Opening earlier this year, Fraiche is one of the newer “restaurant kids on the block in Santa Monica” and occupies the ill-fated Riva space. From the looks of the crowds that turn out for its Happy Hour, Fraiche is here to stay and unlike many other Santa Monica venues, which offer Happy Hour from Monday to Friday only, Fraiche offers its Happy Hour on Saturdays from 4:40 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., and extended hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to closing. Smart marketing in these down economic times.
Under the guidance of Fraiche’s executive chef, Salvadore Garcia, who comes to Santa Monica by way of the restaurant’s Culver City location (prior to a stint at Spago’s), the menu is an eclectic mix of delicious dishes ranging from $4 to $10. Some of the delectables include Fradiavolo Mussels (tomato, shallots, garlic, white wine & chili flakes – $6), royale with cheese (grilled onions, white cheddar, baby argula, house-made bun – $6), tuna tartare crostini (spicy aioli, watercress, avocado – $4), and Garcia’s signature dish, the fabulously tender Sal’s burger (shredded short ribs, watercress, caramelized onions, aioli – $6). The wine selection is splendid and includes two French whites and a lovely Bordeaux (both $5) as well as a Stone, pale ale beer. With its warm ambiance, delicious food and wine and a friendly wait staff, Fraiche an outstanding Happy Hour choice.
With waves breaking in the near distance and its warm rustic interior, one could almost imagine being somewhere in Italy instead of on busy Ocean Avenue. That is the relaxing experience of i Cugini. Happy Hour is presented Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in either the “old world” bar area or on the lovely heated patio. The service is attentive and the food presented in a most appetizing manner, some of which include two scrumptious carpaccio dishes – golden beet carpaccio (golden beets, tomato, red onions & basil, topped with goat cheese & truffle oil,) and beef carpaccio (truffle oil, chopped argula, red onion, capers & shaved parmesan – $5.95). Other appetizing dishes, at $8.95, include iron skillet peppery mussels (black mussels roasted with sea salt & cracked pepper, and shrimp brochette (grilled with sautéed escarole in olive oil, garlic & lemon). The only disappointment was the bread, which tasted rather stale.
If you don’t find dark, noisy bars relaxing after a hard day at the office, this might not be the Happy Hour venue for you. However, there is an attractive outdoor patio should you wish to flee the noise. That said, the Wilshire’s Happy Hour menu offers a variety of $8 selections, including Kobe beef sliders (watercress, aioli, truffled chips,) green curry braised shrimp (messy peel and eat, grilled bread, which was burnt,) and coriander crusted chicken kabos (overcooked and dry) with tamarind dipping sauce. On the plus side, the $6 pinot noir is quite delicate and smooth and the wait staff friendly and attentive.
So just how great is Happy Hour in Santa Monica? Well, ask the two guys from Westlake, Stan Gersh and Mel Sarowitz. They drive to Santa Monica at least once a month to enjoy Happy Hour followed by dinner in a different restaurant. According to Mel, “While we have good restaurants out our way, the restaurants here in Santa Monica are a cut above and being from New York, we both appreciate fine food at affordable prices.”
312 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
1501 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
2454 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90403-5823