3 Best Bars in Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, and Brentwood, Los Angeles

Chez Jay

Fodor's choice

Around since 1959, this dive bar and steak joint continues to be a well-loved place in Santa Monica. Everyone from the young to the old (including families) frequents this historical landmark, where Marilyn Monroe is said to have once canoodled with JFK. It's a charming place, from the well-worn booths with their red-checkered tablecloths to the ship's wheel near the door. Photographs are discouraged, but if you ask politely, you can learn how one of the restaurant's famous free peanuts ended up on a trip to the Moon. The backyard lounge is perfect for warm, low-key days; the grub's solid, with a more contemporary menu, and the happy hour is popular amongst locals and tourists alike.


The focus of this bar and music club is on live jazz, blues, and soul, though it also serves up rock and roll and even live, band-accompanied karaoke on some nights. The club is small, with an even smaller checkerboard dance floor. Reserve tables in advance at this Westside establishment; order a martini off the Deadly Sins menu, and catch a Toledo burlesque show on Sunday night.

The Galley

Nostalgia reigns at this true neighborhood fixture, which opened in 1934 and has had the same owner for more than 30 years. As Santa Monica's oldest restaurant and bar, the Galley has a consistent nautical theme inside and out: the boatlike exterior features wavy blue neon lights and porthole windows. Inside, fishing nets and anchors adorn the walls, and the whole place is aglow with colorful string lights. Most patrons tend to crowd the center bar, with the more dinner-oriented folks frequenting the booths. The back patio is also a solid choice in good weather, especially for weekend brunch. And strangely enough, the secret-recipe salad dressing is justifiably famous.

Recommended Fodor's Video