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401

                    Primitivo
                    1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

                    Hal's Bar & Grill
                    1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                    Zengo
                    395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, CA 90401