NFT Los Angeles Santa Monica

Santa Monica

Essentials
Santa Monica's beachy creative community gave way long ago to families, young professionals, tourists, and condos. Residents typically avoid 3rd Street Promenade (the fun is offset by draconian parking regulations, quick-draw meter maids, throngs of confused tourists, and pushy hustlers), preferring to window shop along the boutique- and café-lined Main Street. Montana Avenue hosts a wealth of pricey cafés, pricier boutiques and severely pricey jewelry stores. The ocean bike path, the picturesque bluffs, and the famous Santa Monica stairs encourage shutting down the laptop and playing outdoors.

Sundries/Entertainment
A weekend in Santa Monica should begin at the Farmers Market (on Arizona on Saturdays, Main Street on Sundays). Then take a walk along the bluffs or bike ride on the beach path followed by lunch and shopping on Main Street. Next, try the See more.

>Library Alehouse for its personal brews and neighboring Rick's Tavern for its burgers. Finally, you can't not check out the Pier, unless you're some kind of communist. The Ferris Wheel gives you a view of dolphins on one side and the Valley fires, mudslides, or general frustration on the other, and a perfect make-out spot. And it's your name on a grain of rice, people.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Wino Bars in LA

By Rin-rin Yu
Wine: it's always there when you need a friend. A grape on which you can depend. A glass of wine is mighty fine. A drinker needn't toe the line. W-I-N-E: Wine ain't got no enemies. It's tasty. Yeah, yeah, it's tasty.

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The New Yorker's Guide to Los Angeles

By Rin-rin Yu
What's a native New Yorker without his bagel and a shmear, long, dejected strolls, Trotskyitic Van Dyke, rumpled copy of the New York Times and incoherent ramblings? He may come to the City of Angels and become a supple, lissome blonde but the old, Eastern gloominess remains. Thankfully, Rin-rin Yu has located some pizza and bagel shops.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Santa Monica Pier
Near the ends of the last few summers, the touristy area around Santa Monica Pier has transformed, for one long Saturday night, into LA's most fascinating outdoor art museum. The annual Glow Festival focuses on art that looks cool in the dark, but ranges from a lifeguard tower being slowly swallowed in foam to a locomotive-shaped barbecue to a brass band performing on a merry-go-round (courtesy of the geniuses at Machine Project). The fest runs from 7 pm to 3 am, and it's wildly popular--most businesses along the shoreline and Promenade stay open late to accommodate the 200,000-some bodies that show up and hang out. A lot of these people probably don't spend a lot of time in indoor museums and only show up for this because it's The Thing To Do This Weekend, and around sundown, you'll overhear a lot of philistine wisecracks about certain exhibits. But after a few hours of live music, artsy intrigue, and rampant weed smoke, most people settle in and realize what most little kids realize without thinking about it too much: Art is pretty damned nifty. As is its wont, Los Angeles dresses up for this thing: You'll see a huge number of people in glow-in-the-dark clothing, and some people trying way too hard. (I'm looking at you, glowstick-dreadlocks girl, and not without a certain admiration.)



