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Nikki's beach bar in Venice has a great happy hour, but the food isn't quite as nice. (photo by Jackson Myers)

Biking up and down the strand is a way of life here in Santa Monica. Meeting up with friends for drinks to watch the NBA Finals in neighboring Venice, well that’s just a bonus. Right off the Venice Boardwalk on a small side street lays home to Nikki’s. Unassuming on the outside, the inside is open, modern and pretty trendy.

Nikki’s has a popular happy hour, add in a big time basketball game, and before you know it the place is packed. The service was friendly, but more in an apologetic way for being completely overwhelmed. Even before the game started there was a single server on the floor futilely trying to accommodate the happy hour crowd. Once the game started help arrived, but they were inevitably engulfed in a hoard of fair-weather Miami Heat fans.

The food is essentially standard bar fare. Burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, wings, and apps, were all listed. The tortilla chips we ordered were the red, white and green variety. Multicolored chips hint store bought and have the same level of authenticity of an airport terminal’s “Cantina.”

The “BBQ Bacon Char Burger” lived up to its charred name, being left on the grill for one too many minutes. The patty was also packed way too tight, making for a very dense burger. My friend did not fair much better with his Buffalo chicken sandwich, deeming the topping of coleslaw as “hopelessly mayonnaisey.”

The saving grace: Nikki’s seemed to have their beverage situation under control. They offer a full bar, as well as a very good selection of beers, wines, and even champagne. (Just in case you want to pop open a $225 bottle of Dom Pérignon, you have that option.) Nikki’s also offers 10 or so specialty drinks, including mojitos, spiked lemonades, and margaritas, all made with top shelf libations.

Nikki’s service is sluggish, the fare is fair, and the noise levels are through the roof. Apparently the wall to wall crowds of people didn’t get the memo, or more so they don’t care. Nikki’s does indeed have one of the best happy hours on the boardwalk — 50 percent off select drinks and appetizers every day of the week from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. As for the slow service, that is what the bucket of beers was made for. And average at best food tastes much better when you have been day drinking up and down the strand as half the crowd in there seemed to be doing. As for the music blasting so loud that you can’t hear the person next to you, that’s just how the kids do things these days.

If you go

Nikki’s

72 Market St.

Venice, Calif.

90291

(310) 450-3010

www.nikkivenice.com/

Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.