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Le Petit Café

WHY Honest fare at great prices: pourquoi pas? WHAT So many restaurants claim to be a neighborhood bistro these days, but it’s a shock to actually find one. Le Petit Café is the real deal, with chalkboard-toting waiters, tiny bistro tables topped with Provençal linens and fine, straightforward bistro food at surprisingly good prices. WHO [...]

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Hakata Sushi & Sports Bar

WHY Riki’s lobster roll—stuffed with rich tempura-fried lobster and drizzled with a sweet, creamy sauce—just might be the best non-dessert dessert in town. WHAT Don’t run when you spot the plasma TVs and beer ads hanging overhead at this quirky hybrid sushi restaurant and sports bar. Stay clear of the drab teriyaki and combo plates [...]

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JiRaffe

EatLA-1054

WHY The seafood’s usually outstanding, including almond-crusted rainbow trout and pepper-crusted ahi with green-tea soba noodles. WHAT JiRaffe epitomizes the California bistro, with its elegant chandeliers hung above cozy tables, first-rate service and the creative market-based California-French cuisine of surfer-chef Raphael Lunetta. Bargain hunters, take note of Lunetta’s fantastic three-course Monday-night dinner, a bistro-style menu [...]

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The Galley

EatLA-1050

WHY A crooner’s jukebox, a nostalgia-inducing menu and lighting dim enough to make you fall in love with the person across from you—and with this old-school steakhouse—all over again. WHAT Santa Monica’s oldest restaurant/bar has been a local treasure since it opened in 1934. Regulars love the martinis with mermaid toothpicks, along with the steaks, [...]

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Chinois on Main

EatLA-1049

WHY It’s a delicious ’80s-era time warp—noisy, pricey and crowded—with desserts worth sticking around for, like the dim sum dessert box and the crème brûlée trio. WHAT It’s been a quarter-century since Wolfgang Puck opened Chinois on Main, and not much has changed—which, oddly enough, turns out to be a good thing. It all works: [...]

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Chez Jay

EatLA-1048

WHY Jay Fiondella has passed on, but his eponymous beach shack remains an oasis in a sea of gentrification, complete with a peanut-shell ‘carpet.’ WHAT This tiny shack festooned with Christmas lights is the only unchanged element amid the upscale hotels and overpriced restaurants that now dominate this strip of Ocean Avenue. Chez Jay still [...]

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Art Institute of California

WHY A career-oriented program for aspiring professional cooks. WHAT This national chain of schools that provides professional training in the glamour careers—design, media arts, fashion and food—has a culinary school in Santa Monica. It offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in culinary arts, culinary management and baking and pastry. These are full-time, expensive programs intended to [...]

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Continental Shop

WHY This is L.A.’s supply depot for all things British, from taped TV shows and magazines to airline tickets and, yes, food. WHAT If you’ve got a craving for English bangers, a Cornish pasty or imported frozen Yorkshire pudding, head for the freezer in this tightly packed, slightly dowdy emporium. The cooler holds clotted Devon [...]

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Wine Expo

WHY Educated and refreshingly honest staff members, who also know their way around tequila and beer. WHAT Wine Expo started as a champagne specialty shop and has evolved into the westside’s go-to source for Italian wines. Owners Ali Biglar and Robert Rogness cultivate relationships with Italian winemakers and ship back via their own import business [...]

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The Duck Blind Fine Wine & Spirits

WHY The specials. Sometimes you can luck into a $15 wine for $5. WHAT Don’t let the outside fool you—what looks like a standard grungy liquor store is actually a perfectly fine wine shop. Lots of $10 and $15 bottles, plus some good local and international brews. WHO Neighborhood loyalists—this place has been around for [...]

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