Tucked away on Third Street since 1979, Michael’s is arguably the best-kept secret in Santa Monica—a Cheers-like stalwart for locals, who return to proprietor Michael McCarty’s inviting restaurant and bar regularly. It hasn’t hurt that star chefs Jonathan Waxman, Nancy Silverton, Sang Yoon, and Mark Peel have all done time in the kitchen. Artwork by John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Cy Twombly set the backdrop for equally creative, flavor-packed masterpieces by the current chef Miles Thompson. Modern California-sourced dishes change seasonally, but octopus is a must-order. (If you’re lucky, Thompson will be serving his confit version with burnt butter and Sichuan peppercorn marshmallow.) A relaxed, jungle-like garden patio invites late-night lingering over a drink from the creative cocktail menu; be sure to try the popular Road to Kyushu, a mix of Japanese whiskey, kumquats, cloves, and barrel-aged bitters. Pro tip: For early birds, Michael’s lounge has probably the best happy hour in L.A.: a $1.79 cocktail from 5:30 to 6 p.m. (to honor its opening year), plus the signature barbecue aioli–topped Smash Burger available in limited numbers until 7 p.m.