The hip factor on Pico Boulevard just went up a point with the Air Conditioned Lounge. Hugely popular in San Diego, this swank wine bar just opened up in Santa Monica, giving the city a bar-hopping alternative to played-out Main Street. You can add it to the list of Pico’s overlooked lounge bars–Liquid Kitty, the Arsenal and 310.
The Joker and the 99-cent store are the only landmarks to figuring out the location of this swank lounge as the innocuous Air Conditioned neon blue sign can easily be mistaken for another motel or air conditioner store on Pico.
Its exterior only hints at what you find inside–a beautiful Hollywood-esque den of drinks right there off the beaten bar path in Santa Monica! Where has this been hiding? Right in front of my face all along, apparently.
Pretty dark inside with its dark wood walls and chandeliers dimmed low, I couldn’t even read the chalk-written signs displaying the wine specials. It reminded me of The Otheroom’s teeny-tiny chalk-written menu. There was a little table sign listing their specialty cocktails but I couldn’t make it out.
Not knowing what the place had to offer, I relied on the friendly bartender who reminded me of a young Jay Thomas. He treated me and Michael to an impromptu wine tasting. Even though I didn’t like the third and fourth glass he poured, he never gave up and never gave me attitude. It was a mission that he find me a glass of wine that I liked.
“So you want one less tannic,” the fake Jay Thomas observed. “Um, sure,” I guessed. Then he tried a Syrah instead. Still not great, and I love Syrahs. Not about to give up, he pulled another one out of his hat. This time it was a bit smoother. “Good enough,” I folded. I don’t even know what wine it was but it was pretty good. Not as good as the house Cabernet that I had at Vito the other night, but it would do. For the two glasses of wine, the total was $21. The most expensive glass in the house costs you $16.
Surveying the lounge, it was a good-looking, nicely dressed crowd. Young professionals, younger and better-looking at least than the crowd down the street at 310 Bistro & Lounge.
On the one side where we sat was the bar area with a leather couch running the length of the wall, punctuated by amber-lit table tops. The other side of the bar was a platformed lounge, just couches and tables. It looked like a nice place to invite a party of friends and a premium spot for sitting back and enjoying the dj’d nights.
On Friday nights, Air Conditioned gets hotted up by dj Sean Perry who spins a “dancehall mashup” of electro, afro-latin soul from 9pm to 2am. No cover! I wanted to check this out last night but EVERYone was staying in for some reason. Losers!
The trick is to find parking as most of the streets only have permit parking and you’d be lucky to find a metered spot (free after 6pm) on Pico.
Looking at the Air Conditioned Lounge’s site, apparently they opened up/are opening up (?) a new location in Venice on Lincoln Boulevard near Rose Avenue. More bar hopping choices on the Westside! I love it!
Thursdays, KCRW’s Jason Kramer spins Latin jazz by the likes of Sergio Mendes, and a potent mix of reggae, ska and dance hall stream out of the speakers each Saturday. Rare groove and psychedelic soul tunes play on the other nights for regulars unwinding on spacious banquettes under hanging star-shaped lamps or mingling at the shiny, curved bar. Current top 40 is forbidden. And what’s wine without cheese? The bar serves a cheese-and-crackers plate good for two to three people for $12.
Santa Monica location:
2819 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, California 90405
Cross Street: 28th Street
623 Lincoln Boulevard
Venice, California 90291