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Santa Monica/Hermosa Beach/Laguna Beach

rp1760 Aug 26, 2012 08:50 AM


I’ve returned, after digesting all the great suggestions from my initial post and reading the Board for another couple months. I have my final draft, and would love any additional feedback before my trip in mid-October. My next month or so will be crazy, so hoping to nail things down this week. In short – usually skip breakfast in favor of early lunch; not a brunch fan, but sometimes a late breakfast is fine; 2 meals a day is plenty; love love love fish and seafood and vege’s, great ethnic scene in Minneapolis, so deliberately light on that; not a “sweets” person – many times will opt for cheese plate for dessert; have car but prefer to walk to dinner (Staying at The Huntley in Santa Monica, Beach House at Hermosa Beach, Montage in Laguna Beach).

Tuesday: Dinner at Melisse.

Wednesday: Farmer’s Market early; Loteria Grille for lunch.

[Conference – Wednesday evening through Friday morning]

Friday: Cocktail at Chez Jay; Dinner at The Hungry Cat.

Saturday: Unsure. Checking out at 11, then going to airport, getting car, driving to Hermosa Beach for one night’s stay. May consider Getty Villa (weather option). Or Farmer’s Market in the morning (again) -just snack at the market? Or Fig. Or, what about opting for a view and having a light breakfast at Catch or The Penthouse? (One poster said there are prepared food booths/Oyster booths at both markets (Wednesday and Saturday). I still had a hard time seeing what was available – does anyone have any more information on this?)

Saturday: Dinner at Manhatten Beach Post.

Sunday: Will be taking Morning Breeze Music Cruise out of Ocean Institute in Dana Point. Afterwards: The Harbor Grill?

Sunday Dinner: Studio at the Montage.

Monday: Coyote Grill or House of Big Fish and Cold Beer (will be visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano, then going into Laguna Beach to look through some shops).

Monday Dinner: O Fine Japanese Sushi.

Tuesday: Leisurely drive down the coast from south Laguna Beach to San Diego – flight at 2:00. Any suggestions for late breakfast/early lunch? La Sirena, perhaps?

Looking forward to my first visit to sunny southern California! -Mary

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  1. d
    Dirtywextraolives RE: rp1760 Aug 26, 2012 05:32 PM

    I think your itinerary sounds great, Mary! I don't have suggestions for Orange or SD county, except I think the Montage will be lovely.....

    Don't know if you plan on walking from Chez Jay to Hungry Cat, but you should know it is not really walk able since you'd have to walk on PCH, a highway, and there is not a really good way to get there, (unless you don't mind a real hike) without walking on pch.

    And yes, in the middle of the SM FM, there're a couple of stands, pop ups, really, that serve cooked food to order, but I think they change it up, not always the same vendors, but I could be wrong.

    You should try to catch a sunset & drinks at your hotel's penthouse (The Huntley) at least once, it has some of the best views on the Westside. Best of luck!

    12 Replies
    1. re: Dirtywextraolives
      rp1760 RE: Dirtywextraolives Aug 27, 2012 08:34 AM

      Thanks for the tip on walking to The Hungry Cat. I was having a little trouble seeing how it could be reached. Can I just walk along (not on - saw plenty of posts from irritated bikers!) The Strand and then cut over? And by the way, great tag!

      1. re: rp1760
        wienermobile RE: rp1760 Aug 27, 2012 08:45 AM

        Hungry Cat is much farther than you think . Taxi is highly recommended both directions. I don't recommend walking down the California incline or down Santa Monica Canyon. This route is missing sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Not a good idea especially at night if you are alone.

        1. re: wienermobile
          rp1760 RE: wienermobile Aug 27, 2012 09:55 AM

          Dang. I was afraid of that. Perhaps I will revert to La Botte for Friday night.

          1. re: rp1760
            wienermobile RE: rp1760 Aug 27, 2012 09:57 AM

            Fig, Musha or Rustic Canyon are all walkable from you.

            1. re: wienermobile
              rp1760 RE: wienermobile Aug 27, 2012 10:08 AM

              I understand our host is considering Fig for conference dinner (yeah!). I'll check out the other two. Any thoughts about Michael's? The menu - and the patio - both interest me.


              1. re: rp1760
                Dirtywextraolives RE: rp1760 Aug 27, 2012 10:42 AM

                Michael's was one of the originals in setting the standard for California cuisine. The patio is lovely, and the food is very good. I haven't been in quite a few years, so hard for me to say if it is still a bit dated, which was the impression I had when we went. But it is certainly no slouch.

                La Botte is very good, if a bit pricey. Some of the newer places that would be convenient to you are Hostario del Piccolo and Tar & Roses, both of which are very good, with more interesting offerings than the Italian standards at La Botte.

