Classic Tables: Chez Jay

After 50 years, this old-school spot still has its charms

Most people go to Chez Jay for stiff drinks and a basket of roasted peanuts. But what many don't know is that this well-worn Santa Monica watering hole has been serving top-notch steaks and seafood since it opened in 1959.

Jay Fiondella passed away last November, but no one expects the place to change one bit. There's still sawdust on the floor and a regular Frank Sinatra rotation on the jukebox. The crowd–a mix of under-35ers looking to escape the trendy spots, and old-timers who've been coming for decades–wouldn't have it any other way.

Don't let the cooks' tall toques fool you: The menu features unfussy American fare that won't break the bank (considering its location), with throwbacks such as relish trays and garlicky shrimp scampi.

The steaks are juicy and grilled to perfection, whether the filet mignon with a side of respectable béarnaise ($28) or the New York strip that was marinated in olive oil and garlic ($23). Buttery broiled sand dabs ($19) get a dusting of almond bread crumbs; for a side, mashed bananas add a delicious richness to creamy au gratin potatoes.

To celebrate the milestone throughout the year, look for daily specials with 1959 prices (ask the server for details)–which means, yes, another round of martinis is in order.

Chez Jay, 1657 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; 310-395-1741 or chezjays.com