Day 1 of Santa Monica
Posted on June 20, 2022 Posted by Athena Scalzi 31 Comments
Last week, a family friend asked if I was busy at the end of the month. I said no and was then asked if I could possibly cat sit… 2,000 miles away. I quickly accepted the chance to hang out in LA for a week, and yesterday I boarded a 7am direct flight to LAX.
Every time I fly to Cali, I always arrive in the afternoon or evening, so arriving at 8:30am was a little unusual. Though sitting for 4.5 hours straight in a middle seat was not amazing, I would say it was better than stressing about making a connection, having a layover, having to go through the boarding and unboarding process twice, yada yada. Plus, I managed to read one whole book on the flight!
I read Verity, by Colleen Hoover, and while this post is not a review or anything, I will say I really enjoyed it. I definitely recommend checking it out if you like thrillers, and I’d recommend it even if you don’t because thrillers are certainly not my usual genre but I loved this one!
Anyways, my friend that picked me up from the airport took me to a local coffee shop called Gnarwhal Coffee Co.
This corner coffee shop was so cool. It was small, but had a sort of clean/sleek minimalistic look to it. It felt very modern, and the iced chai latte I got was banging.
After that, I arrived at the lovely home I’m staying in, met the cat, and settled in. Then, I walked to a market nearby and got a few groceries for the week. On my walk back, I noticed a bread shop, and realized I forgot to pick up a loaf at the store, so I decided to get one from the bakery, Jyan Isaac Bread. I wanted the cinnamon raisin brioche, but they were out, so I said I’d take the city loaf sourdough, but they were also out of that. The worker said I could have the multi-grain porridge loaf instead, and I agreed, despite not being a huge fan of porridge or multi-grain bread.
It definitely looked… oaty. I actually did not like this bread at all, unfortunately, but I didn’t really expect to so at least I didn’t have high hopes going in. I’m more of like a Hawaiian Sweet Bread person and much less of a super hearty oaty loaf kinda gal. I really wish I had gotten to try the brioche. This bread was just too hard or too dark or too something.
Moving on, it was my first night in Santa Monica and I was determined to go out to dinner. I knew there were probably a hundred restaurants in the area and I’ll be damned if I don’t get out and try at least a few.
After looking up several places and debating how far I wanted to walk, I settled on a place called Rize Thai & Sushi.
The inside was relatively small, just a few tables and booths, and some seats at the bar. The decor was definitely on the modern side, with Edison bulb light fixtures that gave the place some atmospheric dim lighting.
The menu was quite varied, as it offered both Thai dishes and sushi, as you might’ve guessed by the name of the place. The menu also boasted a generous happy hour, but I had missed it by fifteen minutes.
I was tempted to try a Thai dish, as I’ve never had Thai food before, but I had a feeling everything would be a little too spicy for me. Mostly because all the names of the dishes included the word spicy in it, so I wasn’t going to chance it. I settled on a shrimp tempura combination plate. It came with miso soup, a house salad, rice, a California roll, and five pieces of shrimp tempura.
I’ve had a lot of shrimp tempura in my day, as it’s one of my favorite Japanese dishes. But this shrimp tempura was seriously the best I’ve ever had. I was blown away by how crispy, flavorful, and overall delicious it was. And the whole combo plate (soup not pictured, but also really good) was seventeen dollars! Not too shabby, I’d say.
I also got a Thai iced tea to go with my dinner, which I am a fanatic for.
If you have not tried Thai iced tea before, I cannot recommend it highly enough, this stuff is life changing. And this place had a really good Thai iced tea.
I was totally stuffed by the end, so I got a mango sticky rice pudding to go and ate it around midnight.
Mango has always been one of those things that is hit or miss for me, but I am confident when I say this mango was the single biggest hit I’ve had in my life. I don’t know where they get their mangoes from, but holy shit this stuff was unbelievably good. I’m so glad I didn’t pass up on dessert.
As if you needed even more reason to check this place out, the wait staff was super friendly! I had a very enjoyable experience and highly recommend going here if you’re in the Santa Monica area and like Japanese or Thai food.
So, yeah, day one in Cali was a total success, and I’ve loved every minute so far. The weather has been incredible, I love the cat I’m watching, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week!
Have a great day!
Thai iced tea is dangerous. Every time I have it I want, like, a gallon more.
But … no cat pic?
Mangos, like avocados, are better in California than in the rest of the country. You’re getting them closer to the source; they’re either grown locally or brought in from Mexico.
Some Thai places will offer to make you less spicy stuff. It’s a good start. (Don’t say you want “Thai Spicy” unless you mean it :-)
I’d recommend the Tom Kha Gai (coconut chicken soup) as a canonical dish, and it’s usually not that spicy anyway, and some places will make it veggie if you want.
