Take advantage
of my archives!

Visit my hangouts in:

Brands I've
Loved Forever

A guide to restaurants in West LA (Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu)

June 12th, 2015 No Comments


When summer hits, so do the requests for best restaurants to visit while you’re in Los Angeles.  I don’t know much about the new places east of the 405 (Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Downtown) anymore, but I have a handle on what’s happening on my side of town, west of the 405.

Below you’ll find restaurants and hangouts you should visit that are unique to this area.  There are tons of other great places, but if you only have half a day or a weekend on the Westside, these are where I would recommend you go.

My list is divided into themes and what each place is renown for…they might be open at other times and offer other things, but I would suggest you go to each spot for it’s specialty.

You’ll find all of these places in these neighborhoods:

  • Montata = Montana Ave in Santa Monica
  • Wilshire = Wilshire Blvd runs from Ocean to the 405
  • Ocean = Ocean Ave to 2nd Street in Santa Monica
  • SOW = South of Wilshire, Main Street to the Ocean
  • Brentwood = San Vicente from 26th to the 405
  • Venice = South of Santa Monica and Abbot Kinney (AK)
  • Malibu = North of Santa Monica

MAKE SURE YOU GOOGLE THE LOCATION AND SEE THE MENU FIRST FOR PRICING.

If you are likely to see a celeb there, I’ll  put a * by the name.

via @AlfredCoffee

Coffee

  • Primo Passo (Montana) Best Americano
  • Demitasse (Wilshire and 3rd) Best cappuccino and latte
  • Cafe Luxxe* (Brentwood)
  • Alfred (Brentwood)
  • Intelligencia* (Venice, AK) Best cappuccino and latte
  • Blue Bottle (Venice, AK) Best cappuccino
  • GTA – Gjelina Take Away (Venice, AK) Best nut milk cappuccino

via @KreationJuice

Juice Bars

  • Kreation (Montana and Venice AK)
  • Juice Crafters (Brentwood)
  • Moon Juice (Venice)

@Malibu.Farm

Breakfast

  • Gjelina* (Venice AK) – my favorite in town, sit on back patio
  • Kreation Kafe* (Montana and Venice AK) – omelettes, fresh juice bar, smoothies
  • Huckleberry (Wilshire) – farm to table, seasonal cafe
  • Courtyard Kitchen (Montana) – delicious breakfast options
  • Farm Shop* (Brentwood) farm-to-table, seasonal cafe, more expensive
  • Malibu Farm* (Malibu) farm-to-table on the pier

@farmshopla

Lunch

  • Gjelina* (Venice AK)
  • Farmshop* (Brentwood)
  • Gjusta (Venice AK)
  • Kreation (Montana)

via @artstablesm

Dinner Casual

  • R + D Kitchen* (Montana) locals love this bar and restaurant
  • Art’s Table (Montana) Gastro-pub
  • Sugar Fish (Santa Monica and Brentwood) Sushi
  • Father’s Office (Montana) American
  • Mercado (Santa Monica) Modern Mexican
  • Blue Plate Taco (Ocean) Mexican
  • Milo + Olive (Wilshire) Pizza

@Baltaire

Dinner for a Night Out*

(I like sitting at the bar all of these places)

  • Boa (Santa Monica) steakhouse
  • Mastro’s Ocean Club (Santa Monica) steakhouse over the water
  • Nobu (Malibu) Japanese on the water
  • Baltaire (Brentwood) steakhouse
  • Rustic Canyon (Wilshire) farm to table amazing food and wine bar (sit at the bar!)
  • Tasting Kitchen (Venice) farm to table gastro pub
  • Scopa (Venice) farm to table gastro pub
  • Little Door (Brentwood) farm to table french
  • Giorgio Baldi’s* (Ocean) Italian, you need a reservation in advance

 

Bars/Hangouts/Sunsets

If you see a ^ at the end, it’s a good place to watch the sunset.

