A Day in Santa Monica-Promenade

The SM promenade is a difficult place to find quality deals, since it can be an intense tourist trap. The aggressive sign-holders, the pushy crowds, and the out-of-town drivers can try my patience. But I sometimes can’t avoid going there, and that being said, there’s a few things worth checking out.

Photo by Elan Ruskin

Happy Hour: 
“Cheap” and “The Promenade” aren’t usually in the same sentence, unless it’s followed by “McDonald’s.” The restaurants can be on the pricey side. Fortunately, they often have some great happy hour specials.
Locanda del Lago:
Locanda del Lago is an Italian restaurant right on 3rd St. It’s quite nice inside, and the food is tasty. It tastes even better during happy hour, when the food and wine has special prices. They have a vegetarian menu, (and celebrate meatless Monday), complete with vegan options. Gluten-free can be challenging, but they have great soups and salads, and a list of options. Since they serve a basket of bread with your order, my last dinner there for two (splitting the truffle pizza and a bowl of soup), was around $20. Not bad for Santa Monica Italian.
231 Arizona Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Happy Hour: 
Tuesday: All day at bar stools
Mon-Sun: 4pm to 7pm (weekend only in the bar.)
Phone: 310 451-3525

Pourtal: 

Photo by Caroline on Crack

Pourtal is a relatively new wine-tasting bar, with some really good eats for wine-pairing. You can buy a pre-paid card, then have fun pushing the buttons that dispense great wine from all over the world. One of my favorite features: A selection of woman-owned wineries. You can also order a plate of assorted cheeses form Andrew’s Cheese Shop (one of my favorites.) The flat-bread and desserts are also wonderful. This could get expensive fast (especially a few glasses in), but they have a great happy hour: $6 appetisers, $6 glasses, and 15% of tasting sales are donated to a non-profit (which changes bi-weekly). So now you can drink wine and donate to charity at the same time. Not a bad deal.
http://www.pourtal.com/
Happy Hour: 

Photo by Caroline on Crack

Monday:  All Night (4pm to closing)
Tuesday through Friday: 4pm to 7pm
104 Santa Monica Boulevard, SM, 90401
Phone: (310) 451-3525

Other Food Options:
Swingers:
This is a greasy-spoon diner without the grease. Although it has a lot of “traditional” American diner options (waffles, burgers, fries, etc), they also serve quinoa, tofu scramble, and homemade salad dressings. The tables are donned with organic agave sweetner, the eggs are free-range, and there are tons of veg/vegan/gluten-free options. The food is tasty and the decor is interesting, plus they are open late…until 2am Sun-Wed, and 3am Thurs-Sat. So after the bar, you can satisfy your late-night cravings for quinoa and vegan cupcakes.
802 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401-2711
Phone: (310) 393-9793
Hours:  Sun-Wed: 7am-2am
Thurs-Sat: 7am-3am
http://www.swingersdiner.com/%20

Bay Cities Italian Deli:

Photo by Muy Yum

Located right next door to Swingers is this great deli. It’s existence is no secret, so don’t get too scared by the large cluster of people always surrounding this place. It’s a full grocery store, complete with Italian imports of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Their real draw is the sandwich bar, made-to-order on their homemade bread. If you really don’t like crowds, a good solution is calling ahead of time and placing a phone order. Your sandwich should be ready in back when you arrive, and you can bee-line right to the check-out stand. Just don’t forget a piece of imported European chocolate.

Phone: (310) 395-8279
Hours: Tues-Sat: 9am-7pm
            Sunday: 9am-6pm
            CLOSED MONDAYS

Complete a Mission! 

Photo by TargoPhoto

Santa Monica can be synonymous with working out, but with good reason. The beach views and clear skies beat the gym any day. You can go for a run on the grassy paths or walk up the leg-burning Santa Monica Stairs, and working out yourself can be great if you have disipline and fitness knowledge. I would rather have a fitness guru take me to the next level, especially since it’s easy to get stuck in the same ol’ routine. Jenna Phillips leads her “missions” on the grass overlooking the ocean, or on the SM stairs and Runyon Canyon in the vast gym of the outdoors. The workout is always changing, always fun and always butt-kicking. Her positive vibe motivates me like a perky loving drill sergeant. My body has changed, and I’m always challenged. Check out her website for locations, schedule, and pricing.
http://jennaphillips.com/home.php

See a show!
There are many well-known concert venues and theaters, but steep entry fees, 2-drink minimums, and Hollywood parking can add up fast. Luckily, there are many smaller venues that are often just as good, and sometimes free! There’s a few near the promenade. For something different, check out the a magic show at Magicopolis. For some awesome comedy, try Westside Comedy Theater. They have improv classes for the novice, and performances for the viewer. Definitely check out certain Monday nights, when they have the improv teachers (Team X and The Faculty) do a FREE show. Laughing for free = awesome.

Jenna Phillips TargoPhoto

1323-A 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (In the alley between 3rd and 4th).
Phone:  310.451.0850
http://www.westsidecomedy.com/

Try Yoga:
I have heard that Santa Monica has the largest concentration of yoga studios in the world (including India). And the largest concentration in Santa Monica has to be the promenade. The best part is, some are by donation! With the growing cost and popularity of yoga, donation-based yoga is a true gift. Plus, if you’re new to yoga, many classes can be tried without the large initial investment. There are two locations of Brian Kest’s Power Yoga, which is the “original” donation studio in SM. Bhakti Yoga Shala is also donation-based. For specific needs, there’s Yo Mama studio for moms, Gentle Senior Yoga studio, and hot yoga at Hot 8. If you want to try other spots, there’s also Home Simply Yoga, Yogis Anonymous, and YogaCo.

Go out and dance:

Photo by Mick Orlosky

If you’re interested in the night life, there’s a couple great dance spots nearby. Harvelle’s is a dark sultry speakeasy that’s been around since the 1931. It’s the oldest live music venue on the Westside, and they continue to have great jazz and blues from around the world. Make sure to catch The Toledo Show every Sunday evening, a sexy jazz show complete with Toledo’s burlesque dancers. Check their schedule to see other upcoming performances.

1432 4th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Phone: (310) 395-1676
http://www.harvelles.com/
Another favorite of mine is Zanzibar on 4th St. This place has a great vibe, and most people are there truly to dance (not just to troll the floor looking for girls). They have different DJ’s/performers almost every night, and there always mixing in some funky surprise. I’ve heard a South African band complete with a Xylophone, a whole troupe of bongo drummers, and countless dance-tastic DJ’s. AfroFunk Thursdays is my dancing staple, and their other changing nights rarely disappoint.

1301 5th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Phone: (310) 451-2221
http://www.zanzibarlive.com/