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

NY&C Pizza
It's billed as Atlantic Coast and Lake Michigan pizza under the same roof, which makes it pretty in-demand for this city of chagrined transplants. But you can only get the extra-wide NYC thin-crust by the slice; the Chicago-style deep-dish (which, to be just, is hard to find this good even in Chicago itself) comes only by the pie. And there are other peculiarities. Show up in the slow hours, and your pizza shows up quickly, almost abruptly, with a big, friendly acknowledgement. Show up when it's busy, or cop a hostile stance, or act "special," and your order could take the better part of an hour. It's open late. The food is solid. With East-Coast-quality pizza, they should almost charge extra for the bitchy, arbitrary service--a keeping-it-real tax. If you need to relive your memories of trudging through the snow for a perfect slice, this place will give you the indignity and the gratification.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Broadway Ale House
Great beer selection; odd business plan. The sign outside bespeaks a $3 happy hour lasting until 2, but that's just the shitty beers you can procure anyplace; the tasty stuff (Allagash White FTW) will cost in excess of five bones. The staff is kind, but the service is often largely theoretical; order a plate of the half-decent pub grub, and you may watch an entire True Hollywood Story before it appears. The jukebox is just as inexplicable as the TV, ping-ponging from country to Sinatra to Rick James to AC/DC. The Fifth Amendment is still new on the scene, and it's rep is thusfar mixed at best. But in Santa Monica, a land of pretensions lounges and cavernous, deafening Fratty McDaterape meat markets, it's a small, insulated getaway for touchy, self-sufficient boozehounds. No one said Zen was smooth sailing. But, if you imbibe enough, you might find yourself sampling a llama burger.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Hennessey + Ingalls Art Books
Ever been enamored with someone on a higher intellectual rung than you? Ever listened, rapt, while your date rhapsodized about artists and architects you'd never heard of, but pretended to, just to keep the banter going, feeling your own lack of sophistication like a bad stomach cramp? Sure you have. That's how most of us autodidacts learn new things--trying to impress cute people. This is a great place to do that homework. Kill a few hours rummaging this collection of arts-and-architecture books, some of them WAY out of print, and you’ll figure out why you're into people who seem smart--because it feels good to be smart. It puts some detail on your mental map of your city. And, long after that self-important grad-student has flaked out on you, you'll still have a grip on your aesthetic heritage, and be able to rap knowledgably about Union Station.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Magicopolis
Once a sad retreat for child molesters, a career as a performing magician is now a scientifically proven  means for your lonely, scrawny, acne-scarred ass to get laid. Does it work? It should. At Magicopolis, you'll find America's last, most talented practitioners of the art of misdirection, throwbacks to an age of entertainment before simplistic oversharing. So much of the amusement industry now leans on sadism and shadenfreude--Magicopolis is cool because you get to see, not just people acting like bitches, but people more clever than you do stuff you don't have time to learn, and because anything that entertains a five-year-old is entertaining, period. If you think it's hard to break up with your girlfriend on national TV, you've never spent months alone trying to make a nickel disappear. None of these magicians comes off like a cellar-dweller. Magicopolis draws and breeds class acts. See the mainstage show on a Saturday, and stick around for the Bar Show in the front, where post-magician Erik Tait presents standup comedians and rips the bandages off his magic act. All for your entertainment.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Renee's Courtyard Cafe
RCC is about as cool as it gets in this zip code--much cooler than could be discerned from the bland name, the tony location, or anything else one could know from the outside. What's cool about it? It's not a single entity, but a maze-like series of aggressively thematic rooms. (Call it the Madonna Inn of west-side pseudo-dives.) If the possibilities for covert make-out sessions aren’t obvious, go back to school. As it’s easy to seclude oneself in the Renee's complex, I often come here to write--if you see me in the bright red booth and I don't look too weary, feel free to introduce yourself. Renee's is also noteworthy for its charming, vaguely New-Orleanean gothic pretensions. Bask in the moody lighting, witness the "doll room," and, if you've got cash, enjoy a shot of absinthe.



Posted By:  Alison Kim
Photo:  Alison Kim

Real Food Daily
I tend to avoid restaurants that don't serve meat, due to the fact that vegetarians/hippies kind of scare me. Most of my aversion, however, comes from the fact that these gastronomical fascists just don't know how to cook good food. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule, as Real Food Daily proves with its unbelievably delicious vegan fare. Jesus himself must be working in the kitchen, because no mere mortal could possibly make such realistic nut-based cheese. Same rationale goes for the brownie sundae: milk and eggs are replaced with the Messiah's magic. Considering that the food is so damn good, the fact that I've yet to see a hippie in this place is just icing on the dairy-free cake.



