The Best Places to Eat, Drink and Do Deals at AFM Santa Monica and Venice
By Kathy A. McDonald
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – Sunny skies are a given during the American Film Market. Westside Los Angeles and Santa Monica provide ample ways to enjoy the fair weather from the newly opened rooftop bar and restaurant at the Santa Monica Proper Hotel to Chez Jay’s freshly installed patio to the sociable picnic tables along the Third Street Promenade, added by the local business district. Here’s where to dine in style al fresco, grab a quick bite, celebrate or meet for that all-important deal-closing dinner.
Updated retro-classic: The Backyard at Chez Jay
Known for its classic steakhouse menu and adherence to tradition, something has changed at Santa Monica’s timeless Chez Jay after 60 years: Since August, there’s a new backyard patio with a fire pit to welcome guests. Outdoors, the offerings are casual fare, from guacamole and chips to steak sandwiches and fries. Open Wednesday through Sunday, the Backyard has a discounted menu and happy hour prices on select beer and wine from 4 to 6 p.m. A 60th anniversary celebration is slated for Nov. 16.
1657 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica
Modern Food Court: Social Eats
Instagram-ready Social Eats is a new high-concept food court directly across from the AMC Santa Monica 7 theaters and next to Silver Lake Ramen (1319 3rd St.). Alongside six concession stands, each with its own kitchen and staff, is a beer tap wall, which allows patrons to pull their own draft beers. Hungry? Choose from Japanese bento boxes, fried chicken at Fuku (developed by the team at Momofuku), Asian-style noodles, Spanish tapas and salads and other fresh fare. Adelaide Coffeebar (coffee, pastries and wine) opens daily at 8 a.m.
1315 3rd St. (on the Third Street Promenade), Santa Monica
Designer drinks: Lanea
The bright and airy Lanea (just off the Third Street Promenade) has a pastel-colored, beach vibe and specializes in tequila and mescal cocktails. Oversized windows open to the busy streetscape. The bar’s popular Mescal Margarita gets its kick from honey spiced with habanero peppers. Blended cocktails are also on tap; pair them with a selection of house-made tacos. Lanea has a major showbiz connection: Peter Trinh of ICM Partners is one of the owners.
217 Broadway, Santa Monica
Ramen champs: Ippudo Ramen
The popular Japanese ramen chain opened its Santa Monica location last fall. Ippudo’s select menu of tonkotsu (pork) broth ramen and simmered pork slices promises a quick turnaround. Appetizers are plentiful, from a trio of savory buns and cucumber salad to edamame and Japanese-style fried chicken. Open seven days for lunch and dinner with daily happy hour specials from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. during AFM.
1403 2nd St., Santa Monica
Chic hotel dining: Santa Monica Proper Hotel
The refined and eclectic taste of designer Kelly Wearstler radiates throughout the 271-room Santa Monica Proper Hotel. Palma, the hotel’s ground-floor bar and neutral-toned dining space, is more living room than hotel lobby. There are stylish nooks for small meetings, with a menu filled with healthy options that spans breakfast to late-night bites. Hotel guests (and those with lunch or dinner reservations) can dine above it all at Calabra, the hotel’s of-the-moment, indoor/outdoor rooftop bar and restaurant. Sunset is the golden hour at the bar for satisfying Mediterranean-influenced specialties, expertly made cocktails and views of the ocean. Main dishes (such as wood-chip smoked New York strip steak) are easily shared. Onda, on the Wilshire Boulevard edge of the expansive hotel property, is the long-anticipated restaurant from Sqirl’s chef Jessica Koslow and Mexico City’s Gabriela Camara of Contramar – reservations are essential at this Mexico-meets-California eatery, slated to open just in time for .
700 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
Hot spot: The Little Friend Bar, Venice
Need to cut footloose? The Little Friend Bar is a hit with locals for its energy, DJ sounds and craft cocktails. The bar promises a scene without a lot of attitude and the lively dance floor (under a spinning disco ball no less) is rare on the Westside. Unlike most tucked-away speakeasies, the Little Friend is candy-colored and notable for artworks provided by co-owner, prominent graffiti artist Andre Saraiva (hot spot veteran Jared Meisler and Maroon 5’s Mickey Madden are the other backers). Find it behind the Sunny Spot; the bar bites menu of tacos, nachos and salads complements the casual setting.
822 Washington Blvd., Venice
Fast and delish: Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken
Two of America’s favorite comfort foods are available at this eatery. Open since April, the storefront joint on Santa Monica’s Main Street serves up innovative doughnut flavors: salty-and-sweet maple bacon doughnuts and the ultra-rich chocolate blackout cake doughnuts are must-tries. Fried chicken is available by the piece or topping a savory doughnut bun. There’s beer on tap; some vegetarian menu options; and vegan doughnuts made to order. AFM badgeholders garner a 10% discount.
2309 Main St., Santa Monica
Ambitious Newcomer: Yours Truly, Venice
Greens are so fresh and crisp it almost seems that classically trained chef Vartan Abgaryan has a garden out behind his storefront restaurant on Venice’s happening Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Abgaryan sources from the Santa Monica farmers markets: that’s clear when tasting his French-style omelet with fresh greens or his creamy avocado hummus. He has a deft touch with proteins too. Yours Truly’s Nashville hot shrimp and pork rib chop are memorable mains. Open for weekend brunch and nightly dinner, with weekday lunch coming soon.
1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice
Garden of Savory Delights: Fia
Set in a charming and rustic garden furnished with wood-plank floors, string lights and banquettes, discover Fia down a long passageway; it’s completely off the street. The focus is on Italian seafood, although the chef-driven menu from Brendan Collins also demonstrates his skill with roast meats and flavorful pastas. Inventive cocktails come from spirits maven Vincenzo Marinella, while the select wine list showcases California small producers. Among the standout dishes are big eye tuna crudo, house-made cavatelli topped with lobster Bolognese and the Spanish-style potatoes bravas. Sunday brunch highlights include the avocado toast and fine Bloody Marys. Several private dining rooms offer confidential dining. Fia’s visual verve is credited in part to owner Michael Grecco, a top commercial photographer and director. Dinner is also served in the clubby interior, ideal for cooler nights.
2454 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica