On a weekly basis, I try new restaurants and venture in establishments to take a peek...a quick bite here, a snack there....Being from NYC, I will admit I am a food snob. I was a bi-coastal actress back in the 80s and was horrified to find the state of LA's basic "diner food" and absolutely appauled by the "Chinese Food"....I'm talking chop meat in an egg roll ....wtf???
Let's not even bring up what was called a bagel in this town or even a slice of pizza!!! Yikes! Thankfully things have changed. The food in LA has progressively become more savvy. Yes, I will admit I have been swayed by some of LA's eating habits. I have become accustomed to mustard on my burger. I do enjoy a "fully loaded" in and out burger once a year.
LA's cuisine has definitely improved from the 1980s. A restaurant that I've been to many times is The Galley. Located at 2442 Main St., I have ordered steaks, enjoyed the happy hour deals at the bar (1/2 price off of selected menu items) and on my most recent visit, I ordered the shrimp scampi. Delicious! Wonderful sauce, great for dipping the signature crusty bread given to each customer when you sit down. I highly recommend this one. http://www.thegalleyrestaurant.net/
Shoop Eurpean Cafe (2400 Main St) has long peeked my interest. So finally one day I walked in and was taken back by the rude cashier, snippy and impatient. I ordered the Pastrami (the clevelander $10.50). The bad service continued when I sat down to wait for my sandwich...it took forever for my order. I decided to leave when it finally came. Now I am sure the horrible service from Shoop left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I have tasted pastrami from all over the world and there was NOTHING special about this over-priced sandwich....good Sarakraut, but nothing else sparked my interest. Two thumbs down on this one.
On another day I stopped by BRAVO Pizzeria. I usually don't order pizza in LA (yes I wait till I return to NYC...don't want to waste those ever-so-important calories), but I decided, "Heck let's try some." Wow!!! What a surprise. Melt in your mouth....goey cheese...foldable NY pizza....unlike the cardboard crusts that I have tried in LA....Great prices too!
I enjoyed a sausage and pepper pizza...yum. Simply Delicious!!! The sandwiches look tasty as well. Alas I can only eat so much. You can bet I'll be back to try something else....but now at least I know where to go to find a good slice of pizza.
Bravo Pizzeria is located at 2400 Main St. in Santa Monica, CA 90405; (310) 392-7466; http://www.bravosantamonica.com/pizzeria/
Another restaurant that I have frequented often is La Vecchia located at 2654 Main St. The only issue is, you HAVE TO GET THERE early to partake in its hearty Italian happy hour. But it is worth the wait.
The portions are quite large and not restricted to just appetizers as most. Options include, six varieties of pizza, salads and some incredible pasta dishes. http://www.lavecchia.com/.
Upper West is located on the far side of Santa Monica at 3321 Pico Boulevard. The place was packed on a recent Thursday night. The large eatary is divided into a dining areas and bar. A wall of glass sections off a small room which can be reserved for private parties. It features a 20 foot screen that plays classics (sound is off). Think Bogart and Bacall or Citizen Kane on a rainy night. The choice of films is currently Noir, influenced by the NoirFest Santa Monica which recently had their opening night party at Upper West back in January.
The dinner we received was stupendous. Transplanted Texan, executive chef Nick Shipp, composes an artful menu of California fusion taken to a high art. We started our meal with an appetizer plate of “Carlsbad Muscles / garlic saffron broth / chaba croutons / cilantro” ($15) and a wild arugula salad ($10). The saffron broth, the muscles were cooked in was brilliant. We sopped up every drop with bread. The salad featured “point reyes blue cheese dressing / smoked bacon / dried cherries (the menu reads well too). For our entrées we shared a “Pan Roasted Barrammundi, aji amarillo spice / fennel -potato hash / chorizo / pasilla peperonata / lobster butter / mint / harissa” ($24) and a "Petite Filet Minoin" ($29). I didn’t get much of the steak! I asked to try a spoon full of the (gluten free) mac & cheese, asiago / goat cheese / irish white cheddar / mozzarella / tarragon / tasso ham / parmesan ($12) to get a sense of adventure the rest of the menu offers.
Image from left to right, Clay Cummings (waiter) and Elad Benisti (co-owner).
The waiting staff is very professional (or perhaps they just like their jobs) and work to make everyone feel welcome allowing each guest to have a special experience. Wine is half price on Tuesday. I understand they have a fabulous happy hour, onw can only imagine. The bar features their own take on “specialty drinks.”
For more information about Upper West Restaurant, see their website at http://www.theupperwest.com/.
Dining out can be an expensive venture. Even in this economy, restaurants are still charging top dollar. Dinner for two will set you back more than you'd expect. However there are many creative ways to stretch your dollar. Many restaurants offer happy hours, which can keep your budget on track.
The Lobster has a fabulous happy hour which also comes withe exceptional views. A mutlitude of martini options are available plus a very tasty mojito. A lobster roll or lobster corndog can do the trick of satisying your appetite, as well as some crunchy spicy calamari. The Lobster is located at 1602 Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica. http://www.thelobster.com/.
For a Southern twist, stop into South on Wilshire for their tasty happy hour featuring, Gator Wings, Cajun Rings, Hushpuppies and more. South is located at 3001 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica http://southsantamonica.com/.
Also PF Changs is a wonderful option if you have a hankering for chinese. They offer a good selection of cocktails, plus ribs, lettuce wraps, shrimp dumplings and more. Happy hour is limited to the bar, but at most locations, the bar is quite expansive. There are many locations to choose from...Santa Monica, Hollywood, etc. See their website for the PF Changs nearest you. http://www.pfchangs.com/
La Vecchia located at 2654 Main St. in Santa Monica offers a hearty Italian happy hour at their bar. The portions are quite large and not restricted to just appetizers as most. Options include, six varieties of pizza, salads and even pasta. http://www.lavecchia.com/.
You don't have to break the bank, to enjoy a dinner out. Treat yourself to a happy hour and share a bunch of different dishes. Be sure to check each restaurant's individual website for more up to date information.
If you love Southern food...head to South, on Wilshire in Santa Monica, every Friday, South, presents a fun night with local DJ Jacque from 9:00 pm to 2:00 am. It’s always a fun night with tasty drink specials and a yummy happy hour!
South is located at 3001 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403. (310) 828-9988; http://southsantamonica.com/
South is the place to be for tasty Southern Food. Don’t’ forget to take advantage of their happy hour. What a deal!!! Starting at 3:00 pm and runs till 8:00 pm. South is located at 3001 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403. (310) 828-9988; http://southsantamonica.com/.
The sun is setting on a Friday night. The sky over Venice Beach is festive. It almost dances with color, very much like Figtree’s Café. Live music can be heard, along with the sound of laughter and the clinking of drinks. Happy hour is in full swing as the crowd chimes in on a Beatle tune. Inside, the main dining room offers a warm cozy space, filled with beautiful paintings on the walls. There is a couple in the corner enjoying a romantic dinner. Victoria Barcelona walks out from her office and waives goodbye to a customer.
Another ‘regular’ walks in ….”My wife loves it, it looks wonderful in our place” he exclaims. He is talking about the painting he recently purchased as a gift for his wife. They first saw it hanging in Figtree’s Café. The Veneer of Venice, a painting by Venice local Barbara Mastej was featured at Figtree’s as part of the Venice Art Crawl. Figtree’s Café has been part of the monthly art event, since its inception. Barcelona actively participates, meeting with artists, curating the shows, as well as booking musical acts for each event. The Art Crawl happens every third Thursday of each month.
Located at 429 Ocean Front Walk, Figtree’s Café is steps from the beach. It has been a part of this Venice neighborhood for over 30 years. Figtree’s Café was originally founded by Bill and Tammy Figenbaum in 1978 who sold it to Victoria and her now ex husband in 2006. They bought the whole building, remodeled it, preserving the character and renovating the apartments. It is now a short term leasing property with twelve rental units. People come from all over the world to stay, as well as the families from Venice locals who come to visit.
When she took over, Barcelona decided to keep up the Figtree’s Café tradition by continuing their loyalty program, their ½ off breakfast as well as the Saturday and Sunday specials. Creating her own traditions Victoria started the weekly lunch specials and also an afternoon/early evening happy hour as well as live music on Friday nights, to much of the community’s delight.
Figtree’s Café offers an eclectic mix of healthy food made with natural ingredients. Victoria always keeps the menu up to date, adding new and tasty dishes. Stop in to Figtree’s Café for a wonderful meal, plus an endearing home-spun charm.