  • Bungalow at The Fairmont Hotel^ (Wilshire) outdoor club from 5 – 2am
  • R + D Kitchen* (Montana)
  • Brick and Mortar (Santa Monica Main Street) sports bar
  • Sonny McLean’s (Wilshire) sports bar
  • The Lobster^ (Ocean)
  • Harvel’s  (SOW) blues, rock, dancing
  • ShangriLa Roofdeck^ (Ocean)
  • Shore Bar (Ocean) nightclub
  • The bar at Casa Del Mar^ (Ocean)
  • Nobu Bar^ (Malibu)
  • Penthouse Bar at The Huntley Hotel^ (Ocean)

Late Night Grub

  • Swingers (Santa Monica)
  • Iggy’s Diner (Wilshire)

Coming Soon!

  • Red O (Ocean) Mexican
  • Estate (Wilshire @ 16th)
  • Forma (Montana @ 17th)

Stay Away

Restaurants you’ll hear about that you shouldn’t waste your time on.

  • The Ivy at the Shore (Ocean)
  • Water Grill (Ocean)
  • Fig (unless you’re doing the happy hour from 5-6pm) (Wilshire)
  • Feed (Venice)

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the Santa Monica Pier or Third Street Promenade.  Both are nice to see, but I wouldn’t stop to eat while I strolled there.

Tweet this!Tweet this!

How to get to the best beaches in Los Angeles:   Our Malibu Beaches App

May 22nd, 2015 No Comments

Here’s the quick scoop on the beaches you hear about in Los Angeles:

  • Santa Monica is over-run with tourists and inland-dwellers who trash the beach.
  • Venice is cleaner, but touristy and crowded. I prefer to eat and shop when I’m in the neighborhood.
  • Marina Del Rey, just south of Venice, has a very quiet and beautiful beach, but parking is challenging.
  • Manhattan Beach is a bit of a trek south if you’re just in town for the weekend. It’s by far my favorite.
  • Malibu beaches are the prettiest and the hardest to get onto…UNTIL NOW!

People frequent the first four because they’re accessible and seem to be open to the public.

What most people don’t know about California beaches:  They’re ALL PUBLIC.  You are free to pull over on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway that runs along the coast) and pop in wherever you want.  Set up your umbrella, sprawl out towels, build sand castles with the kids even if it’s in front of Steven Spielberg’s Malibu mansion (he fought the state for a long time about entry point laws).

Tourists and locals will be happy to discover the Our Malibu Beaches App that designates every entry point for you to get onto a Malibu beach, which is the hardest part!

 

 

If you’ve been directed to a certain beach, use the List feature to find it and get all the details.

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, pack EVERYTHING you could possibly want, even toilet paper.  Some of them will be a hike to get to and you don’t want to have to go back to the car.

This App is part of a larger group called Know What that has a library of other guides that might be useful around you!

Tweet this!Tweet this!

I’m praying for Saint Martha

July 17th, 2014 No Comments

20140717-104722-38842869.jpg

Martha, the patron saint of cooks and servants, was known to have had the company of Jesus in her home and served him meals on several occasions.  In my mind, her food must have tasted heavenly.  I mean, the man came back for more! As for the modern Saint Martha, her dishes only appear to be divine.  Their flavor unfortunately is lacking.

But, let me explain to you why I think this little nook tucked away in a Koreatown strip mall will draw a righteous foodie crowd.

When you see the pictures and the presentation, you’ll understand that the people who work here take so much pride in creating and serving what they believe to be THE BEST. 

If they hear their critics cry, they will create better food.  It’s only been open a month.  So much time to grow!

20140717-104733-38853978.jpg

When you walk in, you are greeted by the #CooksAndServants themselves at this open kitchen.  Chef Nick Erven (of The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel and Tart) has gathered a band of heavily-bearded brothers that are too focused to be friendly.  That was not quite as jarring as the BLAZING light behind the counter that would unfortunately flood into the dining room.