                1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                  rp1760 RE: Dirtywextraolives Aug 27, 2012 01:47 PM

                  Would you say Tar and Roses is of a similar vein to Manhatten Beach Post? It was on my list, but when I decided to add MBP I dropped it off.

                  1. re: rp1760
                    Dirtywextraolives RE: rp1760 Aug 27, 2012 04:06 PM

                    I have not been to MB Post, so it's a little hard to compare. But both have excellent, competent chefs. Manhattan Beach is a bit of a haul for you, coming from Santa Monica, it could take you anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 or more if you hit traffic.

                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                      wienermobile RE: Dirtywextraolives Aug 27, 2012 04:10 PM

                      OP will be staying in Hermosa Beach. 5-10 minute drive.

                      1. re: wienermobile
                        Dirtywextraolives RE: wienermobile Aug 27, 2012 04:13 PM

                        Aaah, well that's different then. I would definitely go to MB Post if staying in Hermosa.

                    2. re: rp1760
                      SueinSoCa RE: rp1760 Sep 22, 2012 09:21 AM

                      Enjoy Tar & Roses, prefer the back section,

          2. re: rp1760
            yogachik RE: rp1760 Aug 28, 2012 08:34 AM

            You can walk along Palisades Park to reach Hungry Cat, but it's a hike coming back. Contrary to everyone else's posts, there are sidewalks and you can walk easily (from the Huntley it's a very easy walk). You walk the bluffs along Ocean, head into the canyon, make a right on Maberry, walk to the end and take the stairs down to PCH and your'e there.

            However, you're having drinks at Chez Jay (which I recommend after dinner, not before as Chez Jay is more interesting and fun later) - so how about walking to Tar and Roses or Chinois or Bar Pintxo? But consider drinks at The Bungalow at the Fairmont, too, while here.

        2. t
          thompkin RE: rp1760 Aug 27, 2012 09:01 AM

          Studio at the Montage is very nice. Elegant, but I would say that really low on the bang for buck scale. Try Marche Moderne at South Coast Plaza instead. Won't regret it. Montage can't be beat for a beautiful (but expensive) sunset drink though.

          6 Replies
          1. re: thompkin
            josephnl RE: thompkin Aug 27, 2012 11:14 AM

            I couldn't agree more. Although Studio at the Montage is nice, I would definitely prefer Marche Moderne at South Coast Plaza. This is a terrific place for an outstanding French dinner Although it will be great any evening (the sous chefs are very talented), I would try to go on an evening other than Sunday when Chef Florent Marneau is generally off. If you have a tasting menu there (or really anything), you will not be disappointed. MM is likely the very best restaurant in OC.

            You should definitely see the Montage. We love having lunch on the deck adjacent to the spa. Wonderful view and very pleasant for lunch.

            MB Post in Manhattan Beach is fine, but I don't think it's anything special.

            Coyote Grill in Laguna is a great spot for a Mexican style breakfast. Very casual with a peek-a-boo ocean view from their deck. Perhaps a good spot for breakfast on the way to San Diego.

            If you want sushi in OC, we prefer Bluefin in Crystal Cove (between Laguna and Newport) rather than O.

            Another fun place for a casual meal (breakfast or lunch) is the Beachcomber in Crystal Cove. It is literally right on the beach so you'll experience the Pacific from close up. The food is pretty good and the setting and experience cannot be beat.

            1. re: josephnl
              Searching4Dunny RE: josephnl Aug 27, 2012 02:06 PM

              I would keep Studio. Understandably, you can have a drink at the Montage and take in the view but this is a very different experience than having a full meal there. The food at Marche Moderne may edge out Studio but the overall experience at Studio is something I think an out of towner would enjoy more than traveling 30 minutes up and inland to dine at Marche (which is located in the South Coast Plaza mall). While Marche Moderne is wonderful, I think the experience at Studio would be more unforgettable (especially if you have the budget to go there).

              I second the Blue Fin rec over O Japanese, and it will give you an opportunity to meander around the Crystal Cove area, which is a nice setting.

              1. re: josephnl
                rp1760 RE: josephnl Aug 27, 2012 02:07 PM

                Wow. The menu at Marche Modern looks beautiful. However, it looks to be about a half hour from where I'm staying - a bit longer of a cab ride than what I would like. Bluefin also looks great, and more manageable in distance. Not as close as O Fine Japanese, though, which I understand is right across the street from The Montage.

                I like your rec on the Beachcomber. I am torn between that and House of Big Fish and Cold Beer.

