Check out our new Podcast where we discuss our trip to Chez Jay!
Swanky jazz on the juke box, dim lighting sawdust and peanut shells on the floor and red checkered table clothes. Yes, it’s 11:30am, but Chez Jay is just as cool before noon as it is after dark. A friend from Minneapolis says it’s their favorite spot for Bloody Marys. Word gets around.
Chez Jay, is a very unique dive bar at the beach in Santa Monica and has been on our list since the conception of this blog. Teri had been here before and enticed me with the legend of Marilyn Monroe and some high profile man having rendezvous at this well worn establishment. The walls are rich with photographic history of the past celebrities and talk of the current stars who love this place for it’s anonymity. We got special permission to take a couple pictures, but photographs and autographs are strictly prohibited.
I felt at home at once. We were greeted by Michael Anderson himself one of the owners of Chez Jay. Jay Fiondella was the first owner and brainchild behind “Chez Jay” named after the bar in the Frank Sinatra movie “Pal Joey”. Frank Sinatra’s character in the film , operated a bar called “Chez Joey” The beauty of the namesake is that Frank himself frequented this cozy hole in the wall, and the presence of the stars of that era and even President John F. Kennedy are felt in the NEVER changing decor and fabulous photographs on the wall. Mike is warm and welcoming and ready with stories to tell although he is discreet and let’s you fill in the blanks yourself.
Chez Jay is located at 1657 Ocean Avenue between Colorado Avenue & Pico Boulevard, Just blocks from the Santa Monica Pier. We almost lost this time capsule of cool. Luckily the city of Santa Monica allowed Chez Jay to stay after the opening of the new beautiful Tongva city park. It’s now considered a historical landmark! The addition of the patio at Chez Jay helps this sentimental dive bar lure day time patrons from the great outdoors with great burgers and fries plus so much more.
After Lee Marvin won his Oscar for Cat Ballou in 1966 at the Santa Monica Civic, he and his entourage strolled down to Chez Jay. Marvin celebrated his big win the way movie stars in the 60’s celebrated. They got sloshed. So sloshed, when he left the famous bar, he forgot his Oscar.
Astronaut and pal of owner Jay Fiondella, Alan Shepard brought one of the staples of Chez Jay with him to the moon. That’s right. A peanut was snuck onto Apollo 14 by Shepard who brought it all the way back to the bar. The goober in question had an exulted spot on the bar. That is until Steve McQueen thought it would be funny to take a bite out of it! Jay banned McQueen forever. (that lasted a few days.)
Secret Service guys would meet Marilyn Monroe here and then escort her down the street to Peter Lawford’s beach house in Santa Monica. Mike wouldn’t give up who Marilyn was meeting, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume it wasn’t Harry Truman!
Just a few of the hundreds of antidotes and yarns surrounding the place. Chez Jay is a treasure and a historical landmark. Literally, it’s a historical landmark thanks to the big fight put up by current manager and partner of Fiondella, Mike Anderson. With the support of patrons and Hollywood heavy weights like Rene Zellwegger and Keifer Sutherland, Chez Zay got to stay and won against the city that wanted to tear it down and build condos. The horror!!!
Since that fight was won, Chez Jay has experienced somewhat of a renaissance. Of course the inside is still dive bar chic, with saw dust on the floor and a small bar with a bunch of red vinyl booths. The big news is that there is now a new outdoor patio that butts up against the new, very cool Tongva Park. It’s a great spot to hang out and enjoy the California sun.
Kelli and I split a delicious patty melt and sat at our red checkerboard table clothed covered spot and soaked it all in. The food is good and cheap. Afterwards we walked around the gorgeous park situated right behind the best dive bar in the city. Chez Jay.