Posted By:  Jake Williamson
Photo:  Jake Williamson

Santino's Tapas & Grill
Santino's may not call itself a cafe but it functions in the same way all good cafes do. During the day it's one of the few places in LA where one can sit and get work done and not be surrounded by the standard Starbucks crowd. The management doesn't exactly encourage its clientele to bring their laptops in (they would rather sit and talk soccer with you) but they do not have a problem with someone munching and getting work done at a table for a few hours. Note: it will be difficult to not get distracted by the four-stool bar subtly awaiting a patron, the deli case with the day's assortment of tapas or the Argentinean soccer match on TV. The afternoons bring a varied crowd awaiting live music or stopping for a snack on the way home. Once the afternoon crowd begins to filter out it becomes a great casual spot for a large group of friends looking to feast on tapas (if you make it in on a Tuesday or Friday be sure to try one of the grilled, handmade pizzas) and enjoy countless drinks until late in the night with the kind hosts/owners.



Posted By:  Jake Williamson
Photo:  Jake Williamson

Warszawa
Warszawa is a bit disjointed to say the least. It is an Eastern European restaurant in the middle of Santa Monica (the closest you will get to this type of food in LA outside of the Russian delis in West Hollywood). Go there for dinner and you feel like you are a lodger in Poland. Stumble into the back and you find yourself in what can best be described as a makeshift outdoor lounge, a bamboo-lined parking lot with fire pits, outdoor furniture and one huge palm tree. Credit goes to Warszawa for somehow managing to use these juxtaposing attributes to create one of the better happy hours (Wed-Fri., 4-6pm) on the Westside. The last oddity: most people come to this backyard happy hour for the half-price appetizers from the well-respected kitchen and not the drinks. To keep with the theme I recommend a standard plate (grilled polish sausage with horseradish) and one very different (wine-cured herring and apples). After a few drinks it all manages to go together.



Posted By:  Kevan Peterson
Photo:  Gillian Wee

Yangtze
Asian Fusion. That should be the name of this restaurant as it takes Thai, Chinese and Japanese, which by the way, are all very distinct types of Asian cuisine and combines them into some kind of new supermeal. Oddly, it works. The sushi is half-off if you eat at the bar location. If you don't mind cramming onto a small stool, you can pack in a fair amount of yellowtail and octopus for a decent price. But the hidden gem on the menu is the lettuce wrap. Make sure to order Thai chilies in fish sauce on the side to give them an extra zing! If you don't mind paying full price for you sushi (you rich jerk) or plan on ordering another dish, take your table outside and watch the many people passing by. Just pray that you get one of the few good bands that line the promenade to serenade you.



Posted By:  Jake Williamson
Photo:  Jake Williamson

Cha Cha Chicken
A friend once told me they had never been to Cha-Cha Chicken but that it "looked like a tourist trap." Another friend told me that he was "pretty sure it was BYOB." From these two assertions one might stand to reason that either A.) The food at this place is over-priced and generic or B.) The food at this place is so goddamn awful that allowing one to bring their own alcohol is the only way to get people in the door. Neither is the case for Cha-Cha Chicken. Whatever alcohol you choose to bring will be secondary to the excellent food at this Caribbean-style chicken shack. There is a variety of daily specials ranging from fresh fish to exotic fruit drinks, but the best food is anything that has the traditional "jerk" flavoring, from enchiladas to turkey burgers (you read that right). The high-fenced patio, bright color scheme and authentic mix of dancehall/reggae/salsa music may make one feel like a tourist, just not one in L.A. Don't like that feeling? Bring some drinks (actually bring a ton, no one will say a word) and friends and pretend you're at a barbecue in someone's island-themed backyard.



