Blame the landlord! That's the latest cry echoing through the din of so many slammed doors, as our restaurant icons continue to get wiped from the L.A. landscape. This week, outrage ensues in Santa Monica over the news that owners of Renee's Courtyard Cafe, the atmospheric little Hobbit-hole that still stands on Wilshire after 32 years, have left the building behind due to raised rents and an immoveable landlord. According to Santa Monica Mirror, Renee's is under new ownership as of Sunday, with the family of founder Renee Forest selling to a new proprietor. The plan is to keep the business running as Renee's for a couple of months while a new concept takes shape.
In a weepy Op-Ed today, the bar's self-elected "Norm Peterson" lashes out against the city's mutating landscape, writing, "Most Santa Monicans will wake up today and not realize that their city has changed. A part of the city has been lost forever...Today I am filled with sadness. For Santa Monica has lost some of the personality she had yesterday."
Of course, big cities like our's are rarely nostalgic for memories when it comes to making money. Still, there are a few Santa Monica haunts that still offer a surfeit of personality with an infectious look back to its past.
Chez Jay is still kicking by the seaside, a character-rich steakhouse and dive with peanut shells and eccentricity bursting from within its tiny, gee-gaw engorged confines. Rae's offers a film set-perfect diner vibe further east, with big, cheap plates fit for an ideal greasy spoon experience. Hot Dog on a Stick is still a sure-fire stretch back to the glory days of Muscle Beach, allowing new generations to experience the pain-and-pleasure pull of stuffing hot dogs down while the svelte set shows off their six-packs over volleyball and free-form body-balancing.
82-year-old Harvelle's somehow still flies under the radar in classic speakeasy regalia, live jazz and sexy, nocturnal decor vying to capture the hottest part of your night. And who can overlook The Galley, where you're paying as much for the 79-year-old maritime atmosphere as you are for the hearty grog and burgers.
Santa Monica still has vintage atmospheres for wallowing in its not-so-distant past over a drink or dish. We suggest soaking them in while they're still kicking, as you never know which classic could be next to hit the chopping block.