There's not a trace of the old Santa Monica Place mall on this rooftop foodery. Sonoma Wine Garden is an indoor outdoor restaurant and bar with a view of the ocean and pieces of central Santa Monica. It's casual yet sophisticated, and the type of place where you'll lose track of time.
I met up with three friends and had to stand at their bar table until a random stool opened up. The place was packed! Live music competed with the piped in songs but the singer was so impressive that I soon tuned out the Muzak. His rendition of Rufus Wainwright's Hallelujah was chilling.
The wine selection isn't as huge as you would think for a wine garden, but their menu is so complete that I wasn't longing for other options. I settled with a Provenance Cabernet for $18 a glass. The second time around I went with a half glass for $10. What I didn't notice right away (and this was probably a good thing) is that there is a full bar. If wine isn't your thing, you will still enjoy this cheery open air dinner spot.