The beachfront city of Santa Monica is home to a vast sea of creative types. Some are drawn by the town’s proximity to the Pacific; others, by its breezy walkability. For Nancy Balbirer and her husband, Howard J. Morris, the appeal lies in living in a place that’s both quintessentially itself and seems “to exist outside of time or place,” as she puts it.
Balbirer is an author, most recently of the memoir A Marriage in Dog Years, tracing the year in which she attempted to save her previous marriage and her dog when both were dying. Morris is co-creator and executive producer of the Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie. They are proud to report that they recently welcomed a new dog to their family.
Start the day with brunch at Ivy at the Shore. “They give you a mimosa as you enter,” says Morris. “And chocolate chip cookies and brownies as you leave,” Balbirer adds. The ambiance in between is just as delicious. “You feel like you’ve been genie-blinked into the 1930s in the south of France,” she says. Morris swears by the smoked salmon pizza with crème fraiche and dill; Balbirer orders spaghetti and meatballs, and for dessert, the perfect hot fudge sundae.
TIME TO UNWIND
“Howard likes living in a place where he knows that if he ever turned into a person who likes to walk on the beach, it’s a mere block away,” says Balbirer. Until then, the couple’s destressing regimen is more likely to take the form of a massage at Willow Spa. Says Morris: “As soon as you walk in the door, you’re transported into a very mellow space.” Follow it up with a mani-pedi at Olive and June. “The women there are fabulous,” Balbirer says.
Montana Avenue is a beachy-chic street loaded with restaurants and boutiques. Don’t miss “Savannah, a fabulous women’s clothing store,” Balbirer advises. “Ask for Carrie; she always knows what to put you in.”
Nearby, Rooms & Gardens is a popular décor and furniture store. “I got a couple of cute little Moroccan side tables there,” Balbirer notes. A stop at Caffe Luxxe is also a must for oat milk cappuccino, she says.
For dinner, try Forma. “I recommend the Bolognese,” Balbirer says. “They also make a good filet of sole.” Morris prefers the Greek chicken. Finally, the Aero Theatre is a revival gem. “There’s always someone interesting to talk about the movie,” Morris says. Balbirer concurs: “When we saw Paper Moon, Tatum O’Neal spoke afterwards.”