Credit: Philip Guerette / 1212 Santa Monica
Credit: Philip Guerette / 1212 Santa Monica

7 Hangouts in Santa Monica That the Locals Love

Hint: It Isn’t the Pier

If you’re looking to live it up like an LA local, then Santa Monica is the place to be. Between bottomless brunches and jumpin’ day clubs, this trendy town tends to draw in a crowd on the weekends. But if you want to experience the Santa Monica scene like a true Angeleno, then we suggest staying up on a school night and skipping out on the ferris wheel.  Best Restaurants Santa Monica


1212 Santa Monica

Credit: Philip Guerette
@localemag Best happy hour in #santamonica ? #1212 #lahappyhour #lafoodie #santamonicadate #ladateidea #ladatenight #westsidela #localemagazine ♬ Treat Yo Self_Parks and Recreation – Peacock TV

If you are looking for a sign to hit the town tonight, this is it. 1212 Santa Monica is a vintage-chic, two-story restaurant and lounge that knows how to have a good time. Happy hour is offered all night, every day, starting at 4 p.m., and with $8 hand-crafted cocktails and specialty appetizers like the Margherita flatbread, popcorn shrimp, mushroom arancini and zucchini fries, 1212 is one of the happiest happy spots in Santa Monica. Their swanky dining room is decorated with copper drop lights, giving the restaurant a modern feel. And thanks to the open floor plan, the bar connects flawlessly to a pet-friendly patio, offering a front-row seat to live music and the bustling promenade. Not only is 1212 a delicious place to dine during the week, but it transforms into a nightclub on the weekends, where you can enjoy sultry fire dancers, aerial silk artists and a beat-dropping DJ! To reserve a VIP table for the night, contact [email protected].

Best Restaurants Santa Monica

Bay Cities Italian Deli

Credit: Eaters Collective / Unsplash

Whether you’re looking to refuel after a long beach day or want to prep for a picnic, Bay Cities Italian Deli is your one-stop sandwich shop. Using only the freshest bread and finest meats, it’s no wonder why locals have been coming here since 1925. Yes, they have the best sandwiches in town—but this deli is also a gourmet market, where you can pick up imported cheese and wine for your next party!


The Bungalow

Credit: The Bungalow

Hit up the definition of a beach house party in Santa Monica with a visit to The Bungalow. Their cozy couches, funky art and bohemian decor make the space feel more like a home than a bar. Thanks to its raging reputation, the weekends are perfect if you want to get wild, but if you’re trying to wind down with a drink, drop by for their “Locals Only” mezcal cocktail during the week (you might even be able to score a table).

Best Restaurants Santa Monica


Credit: Jessica Moncrief

For 90 years, Harvelle’s has been an iconic venue for live music in Santa Monica. The scene is set in a sexy, dimly lit room, ideal for sipping on some spirits and dancing to music from talented local artists. Whether you want to listen to trendy tunes or enjoy a steamy burlesque show, there is no shortage of entertainment on this stage! Visit their website for a full performance schedule, then head to Harvelle’s for a memorable show.


Chez Jay

Credit: Luis Vivar

Located half a block from the pier, this historical landmark is known for its sizzling steaks, fresh seafood and relaxed atmosphere. Established in 1959, Chez Jay is not only a hangout for the locals, but for Hollywood hotshots too (thanks to the Rat Pack). If their heavy-handed cocktails were good enough for Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., then you’re sure to feel like a celebrity in the spotlight too after a couple!

Best Restaurants Santa Monica

El Cholo

If authentic Mexican cuisine is what you are craving during the week, then El Cholo is the place to dine. Not only has it been labeled LA’s best Mexican restaurant by several publications, it’s also one of the very first and has been serving the local community for over a century! When you arrive, it’s almost as if you walked into Abuela’s house, then once you bite into their famous Sonora-Style Enchilada, you can tell their food is made with the same kind of family love. You can choose to dine at their Santa Monica location, but if you prefer staying in, then take your food and one of their famous margaritas to go. 



Since boozy kombucha is the definition of balance, Santa Monica’s JuneShine tasting room is perfect for anyone worried about wellness. Since their menu is full of every flavor—from blood orange mint and chili mango to honey ginger lemon and hibiscus lemonade—we suggest you get a flight and try them all! Did we mention the aesthetic is as chill as the staff? Come for the drinks but stay for the vibes at this trendy local tasting room!

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