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Help for husband's 40th bday in Venice area

I have gone over these boards and read a ton online and am making myself crazy!! So please help if you can.

I have honed in on Joe's on AK, Chaya Venice and Cafe del Rey. Or group ranges in age from 35-70. My husband's and my parents plus some friends. Fifteen people total. I'm not worried about price and am expecting to spend a lot. However we will bring our own wine.

My first decision was the patio at Joe's which seats 12 at a long table. Then some no's turned into yes's and with 15 we would have to sit inside. I keep reading Joe's is more of a date or small group place too. This was my first pick but not sure if the small inside is good for a big group. Also small bar area to meet up beforehand.

so then i moved onto cafe del Rey as "the spot" but my husband thinks its pretty average. We both like the big bar area to meet beforehand and all our family are staying at hotels in the marina. Easy but maybe boring?

Today I thought of Chaya. I always love Chaya but haven't been in ages. I can't stand loud music playing during dinner and I read that it bothered someone in a review somewhere. I'm much more sensitive to noise now than I was in my twenties when I frequented Chaya and with two, possibly three, hard of hearings in our group and four above age 60, maybe it's not the right spot?

Any thoughts? Other recommendations? Our group likes to party and have fun (especially the ones pushing 70); we don't want a private room, but would like somewhere lively with good food, just not crazy music loud. Our last big celebration was at the galley which was great but want something a little more upscale.

Thanks!!! Oh the party is June 1, Saturday night. I have reservations at joes and Chaya and am in touch with CDR. Help!

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  1. Go to Cafe Del Rey's and Joe's menus and decide if you have a clear preference. Cafe Del Rey was one of my favorite restaurants 15 years ago when they served their kung pao seafood sausage dish. Then they seemed to turn way Japanese seafood and sushi-oriented for awhile.Always loved the leveled seating on the marina so all tables had some view, the good service, the easy parking.

    Joe's has its charms, but the garden, patio, canvas tents above atmosphere always seemed nice to me, but somewhat of a compromise. More difficult parking, drop-off situation, though certainly easy by Venice, Abbott Kinney standards.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nosh

      You think Cafe del Rey over Joe's? Menus look equally good to me.

    2. Think a bit further north, into Santa Monica:

      Whist at the Viceroy - perhaps a large outdoor table by the pool?
      FIG at the Fairmont Miramar
      Catch at Casa Del Mar - big bar area
      Capo - maybe a bit more subdued, but the food's very good
      Ushuaia Argentinian Steakhouse
      The Penthouse at The Huntley Hotel - can't guarantee the noise level will be to your liking, though

      Good luck!

      1 Reply
      1. re: J.L.

        thanks! I'm going to look into Capo, Catch and the Argentine place.

      2. Have you checked out/with Gjelina http://www.gjelina.com/ or The Tasting Kitchen http://thetastingkitchen.com/ ? Both on Abbott Kinney.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Servorg

          +1 for both Gjelina & the Tasting Kitchen.....

          Can get loud, but if you can get there right when they open or start serving dinner, as in Gjelina's case, you will not have to deal with the loudness until your dinner is partially over....

          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

            I would bet that if they got a table for 15 on the patio at Gjelina they wouldn't be the ones worrying about incoming noise...(and it's a lot quieter out there than inside).

            1. re: Servorg

              Yes, I agree. They could shoot for a 5-5:30 reservation, and practically have the entire patio to themselves.

          2. re: Servorg

            How would Gjelina be about the outside wine, though? Something tells me their policy is probably ridiculous.

              1. re: Servorg

                Awesome. Thanks. $20 also. And I guess they have a private room. I'll call them. It's worth a look into if we can get patio or private room.

              2. re: schrutefarms

                Good point. I haven't asked them. Joe's is great. If you buy a bottle, corkage is free. Or $20 per bottle. Same with Chaya and Cafe del Rey. They are all $20 per bottle.

            1. If you and your husband enjoy 'trendy/hip' then Gjelina is the place to go. They create some of the best vegetable dishes in the city. Tasting Kitchen's another idea if you haven't thought of it.

              Hal's is consistent, great food....my friends who have been born/raised and live in Venice have found this place, after all the hoop-la and 'new', innovative and creative restaurants that've been opened on AK, to be their comfort & familiarity away from home.
              The bartenders are enthusiastic and welcoming.

              I'm also in agreement with J.L. about Capo. It's a wonderful restaurant. The food is stellar, having been to several parties with the age range you're talking about, everyone had a great time and enjoyed ambience.

              1 Reply
              1. re: latindancer

                Oh yes, Hal's. One of my all time Faves and standby's. I did not like the private room. The table would be in the middle of all those booths so I didn't like the feel for a big long table right in the middle of the room. I kind of want to be tucked to the side. Does that make sense?

                I will look into Capo now. That sound great.

              2. Sam's at the Beach is very good,
                You might get the private room at Chinois
                Love Capo

                IMO the service at Gjelina is iffy and its very crowded. No bar either although you might not care.

                1 Reply
                1. re: BSW6490

                  Thanks. I do care about bar, or at least having one close by and I'm not a fan of the Brig.

                2. Thanks for the suggestions so far. They are great. I have definetely thought of a few of these. Our dinner will be at 7:30ish because there are five of us with small kids and we need to get them down. People are also driving from far away. Thus Gjelina at 5/5:30 won't work. I doubt we could get a reservation to book the patio at 7:30 but I'll look into it. We were trying to avoid super hip and trendy as the attitude and service tend to be lacking I've found, especially with a big group. I love Gjelina though. Although I really don't like the no substitutions or changes to food policy. My husband had mentioned his parents wouldn't like it there when I mentioned it for an outing before. Too hip for them. And my husband nixed Chinois because he does a lot of work parties and dinners there.

