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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


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

via @AlfredCoffee


  • 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)



  • 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



  • 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


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



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.

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Since I’m not cool enough to give you a guide to Williamsburg (Brooklyn)….

October 18th, 2013 No Comments

I‘m going to let someone who is do the talking :)

Kym and I go way back to my original days at SoulCycle.  She’s now a Master instructor teaching all over NYC.  I love love love watching her perform on the bike.  If the hair doesn’t scream it, I’ll tell you, she’s a true rock star.

If were venturing to Brooklyn, she’d be my first call to get me through hipster customs and into the cool kid hang outs. Now we all have a nice little video to hold our hand  through her favorite borough.

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Eat, drink, and be Mary in Atlanta: a solid guide to Buckhead

October 4th, 2013 No Comments

leaves turning in autumn - atlanta, ga


Before my friend Becky went to Atlanta for work this week, she asked me for recommendations of places to eat, drink, and be…well, Mary, while in Buckhead.  My response: of course I can whip up a list for you!  Find it below pretty much cut and pasted from the email I sent her.

A day later it hit me it’s Autumn in Atlanta right now.  My favorite time of year there.  The heat has subsided; the kids are back in school; and the city is painted in red, orange, and yellow.  The trees above line my old street…Seems like a world away now.

Mostly I miss my girls: Susan, Libby, Renee, Margaret Ellen, Prentiss, Erin, and Missi.  A big hug to y’all.

My favorite places to sit at the bar and eat dinner:

— Cibo e Beve: This was my local hangout. Casual and fun Italian.  Tell Justin the bartender I say hello.
Local Three:  Farm to table.  Considered one of the best restaurants in ATL.
— Seven Lamps:  In the Shops Around Lenox.  Same chef as One Midtown Kitchen. Has a late night menu.
Bones: Best steak in ATL, older crowd, great wine by the glass.
— Houston’s on Peachtree or the one near Lenox Mall. always fun people sitting at the bar.
LPC: Upscale Italian and worth the $$.
10 Degrees South: go for the good time, not necessarily the food, sit on the back patio
St. Regis Bar: just drinks, quite a scene
Tin Lizzy’s: on Roswell and Piedmont: great chips and salsa, good mexican, super casual
— Aria:  for a nicer dining experience.
— Canoe: a Buckhead classic when you want to sit outside and just relax by the creek

During the day:

Cafe Jonah:  casual and healthy, cute cafe in an old house.
Dtox Juice : fresh juices. the kale salad and green smoothie is to die for.  Tell the owner Shannon I sent you!
Cafe at Pharr: quick and easy. get the chicken salad.
Super Jenny: best turkey chili EVER! you might have to wait in a line for it.
— Anis: if you’re looking for wine at lunch :)
Blue Moon Pizza: fresh, quick, and easy. you can order small pies or even by the slice.
— Farm Burger:  best burger in my opinion. they have turkey and veggie as well, soooo good.
Arden’s Garden – juice and salads to go.  kale Salad is amazing.

If you’re willing to go downtown:

— JCT Kitchen or Bar: a solid choice for great food and people
Bacchanalia: the best restaurant in ATL, hands down, Italian will blow your mind)
One Midtown Kitchen: Another ATL classic. one of the first farm-to-table spots.
Barcelona:  One of my favorite places for a fun dinner. great crowd! awesome food and wine.
— Lureupscale and trendy seafood in a lovely space.
— Ecco: only go and sit at the bar or outside.
Empire State South: farm to table, one of the best of ATL.  Known for it’s cocktails as well.

In Decatur:

No. 246 (my fave) or Iberian Pig for dinner.

Other stuff you need to know:

 BLAST900 – Tell Missi you’re a friend of Mary Rambin, she’ll squeal :) Give her a big hug for me and then get ready for the workout OF YOUR LIFE!
— Chastain park, 3 miles around, a beautiful way to end the day
Atlanta Hot Yoga:  If you dare, go to one of Jason or Octavia’s power classes!
— Mani/Pedi: Trina Nails – call ahead for Tracy.  Tell Tracy and Trish I say hi.


**Please note I haven’t been in ATL for a while and new places open up monthly.  For a current Top 10 list, go here.

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“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.  

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Facebook as your travel agent for social scheduling

August 16th, 2013 No Comments

One of my favorite trips of all time was my week in Milan, a city I knew NOTHING about when I arrived. My experience there wouldn’t have been the same without Arnold, a British friend of my BFF Toby that I had connected with a few weeks prior to my arrival.  Arnold, who had lived in Milan for several months by that time was totally dialed into the local scene.  He showed me around town, took me to the hot spots for “aperitivo,” and invited me to watch Milan win the World Cup with his friends. We flooded the streets with the rest of the town that night and partied all night long.

That was a long time ago so Toby connected us via email.  Now you can do the same thing – find a friend of a friend in a city you’re visiting – with one click on facebook.

Since January of this year, Facebook has been rolling out features that allow you to search and engage in a very specific way.  With these improvements, you can book your social schedule when you travel or even if you just hang out in your ‘hood.


In the search bar at the top of Facebook, type in something very specific to find friends with similar interests.  For example: “friends who I work with that like to hike” or “friends who live in Chicago that like live music” or “friends who went to [your college here].”  It’s like making an instant invite list without having to brainstorm!

For travel, extend your search by typing “friends of my friends who live in London.” A list of people in London along with their photo and basic info will appear for you to browse.  Hover over the mutual friends link to see which friends you have in common.  Now you’re free to send them a message (or contact the friends you have in common) about meeting up when you’re in town.  To learn more, visit Graph Search’s Facebook page.


