90401 Travel Guide
As promised, we have a whole new batch of photos from inside Santa Monica Place, the new mall that just opened at the end of Third Street Promenade, steps away from the iconic Santa Monica Pier. (C'mon, you've all seen it in "Forest Gump.")
While Third Street Promenade has provided most of the recreational and retail action for Santa Monica, it's going to have to take a backseat to this new mall. Aside from the designer brands (Louis Vuitton, Bloomies, Nordstroms, Burberry and Barneys Co-Op), Santa Monica Place is finally giving shoppers what they really want--a wide variety of food options.
The third-floor open-air Dining Deck has a mix of high-end restaurants (Sonoma Wine Garden, XINO and La Sandia) mixed in with somewhat upscale food court options like tacos, pizza, and Chinese food. Of course, you can still get a cinnamon sugar pretzel at Wetzel's Pretzels.
Way back in January 2008, Santa Monica Place, the mall at the end of the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif.--near the world famous Santa Monica Pier--closed for an extensive renovation. And we mean, extensive.
Much of the old mall, designed by Frank Gehry in 1980, was demolished and in its place, a 500,000sq.ft. three-story, open air shopping "destination" was erected.
Today that mall reopens as a spectacular high-end retail experience anchored by a stunning new Bloomingdale's. And not only does this new shopping mecca look pretty and modern but it's also eco-friendly and hopes to earn a LEED Silver certification.
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If you've heard the name Fred Segal before, it's probably because US Weekly mainstays have often been photographed emerging from the store with a signature red, white and blue shopping bag in hand. The West Hollywood outpost may be better for star sighting, but we prefer the Santa Monica store, which is broken up into several idiosyncratic boutiques.
High prices and pretentious salespeople often deter shoppers from stopping by retailers of Fred Segal's ilk, but we've never had that problem in Santa Monica. We were there last night for a charity event last night co-hosted by Rachel Leigh Cook, to which guests brought unwrapped presents for donation to Toys For Tots, and did a little impromptu research into holiday gifts for travelers.
See what we found, with pictures, after the jump.
It's hard to find a quality slice of pizza in Los Angeles and in fact, most shops here just try to emulate a New York or Chicago-style pizza. The attempts are appreciated by East Coasters like ourselves but of course, it's just never the same. The biggest stand-out so far has been Joe's Pizza, just off the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, which is an outpost of the famous Joe's Pizza on Bleeker Street.
However, a new pizza joint has opened, also in Santa Monica, on Wilshire Boulevard and it's decided to split its offerings between New York and Chicago style pizza. NY & C even splits its physical space between Chicago and New York. One wall is devoted to NYC photos and memorabilia and the other is for Chicago.
There's deep dish Chicago-style pizza and specialty pizzas like the Navy Pier (green peppers, tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms) and the Windy City with four types of meat (sausage, pepperoni, salami, sliced beef), mushrooms and extra cheese. There's another pizza with meatballs, mushrooms, tomatoes and green peppers that's called The Sears Tower. Um. Do you mean the Willis Tower.
The (lobster) claws come out at the tenth anniversary of a Santa Monica Pier institution
Santa Monica Pier is the heart of the oceanside city's kinetic life force. Amid a flurry of tourists milling toward the neon-lit ferris wheel, shirtless muscle men on bikes, and street performers competing for spare change, The Lobster offers some refuge, not to mention amazing seafood and 180 degree views of the Pacific Ocean.
The pier institution celebrated the tenth anniversary of its reopening on Monday evening with a private VIP reception, drawing a mixed crowd of older locals and young, energetic foodies who clamored straight for the surf 'n' turf spread. Tables overflowed with an assortment of the menu's best: fresh oysters, mini crab cakes, filet mignon, lobster (natch) and seared tuna.
Complimentary wine and cocktails were also circulating as guests toasted ten years of business at the historic locale. If you're in the area and in search of a more upscale—but still relaxed—alternative to other grab-and-go eateries lining the shore, The Lobster is a good bet.
Nearly a year ago we spoke of our love for Fred Segal Santa Monica, a posh, celeb-frequented, overpriced boutique with cutesy department names like Flair, Fun and Emphatic.
Back then, we mentioned that we preferred this boutique over its West Hollywood counterpart largely because it was close to the beach, free of D-list celebrities holding their appointments with the paparazzi and with more manageable parking. We'd like to take all of that back now that we've learned the store has just announced its own reality show on Bravo.
