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Looking for suggestions...Santa Monica

My girlfriends and I are heading to California from Canada to enjoy a quick spring getaway. We arrive on a Friday and looking for three things:
1)a nice place for dinner,
2)some suggestions for cocktails
3) live music. Blues, Jazz or somethng not too heavy

I have about driven myself crazy looking at different restaurants. The concierge at the hotel recommended for restaurants Ocean Avenue Seafood, BOA and Sushi Roku. For some reason I am not convinced that this is the taste of california we are looking for.

Appreciate any suggestions..Thanks

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  1. Gjelina in Venice for a great taste of California cuisine. Make a reservation now.

    1. Definitely not. None are bad but we can do MUCH better. Where are you staying and what is the budget?

      1 Reply
      1. re: BSW6490

        We are staying on Pico not too far from the beach...The budget would be a splurge as we are looking at it as a celebration/kickoff for the trip.

      2. Check out Rustic Canyon for dinner. Another really good choice would be the Hungry Cat right across the Pacific Coast Hwy from the beach at the mouth of Santa Monica Canyon.



        2 Replies
          1. re: maudies5

            +2 for Rustic Canyon. Wonderful farm to table food. I love their fried califlower.

        1. Gjelina for dinner. It is on Abbott Kinney in Venice, just south of Santa Monica. You will need a reservation -- ask for the back patio. California cuisine, much of it from the woodburning oven. Share a pizza to start -- I like the lamb sausage. Veggies -- broccolini, asparagus, cauliflower -- from that oven. Gnocchi, the simpler the better. A wonderful small pork belly over polenta with greens. Mostly smaller plates to share. Save room for the butterscotch pot de creme for dessert.

          1. The menus at Gjelina and Rustic Canyon look fantastic.

            1. the sushi roku is an especially terrible idea. . . .
              completely mediocre with high prices

              2 Replies
              1. re: westsidegal

                Agree with westsidegal. A well-meaning friend took me to Roku as an introduction to LA sushi before I moved here. I was completely underwhelmed.

                BOA is nothing special either. I'd ignore this concierge. His recommendations appear to be the typical guidebook places.

                1. re: Peripatetic

                  In my experience, concierges usually aren't exactly the best source for unbiased opinions on good local dining.

              2. This is a great jazz/blues club in Santa Monica. Been around since 1931!


                1. For more affordable places (for lunches maybe), Tender Greens in Santa Monica and Lemonade in Venice are light and healthy and (imo) very "California". Umami Burger, less light and healthy, but good burgers.

                  Killer Shrimp in Marina Del Rey is a favorite of ours (if you're staying through a Monday, their signature Killer Shrimp and Bread dish is only $10 in the bar area on Mondays, and it's not eating at the bar, but rather a whole section of tables with TVs tuned to sports), very casual, and they have some fun cocktails too.

                  I really like Joe's Restaurant in Venice for dinner but I haven't been in a while.


                  Oh, since the hotel mentioned Sushi Roku, for inexpensive-but-still-decent sushi in Santa Monica: Ninjin or Sushi King. I haven't tried Sugarfish in SM; it's more expensive,but some people swear by it. If you venture out of SM, there's a ton of good affordable sushi restaurants like Hide, Irori, Masu. Less affordable but of commensurate quality (from what I've read--I've not tried all of these places...yet) are Shunji, Hiko, Sasabune, Zo, Mori.

                  1. My favorite cocktails and also love the food: The Tasting Kitchen.
                    Other favorite dinner spots: Fig (walking distance from the three restaurants you mentioned--in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, if that's where you're staying), Gjelina.

                    1. Gjelina is booked...:( . i did book at the Fig. But still on the fence between Fig, Tasting Kitchen and Rustic Canyon.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Missy_t

                        Tasting Kitchen is on Abott Kinney - down the street from Gjelina - and that's one of the more happening areas in the city. Rustic Canyon on Wilshire - nothing muchgoing on there. Food is comparable however. Tasting Kitchen more upscale.