Posted By:  Kevan Peterson
Photo:  Gillian Wee

Lighthouse
If you're going to stuff yourself, you might as well do it with expensive food. The Lighthouse in Santa Monica allows you to gorge on crab, salmon, sushi and sashimi along with your standard beef and chicken in an all-you-can-eat buffet focusing on Japanese cuisine. The seating arrangement is nothing to get excited over, neither is their ugly wall patterns (silver bubbly circles?) but the food is solid and for less than $25 a person, if you are a smart shopper at the buffet window you can get your money's worth. The chilled crab legs are the popular favorite, along with the sushi and sashimi bar. But seriously, stay away from the fried oysters.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Third Street Promenade
Next time you're strolling Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, talk to a stranger. Any stranger. It doesn't have to be complicated; you can just make eye contact and say "hey" or ask for directions to a good resturaunt. But talk to at least one stranger, or group of strangers. Talk to a group of idle teenagers, commiserating amongst themselves and not really watching their hyperactive pal do skateboard tricks. Talk to a young parent window-shopping and talking on his cellphone as he pushes around his daughter in a colorful plastic coupe. Talk to a couple, walking side by side, huddled against each other in a shameless PDA or barely standing close enough for territorial handholding. Talk to the leggy girls going through their shopping bags as they share a smoke break. Talk to the licensed busker playing the same four chords on his acoustic, over and over. For extra points, talk to a homeless person--they smell funny, and some of them might hustle you for scratch, but during the day, with about 20 bike cops for every civilian, nothing ugly will happen.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Falafel King
You're out of falafel? This is "Falafel King," right? And you're saying we have to wait, for like, two whole minutes? Ugh. "For here or to go?" Where are we supposed to sit here, anyway? Out in that sketchy corrido? With all of the homeless people, toting their huge trash bags to the public bathrooms? And the birds flying in and grabbing crumbs? Eew. Just, eew. Ugh. I can't believe they're making us wait at, like, a fast food place. Isn't this supposed to be a "community staple" or something? Ugh. I'm so not impressed. Our food is ready? Okay. That didn't take too long. Let's try this... Ummmmm! That's really good falafel! Tasty! Lots of flavor! Not dry or greasy at all! So delicious. And there's a lot of it! Now I'm not feeling so high-maintenance anymore! Thanks, Falafel King!



Posted By:  Rin-rin Yu
Photo:  Rin-rin Yu

Le Marmiton
It's like stepping into a little French café, minus the fact that the tables don't all face the windows, providing its patrons with hours of people-watching. But you can still give your well-heeled feet an afternoon break from shopping along Montana in this bright, narrow eatery, which has a serving counter lining one side and tables lining the other. Bottles of wine and jars of Nutella provide that je ne sais quoi of Paris, as do the French accents lingering on the wait staff and chef. There's a selection of crepes, sandwiches and baked goods (nothing brings a tired shopper back to life like a pain au chocolat and cup of pressed tea). Try the croque monsieur smothered in cheese or traditional chocolate mousse in the dessert window.



