Stretching out over the ocean, wooden and there as long as anyone living can remember, lies the Santa Monica Pier. It is this stretch of wooden planks, outfitted with the usual trappings of cotton candy and kettle corn that usually attracts the nomad exploring the area. It’s almost obligatory on any Santa Monica itinerary… even if all you do is walk down the pier towards the very edge overlooking the sea and then back again, which is exactly what we suggest. There’s just so much amazing happening just east, across the street from the sea.
After your stroll down the pier, head back up and turn left down Ocean Avenue. Just a couple doors down from the corner you’ll come across RED O, and if you plan it right, you can catch their excellent happy hour. The restaurant gives off a silky, swanky speakeasy vibe, but with a shining and gilded bar that corrals several very attentive bartenders behind for pours. Grab a seat at the bar and order the La Rosarita for cocktail hour. This fragrant cocktail of vodka, lemon, and hibiscus syrup gets unbelievable with the addition of apple essence. It’s a cocktail that engages all of the senses, served in a coupe inspired glass that draws the whole experience in just a little closer. Before this heady drink makes you consider karaoke as an accompaniment, be sure to order the Edamame-Yuzu guacamole, a very decided upscale riff complete with cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and white onion.
Like a strolling dinner party should be, once you’ve polished off your cocktails and appetizer, you’ll want to head back out to Ocean Avenue. Turning left, that’s south for you savvy navigators, you’re just a few short blocks from the incredible eLOVate Kitchen. (We suggest starting your evening at 5pm to enjoy both RED O’s happy hour and the Santa Monica sunset on your walk.) Chef Roberto, formerly private chef to Ellen & Portia, serves up lively and composed dishes nightly. The Poutine is rich without being heavy, and will absolutely satisfy even Canadian natives. An order of Nachos, Brody style is plenty to feel two with layers of marinated jackfruit, black beans, chipotle crema, and many other delicious bits. However, if after your guac you only have room left for one more dish, make it the Crabless Cakes. These sizeable patties are perfectly crusted in large, crunchy breadcrumbs holding together a perfectly shredded texture that’s got just the right amount of ocean flavor. It easily could serve as an entree for one, or you could order all three of these incredible dishes and enjoy eLOVate tapa’s style. Definitely, take a date or a friend and go for the tapa’s style. Of course, it’s time for another round, and the Silk Road Mule is where the party is at. Served in a frosty traditional mule mug, it’s the perfect pairing of refreshing lemon notes to a richer meal. Bonus: if Chef is in that night he may make a tableside appearance!
Satiated with amazing cuisine and warmed from the cocktails, it’s time to meet up with your ghost hunters for a haunted history tour. By far, our favorite way to break out of the typical tourist traps and really get to know the city is by going on a haunted tour. In Santa Monica, you’ll want to book with Santa Monica Ghost Tours led by the feisty and young pair, Candace and Zack. Starting at a rowdy bar on Broadway, working their way down the pier and back, all the way up to the infamous Georgian Hotel, you’ll be completely mesmerized by the dark and sometimes sordid history this beachside town holds. Complete with a haunted carousel, a ghost that sits on a bench, and occasional sightings of women in white walking on water, it’s a completely absorbing tale that will keep you captivated from start to finish. Your night in Santa Monica ends with the tour finishing at another wine bar, ideal for ordering a nightcap while you digest everything wonderful you’ve consumed and yet, not a single kernel of sweetened, stale popcorn.