This year, there’s more delicious competition than ever for AFM attendees in Santa Monica. The city has a deep line-up of new and updated restaurants and old favorites. Want a quick bite? A quiet afternoon meeting spot or a laid back, al fresco dinner? No worries — the walkable city has them all and then some.
Blue Plate Taco
1515 Ocean Ave.
Opened in late September on the ground floor of the year-old Shore Hotel, Blue Plate Taco was inspired by a seaside restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. (The restaurant’s owners also run the popular Blue Plate Oysterette a few blocks north on Ocean Avenue.) Fish and lobster tacos, grilled corn and piquant ceviche are some of the Baja specialties served here, made with farmers market-fresh ingredients. Cocktails are inventive: the Verde Fresca is a green refresher of basil, mint, lime juice, agave and either rum or vodka. Airy and festive, the indoor/outdoor restaurant and large outdoor patio are prime people-watching spots. A five-minute walk west of the Loews Hotel on Ocean Avenue, Blue Plate Taco is open for lunch and dinner daily.
101 Wilshire Blvd.
Here’s Santa Monica’s answer to a hip Hollywood nightspot. Attracting both the younger set and well-heeled locals, the Bungalow is mostly outdoors, under palm trees on the grounds of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. The main event: a vast wood plank deck that’s furnished like a comfy outdoor living room, backed by Pacific Ocean and picture-perfect sunset views. Extremely busy on weekends, come early on weekdays for a quiet meeting over cocktails and small plates from chef Ray Garcia of FIG, the hotel’s chic restaurant. Reservations recommended for large parties (a minimum-spend may be required). Open from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday from 2-10 p.m.
Santa Monica Place Dining Deck
M.A.K.E., 395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. 333
The open-air mall’s roof deck has nine fast food-style choices from Pinches Tacos — tacos and burritos — to Chinese and sushi. Inside the third-floor market, busy Groundworks coffee is open early; recently, chef Matthew Kenney opened M.A.K.E. serving a plant-based, raw food menu heavy on vegan dishes. Even non-vegans will appreciate the house-made soups, generous-sized-salads and flavorful desserts.
1416 Fourth St.
Classic, home-style Mexican dishes (tamales and tacos) and potent margaritas are Mercado’s selling points. Kicking off the busy dinner service is the well-attended daily happy hour at the bar and communal tables from 5 to 7 p.m., Monday- Friday and from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Family-run Mercado gets raves from L.A.’s food press so expect a crowd and a lively atmosphere.
BOA Santa Monica
101 Santa Monica Blvd.
If expertly cooked steaks sound right, then BOA should satisfy. Forty-day dry-aged steaks, tableside-prepared Caesar salad and an extensive and always changing wine-by-the-glass selection make BOA a reliable but spendy choice — though the Monday-Friday happy hour from 5-7 p.m. features $8 burger sliders and select $5 cocktails. Sunday nights most bottles of wine on the smartly edited wine list are half-price. There’s seating inside and out. BOA is also open for lunch: ask for a table facing the Santa Monica pier for the scenic view. BOA’s management team also owns the nearby Robata Bar and Sushi Roku Santa Monica (open for lunch and dinner with happy hour on weekends too).
West 4th and Jane
1432 Fourth St.
Get a taste of Gotham at this friendly neighborhood gastropub. There’s a changing selection of 24 craft beers on tap, plus wine, sake and champagne. Bar snacks (gourmet kettle corn), BBQ wings and other menu items are hearty and affordable. AFM badge holders get their own special: the Jane specialty burger and a choice of draft beers for $10. Open until 2 a.m. everyday except Sunday (1 a.m. close).
Michael’s Santa Monica
147 Third St.
After 30 years, owner Michael McCarty is revamping the go-to eatery for Westside showbizzers. As he expands the patio seating and changes up the menu (brasserie fare is the plan), AFM attendees can take advantage of $12 small plate and signature cocktail deal 5 p.m. until close. Lunch: Monday-Friday 12-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Saturday 6-10 p.m.