Posted By:  Rin-rin Yu
Photo:  Rin-rin Yu

Bryan Kest's Power Yoga
No one should be denied the ability to perform yoga, as is the belief of Bryan Kest, founder of the Santa Monica Power Yoga studios. Hence, his studios offer donation-only power yoga classes, each a suggested donation of $11. There are two locations right around the corner from each other with a full schedule of classes seven days a week: the older one, held in a former dance studio above Radio Shack on Santa Monica Blvd, and the new location, a spanking shiny studio, shop and lounge on 2nd Street. For all those who ever poo-pooed yoga before, now's your chance to get your butt kicked, sometimes by your own foot if you're not careful. This isn’t some meditation class—it’s the real deal, and even the strongest of men have admitted that it’s a challenging class. Held in closed rooms heated by rising body temperatures (and sweat), the yoga class will make you drip your way to better flexibility and harmony. Sure, the condensation building on the closed windows is a little gross, but the workout is tremendous. Mats are available for $2 rental or for purchase—it’s probably more sanitary to have your own. There are different levels of classes offered, but the majority is for all, at a work-at-your-own-pace ability. Even those who can't help but giggle through class leave feeling stronger, lighter, and a little more in touch with themselves.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Father's Office
Ever since it has opened, Father’s Office has been known to serve the best burger in So Cal, if not the entire US. At Father’s Office you get your burger their way and their way only: fatty ground Chuck patty, carmelized onions, Gruyere/Maytag Blue combo, and arugula—no substitutions or deletions (tough shit). Give in since the ultimate combination makes for a phenomenal burger. And what of the famous Father’s Office attitude? Nonexistent! Ask your bartender which beer goes best with the burger and he or she will kindly direct you to the “Burger Selection” beer of the week. I had a Racer Five IPA from Bear Republic Brewery. Besides the burger, a must order is the sweet potato fries “a la carte.” Yes, they literally come in a miniature shopping cart. Order them not just for the cute pun but for the fabulous taste: these sweet potato fries are the best ever. You will also be rewarded with a side of blue cheese aioli in which to dip them. Not a burger person? That’s ok because the non-burger items are incredibly good. The rest of the menu is mostly Spanish tapas, with a Moroccan tinge, and French Bistro classics.



Posted By:  Stacy Lane
Photo:  Stacy Lane

What do you do after a long work day spent in a dreary cubicle without a glimmer of hope that you’ll get out before 8 pm to enjoy the joyful summer sun on your face? Why, bash the evil harpies you work with, of course! And drink margaritas! And eat your weight in queso! All this and more good times can be had at the vibrant Border Grill. The Santa Monica installment of the Two Hot Tamales’ empire, this loud and rambunctious restaurant has more color than 38 pieces of flair, and an inventive, tasty menu that will make you forget all about those carrots and hummus you ate at your desk at 2 pm. Oh, and they’ve got the best vegetarian platter in Los Angeles. Seriously. Go there after work. Eat and drink up. Take a few of your favorite coworkers and spend a few hours planning all the ways you’ll one day show that shriveled hag in Sales who’s boss.



Posted By:  Rin-rin Yu
Photo:  Rin-rin Yu

Designed to mimic the intimate home where the restaurant’s idea was borne out of, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar is like a hidden desert cave on regular Wilshire Boulevard. Its food is all from local purveyors, with changing menus depending on the season. It specializes in small platters, but has a menu of entrees as well. On this particularly busy Sunday evening, where reservations would have been useful, we took the opportunity to order mussels steamed in broth, blood oranges salad with avocado, a Mediterranean platter, and a burger entrée encrusted with blue cheese and served with potato-stick fries. The waiter even brought us wine samplings before we made our selection (they have 20 wines by the glass and even more by the bottle). The tasty Mediterranean plate of hummus, eggplant dip, beets, and sour cream came with sliced Chinese-style scallion pancakes without the scallions, but the restaurant charged for extra when it ran out—so dip conservatively. The candlelit, minimalist-styled restaurant makes for a romantic first-date place, and seemed a little too cool to be teeming with people over 50, but didn’t make much of an impressionable desire to return anytime soon.



Posted By:  Rin-rin Yu
Photo:  Rin-rin Yu

There’s no messing with Toi when it comes to food and funky atmosphere. The affordable Thai restaurant has an extensive menu of your standard Thai dishes (many vegetarian) and is open until 3 am. You can’t go wrong with the pad thai or the curries. Sake, beer, and wine are also available. This place surprisingly makes for a decent low-key date place as well as a good place for friends to gather, for dinner or late-night munchies. Decorated wall-to-wall with rock ‘n roll paraphernalia and a tuk-tuk (tiny open-air taxi prevalent in Southeast Asia and India), the place is kitschy in a Thai/ anti-established teenager from the ‘70s kind of way. There’s also a location on Sunset. T-shirt, jeans, and a big appetite are required. If you’re not up for rockin’ out, you can also order in delivery.




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