Off the beaten bar path in terms of both location and decor, Renee's is a regulars bar with a nice courtyard atmosphere and a more down-to-earth clientele. The bar is divided up into different rooms, which creates a homier, less chaotic atmosphere than usual, but crowds on busy nights can destroy that vibe.
They also have a decent-sized food menu. I didn't particularly enjoy the ahi tuna salad I ordered, but then, I don't like ahi tuna, so that was my mistake. I ate here in my not exactly strict ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian days, and there weren't many meatless options to choose from. I have only had beer here, so I can't comment on the quality of the mixed drinks or wine. The beer selection leaves much to be desired, with the most exciting offering being Newcastle Pale Ale, which is not too exciting at all.
At night, the place can be crowded and smokey in areas--this is a good place for smokers due to the not-really-outdoors courtyard area, and a good place for non-smokers to let the nostalgic smell of a smokey bar take you back to other times and places. Also, I believe they sometimes have live music.
In spite of the cons I have listed, this is a nice place to go when you want something classier than a dive bar but without the sleek pretentiousness that is so common in this one-horse town.
Renee's Courtyard Cafe
522 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, 90401