The Place: 31 Ten Bar & Lounge: 3110 Main Street, Santa Monica; (310) 450-5522.
The Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 5-7 p.m.
The Deals: Appetizers $5-$8; $5 wines, $3 beers, and $4 well drinks.
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The Digs: It's a bit of a shock when you enter a bar or restaurant in Santa Monica and feel out of place in flip flops. At 31 Ten Lounge, which soft opened December 17th, 2010 and officially opened February 18th, you can get as fancy as you like, but it still might be a good idea to ditch the beachwear. Similar to Chaya in Venice, it's more upscale than surrounding bars in the neighborhood. Waitresses wearing tight, short red dresses take your food and drink order after you sink into one of the plush couches or seats in the outdoor patio, which is warmed by a roaring fire pit. Wednesday nights are fairly slow, but as it inches towards the weekend the place picks up. And Saturdays nights are packed with a long line out the door starting around 10:30 p.m.
The 5,500-square-foot space has undergone several transformations over the years. It's been called Cache, Hidden, and Schatzi, among other names. It's a little Vegas, a little Hollywood, a little Santa Monica, and a lot of dim-lighting and loud music. It has changed a lot since Arnold Schwarzenegger's restaurant Schatzi, in different but good ways, though we still miss the huge poster of the Terminator near the front entryway, and the banana cream pie.
The Verdict: Co-owned by Italian industry veterans Paolo Cesaro and Executive Chef Antonio Muré (Ado Restaurant), 31 Ten Lounge doesn't pretend to be something it's not. Typically there's a DJ on the weekends and busy weekday nights, and happy hour food is reasonably priced. You go for the ambiance, the music, and to be seen, but you can also go for the food and drinks without being disappointed. Unlike other high-end bars, ahem, the W Hotels, you can get booze for pretty cheap that's not on the Popov level.
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For $5 on the happy hour menu there's an Avalon Napa Valley Cabernet, which retails for about $13 a bottle in stores. So, basically, you're paying what you should pay normally per glass. The thin crust margarita pizza ($6) is satiating, with a proportionate amount of sauce to cheese. The tuna sliders ($7), while small, are seasoned just right and have a nice sriracha aioli kick. It's pretty dim in there, so if you're afraid of the dark bring a flashlight. Or just bring a date you're not really attracted to, but wish you were.
Overall Grade: A-