Downtown Santa Monica is in the midst of a reinvention that’s immediately apparent at the spiffed-up entrance of the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel where a freshly installed glass overhang has a Streamline Moderne look. Across the street, the upscale Ocean Avenue South mixed-use condominium development is almost complete. And several chic new restaurants have made Santa Monica busier and glossier than ever. American Film Marketers — and their expense accounts — have more choices than ever within walking distance of the mart’s venues.
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
The changes to the hotel are both outside and in: behind the check-in desk, a wall-sized screen streams images from a live webcam trained on the beach and Santa Monica pier. Another decor change: all room and poolside balconies are glass-walled, providing views clear to the beach and ocean beyond. Coupled with the brighter look, there will be more pop-up, mobile food carts poolside (daily from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.). A sushi cart will offer spicy tuna rolls and more; a waffle-cone ice cream cart joins the quick-and-easy fish taco and to-go grill carts.
Address: 1700 Ocean Ave.
The Power Trio
Newly built to look like an old-school seafood spot with tiled floors and brass accents, the Water Grill opened in July and has been drawing crowds ever since (weekend dinner reservations are essential). The dining room and large bar open to the salt air via a series of oversized rollup windows; the views during the golden hour are priceless. Raw oysters are the ticket here, or select a live Maine lobster from one of the restaurant’s shellfish tanks. At lunch, the tables lining the windows are the most requested at what’s become Santa Monica’s new power lunch spot. Located in the same building as Ocean Screening.
Address: 1401 Ocean Ave.
Del Frisco’s Grille
At the corner of Ocean and Colorado Avenue, Del Frisco’s Grille — the first California outpost of the Dallas-based Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group — aims to be a crowd-pleaser. Classic modern comfort foods like flatbread pizza, ahi tuna tacos and steak salads are on the menu along with grilled fish and meats. AFM badgeholders receive a 50% discount on the vodka-infused pineapple specialty VIP cocktail.
Address: 1551 Ocean Ave. #105
Fresh and seasonal ingredients are the hallmark of Seasons 52. All menu items are 475 or fewer calories and there’s an emphasis on salads, flatbreads and lean meats, prepared without butter. The well-curated wine list should appeal to those that like Old and New World wines; before 6 p.m., the daily wine flight comes paired with a signature flatbread. During the AFM, badgeholders have the option of the daily wine flight paired with a signature flatbread for $15. Above all, the free Wi-Fi is just what AFM’ers crave.
Address: 1501 Ocean Ave.
From the same group that runs the Water Grill, Pier Burger does fast food well. Open for breakfast, the indoor/outdoor restaurant is a reliable stop for burgers, shakes, soft-serve frozen custard and hot dogs. Located on the Santa Monica Pier, it’s a short walk from the Loews rear entrance.
Address: 330 Santa Monica Pier
Order a quickly assembled rice or noodle bowl and choose among the Southeast Asian flavors and curries here, the latest fast-food concept from Chipotle. Open until 10 p.m.
Address: 1401 3rd St. Promenade
Call: (310) 382-2028
Stella Barra Pizzeria
The handcrafted, made-to-order pizzas at Stella Barra are topped with finely executed and flavorful sauces (Stella Barra’s chef/owner once worked at England’s the Fat Duck). Salads and sandwiches round out the selection; the spinach and crispy kale salad offers a taste of L.A.’s ingredient-of-the moment. AFM badgeholders receive a 20% discount.
Address: 2000 Main St.
Stout Burgers & Beers
The name says it all. Stout’s simplified menu has burgers (beef, chicken and vegetarian), accompanying sides and 30 craft beers on tap plus boutique wines. The open air (weather permitting), 2-month-old pub is open until midnight Sunday-Thursday and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Address: 111 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
DIY’ers can bring their own lunch to the city’s new Tongva Park that sits between market headquarters and screening rooms a block from the Loews on Ocean Avenue. The former parking lot has been transformed into a leafy and fountain-filled oasis crisscrossed with pathways that wind through a landscape of native plants.
Rose Avenue, Venice
It’s only a quick cab ride to three industry faves on Rose Avenue: Superba Snack Bar (533 Rose Ave.) has housemade pastas and is open for lunch and dinner; Oscar’s Cerveteca (523 Rose Ave.) offers delicious though somewhat pricey tacos; and vegans, vegetarians and actors favor Cafe Gratitude Venice (512 Rose Ave.) where menu items have somewhat cheeky titles. To order a zucchini lasagna one must ask for “I am fabulous,” the appropriate affirmation for AFM buyers and sellers.