14 of the best places to eat in Santa Monica

0
The pork chop in Lunetta. Photo by Christina Champlin.

When you hear “Santa Monica,” your mind may pick up images of standard California iconography. A sunset on the quay. A ride on the Pacific Park Ferry Wheel. A crowd of tourists on the 3rd Street promenade. But food level? Where are your thoughts taking you? I know what I’m thinking.

I think variety, from the Caribbean to Japanese. I’m thinking of fresh seafood, plump pierogis and wood-fired pizzas. I’m hungry anticipating my next trip to the Westside, because Santa Monica has it all…if you know where to look. Start watching below.

Advertisement

Glasses

Glasses is where the locals eat. The modern American restaurant that won a Michelin Plate award operates as an all-day neighborhood cafe that transforms into a fine-dining concept in the evening. Come dine where guests can be seen twirling handmade pasta on a fork and sinking their teeth into a juicy blueberry-covered pork chop. Menu items change with the season and promotions always pop up at the restaurant, keeping fans coming back for more.

Chicken Cha Cha

Belonging to the family Chicken Cha Cha has been serving its Caribbean cuisine to the Santa Monica community since the 90s. The tropical menu features mouth-watering fare like Coconut Fried Chicken, Jerk Salmon Tacos, and Cha Cha Chicken (most popular), a plate of roast chicken covered in the restaurant’s famous jerk sauce. Order at the counter and find a place to sit, the space is entirely outdoors. It’s also BYOB if you want to add booze to an aguas frescas or crack open a cold beer.

Sushi Brothers

Chef Mark Okuda’s Woodland Hills Sushi Restaurant Sushi Brothers expanded west in 2021, bringing its modern omakase service to the Montana neighborhood. A wide range of à la carte items includes dry-aged fish, black cod in miso, caviar, and specialties such as snow crab and firefly squid make an appearance in season.

The deli counter at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery. Photo by Christina Champlin.

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery

Open since 1925, Bay Towns remains one of the busiest places to grab a sandwich in LA’s biggest reason, and it’s for good reason. On the menu, a mix of classic Italian and American sandwiches, including the famous Godmother, made with prosciutto, ham, capi cola, bologna, Genoa salami and provolone on an Italian roll. And it’s that roll – freshly baked with just enough crunch – that really puts the sandwiches here a cut above the rest. I advise ordering online in advance to avoid queues when possible. Inside the market, pick up a few other things to round out the meal, like deli sides, sodas, and sweets. Bay Cities only accepts cash or debit cards, so be prepared.

Michael’s

Birthplace of Californian cuisine, Michael’s produced some of the city’s most notable chefs who went on to create their own restaurant empires, including Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson, James Beard winner Nancy Silverton and Top Chef masters Sang Yoon. At Michael’s, you’ll feast on market plates that showcase seasonal ingredients from local producers. Owner Michael McCarty is known for his art collection, so take a moment to admire the art on the wall as you savor your bites.

HiHo Cheeseburger

HiHo Cheeseburger’s are made with grass-fed and grass-finished wagyu, certified cruelty-free and sustainably raised. Keep it simple with the classic burger or get the HiHo topped with cheese, ketchup, onion jam, lettuce, pickles and mustard. There’s even an option to add pastrami to your burger. Complete your order with hand-cut, double-fried fries.

Ghisallo

The team behind The tasting kitchen opened a wood-fired pizzeria Ghisallo in 2021. On the menu, a wide range of mouth-watering pies ranging from a classic Margherita to a peppery Cacio Pepe. Ghisallo also offers freshly made pasta as well as salads and Italian sandwiches.

Matzo ball soup at Birdie G’s. Photo by Jim Sullivan

Birdie G’s

Chef Jeremy Fox’s fun Eastern European and American menu at Birdie G’s is influenced by what Fox grew up eating. You’ll find matzo ball soup, Southern Kugel in brown butter sauce with pecans and sage and Sauerbraten, a German-style roast, and other comforting staples. A constant is the $30 relish platter (which is well worth it), a pickle lover’s dream filled with fermented, fresh, pickled, pickled vegetables served with an onion dip. For dessert, the rose petal pie is a gorgeous slice made with kaleidoscope pieces of strawberry, hibiscus, raspberry and rose on a pretzel crust. The restaurant recently added a daily happy hour from 5-6 p.m. with bar-only specials like a Kishka burger, Caesar fries, and smoked sand terrine.

father’s office

The Office Burger at Sang Yoon Gastro Pub father’s office is legendary and often referred to as one of the best burgers in Los Angeles. Made with a homemade dry-aged beef patty, the burger is topped with bacon, arugula, caramelized onions, Gruyère cheese and Maytag blue cheese. Order a side of Salt & Vinegar Tots and ask the bartender to guide you in choosing a beer, there are dozens of options, including a “Really Good Shi…” list if you want to have some fun.

Advertisement

Water grill

Water grill transforms sustainably caught seafood into devourable plates of art. Seasonal promotions are located on the front page of their website and highlight the best the ocean has to offer right now. Maryland soft-shell crab, wild halibut and rock lobster all made seasonal appearances. The restaurant also enjoys a street view of the ocean which is an added bonus.

Via Veneto

Via Veneto on Santa Monica’s Main Street, this is where you’d dine with someone you really, really like (as in… LIKE-like). The romantic atmosphere and incredible Italian cuisine have kept this neighborhood gem in constant activity since 2001. It’s a little more expensive, and there’s a dress code, but the food and service are solid. Menu highlights include classics such as Vongole, Bolognese and salt-crusted Sea Bass.

Omusubi bento box at Sunny Blue. Photo by Christina Champlin.

sunny blue

Japanese omusubi shop sunny blue adds a touch of diversity to the Main Street restaurant scene in Santa Monica. Open since 2010, the family business is the first “made-to-order” omusubi business in the United States. Offering an authentic, budget-friendly, kid-friendly Japanese dining experience, this spot is ideal for anyone looking for a quick bite. Omusubi (also called onigiri) are triangle-shaped rice balls stuffed with a filling and wrapped in a sheet of nori. Each is priced from $4 to $5. Stuffings include miso beef, chicken curry, spicy salmon, and vegetarian options like shiso ume. The $14 bento box is a bargain and includes two omusubi of your choice, edamame, spicy cucumber salad, and Japanese pickles. Highlights also include Kinpira Gobo, a cold salad of burdock roots and carrots, and Milk Tea Boba.

Cassie

Husband and wife duo Bryant Ng and Kim Luu-Ng have a real winner in Cassie. The upscale restaurant serves an imaginative Southeast Asian menu influenced by California-style cuisine. The food here is full of flavor with ample use of spices, herbs and fresh ingredients from local farms. An enticing array of dishes includes Vietnamese “sunbathing” prawns dressed in lots of hot sauce; Kaya Toast covered in coconut jam served with runny egg dip; and spicy lamb breast over jasmine rice served in a clay pot.

Advertisement

Solidarity

Taste handmade pierogis and other Polish dishes at Solidarity. The restaurant is the go-to place for Eastern European cuisine in Santa Monica and offers classics such as Golabki (stuffed cabbage), Borscht, Schnitzel and Stroganoff. Stop by during happy hour (Tuesday-Friday 5-7pm) for discounts on platters, dumplings, beer, and cocktails such as the Warsaw Mule.


Want the best things to do in Los Angeles delivered straight to your inbox? Join over 60,000 Angelenos subscribed to our twice-weekly email newsletter!

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy and consent to receive emails from We Like LA regarding partner news, events, offers and promotions.

Advertisement

Share.

Comments are closed.