Most people don’t care as much about atmosphere if they are going to be served phenomenal food.  I’ll capitulate to that every so often.  But if I don’t like my experience in the restaurant, my focus is disturbed.

20140717-104734-38854152.jpg

I didn’t get an exact count, but there are probably about 18 tables in the whole place.  I LOVE spots like this.  Instantly I thought about one of my favorite NYC Greenwich Villages cafes: The Little Owl.  You have to wait for at least an hour, that is, if they had availability at all!  Here, the eating area is close quarters and the tables seem small by LA dining standards.  No matter for most foodies though.  If it’s good, we’ll sit wherever.

After about a minute of looking around, I sighed.  As there are no windows, the lighting would stay exactly the same all night.  If that’s the case AND the kitchen light leaks into the dining space, they should really turn down the lights.  That’s an easy fix!

20140717-104734-38854517.jpg

The wine list is IMPRESSIVE.  Fifty wines from all over the world by the glass that you can order by the Taste, Glass, Piche, or Bottle so you can pair accordingly with the course.  Prices vary as much as the flavor profiles.  My waitress was properly educated and more than happy to discuss our preferences and bring samples.

As for the food….

We were instructed to order in courses and share what came out.  The menu lists the main ingredients of each dish which doesn’t prepare you for what is about to be served.

20140717-104735-38855138.jpg

Oh my goodness, the presentation was breathtaking.  I would have never guessed raw panacotta and tomatoes could be so beautiful!  Unfortunately my excitement for the dish diminished instantly after one bite….The amuse bouche of melon and flowers with a honey drizzle was so much more fun.  How could that be?!!!  Let me try another bite, this time with squash. The flowers were surprisingly tasty.  But still, overall terribly bland.  Ugh. I dared not ask for salt because I didn’t want to insult the bearded boys who had put so much effort into this.

20140717-104734-38854327.jpg

The grilled octopus that the waitress raved about “being crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside” was not, although thankfully tender (a feat in itself). And…it tasted like a salt lick.  Even my companion gaged.  As for the rice….Perhaps rice usually isn’t prepared like risotto because the grain gets too sticky instead of smooth.

Third plate’s a charm?

20140717-115320-42800961.jpg

Nope.  The “Summer Corn” was not the sweet white juicy kernels I as expecting.  This baby corn was covered in flowers, radish, crispy chicken skin, and a seasoning that tasted like Cheetos.  (I’m undecided whether that’s a good or a bad thing.)

At this point, I’ll be honest, we paid the bill and left.  What should have been a farm-to-table roller coaster ride was a more like a float down the sleepy river.  After an hour of nibbling, I was STARVING.

Like I said when I began this story, I’m hopeful for them.  Koreatown is booming and cool kids LOVE hideaways like this.  The whole experience drew my mind to Uchi in Austin, one of the best restaurants in the country.  Saint Martha has the same vision, passion, and soul to be a stand out, desirable farm-to-table like Uchi with Japanese.

Saint Martha – 740 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 387-2300

Tweet this!Tweet this!

Westside LA welcomes two new restaurants

April 25th, 2014 No Comments

Living in Santa Monica, I really don’t have a TON of restaurant options west of 26th street and north of Wilshire.  On a regular basis, you’ll find me at:

  • Rustic Canyon (best seasonal f-t-t on the westside)
  • R+D kitchen (I call it my “Cheers bar”)
  • Hillstone
  • Kreation (healthy Persian and juice bar)
  • Milo + Olive (casual pizza)
  • FarmShop (seasonal delicious f-t-t)
  • Mercado (light Mexican)
  • BluePlate Taco (best Tex-Mex)
  • Fig (Best Happy Hour: 50% off from 5-6pm.  In the Fairmont Hotel)
  • Marmalade (Diner meets deli on Montana)
  • Toscana (Italian restaurant with “fun” westside bar scene)
  • Villetta (hand-crafted Italian that is often worth the expense)
  • Via Veneta (small, special occasion, authentic Italian on Main Street)

That covers Santa Monica and Brentwood. Please note Sawtelle and Venice are not included on this list. Thankfully in the last month we’ve had two new restaurants open and I love them both!