The show will focus on the oft-stressed and competitive sales team as they cater to well-to-do customers who demand the latest in clothes, shoes, accessories and beauty products.
For years the Santa Monica Pier was the place where locals got drugs and tourists got robbed (technically locals also got robbed too but that screws up the balance of the sentence).
It's always been a recognizable part of LA history: opened in 1909, emerged as an iconic landmark featured in TV and film, became a celebrated beatnik destination, and so on. It's just it hasn't always been a safe recognizable part of LA history. In the past few years, though, gentrification has slowly worked its wonderful magic. Today it's brimming with activity and people-watching potential, populated by this weird mix of beach rats, hipsters, and tourists.
The pier has a permanent bevy of restaurants, shops, and amusements plus a bunch of rotating shows and events - dance lessons, high school recitals, and circus performances. For instance next month they're putting on Sideshow at the Pier, "an eclectic and fast-paced show featuring jugglers, fire-eaters, tap dancers, singers, clowns, puppeteers, mimes and comedy teams."
An outing can easily consume a lackadaisical afternoon. It's a pier with a gigantic Ferris wheel on a Southern California beach framed by a crystal blue sky. Tough to screw that up.
Prepare to welcome your new octopus overlords. Workers at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium are mopping up after a curious female California two-spotted octopus loosened a valve in its tank on Thursday, releasing at least 200 gallons (757 liters) of seawater onto the brand new floor. National Geographic reports that such behavior is typical among octopuses, due to their unique combination of strength, dexterity, curiosity, and intelligence. In other words, be very afraid.
FIG bars, it's what's for dessert.
One of Santa Monica’s most famous landmarks is the 128-year-old Moreton Bay fig tree that sits in the driveway to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, so it’s no wonder that the hotel’s new restaurant is named FIG.
Around 90 percent of Chef Ray Garcia's menu is locally and organically sourced, and the dishes will change according to season. If you have any doubts about that, just check out the calendar of crops at the bottom of the menu to see what will be “coming soon” to a plate near you.
There are even “food scouts” who apparently are scouring the local farmer’s markets and nearby ranches for the raw ingredients for Chef Garcia’s menus, which he says are “nothing experimental or overworked. Just pure, flavorful ingredients expertly prepared and delivered to your table.” He must have picked up that philosophy while working at Thomas Keller's famous French Laundry in Napa.
Without a doubt, heading to the Santa Monica Pier is one of the top tourist attractions in Santa Monica. Made famous in countless films, the pier was originally built in 1909 which is defined as the pre-historic age for Los Angeles.
It's considered the final stop along Route 66, as anyone who saw the movie Forest Gump knows, and it houses a historic carousel ride, a ferris wheel *, a small aquarium, carnival games, tourist trap souvenir shops, a pub and a few restaurants.
Now, dining on the pier is not something we would ever do unless it was like on a triple dog dare or something, but if we had to dine in the vicinity of the pier the only place to do so is The Lobster.
If you're a regular reader of the weekly trashy tabloids (not that we are or anything), then the name Fred Segal should be very familiar to you. It's the trendy store where celebrities are always spotted buying new clothes, catching a bite to eat and staging some convenient photo ops.
Now, there are actually two Fred Segal stores--one on Melrose Avenue where most of the paparazzi camp out--and the more low-key one in Santa Monica on Broadway, just off the Third Street Promenade.
This is the Fred Segal that we prefer. Why? Well it's close to the beach, it's bigger (which means more merchandise) and the parking is way more manageable.
Only three restaurants in Los Angeles were awarded two Michelin Stars in the 2008 guide for the city and several were awarded one-star, including another Table Crashing fave, CUT.
So we decided to test out the one nearest to our abode--La Botte in Santa Monica which earned a one-star. The restaurant's location is a few blocks from the touristy Third Street Promenade, thankfully, as anything on the Promenade should be avoided.
Yet it's in the ground level of a modern-looking apartment/office building. This is both good and bad--good because you get a sort of tucked-away feeling but bad because who eats in the ground floor of an apartment/office building?
Nevertheless, La Botte has a cozy atmosphere once you step inside. Indeed the Michelin guide agreed:
It is difficult to imagine a warmer interior than in the homey yet fashionable place, which pays homage to Italian wine with its hardwood floors and walls crafted from the staves of oak wine barrels (a nod to the name, Italian for "wine barrel").