                        If you want to do a serious splurge - Melisse is L.A.'s premier fine dining restaurant. Get the "10" or the carte blanche menu. Pricey yes (but a bargain compared to, say, Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas). There's a lot of good choices listed here (and a few not so good). Here's a pretty comprehensive list.

                        The Hungry Cat
                        La Botte
                        Sam's at the Beach
                        Rustic Canyon
                        Il Grano
                        Monte Alban
                        Mori Sushi
                        3 Square
                        Father's Office

                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                          I really like your list foodiemahoodie.

                        2. re: Missy_t

                          Of your final 3 my vote is for Rustic Canyon. Have always had a wonderful meals there. Great food wonderful service. It can get a little loud after 8pm.

                          1. re: Missy_t

                            Rustic Canyon.
                            There is not one item on the menu that is not absolutely delicious. The service is stellar and so is the ambience. It definitely does tend to get a little noisy but it doesn't take long to adapt. You will love it.

                          2. There are several good spots. I had a very good meal at Sam's By The Beach. Great Mediteranean just off the beach in Santa Monica. Link below. Its right next to Hungry Cat which is also very good sea food.


                            1. I imagine you are staying at Delfina. Fig is not very celebratory, although it is very good. I highly recommend Tasting Kitchen or even Chaya Venice, or maybe Chinois, for a fun night out. Since you're near Pico, head to Main Street or Abbot Kinney.

                              Not a lot of live blues or jazz around here, sorry. Harvelle's is your only choice for that.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: yogachik

                                Fig is AWESOME!!!!! Do their happy hour...5pm-6, not sure which nights, but everything is half off!

                                  1. re: schrutefarms

                                    "Fig at Five," it's available 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For that hour, everything on the menu, including desserts is 50% off.

                                1. Second Hungry Cat- especially the cocktails. If they still have the kumquat martini....ohhhh god it's amazing....the place is very Cali!! I also love the Tasting Kitchen in Venice- great cocktails as well as wine, but make a rez NOW!!! Also check out Oscars on Rose in Venice...I love the ambiance, especially with these warm nights we've been having...

                                  1. With Gjelina booked, I'll throw in a rec for Chinois on Main. Wolfgang Puck's original fusion restaurant, with very bold flavors. Dishes served to share. Can be a bit loud and boisterous, but the fun atmosphere is intensified by the 80s over-the-top decoration. Almost all of the dishes accompanied by mini-salads of little lettuces and herbs with very delicious sauces. I love just about anything from their deep-fryer. Order more of the smaller, starter dishes and share perhaps one of the larger plates -- the sliced grilled beef tenderloin in Szechwan sauce and the whole fried catfish in ponzu are alltime winners. Excellent service. Often neglected for all the newcomers, but was my SoCal favorite and still an excellent choice.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: nosh

                                      I dunno why, but your mentioning of Chinois made me think of Madame Chou Chou, probably because it's just up the street. Haven't tried that place, what's the consensus?

                                      1. re: nosh

                                        You are absolutely right...

                                        Love love love Chinois. Good suggestion.

                                        1. re: nosh

                                          fwiw, the size of the chinois whole catfish dish has diminished substantially over the years.
                                          i no longer consider it to be enough food to share.
                                          quality was still there the last time i went, but the quantity was not. . . .

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            That's too bad. I remember first ordering this back in the mid-80s (?) and the catfish was served on a huge platter - pretty much a gigantic specimen/celebratory dish. I otherwise don't care for catfish but I think the ginger and ponzu sets it right for me...

                                        2. A late update maybe, but we liked Fig so much we went twice. Particularly for the figgy pudding. So delicious. Love the atmosphere and the food was fab.

                                          1. You might enjoy the new jazz club in Venice. Free admission after midnight ($10 before); and best of all, no drink minimum:


                                            This would be a quick cab ride from your hotel. And if you decide to dine somewhere on Abbot Kinney beforehand, you will be quite close to the club.

                                            You could also take the Big Blue Bus #3, that goes right by your hotel on Pico, but the club location isn't the loveliest part of town after dark.

                                            (Oops, saw the datestamp on this after the fact...but maybe this will help a future reader.)