Yes, there is a massive surf shop, and young things do saunter by in flip-flops and bikini tops. But there is an unbeachy feel to Main Street in Santa Monica. Just two blocks east of the Pacific, its tree-canopied sidewalks and occasional Victorian buildings evoke a small-town atmosphere. It’s neither as funky as Venice nor as touristy as the 3rd Street Promenade. Loyal locals have ensured that many businesses stick around for decades. Not that chains haven’t taken root—California’s first Ben & Jerry’s and L.A.’s first Starbucks reside here, but even their storefronts have acquired a well-worn patina (maybe it’s that sea air).
1. Weego Baby
Modern parents shop here for birch OXO Sprout chairs, Nook Pebble Lite Sleep System mattresses, and onesies bearing adorable monster motifs. The colors range from celery to mushroom (no boring primaries), and beachgoers will beam at the infant sun hats. » 2447 Main St., 310-452-7999.
For $20 a day this studio provides the paints, brushes, paper, working spaces, camaraderie, and cleanup for wanna-be artists. Canvas costs a bit more, and if your masterpiece is going to take days to complete, you can purchase a monthly membership. Traditional instruction is offered along with social networking in the form of wine-and-cheese painting parties on Fridays and Saturdays. » 2912 Main St., 310-450-9200.
3. Stella Rossa
At this packed pizzeria, balls of dough rest in glass jars along the kitchen counter waiting to be shaped and slid into the oven to emerge as puffy-crusted pies. The sausage is house-made and the wine list deep, in keeping with the place’s other role as a wine bar. Eighties music glances off the white-glazed brick walls and rustic wood tables, which look even more picturesque in the soft lighting. » 2000 Main St., 310-396-9250.
4. Deyermond Art + Books
Bibliophiles still mourning the closing of his Equator Books on Abbot Kinney can rejoice: Michael Deyermond has begun his second chapter with a shop of art books and classic fiction behind A Lurie Gallery, where you can view art before hitting the books. » 2801 Main St., 310-450-4400.
The artistic is affordable at this gift gallery, which features such novelties as necklaces made from bullet casings, a bird perched atop a croquet ball, and earrings telling the wearer to dream. Artist information is furnished on cards, and patrons can share a glass of wine with the talent at periodic mixers. A KleanSpa scent bar lets amateurs become perfume designers. » 2711 Main St., 310-452-5409.
6. ZJ Boarding House
The small spot that catered to local groms in the 1980s has grown into an emporium stocked with skateboarding and snowboarding gear and apparel. It’s also added flagship Billabong and Hurley stores, should the selection of Quiksilver, O’Neill, and RVCA clothing in the original shop fall short. Surfboard rentals are also available. » 2619 Main St., 310-392-5646.
7. Finn McCool’s Irish Pub
On Sunday evenings the Gaelic-infused watering hole attracts musicians who crank out traditional Irish tunes. Arrive early on weekend nights; the line of expectant drinkers wraps around the block. » 2702 Main St., 310-452-1734.
In the window is a bikini in a birdcage, while inside, designer clothing—from Diane von Furstenberg to t-Los Angeles—hangs from racks. Owner Christine Berardi also stocks Red Flower organic lotions and muslin pillows that instruct folks to Be Nice or Leave. » 2727 Main St., 310-399-6106.
9. The Galley
Behind the porthole door is Santa Monica’s longest-operating restaurant—and a set designer’s dream. The Galley has been plying classic surf and turf and side dishes (creamed spinach, anyone?) since 1934. The decor establishes a South Seas mood: lights made from puffer fish, Mutiny on the Bounty memorabilia, Vargas Girl mermaids, and fishnets, life preservers, and twinkling lights draped everywhere. The filet mignon floats our boat. » 2442 Main St., 310-452-1934.
Photographs by Lisa Romerein