Favorite places, people, and things that made '09 fine.
Best New Menu: Cube
Finally getting a liquor license turned this combo market-cafe into a destination. New monthly menus — each based on a different region of Italy — have turned it into a serious restaurant. Cheese and charcuterie plates are served with names written beside each item. It's a nice touch that everyone should do.
615 N. La Brea Ave. (323-939-1148). Nearby: Village Idiot; Osteria Mozza; The Tar Pit
Best Live Show: Chelsea Girls
Booking bigger bands helped The Roxy's revival as the Strip's best rock club, but regular shows from this all-female cover group didn't hurt either. Fronted by a former Playboy model and staffed with leads from The Donnas and Hole, Chelsea Girls host sexy gigs drawing a who's who of hard rock, in the audience and onstage.
Best New Hotel: Hotel Erwin
From the Cap'n Crunch French toast at Hash to the 360 degree views from High, Venice finally has a hotel that honors its funky heritage. Rooms come complete with graffiti art, skateboard magazines, and neon green cheetah-print bathrobes that let anyone instantly channel David Lee Roth. Suites won't break the bank, either.
1697 Pacific Ave., Venice (310-452-1111). Nearby: Otheroom; Gjelina; Mao's Kitchen
Best Reason to Channel Bob Ross: Paint:Lab
This inexpensive Santa Monica walk-in art studio makes it easy to create a mini-masterpiece, even if you haven't picked up a brush since summer camp arts & crafts. They even host after-hours "openings" so friends can come check out your work. Keep at it, and pretty soon you'll be showing in Culver City.
2912 Main St., Santa Monica (310-450-9200). Nearby: Salute; Hidden; Library Alehouse
Best New Tradition: LA BBQ Fest
They finally got the beachside meat-o-rama right this year, with double the pitmasters, beer tents, and even bathrooms. We were there to check your blood alcohol content, so you didn't have to drive home on the back roads. Good times.
Best Reason 2010 Can't Come Soon Enough: The Pee-Wee Herman Show
One of the most famous Groundlings comes back to the character (and the show) that made him famous for a limited run at Club Nokia. It's an idea we love so much, we want to marry it.
Jan 12-Feb 7. Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Blvd. (213-765-7000). Tickets: $26 and up here. Nearby: Magnolia; Katsuya Downtown; The Doheny