By Beth Friedman
Santa Monica, CA is my adopted home and I love it here. I was born & raised in New York and would be what one considered “die hard” because to me, NYC was the center of the universe. There was no part of me that ever saw myself leaving, especially to live anywhere near Los Angeles. Us New Yorker’s have always had a certain, dare I say…… distain for the City of Angels, but I was offered a great job opportunity that would have been stupid to pass up just because it was somewhere I couldn’t imagine living. 15 years later, I’m still here.
Santa Monica is special and is a great place to live. It’s also a fantastic vacation destination and since I’m a luxury travel consultant writing my first blog, I thought it would be fun to start with what this great little beach town has to offer it’s visitors all year long!
Obviously there are the beaches where you can bask in the sun, work out, surf, bike, rollerblade, ride the roller-coaster and various other rides at the pier, play volleyball & swim (you get the picture). There are amazing restaurants, some that I’ll list at the end of this posting, with endless shopping and a ton of bars and clubs. But one of my truly favorite things about Santa Monica is that it is a walking town. This plays to my New York City sensibilities. Joe, my boyfriend and I spend most weekends wandering around at the beach or at various parks.
Santa Monica also has phenomenal luxury hotels that I love like Casa Del Mar, Shutters on the Beach, The Loews Santa Monica, The Shangri-La, The Viceroy and the Fairmont Miramar. If I had my ‘travel professional’ hat on right now, I’d happily send any of my clients to any of these properties.
They say that you can take the girl out of NY but never take NY out of the girl. I agree with this because I still think that New York City is the center of the universe. However, after living in this laid back and diverse small town, traveling the world and just plain growing up, I have amazing appreciation for the world we live in, and a passion for experiencing new things. I became a travel consultant to follow this passion and to share it with others!
Your Journey By Beth’s Picks for the best accommodations and dining in Santa Monica, CA: If you’d like to plan a visit, just let me know!
Casa Del Mar – this is the pearl on the beach in Santa Monica and is one of my favorite hotels in Southern California. It offers causal luxury in a glamorous setting, with the fantastic Veranda lounge where you can sip your cocktails while watching the sunset, an amazing restaurant called Catch that has the best ocean views in the city and fabulous spa! $$$$
Shutters on the Beach – the sister property to Casa Del Mar (both part of the ETC Hotel Group) is right next door and is equally as luxurious in a craftsman style setting. The lounge is amazingly cozy with deep couches, a grand piano and fireplace. Coast, their casual restaurant has my all-time favorite salad of grilled calamari, arugula and white beans and their fine dining option, One Pico is just wonderful. Oh, and they have a fab spa too! $$$$
Viceroy Hotel – is a hip, happenin’ boutique hotel with tons of personality and style. Part of the every growing Viceroy Brand, it’s across the street from the beach, has fantastic, sexy rooms and a great restaurant called Whist. $$$
Loews Santa Monica – this hotel has been apart of the Santa Monica landscape for as long as I can remember and boasts amazing views, an incredible pool, a wonderful sushi bar and restaurant. It combines beach luxury with casual elegance with the perfect beachfront location. $$$
Fairmont Miramar Hotel Hotel & Bungalows: the Miramar has a great location just down the block from Santa Monica’s Third Street promenade and the new Santa Monica Place. It is close to everything, has the unique feature of offering bungalow accommodations and houses one of the best hotel restaurants around, Fig. $$$
Hotel Shangri-La – is the newest edition to the Santa Monica hotel scene. It’s art deco look and feel offer a hip and exciting place to stay! The roof bar has an incredible happy hour, an amazing view and a very happening place to hang by the pool. This is another hipster hangout with a fun location in downtown Santa Monica, close to everything $$$
Santa Monica has so many hotels and these represent what I think are the best. For dining recommendations:
Melisse – French fine dining with California “casual-ness”, has two Michelin stars, owned by lifelong SoCal chef Josiah Citrin. ‘nuf said! $$$$
Rustic Canyon – Amazing wine selection and wine bar focusing on lesser known, boutique wineries. Known for advocating sustainable agriculture, their ever changing menu is made up from ingredients from local farmers, ranchers and fisherman. $$$
Fraishe – This is the second outpost of Fraishe – the first one is wildly successful and located a bit south in Culver City. The Santa Monica spot occupies a beautiful space just around the corner from the pedestrian mall, the Third Street Promenade. Rustic french & italian inspired food is highlighted with an emphasis on market fresh, seasonal ingredients. $$$
