Big Deans on Ocean Front Walk

Local’s might want to start calling it Bigger Dean’s as of next week when the already popular beachfront eatery will be before the Landmarks Commission seeing approval to expand.

Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café is located at 1615 Ocean Front Walk, at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier. The business is proposing an expansion into the neighboring unit that will include an expansion to its bar, additional restaurant seating and an upgrade to its kitchen facilities.

“It really is a family style restaurant,” said Christine Rohde, Sr. Associate with Arts Architects, the firm overseeing the work. “Because the food service is such a big part of their business, we’re installing a much larger kitchen to meet the needs of the folks that come there. The seating expansion is moderate but the driving force is to have a bigger and better kitchen.”

She said everyone is keenly aware of the cheeseburger’s reputation in Santa Monica and plans to upgrade some of the kitchen equipment were specifically rejected to preserve the handmade burger tradition.

“Nothing that we’re doing is going to change that,” she said.

Big Dean’s will be occupying a building that is 100 years old. The cluster of buildings on the site were vacated recently following a fire in the residential units that sit above the commercial and Starbucks has been approved to occupy the northern corner of the project.

“The property is developed with a single-story commercial building constructed with a Greek temple motif,” said the staff report. “Constructed in 1917, the unreinforced masonry building was the first of the four buildings constructed among the cluster of commercial buildings (1601-1613 Ocean Front Walk) located at the base of the Santa Monica Pier. The subject building is one of the three commercial buildings designated as City Landmarks on October 10, 2016. The designation notes the building exemplifies elements of the cultural, social and economic history of the City as illustrated by its role as a commercial property that is a familiar visual feature at the base of the Pier.”

The work proposed for the site will restore the original brickwork of the building and Rohde said specific care is being taken to preserve the beloved bar’s atmosphere while integrating the entire structure with the existing uses on and near the Pier.

“We’re keeping the ambiance, there’s a certain intimacy about Big Dean’s,” she said, noting everyone seems to have a favorite seat. “It’s interesting talking to people, everyone has their own place, everybody has their own spacial location there.”

She said her firm is focused on the place and how you feel when you’re there. That approach extends to the surrounding neighborhood and she said the goal has always been to create a feeling of connection between the Pier, nearby Aquarium and the businesses across the walk way.

“We’ve wanted to create an ambiance and a synergy between the pier, the aquarium and the east side of the street so it all feels part of the pier community,” said Rohde.

The Landmarks Commission will meet on Monday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 1685 Main St. Visit for more information.