Stretches of Pico Boulevard, a main artery connecting Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles, have begun to look more like an art exhibition as of late: The local business improvement district, paired with the award-winning nonprofit Beautify Earth, has adorned buildings here with a variety of striking murals. The people bustling through the area are equally diverse, drawn to a mix of small galleries, live music venues, shops, and a variety of restaurants offering temptations for almost any palate. Accessible from the three Metro Expo Line stations in town, Pico ends at the beach and links Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica College, and Virginia Avenue Park, where a beloved farmers market takes place each Saturday.
Lares Restaurant ,a popular Mexican eatery and locals’ hot spot has been serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner since 1968. Hearty meals are accompanied by mariachi music on weekends and washed down with cold beer and margaritas. It garners mucho props for the carnitas.
Come to the Lazy Daisy Cafe for indoor/outdoor seating, a laidback ambience, and American and Mexican comfort food. Family friendly, it’s especially popular for breakfast and brunch and is the perfect stop before heading to the weekly Saturday farmers market. Try the rosemary turkey burger.
The Upper West is a lively bistro that buzzes and hums. If you have an appetite, order either Ethan’s Mac & Cheese (Irish white cheddar, mozzarella, and Asiago) or the marinated flat iron steak. Belly up to the 27-foot bar where first-rate cocktails, an extensive wine selection, and IPAs abound. There’s also patio dining.
Looking for grain-free pet food? How about a bikini/sani for Fido? Lope on over to the Animal Kingdom of Santa Monica, a wonderful locally owned pet shop. They don’t limit their concerns to furry creatures—they also have goods and services for pet snakes as well as doggy daycare.
This is the place for small-batch clothing, gifts, and jewelry. The shop has an eclectic selection of unique creations, including gifts for pets. Drop in and say hello to Chris + Mary (aka Moochaka).
When it comes to Whole Foods, introductions are hardly necessary. The 365 By Whole Foods store on Cloverfield ups Whole Foods’ game with an extensive array of affordable grocery items, high-quality products, to-go foods, and Flash Finds, seasonal or unique offerings available for a limited time.
Strike out for Bowlmor to enjoy a night of bowling, dining, and nightlife. Here you’ll find 24 lanes of electro-cool blacklight bowling and REBOOT, Bowlmor Santa Monica’s retro-inspired arcade. While you’re there, order up a meal (it offers a five-pound burger) or even dine lane-side.
Drop into UnUrban Coffee House and enjoy live music while dining on delights such as an avocado melt or a bowl of turkey chili. There’s live music most nights and an open mic on Fridays. Pick up a signature T-shirt: “Death Before Decaf!”
The Sewing Arts Center—in one incarnation after another—has been a Santa Monica staple since 1955. It offers sewing machines and supplies for sale, but sewing classes are the big draw, with more than 150 class sessions each trimester.
In honor of the people, places and experiences that make Santa Monica the premier beach destination it is, we’ve made a mini video series highlighting a sampling of Santa Monica’s small business community and the stories behind the storefronts. Here, we visit the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, Gilbert's El Indio Mexican Restaurant and McCabe's Guitar Shop on Pico Boulevard.