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Aug 26, 2012 08:50 AM

Santa Monica/Hermosa Beach/Laguna Beach


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. 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

      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

        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

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

          1. re: rp1760

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

            1. re: wienermobile

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

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

                      1. re: wienermobile

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

                    2. re: rp1760

                      Enjoy Tar & Roses, prefer the back section,

          2. re: rp1760

            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. 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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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


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

              2 Replies
              1. re: JAB

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

                1. re: New Trial

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

              2. 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

                  >>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

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

                    1. re: iOnLa

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

                2. 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 far as Venice if you choose.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tcamp

                    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!