                1. re: rp1760
                  josephnl RE: rp1760 Aug 27, 2012 03:11 PM

                  I agree that the setting at the Montage is wonderful. Nevertheless, I've had 4 meals at Studio all which were good, but totally forgettable. I still maintain that I would go there and enjoy the Montage by walking around the grounds and having cocktails at the Studio or lunch at the Spa.

                  Marche Moderne is definitely an expensive cab from the Laguna area. Nevertheless, the food will be vastly superior (imho) to that which you will get at Studio. Of course the setting at MM is not like that at the Montage, but despite the fact that it's in a shopping center, it is a very nice white tablecloth restaurant. The tasting menus at MM are excellent, and with a bit of advance notice they'll do anything (short of foie which is now illegal) for you. Their charcuterie is absolutely wonderful. Instead of a taxi, perhaps consider a rental car.

                  Bluefin is great, but is also a bit of a drive as is the Beachcomber. I'd take Beachcomber over Big Fish anytime. If you want to stay in Laguna, consider Nick's for a casual meal rather than Big Fish.

                  PS...just looked at the Marche Moderne menu online and it still lists foie gras....I doubt it!! Nevertheless, everything else is great.

                  1. re: josephnl
                    rp1760 RE: josephnl Aug 27, 2012 05:56 PM

                    Thanks for your posts, Joseph.

                    I just want to clarify, though, that I am staying at the Montage. Which is why I thought staying "homebound" one night would be nice and relaxing, if the restaurant warranted it. Also, I do have a rental, but since I like a glass or two of wine with dinner, and refuse to drive with even just one drink, walking or short cabbing for dinner are my options. Thankfully, Southern California has such a HUGE selection of dining spots, I don't feel at all limited with options.


                    1. re: rp1760
                      josephnl RE: rp1760 Aug 28, 2012 08:23 AM


                      Somehow I missed that you are staying at the Montage. That changes my thinking considerably. Yes, do have dinner at the Studio. It's beautiful, has great service and the food is certainly very good. I (and many other CH's) find the food at Marche Moderne more special, but you will certainly have a wonderful experience at the Studio, and you will not have to worry about drinking and driving, or having a large taxi bill.

                      Consider taking a short drive (10 minutes at most) down to the Ritz Carlton at Monarch Beach. The setting there is also very beautiful, and their Nuevo Latino restaurant Raya is quite good.

                      Rereading some of the other posts above...you really should try to see the Getty Villa and/or the main Getty museum. Both are quite spectacular and very worthwhile. You can go to many wonderful farmer's markets across the country, but you'll only see the Getty in southern CA!

            2. JAB RE: rp1760 Aug 27, 2012 09:14 AM

              An alternative to Studio at the Montage could be the Sunday Social at 370 Common in Laguna Beach.

              2 Replies
              1. re: JAB
                New Trial RE: JAB Aug 28, 2012 03:03 AM

                Good deal and good restaurant. Broadway by Samar might also be worth a peek, or Sapphire.

                1. re: New Trial
                  josephnl RE: New Trial Aug 28, 2012 07:28 AM

                  Bring your earplugs to Broadway!! Very over-rated IMHO...and much the scene!

              2. i
                iOnLa RE: rp1760 Aug 27, 2012 02:20 PM

                re your question about Saturday's market....there's always one rotating pop-up food stand. here's a link to the schedule, which right now goes thru Sept.

                the only other prepared food is the Carlsbad Aqua Farms oyster guy, but I go on Wed. and don't know if he's there Sat.

                if you want a view, I like the beach cafe at Shutters—get an outdoor table.

                3 Replies
                1. re: iOnLa
                  bulavinaka RE: iOnLa Aug 27, 2012 02:23 PM

                  >>the only other prepared food is the Carlsbad Aqua Farms oyster guy, but I go on Wed. and don't know if he's there Sat.<<

                  Yes they are. Oysters on the half for breakfast.

                  1. re: bulavinaka
                    iOnLa RE: bulavinaka Aug 27, 2012 02:33 PM

                    how are these btw. keep meaning to try but never seemed appetizing at 10 a.m.

                    1. re: iOnLa
                      bulavinaka RE: iOnLa Aug 27, 2012 02:39 PM

                      imho very good. Clean briney flavor - I like it with the mignonette sauce.

                2. tcamp RE: rp1760 Aug 28, 2012 07:49 AM

                  Commenting specifically on your HB plans...

                  The Getty Villa is fantastic and I'd certainly recommend it. However, if you don't go there for some reason, consider dropping in at the Hermosa Beach Farmers Market, noon to 4 on Friday. OK, it is no SM but very neighborly, cute and full of delicious eats, including a great cheese vendor. Consider grabbing a bite there.


