Bordered by the Pacific, the Palisades and the 405, Santa Monica is home and host to every shade of bar and every breed of drinker. Tourists may be our bread and butter, but they're also the bane of our existence, and we prefer our drinking establishments to be minimally invaded by camera toting, directionally confused, Hawaiian shirt wanderers. From a classic dive with the best scotch west of the Mississippi to a wine bar that supplies Scrabble on Sundays and a subterranean cocktail session supervised by the mounted head of a buck, we toured the bars of the West Side to bring you the best drinking holes in Santa Monica.
Slideshow: Drinking in Santa Monica: The Best Bars
10. Chez Jay
Delighting Santa Monica patrons for the last half-century, Chez Jay is not only an institution, but a registered Santa Monica Landmark. From the genuine neon sign to the crunch of peanut shells underfoot, there are no frills here, just good service and good drinks. You'll be unexpectedly charmed by the checkered tablecloths and red vinyl booths and happily satisfied with an ice cold cocktail and a round of steamed clams.
1657 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 395-1741
See also: The Ten Best Bars in Culver City
You won't likely find Brick + Mortar tucked behind the buildings on Main Street unless you're looking for it. Don't be distracted by the DJ spinning in the wine storage, there is something for everyone at this bar and restaurant for the young and urban. The menu includes baked pita a and a carefully chosen cheese plate, and most everything is served on rustic boards. Brick + Mortar offers a full list of beer, wine and cocktails and a weekday happy hour from 12-7p.m. 2435 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 450-3434.
8. The Bungalow
If you always wanted to spend your summers at sleepaway camp (or were always denied an invite to all the coolest house parties), The Bungalow is for you. Vintage details, oldies music and a retro cocktail menu at this hotel-adjacent bar by the beach are so carefully curated you'll be surprised you weren't offered a post-war costume at the door. Bungalow is the perfect place to make visiting friends jealous that you live in Santa Monica while you sip a can of Golden Road and play ping pong. Arrive anytime after opening hour and you'll be waiting in line. 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 899-8530.
Bodega Wine Bar is Santa Monica's best spot for wine, and its location on Broadway and Lincoln guarantees that it's never bogged down by tourists looking for cheap glasses of the lowest common denominator. Bodega's well-appointed collection of wine rewards loyal patrons on Wednesdays when all bottles are half priced. Weeknight happy hour from 5-7 p.m. is the perfect time to check out specials that include $3 off glasses of wine and $5 appetizers. Fridays and Saturdays host DJs after 10 p.m. 814 Broadway St., Santa Monica; (310) 394-3504.
It's easy to pass by the unassuming facade of West 4th and Jane, but inside is the best selection of beer in the vicinity of the 3rd St. Promenade. The crowd is typically casual, as is the decor, (which often features scattered sets of Connect Four at both bar and booth). The place has 24 taps and offers a nightly happy hour from 5-7 p.m. with specials including $4 American craft and $5 imported beers, and $5 wine and champagne. Try the chicken wings and tater tots while you sample a few beers with a domestic or imported flight of four. 1432A 4th St., Santa Monica; (310) 395-6765.
See also: The Ten Best Bars in Silverlake
5. The Misfit
One of the best places for all-around variety in Santa Monica also has one of the best happy hours. Visit this chic, richly decorated bar and restaurant located in the 1920's clocktower building just off the Promenade between 12-7 p.m. and get $5 select beer and wine and half-off well drinks. (The upscale “well” here includes Tito's Vodka and Buffalo Trace bourbon.) The Basil Gimlet and Misfit Cocktail are especially popular, and no experience is complete without a chocolate chip cookie with sea salt flakes. 225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 656-9800.
4. Daily Pint
This 25 year-old dive in Sunset Park is one of the few true neighborhood bars on the West Side. With over 300 kinds of whiskey, visitors looking for great scotch at a good price will be pleased. The Pint, as it's known to regulars, draws as many beer geeks as scotch lovers with 33 craft beers on tap around 100 in bottles. Here, drinking well transcends who you're with and what you're wearing. Your shuffleboard and foosball performances are sure to improve after a few rounds. 2310 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 450-7631.
For the best beer selection on the West Side, head to Father's Office on Montana Avenue. The snug, heavily-wooded interior is likely to be packed with both local and pilgrimaging beer lovers, but that only reinforces the quality of the 36 beer tap list and food menu. Famous for prohibiting ketchup and allowing no substitutions on his burgers, chef and owner Sang Yoon adds two cheeses, arugula, and caramelized onion to his dry-aged beef patty. Both the legendary beer mecca and its signature dish can't be missed. 1018 Montana Ave. Santa Monica; (310) 736-2224.
29 regularly rotating taps host some of the best local and national beers available at this bright and casual Main Street bar. Beloved by locals, Library's weekday happy hour, or “Study Break”, is from 3-6 p.m. and will get you $3 off wine and beer (bringing most pints to about $4). Deals extend to selected bar items, so try the sliders and mac 'n' cheese. If you're visiting during peak hours, stay for dinner and sit in the roomier, covered back patio where the fish and chips and Ahi burger reign. 2911 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 314-4855.
There is no shortage of chandeliers, taxidermied wildlife and comfortable lounge spots from which to view a Turner Classic Movie at this intimate subterranean bar in The Victorian. A selective list of craft beer and cocktails, written colorfully on a chalkboard-painted wall, is improved upon only by their discounted price during happy hour from 5-8 p.m. daily. The packed crowds that show up for live music at 9:30 p.m on Tuesdays through Saturdays will assure you that word has gotten out on the best-kept secret in Santa Monica. 2640 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 396-2469.
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