Downtown's retro cocktail craze finally reaches Main Street in Santa Monica at the come-as-you-are Basement Tavern, a hidden subterranean bar largely free of summer tourist throngs and Finn McCool's chowderheads.
Speakeasy? More like a big basement rumpus room in '70s style — the 1870s, actually. Hidden beneath The Victorian wedding venue, this cool, cavernous dark room is full of taxidermied heads, chalkboard walls, oversized club chairs and candle-cradling chandeliers.
Cocktails steer southern. Bourbon's a big ingredient, but there's the standard complement of bottled beers if the bartender's backed up and you need something stat. And starting tomorrow, you'll be able to order Italian snacks from La Vecchia Cuchina.
How to find it: Swing around the back parking lot of the Victorian and hold your nose — you'll need to go serpentine past trash bins, alongside a loading dock, and then down a flight of stairs by an open kitchen.
Did anyone ever tell you that you look like Ray Liotta?
2640 Main St., Santa Monica (310) 392-4956
Price: 2 (out of 4) Noise: 2 (out of 4)
Parking: Metered street parking or nearby public lots
Scene: Eclectic mix, from just off the beach to just out of a wedding.
Hot seat: Couches in the glassed-in room in back.
Case of the Mondays? You're out of luck — it's the only day they're closed.
Nearby: Library Alehouse; Via Veneto; The Galley
The Rundown's restaurant reviews are based on anonymous visits by reporters, not press releases.