Places to eat, drink and make merry after the mart

Downtime from the American Film Market should have nothing to do with PPV movies and room service.

Yes, the ocean’s pretty, but you have to turn away from the sunset to find the best that Santa Monica has to offer. And to make it easier on you, V Life Weekend has amassed some of the area’s best places to eat, drink and make merry.

Here, clues for navigating the city.

  • Stretching 30 city blocks inland, Santa Monica is compact enough to make walking feasible and cab rides affordable. (For Metro Cab, call 310-434-1999.)

  • If you’ve got a rental car, park in one of the many public garages or bring a pocketful of change. Parking violations are steep, meter maids are fierce and some meters run until 10 p.m.

  • Shopping is the city’s unofficial sport. There’s the unzipped mall that is the Third Street Promenade, Montana Avenue is home to the high-end boutiques and Main Street has random shops like prop store Jadis and Paris 1900, which specializes in antique clothing.

  • Mainstays like Michael’s now share a zip code with Wilshire, which builds its menu on organic produce from the farmers’ market, as well as the chic steakhouses Boa and Lincoln.

  • Tucked at the end of nearby Palisades Park is the locals’ favorite cardio meet market, the Santa Monica Stairs at Adelaide and 4th streets.

  • Finally, you can’t forget the Santa Monica Pier. You may have known that it was built in 1909, but you probably didn’t know that it features the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel.

Want to check out Hollywood? Click here for related story.

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DRINK
When celebs drink up with locals, is it still a dive bar? It is if it’s Chez Jay (1657 Ocean Ave., (310) 395-1741). Brits can get a game of darts and a pint at Ye Olde Kings Head (116 Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 451-1402). Stop in their Gift Shoppe for Birds Custard or a Royal Crown Derby teapot to go. Voda (1449 Second St., (310) 394-9774) has more than 100 kinds of vodka. That’s enough right there, but they also have a full menu that features produce from Santa Monica’s farmers’ market. Another good choice for cocktails: behind the dark mahogany doors at Yu Restaurant and Lounge (1323 Montana Ave., (310) 395-4727). The swank lounge at Cinch (1519 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 395-4139) has leather bar stools, beaded chandeliers and rock-tiled walls designed by Dodd Mitchell. Irish ex-pats and Bostonian transplants come home to Sonny McLean’s (2615 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 828-9839), where New England sports are always on TV. The Library Alehouse (2911 Main St., (310) 314-4855) has 29 microbrews and German beers on tap.
TASTE
Reservations are hard to get at Melisse (1104 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 395-0881) now that Zagat rated it as the best French-American restaurant in L.A. last year. However, the fare is also impressive at JiRaffe (502 Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 917-6671), where Melisse chef Josiah Citrin once practiced his trade with chef Raphael Lunetta. Squint and you’re in Florence at Locanda Portofino (1110 Montana Ave., (310) 394-2070), where there’s a good wine list and the ravioli melts in your mouth. More authenticity from the boot-shaped peninsula at Bay Cities Italian Deli and Bakery (1517 Lincoln Blvd., (310) 395-8279): salami, cannolis and an entire aisle of oils and vinegars. The best burger is at The Counter (2901 Ocean Park Blvd., (310) 399-8383). Choose beef, turkey or veggie, type of cheese, up to four toppings, sauce and bun. Father’s Office (1018 Montana Ave.,(310) 393-2337) has a much-lauded burger with blue cheese, carmelized onions and bacon, but there are no substitutions, no reservations and it’s always crowded.
PRIMP
The most OCD mani and pedi in town is at Fred Segal Beauty (420 Broadway, (310) 451-5155), where they use straight-edged brushes to remove color from the corners of your cuticles. If you’re looking for low-key nail treatment, try the $20 spa mani/pedi at Zumani Nails (2924 Main St., (310) 392-7439). Get a blowout while you chill out at Byu-ti (145 South Bay St., (310) 452-2782). Owner Natasha Sunshine is a master with a round brush at this whitewashed salon by the sea, and she teaches you how to style your do as she works. Dermalogica (1022 Montana Ave., (310) 260-8682) takes its extractions seriously. Estheticians map 14 quadrants on your face, neck and decolletage, then tend to each separately. Treatment rooms are curved pods that glow in pink, blue and green from recessed lighting below. Duck in Luxe Lab (1408 Montana Ave., (310) 255-9900) for a quick style and Fresh beauty products.
SHOP
ZJ Boarding House (2619 Main St., (310) 392-5646) sells every kind of board you can ride (snow, surf and skate) and all the outfitting you need to look rad doing it. Ultra-mod furnishings at Functions (1454 Lincoln Blvd., (310) 451-4284) have appeared in “Minority Report,” and Eames Office Gallery (2665 Main St., (310) 396-5991) has everything from scarves to stools. No string instrument is left behind at McCabe’s Guitar Shop (3101 Pico Blvd., (310) 828-4497). Along with sheet music, tuning and repair, this guitar-lover’s utopia hosts in-store concerts. Catch the Wailin’ Jennys (Nov. 4, 8 p.m.). Hey Kookla (1329 Montana Ave., (310) 899-9499) has a wild assortment of gifts that include handbags, laundry powder and chocolate. Sculpture to Wear (808 11th St., (310) 260-1957) blurs jewelry and art with unique accessories by Robert Lee Morris. L.A.’s laid-back look is at Planet Blue (800 14th St., (310) 394-0135) and premiere-worthy dresses at Morgane Le Fay (1404 Montana Ave., (310) 393-4447).
CAROUSE
Temple Bar (1026 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 393-6611) has a relaxed vibe and seven nights of live music. Cut up the floor to J*Davey’s new-wave soul (Nov. 4, 10:30 p.m.) or Joyce and Dori Caymme’s Brazilian groove (Nov. 10, 10 p.m.), or shoot pool in the billiards room. For good old blues and jazz, head to Harvelle’s Blues Club (1432 Fourth St., (310) 395-1676). The intimate Bar Copa (2810 Main St., (310) 452-2445) spontaneously becomes the coolest word of mouth party on the Westside. Get there before 10 p.m. to avoid the line. Down the street, hip-hop and classic rock play around a 360-degree watering trough at Circle Bar (2926 Main St., (310) 450-0508), and Moroccan decor meets disco ball at The Mor Bar (2941 Main St., (310) 455-6720). Highways Performance Space and Gallery (1651 18th St., (310) 315-1459) features avant-garde, international theater, dance and comedy with a strong dose of political and social satire. A closer choice for comedy is the back room at Shane Restaurant (2424 Main St., (310) 396-4122) on Tuesday nights; DJs spin Thursday through Saturday. Try their peach martini.

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