With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you’re probably starting to stress about securing the perfect dinner reservation. We get it, you want to take boo thang somewhere special. Somewhere hip but not trendy, where ambiance is silver and food is gold, and where prices won’t have you leaving with your tail between your legs. We know just the place.
Michael's Santa Monica is practically on the Third Street Promenade, but your average tourist would miss it all together. Tucked discreetly away on 3rd street near Wilshire, Michael’s is a 37-years strong dining establishment that was doing the market-driven thing long before it became trendy. But don’t expect years of wear and tear, an outdated menu or a stale crowd. After undergoing a facelift and reopening this past September, we earnestly believe Michael's is one most dependable yet finely tuned restaraunts in the city for food and ambiance exemplary of Southern California.
Swordfin Squid with burnt eggplant puree.
Baby beets with white chocolate. Images courtesy of Michael's
“We wanted the place to be a little oasis. With the revamp, we put in 50 percent more plants in the garden patio,” says Michael himself, who dines in the garden most nights when not in New York.
Sure, Michael filled the space with greenery and big-name art by modern masters, which makes for the perfect romantic date ambiance, but his smartest move was tapping Miles Thompson (Allumette, Animal, Son of a Gun) to take over the kitchen. Miles is a shy type, so dedicated to his passions, we might call him a romantic. His ideal date with his wife involves a hike at the Griffith Observatory and a paddle boat ride in Echo Park. It’s Michael who brings the bravado. (In contrast, Michael's perfect date involves art and food hopping downtown with his wife and a gaggle of friends. “We travel in packs,” says Michael.
Where Michael is a global socialite and restaurateur, Miles is a head-down dynamo chef dedicated to his craft. In a city so explosive with market-driven, shared-plates dining destinations, Michael’s outshines the rest with quality, class and ambiance. Yes, the infamous duck, the chawanmushi and even the bread are some of the best edible things in Los Angeles right now, but it’s really the dynamism between Michael and Miles, both romantics in their own right, that has landed the restaurant the number one spot on Eater’s Heat Map
just in time for Valentine’s Day.
So who better to suggest romantic dinner plans than these two Romeos?
Michael and his team when they first opened in 1979.
Miles Thompson and his current team at present day. Image courtesy of Michael's
Michael McCarty’s LA Date PlaceList:
Michael's Santa Monica
Michael McCarty: Extremely inviting and it just envelops you. We wanted the place to be a little oasis. With the revamp, we put in 50% more plants in the garden patio. We have so much green. You’ve got the warm lighting and the green and it is remarkable.
Valentino Santa Monica
MC: Get a booth. Let Piero just take care of you. Put yourself in his hands. He does a great job.
L & E Oyster Bar
MC: The last time I was there I got six dozen oysters. One of every kind they were offering. Had to try them all. Maybe you just got a dozen for Valentine’s Day.
MC: Maybe this is a old school pick, but I would get the lobster with black bean and garlic. And the Peking Duck. Get the duck and a glass or two of rose champagne!
MC: Chicken liver is nice, good stuff. Or the tortellini in brodo.
Musso & Frank Grill
MC: Have a couple of martinis here.
MC: This is a classic pick. Have Wolfgang give you the tasting menu.
The Factory Kitchen
MC: They got the green pasta. Handkerchief pasta. Mandilli di seta. Sheets of pasta with a pesto sauce. Great stuff. And the flatbread with the chanterelles.
Michael's Restaurant Image courtesy of @michaelssm
L & E Oyster Bar. Image courtesy of @boisefeed
Mr Chow. Image courtesy of @ mrchow
Musso & Frank Grill. Image courtesy of @hardstark
The Factory Kitchen. Image courtesy of @michaelssm
Miles Thompson’s LA Date PlaceList:
Michael's Santa Monica
Miles Thompson: Octopus, Chawanmushi, Quail, Beets, Agnolotti, Duck or Branzino. The Octopus comes with a mango-lime curd and Thai chili, so there’s a bit of heat and acid there to keep things exciting. Spiced Roasted Baby Beets with farmer’s cheese and white chocolate is a fun one — earthy and sweet. The Dungeness Crab Chawanmushi has a touch of decadence with the uni. I'd go with the Duck Breast, especially given the sentimental value — duck has been on the Michael’s menu since day one, 37 years ago.
MT: THE place to celebrate a special occasion and have stunningly beautiful and delicious food and perfect service
MT: A buzzy neighborhood vibe bolstered by super delicious food and an intimate and warm room
MT: A classic LA spot. Early on [in your relationship], Valentine's Day at the Mozzarella Bar can keep you and your date engaged and excited. Down the line, the dining room has a elegance that may make you pop the question.
MT: Food, vibe, open kitchen, noise level, get it started off at a 10.
MT: A sleek and humble omakase experience in a sexy, clean room with a gracious, focus and talented host, Taka-san.
MT: Beyond amazing, soulful and smart cooking cradled in a comfortable room with a series of possible vibes to be experienced from the patio, to a snuggly bar table to the main dining room.
L & E Oyster Bar
MT: I mean...Oysters, as well as a slew of vibrant and fun specials and excellent classics
MT: Just amazing across the board, faultless service and wonderfully honest and awesome food
Miles Thompson in action.
The infamous duck at Michael's.
Header image courtesy of Michael's Santa Monica