Also fried crunchy appetizers.
Other recommendations: Santa Monica’s not far from Culver City – go visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and its neighbor The Center For Land Use Interpretation. They’re both small.
The Getty’s worth it also, but is huge.
And the beach (duh.) And any restaurant overlooking the beach or ocean.
I listened to a really interesting podcast episode about mangoes recently and how American mangoes have very little flavor and why. I highly recommend it (and the whole podcast, tbh).
Welcome to Santa Monica, Athena!
Given your location, there are several neighborhoods you might want to check out that are close by. You can go east from your present location via Ocean Park and check out the restaurants starting at 28th. There’s a lot of good, interesting places there.
If you go further west than Rize you will hit Main Street which is rather awesome and a bit funky.
Out of walking distance but a short Uber/Lyft or e-scooter away to your southwest is Venice and the Boardwalk.
Relatively same distance but to your northwest is the Pier and downtown Santa Monica.
Enjoy your stay.
I still remember my 1st taste of fruit in California, and how blown away I was. Everything seemed fresher and sweeter and juicier there – probably true! You might like a Thai green papaya slad, very crisp and tasty without being spicy. I am sure you will have a fantastic week in Santa Monica.
How fun, I love random trips that come along. As you posted Day 1, I’m hoping we get a little series here. :-)
One should probably ask your family friend’s permission, but yes it would be nice to get a photo of the cat. If not, that’s okay too.
Take care and enjoy the week.
I always love vicariously exploring new restaurants. Can you tell me what is different about Thai iced tea?
Also, how about some pics of the cat you are sitting for? Blog entries that show cats and food are always welcome! :-)
Mid 80s, I’m a 20 something that loves spicy food. Out to lunch one day when we found a Thai place just opened. There were 3-4 of us heading to a Mexican place we loved and ate at 1-2 times a week in the same strip mall. Thai it is. Waitress asked me what heat level I wanted, lets try 11 out of 10. Cuz I like hot and can drink tabasco like most people drink water.
I get this soup with what looks like an eyeball looking at me. The eyeball was a mushroom that, jeez, freaked me and the person beside me out.
Then I took a spoonful of soup. And instantly regretted it.
This shit was hot. This shit was nuclear. I had never encountered soup this hot.
Short story long, I still order my food “hot as you can make it”, unless I’m in a Thai joint. Then it’s “cooks choice”.
Agree with Bill about the amazing Museum of Jurassic Technology and also about the Thai restaurant. They sound as though they would happily prepare an order to your desired spice level
Yes to the idea of Thom Ka Gai. I also love Massaman Gai, potatoes and peanuts and chicken in a coconut milk base. I get it mild and it is still flavorful. Glad you’re having an adventure!
I am so glad you are having a good time during your visit. [Small rant follows, so stop reading here if you’re tired of rants (I get it.)] As a third generation (Northern) California native, please, please, please don’t call it “Cali.” It’s a bit like calling San Francisco “Frisco.” (Shutters.)
One thing to know is that not all Thai dishes are meant to be super spicy. A portion of the cuisine of northern Thailand is strongly influenced by southern Chinese cuisine and is much milder, sometimes not spicy at all!
Most Thai restaurants I’ve been to will have a few things on the menu like that.
Seconded on the no Cali please! We’re SoCal if you must, or just California otherwise. When I was about your age, I lived in Brentwood and would often spend time in Santa Monica (just a couple miles away, literally a few minutes by bus). The restaurants are amazing, I also recommend Third Street Promenade for some quirky shops, and if you can rollerblade then the boardwalk that extends down through Venice Beach is totally worth it! Enjoy your stay!
What? No cat picture? I feel ripped off.
Oh yes!!! Welcome to Santa Monica!
I live and work here, and daily life is amazing. Enjoy the ocean breeze during this little bit of heat we’re having. Nature’s air-conditioning!
Have a great time!
Glad you’re having fun. West Coast is the best coast. I moved from the Midwest (MN) to Seattle over 40 years ago and was suddenly (finally) exposed to sooo much more dynamic food. We got the good mangos here, too. And yeah, it’s cooler here, too (in both ways).
When I was doing my consulting gig I ended up spending a lot of time in LA in the Airport area. One of my favorite places to stay was the Shangri-La, across from Palisades Park. Convenient to the Park for evening runs, not far from the Santa Monica Mall, an easy walk to the pier for people-watching, lots of good restaurants within an easy walk. While far from my favorite place in Cali–I’ve said the only place I’d really want to live in the state is La Jolla–it was decent place to travel to for work.
