Santa Monica is one of my favorite cities, and not just because it has a solar powered Ferris wheel. Nevermind the glistening Pacific Ocean, endless bike paths, dog friendliness and spectacular sunsets; what makes Santa Monica so awesome is its free public spaces and free public entertainment. Take the newly remodeled Santa Monica Place shopping complex, for example: Free public rooftop space, free entertainment, and a 17,000 square foot Food Court! Somebody pinch me!
KCRW Music Director and Morning Becomes Eclectic Host, Jason Bentley, was at the helm of the DJ rig to kick off SunSets, a happy hour dance party that had the entire upper deck grooving. People gathered and enjoyed the late afternoon sun and infectious beats. Some sprawled about on the contemporary spa-like furniture while dogs of all breeds were required accessories.
The new Santa Monica Place is open, airy and sunny. Public spaces are alive with energy but not overcrowded. The third level rooftop Dining Deck with both “fast casual” and fine dining options takes advantage of the spectacular views of the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade. There’s plenty of seating and a small army of space heaters are at the ready.
Even though several restaurants (and Nordstrom) weren’t open for the Grand Reopening, there was the true feeling of excitement about the updated mall. Patrons seemed happy to wait in long “grand opening” lines, giddy to simply be there enjoying the cool modern space. Pizza appeared to be the fast casual favorite, with Japanese fare running a close second. Watch The People’s Food Court to get the whole scoop!
It was nice to see so many people in and around all of the restaurants in the middle of an economic slump. La Sandia appeared to be the most busy of the fine dining options on opening day. The indoor-outdoor layout and relaxed atmosphere sucked patrons into a home-like setting. Well, if your home is a killer Spanish style bungalow with fountains and fine leather, that is.
I’m eager to try all of the restaurants on the Dining Deck and enjoy many free concerts and events in the clean, airy space. On the fast casual dining spectrum, it would be nice to see a Rubio’s or similar fish taco stand. I’m a little surprised Hot Dog on a Stick or In-N-Out aren’t part of the 17,000 square foot food court party. The original Hot Dog on a Stick is right down the street, so maybe that explains the corn dog absence.
A deli would be great, too, and I suspect there’s one planned for The Market slated to open early 2011. The Market will of course sport an actual market, as well as a kitchen and cafe specializing in artisanal foods. I have a feeling crusty bread sandwiches are coming to Santa Monica Place soon. In fact, I have hopes The Market will be a smaller, West coast version of Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. Sure these are high hopes, but come on, this is Santa Monica!
The clear highlight of the Grand Reopening festivities was the opening party at Ozumo. Beautiful restaurant, delicious food and wonderful people. It doesn’t get any better than that. Oh wait, it does! I had a sushi-rolling date with Executive Sushi Chef Toshio Sakamaki the following day! More to come.