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If You've Got the Time: Sunday Brunch @ Casa del Mar

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Once upon a gorgeous SoCal Sunday, a group of friends journeyed to the tip of the county to enjoy brunch by the sea at the beautiful Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica. They had a reservation, and, like most studied food aficionados, had perused the menu beforehand for the $29 two course plus dessert buffet meal, and dutifully texted in ahead of time to get the secret code for free unlimited champagne or Bloody Mary brunch cocktails (hello, wouldn't you, too?). They were ready for brunch.

Brunch is, for many diners and restaurants alike, a sort of refined art form. A good brunch is leisurely without being a drag, has high-caliber dishes that make getting out of bed and going out--and sometimes even getting dressy--worthwhile, but without breaking the bank. A good brunch, of course, has booze. Casa del Mar's brunch has the makings of all of the above. The interior of the charming old hotel is warm and inviting; as you ascend the curved stairway with its wrought iron banister and Spanish tiled risers you arrive in a cozy lobby area flanked by subtle gift shops, a massive working fireplace, bar areas, and a pretty spectacular full-frontal view of the Pacific. Our group was seated in the brightly-lit upper-level of the restaurant, where the dessert bar is located. And, apparently, where tables go to be ignored. For long periods of time. Sigh...