Boa – Steak House extraordinaire by the beach! This sexy, modern and all-around crowd pleaser is everything you’d want from great steaks to great martinis! There’s a West Hollywood location too! $$$$
Jiraffe – California cuisine using only the finest in-season ingredients. Another Santa Monica staple run by another life-long local chef (and avid surfer!), Raphael Lunetta. The menu changes frequently and has an extensive wine list! You simply can’t go wrong here! $$$
Santa Monica Seafood: This is a restaurant combined with a retail store and is one of my happy places! You can’t get fresher fish, oysters, clams and lobster! $$
Ocean Avenue Seafood – An oldie but a goodie, this restaurant has been around forever and has fantastic food and a great happy hour! They also have a huge oyster bar, which is something that makes Ocean Avenue Seafood stand out. $$$
Blue Plate Oysterette – This low key and casual restaurant is the sister to the Blue Plate Diner, which has been a Santa Monica staple on Montana Avenue for years. It’s location along Ocean Avenue offers great people watching from the ‘front porch’ and has a really nice, summery kind of ‘diner meets seafood’ setting. $$
Joe’s Pizza of Bleecker Street New York (of course!!) – it’s not exactly the same as NYC pizza, but it’s about as good as you’ll get. The crust is thin, crispy and the cheese is all great, salty goodness! $
Musha (Traditional Japanese Pub food) – A meal at Musha is an experience kind of like japanese tapas. Small plates meant to be shared make this a really fun and unique dining experience! $$$
Sushi Roku: Sushi Roku is part of the same upscale restaurant group that owns Boa. The food is fresh and creative, the scene is fun and the vibe is incredibly alive! My downfall here is always the yummy sake infused with fruit juice! Next door is The Robota Bar where you can dive into some tasty yakitori along with your fabulous sushi! $$$
Katsuya – okay, so it’s not in Santa Monica, it’s in Brentwood, but worth jumping in the car for 10 minutes. Part of the SBE empire and designed by the incredible Philip Starck, this is your quintessential LA scene where the food as as gorgeous as the people! You can also find another location in Hollywood. $$$$
Bimi – Bimi is sort of a low-key Katsuya wanna be (for lack of a better way to say it), but the food is so good and so reasonably priced I really wanted to include it here. It’s a little bit off the beaten path (meaning away from the beach and actually just over the Santa Monica border in West LA), but again, worth getting in the car. $$ 1/2
Jinky’s – the menu is so big that I can’t even begin to describe it! On the weekends there’s always wait, so be prepared. $$
Huckleberry – owned by the same folks as Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry is known for using the best organic ingredients. It is my all time favorite breakfast spot. Don’t expect your typical eggs, bacon & potatoes here. The pastries and breads are also to die for. I love their home-made english muffins! One word of warning though – it get’s very crowded and noisy, so it isn’t someplace you’d want to have a quiet meal. $$
New York Bagel & Deli – this basically speaks for itself. When you don’t feel like going to a restaurant and want to pack up a quick bagel before going to the beach, this is your spot! Hands down the closest thing to NY bagels you’ll find in Southern California. You can also find Boars Head cold cuts, which are hard to come by in LA. If you’re from New York, you’ll understand! $
no website: Address 2216 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403, 310-828-3228
The Library Ale House – If you are a lover of beer, the Library Ale House has a HUGE selection from around the world and an eclectic menu with everything from Mexican type entrees to burgers to ribs. Without question, you’ll find the best curly fries here ever! There’s a back patio for outdoor seating. $$
M Street Kitchen (formerly LGO) – has a varied menu that includes yummy salads, fresh tacos with home-made tortillas, burgers and sandwiches. For dinner, steaks and other larger entrees are served. It has a great beach location on Main Street with awesome outdoor seating and also uses organic ingredients. Great for breakfast too. $$
R+D – comes to you from the same folks as Houston’s and Bandera by Hillstone Restaurants. I am a huge fan of their deviled eggs, salads and turkey meatballs. It’s the only restaurant on Montana Avenue that serves cocktails too!! $$
1323 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403 310-395-3314
And check out the dining deck at Santa Monica Place, our fabulous outdoor shopping mecca! Here you can choose from several dining options including 7 different restaurants that includes a sushi/Japanese restaurant, Chinese, Mexican, pizza, Latin/Asian fusion, a a plus a food court. I haven’t had the opportunity to dine at each yet, so here’s the link for you to explore a little more.