The Place: The Pool at the Hotel Shangri-La, 1301 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 394-2791.
The Hours: Fridays, 1 to 7 p.m.
The Deals: $5 well cocktails, $5 snacks
The Digs: Don't be intimidated by the tall jailbird gates to Shangri-La's pool area, which is located in the courtyard past the hotel lobby and bar. The latch to get in is actually over your head on the other side of the gate. Once in, walk through three levels of deck to get to the pool bar. A long fire pit with deck chairs sits before it. The elevated pool to the right of the bar is surrounded by five cabanas and lounge chairs. And of course there's ample seating on the lower decks. The crowd on the night we went consisted of industry people hobnobbing in a couple of the cabanas as well as hotel guests and hip 20-somethings.
The Verdict: Even though it was a cold, blustery evening when we stopped by for the last hour of Ditch Day, the pool and bar areas were still buzzing with the boisterous and intoxicated. A group of shivering girlfriends with pool towels wrapped around themselves huddled around the fire pit. New couples got to know each other while seated at the bar. “Are you a water sign?” “I'm a water bearer.” No doubt the $5 well cocktails helped move the conversations along. Our Jack (the well whiskey) and ginger ale was potent. To steel our stomachs, we ordered the $5 goat cheese-stuffed dates and the flatbread pizza with tomatoes, black truffle puree and burrata, which is $10 off the happy hour menu. Still hungry, we also requested the mac and cheese, which is only on the regular menu but is $9. The bartenders here were a bit distracted and not very warm or engaging, but at least they gave a decent pour and the food came out in a timely manner. For straight drinking, $5 well isn't too shabby, especially when enjoyed poolside. However, those on a budget looking for more sustenance will be turned off by the $14 turkey wrap and $16 sirloin burger.
Overall Grade: B- in warm weather/C- in cold weather