My dad once told me that when he was stationed in the Pentagon (I was a toddle/early elementary school kid at that time) he was offered a job with the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica and he thought seriously about taking it, so I could have ended up as a SoCal native.
For breakfast, may I recommend Bru’s Wiffle (waffles are to die for, but for a surprise the gluten-free chicken and waffles are better than glutinous!). [https://www.facebook.com/bruswiffle]
Yeah, someone from South Amish Ohio won’t have had the chance to the asbestos taste buds needed for some Thai cooking. But definitely try some Mexican food while you’re out there. Can’t get good Mexican east of Colorado and north of Texas. The sort of small family places that are all over the west.
Contrary to many commenters, lots of great Thai food is not way crazy spicy, although the spicy dishes can really light you up! Pad Thai is a fried noodle dish with peanuts and cilantro and any one of a variety of seafood, chicken or lamb, even tofu if you’re bent that way.
And even the hot dishes can be ordered mild, and won’t be any hotter than a Mexican Chile Relleno, for example. Be brave, try out some dishes, ask them to make it mild, tell them you’re from Ohio, they will understand. Wonderful flavors.
Ah! Long distance cat sitting…I can truly relate! Back in March my wife’s daughter called us up to say “I’m going on tour for the first time in two years! (“Daughter of Swords”…look it up.) Can you take care of my kitties? It was 0F in Saint Paul. It was 80F in North Carolina. A blizzard was on the way. “We’ll leave tomorrow morning!” And that we did. No Thai food… lot’s of BBQ (Hey, it was North Carolina.). We had a good time with our feline masters.
Pad Thai is a good entry point to Thai cuisine if you are worried about spice.
If you have time and find yourself on Main Street in Santa Monica, I highly recommend getting lunch at Sunny Blue.
Many, many, many years ago I spent a week in LA in June. I had a great time, despite a stage 4 smog alert that had me voice-less for 3 of those days.
Thai iced tea (for those who haven’t experienced it) is sweetened to the point of almost being Southern sweet tea. It usually includes turmeric or FD&C #6, which makes it that funky orange color, and gives it a slightly smoky taste. It is served over ice, and 2/3 of the glass is filled with the tea mix, then it is topped off with milk or half and half; if it’s done right, the milk slowly seeps down in tendrils into the tea and looks really bizarre. Pantai is a brand of Thai iced tea that is readily available and good; you have to brew it and add your own sugar to taste. Lots of instructions online.
California is great for Mexican and Asian cuisine, both straight and fusion. Try lemon chicken, tempura-like chicken strips in a thin sweet lemon sauce; locally they put it on a bed of steamed broccoli. You should be able to get one of several varietals of curry, from “I have no taste buds” hot to “Not in the face!” mild.
I’m sensing a possible taste bud buddy. I am also a fan of thai iced tea and am a total spice wimp. I can second the recommendation for pad thai (noodles in peanut sauce and easy to choose tofu for your protein). Also a fan of the massaman curry suggested above…should also be easy to get as a vegetarian dish and with the potatoes and coconut milk base, you can avoid spice overload. Thai chefs seem to be great about understanding the difference between well-spiced/flavorful and spicy/hot.
It’s been a -very- long time since I’ve been to Santa Monica, but I have very fond memories of breakfast at Barney’s Beanery on Third St. Recommended…. If it’s still there.
Thai Beef Salad, while traditionally quite spicy, can be made and enjoyed without spice. Picture something similar to Chinese Orange Beef on a bed lettuce and bean sprouts. [No heat for my spouse, but spicy for me!]
And one more vote for meeting your newest feline friend!
OMG!!! You’ve made it to adulthood without ever having Thai food??? How is this possible? You’ve been deprived. I could no more live without Thai food in my life than pizza. Or Mexican food. Or Indian. So many. This is just wrong. You must take the opportunity to try Thai food. Were I there I would personally drag you to a Thai restaurant and even pay for it. As others above have noted, not all Thai dishes are hot. When they are there is typically a star system for heat. If you tell them no heat at all they will understand. Enjoy.
Ah, fellow heat-adverse!
Up in the PNW you order Thai food by “stars” where 1 star is very mild and 5 stars is very hot.
Not all curries can be made 1-star, but pad thai, fried rice, pad see ew (wide noodles and broccoli), swimming rama (spinach and noodles with peanut sauce) can all be both delicious and mild.
And ask the staff! If you tell them you can’t do spice 99% will make sure you still get food you like. And if you tell them it’s your first time having Thai food they’ll probably go out of their way to recommend something you’ll like.
If you get a chance to go to the world-famous Santa Monica farmer’s market (Saturday and Wednesday, I think) I will be deeply envious.