Bar Bites & Drinks that Delight Three terrific happy hours to toast in Santa Monica

By Angela Matano

Los Angeles kills it with happy hour. There are so many restaurants to choose from with truly great, reasonably priced food and cocktails that it sometimes feels like manna from heaven. Santa Monica, with its assortment of bars and restaurants, offers a particularly abundant slew of options.

Here are a few terrific ways to eat, drink and be merry in this beautiful seaside community.

Whether you choose to chow down on oysters at Esters or sip on a fine craft cocktail at Native, Santa Monica has got happy hour covered
Photo by Jake Ahles Photography

Drink like a Bombshell @ NATIVE

I’ve had my eye on Chef Nyesha Arrington since “Top Chef” Season 9, and then through her stint at Leona, in Venice. Luckily, Native, her latest venture, looks to be here to stay. Happy hour at this elegant, downtown Santa Monica location caters to just about everyone with lots of items to fulfill different kinds of cravings. At Native, they dub their happy hour “Community Hour.” What could be more welcoming than that? Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and then again from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., nosh on a Peruvian-adjacent ceviche or a German-ish pretzel or Thai-like shishito peppers. The bacon bites, with Gochujang glaze, go down like butter — rich and sweet and EVERYTHING.

The cocktails at Native celebrate the trendy without being overwhelmed by hipsterism. The Little Italy in Mexico cocktail combines tequila with Strega and pisco, mixed with lime and pineapple, for a surprisingly smooth blend of cultures and flavors. Another scrummy drink, the Beach Blonde, begins and ends with strawberry brandy and bubbles, with some rosé and dry vermouth thrown in for good measure. It’s like the liquid embodiment of Marilyn Monroe. Happy Birthday to you, Mr. President!

Native is at 620 Santa Monica Blvd. Ste. A, Santa Monica. (310) 458-4427; eatnative.la

Keep it Classy @ Esters

On Mondays, the happy hour at Esters is so happy, it goes all night long, from 3 p.m. to closing. Tuesdays through Saturdays, you’ll have to settle for 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The snacks on offer lean sophisticated and not too heavy, on point for a night on the town with potential for romance. Bask in the glow of downtown Santa Monica and charming strings of fairy lights while noshing on oysters, cornichons and lavender almonds. A burrata and crostini toasts will fill you up, if you’re looking for something more substantial.

As far as cocktails go, Esters knows what’s up. The drinks come in all shapes and sizes, with simple flavor combinations packing a flavorful punch. Not as trendy as you might imagine, yet extremely au courant, the garden gimlet mixes gin with lime, elderflower and cucumber for a heady blend of floral, citrus and cool green flavors reminiscent of an expensive perfume — trust me, in a good way. The more traditional offerings, like the Manhattan and old fashioned, show an attention to detail that will make you fall in love all over again and reveal why the classics still matter.

Esters is at 1314 7th St., Santa Monica. (310) 899-6900; esterswineshop.com

Do your Staycation @ Fig

Take advantage of living in or near tourist-heavy Santa Monica by spending an evening at Fig, inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel. With a legendary happy hour every day from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (boasting half-off most items), Fig lets you live like the 1%, without actually being in the 1%. The restaurant opens onto the pool and takes perfect advantage of gorgeous evenings near the beach.

One of the strengths of the menu is the option to go as decadent or abstemious as you see fit. The insanely rich foie gras and chicken liver parfait, accompanied by fig jam and grilled bread — absolutely heavenly, BTW — diverges from any plans for healthy eating you might have in the works. On the other hand, those with a more puritanical bent, food-wise, can find a wallop of flavor without the guilt in the Baja Kanpachi, a generous slice of raw fish adorned with pickled Fresno chiles, lemon, tomato, avocado and cucumber.

For those wishing to imbibe, cocktails with off-beat charm, like the celery fizz and Old Toddy (Fig’s take on a hot toddy) promise to cure what ails you and show you a good time simultaneously. What could be finer than that?

Fig is inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel at 101 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica. (310) 319-3111; figsantamonica.com

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