It's my mom's 50th birthday and we are staying at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey. We have reservations at the Polo Lounge for lunch, so I'd like to keep dinner a little less expensive but still awesome. Mom isn't a super adventurous eater, but I'm good at convincing her to try new things! Any thoughts on someplace yummy and festive on a budget?
+1 for Gjelina. Split a pizza, share a salad dish, get the pork belly (small dish), choose some veggies, be sure to get the butterscotch pot de creme for dessert. If you stick with the smaller plates and assorted accompaniments, your bill will be surprisingly modest for food of this caliber. (Depending on wine.) No alterations, but an extensive menu to select from.
26 Beach is very close to you. There is a casual patio and an intimate inside area. The menu is quite varied and everything is good. Make sure to request the patio at The Polo Lounge. You may also wish to have dessert or coffee at the newly remodeled Cabana Café Café by the pool. It's especially lovely on a warm day.
+1 26 beach
although i love the food at gjelina, and gjelina is on my regular rotation, every time i've been there with a party of 4 or more, it felt like we were eating in a mosh pit.
also, normally when eating with nonadventurous eaters, i try to avoid restaurants which allow NO modifications.
gotta admit that, to my palate, the pizza at gjelina is not all that special. i know there are hounds that disagree. the VEGETABLES at gjelina are, imho, their shining star, but wouldn't expect a non-adventurous eater to appreciate them.
also, if you're going to eat pizza, the pizza at settebello is much closer and is served in a much more civilized atmosphere, one where people aren't standing holding up the wall while waiting for not-yet-ready-tables that they reserved weeks ago.
(to me, it's not very festive to be told to stand against the wall while you wait for your table. gjelina doesn't have a bar nor a waiting area)
another place to consider is cafe del rey which is practically next door to your hotel, although it can't be considered a budget restaurant.
entrees priced from about $25 to $35
the entrees contain enough protein to satisfy, you really won't need a starter.
food is good for non-adventurous eaters
excellent wine-by-the-glass selections
Of course, it might depend on how you define "on a budget" but Waterloo & City is a good option, not too far away, and offers elevated gastropub food. Willie Jane on Abbott Kinney for Southern food or Barnyard on Pacific in Venice for California cuisine might be other decent choices. Further afield, if she likes pasta, Bucato in Culver City at the Helms Bakery might appeal.