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Diners, Don't Forget Old Faves in New Year

As we eagerly await the opening of what are bound to be several good restaurants this year in Santa Monica, we'd be remiss to forgot about those that have already satisfied our palates.

With the new year in full swing, I'm looking forward to many new restaurant openings. The much anticipated Tar & Roses on Santa Monica Boulevard, at 111 Santa Monica Blvd. and Loteria Grill on the Third Street Promenade are just two places I'm excited to visit.

Having eaten at the original Loteria stand in the farmers market and at the Hollywood and North Hollywood locations, I'll be happy when I can enjoy chef and owner, Jimmy Shaw's mole without driving across town.

Although the excitement of trying out new restaurants has its appeal, I can always count on a few favorites that have everything from stunning views to elegant style and, of course, good food!

Watching the sun set from the Santa Monica Pier confirms the obvious, we are so lucky to live here. Sit outside at The Lobster with a view of the beach and enjoy a cocktail and a snack. 

Across the street at , Happy Hour regulars know to arrive weekdays between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. to enjoy $5 cocktails. Not to mention, there are full-sized portions from the bar menu, including pizzas, calzones, carpaccio, calamari fritti and bruschetta. Many people come for a Happy Hour drink and a starter, and then stay for dinner.

Dinner at Il Fornaio is especially popular during Festa Regionnale, which the restaurant calls a "culinary expedition." For two weeks each month, the chefs offer a special menu featuring food and wine from a specific region in Italy. The regions change monthly, so for more information about the menu, visit the Il Fornaio website.

The food deck at Santa Monica Place is another great spot to enjoy Happy Hour and the setting sun. serves bottomless bowls of guacamole for anyone willing to disregard caution and calories as they munch on chips and sip a margarita or two... or three.

Also at Santa Monica Place, is another favorite. With its menu of seasonal vegetables, braised meats, fish and chips, hamburgers, risotto and house made desserts, The Curious Palate is a restaurant devoted to farmers market comfort food.

I recently wrote about my visit to on Wilshire Boulevard at Harvard Street. Primarily a postmodernist pizza joint, the restaurant is more of an annex to the bakery space in back. It's a place where Chef Zoe Nathan creates breads and pastries for the restaurant, as well as Huckleberry and Rustic Canyon. Open from 7 a.m.-11p.m. the staff serves restaurant versions of home cooked food. 

Last week my wife and I had dinner at Milo + Olive. We sat at the counter and got the chance to talk with Zoe Nathan's husband and restaurant co-owner Josh Loeb. While we ate, Nathan moved about the crowded open kitchen. Even though orders were coming fast and furious, she had a smile on her face as she hurried pizzas, appetizers, salads and desserts out of the busy kitchen.

There is such a friendly vibe in the restaurant. It's not unusual to hear Nathan calling out, "Hi, how are you?" And as Loeb and Nathan wave to friends, you'd think they were hosting a never-ending dinner party at their home.

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