                  I love Tasting Kitchen. It's one of my personal favorites except last time they had loud rap music playing early on - we had a group dinner at 5:30 and I asked them to turn it down. The music goes down when it gets packed. I thought of booking there upstairs room but my husband isn't crazy about Tasting Kitchen.

                  I will definitely look into Capo and Catch. Does Capo have a nice big bar area? That's important unless there is a bar within walking distance. Love Casa del Mar bar.

                  We've done Whist for my last big birthday with most of the same group.

                  Never heard of the Argentine place.

                  So it sounds like most agree No for Chaya, Joe's and Cafe del Rey???

                  1. Ok I know I said i'm not worried about price but Capo is too much for us. Maybe for the 50th bday. Looks amazing though. We'll definitely try it for a night out just the two of us.

                    1. Given your recently written parameters, maybe you can look into FIG at the Fairmount, they are more reasonably priced than Capo, and only a few more blocks north. They also have a new bar area called Bungalow.

                      We like CDR for brunch, but have not eaten dinner there, so I couldn't comment. But my feeling is, the place never really gets "lively". And I'm thinking Chaya may just be another loud place, but I too, have not been by in years.

                      Wilshire, at 25th and Wilshire, has a beautiful patio with a bar inside and one on the patio. Haven't been in a while, but I don't recall it being particularly noisy even when crowded. They've had a chef change since last I went, but I am hearing good things about their new one, though her name escapes me at the moment.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        OP is not worried about price, and is expecting to spend a lot.

                        My type of Hound...

                        1. re: J.L.

                          Right?! I wanna party with them.... ;-0)

                        2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                          Fig has great food and a great private room with a large circular table that can accommodate 15. The room has large open doorways so it feels less closed in and isolated. I know you did not want a private room, but many of the alternatives with great food are simply too noisy. It will be hard for the people in the group more than 3 seats away to hear each other. Fig in Santa Monica would be my first choice for your needs. Good food, great room, open feel to the private room. Take a look at their pictures online.

                          Gjelina, Tasting Kitchen, Chaya, inside at Joe's, Superba Snack Bar all have good food, but are too noisy for a party of 15. The Hungry Cat might be good if they let you take their private room with great views, but only until the sun sets. Their seafood centric menu might not be friendly to some of the red wines you may want to bring.

                          Capo has great food, but is too expensive IMO, and I kind of recall they limited bringing wines to one bottle per party, their corkage being rather high at $30/bottle, and them having a great but very pricey wine list.

                          Wilshire in Santa Monica has a magical patio at night, but their food is not as good as the above restaurants. Inside is too noisy.

                          1. re: altstarr

                            Capo's price point is commensurate with the quality of food they serve, IMO.

                            1. re: J.L.

                              Absolutely agree with this, J.L. I love the food and don't mind paying the price.
                              Cora's is my favorite also...I crave their egg-white omelet and am willing to drive and pay.

                            2. re: altstarr

                              Has anyone inquired about Gjelina's upstairs room lately? Nice space. I think ciao bob mentioned something about it a year or two ago...

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                My understanding is there is a dispute about the number of parking spaces needed with the neighborhood and it must be resolved before the upstairs space can open at Gjelina if ever.

                                1. re: wienermobile

                                  I know there's been a long-standing grudge that some of the nearby residents have with Gjelina. That makes sense - thanks...

                          2. You might want to consider Superba Snack Bar on Rose in Venice. Wonderful food and fantastic homemade pastas. Their smoked bucatini carbonara, poached egg, pancetta, black pepper & parm is one of the best dishes I've had in a while. The also do a pasta tasting menu at $45 per person. You could use their front tented patio for your party,

                            1. Just had another thought, as J.L. reminded me that price isn't a huge issue. You may want to check out the new MDR restaurant Paiche.

                              There is an online review linked in this discussion:

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                Great idea. That's right down the street from us and I've been wanting to try! I should go do a test dinner there this week.

                              2. The Hungry Cat in Santa Monica Canyon has a great private room upstairs which overlooks the Pacific. We attended a private party there and it was awesome. We had our own seafood bar, cocktail bar, comfortable seating and the most incredible view. I strongly suggest calling them and asking about that private room. It is a real treasure.
                                "Host your party at the hungry cat Santa Monica Canyon. Private dining room with a view of the ocean for intimate gatherings up to 28 people. To book your party now call 310.459.3337 or send and email to infosantamonica@thehungrycat.com"

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: maudies5

                                  Sounds awesome. I sent them an email. Thanks!!!

                                  1. re: yummytrip

                                    I hope The Hungry Cat works out for you. That private room is so special and the sunsets are spectacular. You might even try calling The Hungry Cat and ask to speak to David Lentz, the owner. He is very very nice.

                                2. Nixed cafe del Rey jut because they make you sign contract and do the set menu. So I'm looking into private rooms at catch and hungry cat, and Paiche. Stand by reservation at Joe's since they are most flexible with open menu and wine. Plus not too loud. They have $48 prix fixe menu too that anyone can decide to do that night.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: yummytrip

                                    Take a good look at Sam's by the Beach. Great med menu, really nice room and service. The raw bare at Hungry Cat is as good as it gets, but IMO the rest of the menu is difficult in that they combine fish, meat and sauces in many of their dishes making it hard if you just want fish or dont want a heavy sauce. Paiche sounds interesting but have not been.