                  For late breakfast/brunch on Saturday, a couple of closeby options are Good Stuff and Martha's 22nd St. Grill. Both have good food, outdoor seating, and are walking distance from your hotel. Or borrow/rent a bike and hit Martha's before you set out on a Strand ride, either south to King Harbor or north to...as far as Venice if you choose.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tcamp
                    rp1760 RE: tcamp Aug 28, 2012 12:45 PM

                    Thanks for the suggestions. I will still be in conference Friday until 11, so the HBFM is out.
                    I will arrive in HB Saturday morning/afternoon, after picking up car from airport, and perhaps after visiting the Getty Villa. Then I hope to do as you suggested, grab a bike (I understand Hermosa Cyclery is acroos the street from my hotel) and hop on The Strand. Unless I am able to fit in a bike ride on Friday afternoon in Santa Monica. Or, what the heck! Maybe I'll do both!

                  2. rp1760 RE: rp1760 Sep 20, 2012 07:42 AM

                    Hard to believe, but I am just a few short weeks away from my highly anticipated trip to sunny southern California! Thanks, again, for all your suggestions. I've got a pretty good idea for most of the days. However, if you have time, perhaps you can help me with the end of the trip. My choices seem a bit weak.

                    (Parameters: prefer walking distance from hotel (Huntley in Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach House on Saturday, Montage in Laguna Beach through Tuesday) and "conference" days are non negotiable)

                    Tuesday: Cocktail at Penthouse, dinner at Melisse

                    Wednesday (Conference at 1:00): Santa Monica Farmer's Market, lunch at Loteria Grill (was hoping for Chinois, but they do not open until 11:30, and I feared there would not be enough time to enjoy lunch and then get over to meetings), dinner Sonoma Wine Garden

                    Thursday (Conference): Lunch at Fig, Dinner at The Lobster

                    Friday (Conference until noon): Lunch somewhere casual in Venice, near The Strand (will be walking); Dinner at JiRaffe

                    Saturday: Lunch at Malibu Seafood (before visit to Getty Villa), Dinner at Manhatten Beach Post

                    Sunday: Lunch at The Harbor Grill (after Ocean Institute cruise), Dinner at Studio

                    Monday: Lunch at House of BigFish and Cold Beer ?????, Dinner at Starfish ?????

                    Tuesday: Leaving Laguna Beach at 10, need to drop off car in San Diego Airport at 1:00. Hoping to take a relaxing drive down the coast, stopping somewhere casual (with a view?) for a bite to eat. ???

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: rp1760
                      Servorg RE: rp1760 Sep 20, 2012 09:15 AM

                      Did you look at or consider Cafe Zoolu in Laguna? A real local gem and wonderful seafood. Small in a good sense but reservations are a must. http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-zoolu-la...

                      1. re: Servorg
                        rp1760 RE: Servorg Sep 20, 2012 11:06 AM

                        I think it looks charming, but it's not within walking distance of my hotel (requirement for dinner) and they don't appear to serve lunch.

                        1. re: Servorg
                          josephnl RE: Servorg Sep 20, 2012 03:34 PM

                          Neither is the House of Big Fish which I think is really nothing special. If you want a very casual meal near Big Fish, Nick's is, imho, way better. Also Zoolu is an excellent spot.

                          1. re: josephnl
                            rp1760 RE: josephnl Sep 20, 2012 04:19 PM

                            Oops! Sorry about my misinformation. I meant to say that I prefer to walk to dinner. I am more than fine driving miles for lunch.

                      2. s
                        sparkareno RE: rp1760 Sep 20, 2012 04:29 PM

                        For your lunch in Venice, how about Gjelina? I am not sure it is walking distance for you though...unless you like long walks.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: sparkareno
                          rp1760 RE: sparkareno Sep 21, 2012 06:41 AM

                          Definitely up for a long, long walk after sitting through meetings for a couple of days.

                          I have Gjelina as an option, thank you, as well as Chaya. Would really like something casual, a patio perhaps, near The Strand, nice cold beer, and great local produce and/or fish tacos... This landlocked lady is trying to get as much fresh air and ocean breeze as possible!

                          1. re: rp1760
                            Servorg RE: rp1760 Sep 21, 2012 07:55 AM

                            People may look at you funny if you say you were at "The Strand"...try the local knowledge name for it..."Venice Ocean Front Walk" and you'll be good. James' Beach has some credible fish tacos http://www.jamesbeach.com/home.html but is not a stand type place. They give you a plate with all the fixings and you make them up to your liking. Not breaded type, but good.

                            1. re: rp1760
                              Dirtywextraolives RE: rp1760 Sep 21, 2012 08:12 AM

                              Larry's of Venice Beach

                              Casual, right off the boardwalk, open aired, reasonably priced, delicious comfort food.


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