Art’s Table

Art's Table Santa Monica

On the corner of Montana and 10th Street, the old Babalou was totally renovated to be a modern, rustic wine bar and gastropub of sorts.  A month or so ago, the doors opened and the “tired of the same old food” neighborhood flocked into Art’s Table named after Art Verge, a Santa Monica local historian and business man, also father to Mark Verge (founder of Westside Rentals).  My gratitude goes to chef Mark Middleman who gives character to a very safe menu of  American classics.  They’re known for the burger, kale salad, and veggie sides.  You won’t recognize many of the wines, which I have found to be a good thing. Dinner is busy and you’ll see a line around the block for brunch.

Sloppy Joe Fries

Sloppy Joe Fries

Kale Salad

Kale Salad

Art's Table Burger

More pics on their instagram @ArtsTableSM.

Adoteca

Adoteca Brentwood

In the coming weeks, my peeps at Villetta and Toscana will discover they have some serious competition for best Italian fare with Adoteca on the block.  Literally all three are in Brentwood a stone’s throw from each other. When I saw this picture on Adoteca’s homepage, there was no question where our group was going for dinner. Adoteca scallops   It was no surprise the Michelin starred chef Antonio Mure and front of house manager Paolo Cesaro from Ado in Venice are the duo behind Adoteca.  Every dish delivered on our expectations.  Unfortunately, as a measure of etiquette, I kept my phone in my purse so I don’t have pictures to post. If you go, we all  insist you order the beet pasta with a quail bolognese.  It was hands down the fan favorite along with the creme brûlée.

Tweet this!Tweet this!

Holiday Survival Guide: Best New Bars of 2013

December 15th, 2013 No Comments

Mary Rambin Drinking a Beer

When I go home over the holidays, I like to try the new hot spots all of my friends have been raving about. Thrillist just posted this list that includes bars from all over the country.  They rarely lead me astray, so if you see your city, give their rec a shot!

Click here to read the full article with descriptions of each place.

Atlanta

Austin

  • CRAFT PRIDE
    What you’re getting: A Jester King seasonal
  • WHISLER’S
    What you’re getting: The Dealer’s Choice

Cambridge, MA

  • BEAT HÔTEL
    What you’re getting: A VFW Old Fashioned

Charleston, NC

THE RAREBIT
What you’re getting: Moscow Mule with homemade Sweatman’s ginger beer

Chicago

  • BILLY SUNDAY
    What you’re getting: Fernet & Cola
  • THREE DOTS AND A DASH
    What you’re getting: Poipu Beach Boogie Board; a Treasure Chest (if you’re a baller and/or shot-caller)
  • PUNCH HOUSE
    What you’re getting: Dusek Punch

Dallas

Houston

Las Vegas

  • VELVETEEN RABBIT
    What you’re getting: The Crucifix in a Deathhand; the Burning Bush

Los Angeles

  • NO VACANCY
    What you’re getting: A delicious gin cocktail
  • HONEYCUT
    What you’re getting: Any drink on their extensive list; the Toucan Sam if they’ve got it

Louisville

  • EL CAMINO
    What you’re getting: Whatever sweet tiki drink Susie Hoyt wants to make you

Miami

  • DROGERIE
    What you’re getting: The Pain Killer

Milwaukee

Minneapolis

Nashville

  • PINEWOOD SOCIAL
    What you’re getting: The Honesty of Constant Human Error

New Orleans

New York

  • TØRST
    What you’re getting: A beer you’ve never heard of before that’s probably been barrel-aged
  • DEAD RABBIT
    What you’re getting: Morning Reviver
  • AMERICAN WHISKEY
    What you’re getting: Remember the Maine

Oakland

Portland

San Diego

San Francisco

  • TRICK DOG
    What you’re getting: Eye of the Tiger
  • MIKKELLER BAR
    What you’re getting: A crazy sour beer you’ve never heard of

Seattle

Washington DC

  • 2 BIRDS 1 STONE
    What you’re getting: The Daily Punch
  • BLUEJACKET
    What you’re getting: James & the Giant; the Stroppy pale ale

 

Tweet this!Tweet this!