This feature JUST launched!  Facebook has teamed up with Open Table so you can make reservations at participating restaurants on their facebook page when you’re searching on your mobile phone.  You’ll see the link under the contact info.  So after you find your friends in London, you can search restaurants, and book a table without ever leaving Facebook.

These facebook guys are pretty clever.  Can’t wait to see what’s next!

(Image via)



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Foodie finds in unfamiliar cities

June 13th, 2013 2 Comments
Westbury Kitchen Baltimore
Traveling to random cities over the past few years, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the food I’ve found.  Granted, I had to hunt for it, but the effort was worth my while with every bite.  Below is a collection of places I’ve been referred to, experienced, or just sound right up my alley.  Should you find yourself in one of these places, make haste to the bar or a table (reservations can be surprisingly hard to come by) and report back with your findings.




Denver also has an up and coming food scene, but I haven’t heard many specifics yet.  Cities I visited and struggled to find a handful of options: Detroit, Phoenix, and Nashville.  If you have suggestions in any of the places I mentioned, please leave them in the comments below.
I would include Houston and Atlanta in this grouping, but I wrote about my favorites frequently. Click here for Houston and Atlanta recommendations.
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Taxi, take me to the corner of Hipster & Broadway.

February 22nd, 2013 No Comments

Ace Hotel New York

That would be the corner of 29th Street and Broadway in New York where cool kid locals sip, savor, sleep, and suit up.  Here you’ll find:

For me the attraction is Stumptown Coffee where hipsters pour perfect cappuccinos I can enjoy in the library lobby of the Ace hotel with my laptop.   Our guess is that the popularity of The Ace and Stumptown really got this neighborhood back on the map.  I’ve never stayed at the Ace; I hear the rooms are small but some of the best priced accommodations in town.

Also in the lobby is The Breslin, a pork-centric gastropub from chef April Bloomfield.  Last fall, she opened a new outpost just down the street on the actual corner: John Dory Oyster Bar that boasts a $100/head chef’s table experience.  It actually seems like a pretty casual joint with a lot of great beers on tap.  If you’re looking for a cheap bite, you can walk next door on Broadway and grab a delicious sandwich at No. 7 Sub.  If you can believe it, the Broccoli sub is one of the most popular items.  One more door down and you’ll stumble into the overpriced clothier Opening Ceremony.  It got its start on the block attached to the Ace, but apparently outgrew the nook.  Their style is what I would call hipster prep I suppose….kind of like what Adam Levine is trying to pull off these days.

Finally, The NoMad Hotel, restaurant, and bar, which is actually on 28th street, is one of THE hottest spots on the island right now.  The bar scene is dominated by men.  Single NYC women you need to go grab a drink and browse the selection.  From what I could tell you won’t have any competition!  As for the acclaimed restaurant you have to reserve a table at a month in advance, I thought the food was just average.  An ex-bf of mine works there and plotted out our selections:  seafood tower, pickled cauliflower salad, and the roast chicken for two.  Now, I knew going in it was going to be pricey, but a roasted chicken for $80 is ridiculous.  Especially when there’s nothing redeeming about it.  I’ve heard the same about the rooms in the hotel:  pricey and unamusing.  The library lounge in the back is a great place to gather a group and hang out.  It reminds me of the Bowery Hotel, just smaller.  The bottle service is unique in that if you get a bottle, a mixologist will prepare a legit cocktail for you.

I’m not sure I would put this little pocket on a New York City Guide, but should you be in the area, pop over, grab a drink, and take in the flavor of Flatiron.  Look at it this way, you can get a dose of “NYC hipster” without having to take a detour to Brooklyn :)

29th and Broadway New York

(Top photo left to right, clockwise: Stumptown, Ace Lobby, Opening Ceremony, NoMad bar, No. 7 Sub, John Dory Oyster Bar)

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Goodbye TripAdvisor random reviews, Hello Gogobot friend recommendations

October 26th, 2012 1 Comment


It took less than a minute for me to be wildly facinated with Gogobot, a travel website that will make our travel planning SOOO much easier. Apparently it’s been around for 2 years and has now matured into a fully-stocked resource.

Last night I got a hand-held tour through the app by founder and CEO Travis Katz. As he explained the features, I was mezmerized as the functionality seem to good to be true. I am going to try to fully explain the facets of Gogobot as Travis did for me, but you’ll need to play with the site or app to really appreciate it.

Gogobot is a travel website that provides trustworthy travel guides and reviews. How do we know they are legit? Because they are written by your friends! Gogobot aggregates all of your friends’ posts from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Four Square so when they take a photo and tag it/check in at destination, restaurant, or activity, it will feed into your Gogobot so you can easily access them. This way, you don’t have to rely on random accounts from people you don’t know and certainly have no reason to trust. They can also easily create city guides to share with anyone (this is going to make my life so much easier!) Travis recently partnered with Travel + Leisure for hotel reviews and I’m sure other publications will follow. To me, GoGobot seems like a great platform for NYTimes 36 hours guides and Luxe guide walking tours. (Fingers crossed.)

I hope Travis will chime in below and complete this overview with the details I unfortunately have forgotten.

In the meantime, sign up and start planning your next vacation, or even night out on the town. You don’t have to go anywhere to reap the benefits of Gogobot.

**Sorry the picture is blurry. Blogging on my ipad. Promise to change it ASAP.

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