Santa Monica Nightlife: The Best Bars in Santa Monica

Bars and restaurants in Santa Monica, California
Bars and restaurants in Santa Monica, California | © Carl DeAbreu / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mayura Jain
24 June 2019

Famed for its pristine beach and iconic pier, Santa Monica also boasts a buzzing nightlife with no shortage of stellar drinking establishments. From dive bars to upscale cocktail lounges, here’s our guide to the best bars in Santa Monica.

Father's Office

Gastropub, Bar, American, $$$
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Savor a mouthwatering burger | © Free-Photos / Pixabay
Father’s Office has been a Santa Monica staple since 1953. It’s a gastropub that keeps customers coming long after dinner hours with its thoughtful selection of craft beers. In the old days it was the only place where many of California’s original micro-brews – such as Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada – were served within the same four walls. Now legendary for its Office Burger, Father’s Office still has plenty to boast about in the bar as well. It has a rotating selection of 36 seasonal craft beers on tap. But fame has a price: the place is small, and its popularity makes it a challenge to find seating.

Basement Tavern

Bar, American, $$$
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Located underneath the Victorian – an enchanting Victorian house-turned-event-venue – the Basement Tavern is an underground speakeasy-style cocktail joint and music venue, hosting local acts in swanky surrounds with a lively atmosphere. There is always something going on at this unique and historic destination – join in the fun during live band karaoke on Wednesdays from 9pm until close, or enjoy ’90s nostalgia on Sunday nights.

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar

Bar, Restaurant, Wine Bar, American, $$$
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Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen grew from a series of dinners hosted by founder Josh Loeb inside his beautiful home in Rustic Canyon, set in the mountains of Santa Monica. Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen is an extension of this – a neighborhood wine bar and restaurant where friends can come together and celebrate the best things in life: great food, great wine and great people. It offers an extensive wine list to pair with menu items such as a Black Mission fig crostini and dandelion chocolate cake.

Bar Chloe

Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
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This swanky boudoir of a bar delights its guests with dreamy cocktails like its signature Lavender Gimlet. Bar Chloe looks posh enough to belong to one of the neighboring beach-side hotels, with its low-lit chandeliers and chaise lounge chairs. However, it ditches pretension for simple, good drinks. In keeping with the turn-of-the-century influence, there are Prohibition-era cocktails like the Tom Collins or Sidecar.


Bar, American, $$$
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Barkowski’s name pays homage to writer and LA fixture Charles Bukowski, who Time Magazine once famously dubbed the ‘laureate of American lowlife.’ Bukowski was notorious for his penchant for alcohol, often patronizing bars in his native Los Angeles. Barkowski – a retro bar decorated with black tile, red vinyl, and framed quotes from Bukowski’s poetry – may be a touch classier than the places the author frequented. However, it still manages to maintain a likable, dive-y feel. Come for the extensive beer selection, minimal food, and all the fixings of a solid local bar.

The Gaslite, Santa Monica

Bar, Pub Grub
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Looking for high-octane fun with no frills? There’s nowhere better than the Gaslite. Old-school decor, a buzzing dance floor and raucous karaoke await visitors to this lowbrow dive bar-cum-nightclub, not to mention some very reasonably priced beer. Rowdy yet welcoming, the dimly-lit Gaslite has comfy red vinyl booths for resting between songs and is open seven days a week. Everyone should experience this most authentic hotspot of Santa Monica nightlife at least once in their life.

The Misfit Restaurant + Bar, Santa Monica

Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
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Downtown Santa Monica’s resident bad girl has a good reputation – for its service, food and booze. Misfit is known for nailing summery handcrafted cocktails like its Basil Gimlet, Sangria, and Pimm’s Cup concoctions. During the day, savor the lengthy happy hour by sitting out in the sunshine. Don’t leave without sampling one of the delectable salted chocolate chip cookies.

Library Alehouse

Bar, Beer, $$$
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Set on Main Street, Library Alehouse is a must-try for its ‘library of beer’ – a curated, rotating selection of American craft beers. The perfect spot for a laid-back brew, this casual watering hole has a cozy interior and a charming open-air patio. Hungry? Enjoy your beer with a dish from Library Alehouse’s menu of American comfort food.
These recommendations were updated on June 24, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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