“Where should we go for dinner tonight?”

September 13th, 2013 No Comments

Thrillist iPhone App

 

When the questions arises, I can NEVER think of the places on my wish list or Eater’s hit list.  No more guessing or driving around in circles with the new Thrillist iPhone app.  

Tweet this!Tweet this!

What’s more important in a restaurant: food or scene? – RivaBella Review

August 23rd, 2013 No Comments

20130821-130025.jpg

 

This is not a new question, but one you should consider if you want to go to the new LA hotspot RivaBella. IDG (the group that runs Boa and Katana) and chef Gino Angelini took over the old Hamburger Hamlet on West Sunset to open this Italian outpost for scensters.   The interior design and decor is quite beautiful.  Cozy but chic.  The people are arguably even prettier.  But the food is average at best. Coming from Gino Angelini of one of my all time favorite Italian joints (Angelini Osteria on Beverly), this was a huge disappointment.

 

20130821-130039.jpg

20130821-130050.jpg

Jonathan Gold from the LA Times says, “RivaBella makes ordinary Italian perfect.”  That’s a stretch for me, especially at those pricepoints.

Go for drinks; enjoy the scene; then get the H outta there.

Tweet this!Tweet this!

There’s a new one in your hood. Have you tried it?

June 27th, 2013 No Comments
The Smile, NYC

The Smile, NYC

It seems like every time I open a magazine, there’s a feature on an up-and-coming food city.  That city is different EVERY time.  Which means, it’s likely you live in one and have great new restaurants opening up around you….daily!  So it’s time to ditch the old favorites and try a new spot. (Randall, that means you too.)

I wrote about Baltimore and Oakland just last week.  Denver and Houston are topping lists.  Atlanta has been a breading ground since Richard Blais won Top Chef.  Chicago, with 2 years of Michelin ranking under its belt, has been killing it with foodies.

What I’ve found is that no matter where I am, I can always find an exceptional farm-to-table restaurant.  Pretty much in any neighborhood.  I know “Farm-to-Table” sounds cliche, but can we really argue with chefs who are using locally sourced produce and preparing it in a clean and creative way?

New FTT restos are popping up on every corner in NYC and LA.  Below are 2 in each I think you’ll enjoy as much as I do. All of them are small and super cute, which means a reservation is a good idea.  If there are only two of you, you could luck out on a bar seat (except at The Smile).

In the comments below, go ahead and share your new favorite so we can give it a shot if we’re in your neighborhood.  Thanks in advance!

 

(To see the images larger, click the pics.)

 

NEW YORK

The Smile, 26 Bond Street, NYC, (646) 329-5836 thesmilenyc.com

Quick note: celeb scene is almost as good as the food.  If you do go to The Smile, say hello to Lily from my SoulCycle training group!

 

Tiny’s 135 West Broadway TriBeCa NYC (212) 374-1135 TinysNYC.com

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Willie Jane, 1031 Abbot Kinney, Venice CA (310) 392- 2425 WillieJane.com

 

 

Rustic Canyon,1119 Wilshire Blvd Santa Monica, (310) 393-7050 RusticCanyonWineBar.com

Rustic Canyon has been around for a while, but they just changed chefs.  Now at the helm is Jeremy Fox who is was previously at the only vegetarian restaurant to ever earn a Michelin star (Ubunto in Napa).  We at there last night and his food was fresh and extraordinary.

 

Tweet this!Tweet this!