Food & Drink

18 Restaurants You Have to Try in Marina del Rey

Situated next to the Silicon Beach enclave, small-but-mighty Marina del Rey has attracted a boatload (!) of seriously good restaurants over the past few years -- to the point where it’s now one of LA’s strongest food destinations. This 1.5 square-mile coastal community is packed with everything from rustic Italian eateries to fancy waterfront restaurants... and then there’s the iconic pub that turns into a turtle-racing hub on Thursdays. What more do you need to know?

Best fancy restaurant for when you’re not paying: Cast & Plow

4375 Admiralty Way
Located inside The Ritz-Carlton, Cast & Plow is an upscale hotel restaurant that stands on its own. Aside from a picturesque view of the marina, you’ll also get impeccable service and dishes made with organic, locally grown and raised ingredients -- like made-in-house herb brioche, ham and Manchego cheese fritters waiting for a dunk in paprika aioli, and lobster agnolotti cooked with brown butter and walnuts. Plus, if you’re visiting during off hours, a small bites menu is available from 3-5:30pm and 10pm-midnight daily.

Best sandwich spot: Mendocino Farms

4724 Admiralty Way
Get here early if you want to avoid the rush hour mob: Mendo’s fantastic and flavor-packed sandwiches, served on freshly baked artisanal bread, are a huge hit in the neighborhood. Now’s your last chance to snag summer specials -- like a ripe heirloom tomato BLT drizzled with habanero honey, or chicken banh mi served with lemongrass relish -- but the usual staples (hello, Study of Heat) will always be there. There’s also a ton of other stuff you probably didn’t know about this husband-and-wife-run sandwich shop, which is why we’ve outlined it all in a separate article.

Cafe del Rey, Cafe del Rey brunch
Courtesy of Cafe del Rey

Best brunch: Cafe del Rey

4451 Admiralty Way
At Cafe del Rey, $44 gets you a three-course prix fixe brunch served with your choice of sparkling wine, cider, mimosas, or Bloody Marys -- not a bad deal when there’s a Kobe burger and cured salmon toast on the menu. You’ll also be treated to a spectacular vista of yachts parked in the marina (they even livestream the view from coveted Table 18). Plus, if you’re coming during the day, you won't have to worry about parking; unlike most LA restaurants, valet here is complimentary (and only $6 in the evening).

Best cheap eats: Taqueria Chihuahua

505 Washington Blvd
This strip mall joint -- which is close to the beach without the inflated prices or tourist crowds usually associated with those establishments -- makes killer burritos that all hover around the $5 mark. For a little extra, get yours either Pancho Villa-style (smothered in enchilada sauce and melted cheese) or El Norteño-style (stuffed with guac, cheese, and sour cream). They don’t skimp on the meat here, so expected a heavily loaded vessel that should satiate you for hours.

Settebello, Settebello pizza
Courtesy of Settebello

Best pizza: Settebello

13455 Maxella Ave Suite 250
Settebello’s Neapolitan pizzas are the real deal, made with imported Italian flour and briefly tossed inside a wood-fired oven crafted by Italian oven makers (yes, that’s a thing). The result? Soft, slippery, delicious pies best eaten with a fork and knife -- as they do in Napoli. Protip: Grab yourself a Margherita DOC pie, with crushed tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil, parmigiano reggiano, and EVOO.

Best for vegetarians: Rainbow Acres Natural Foods

13208 W Washington Blvd
Locally owned Rainbow Acres has been hawking kombucha drinks, coconut ice cream bars, and yucca-flour bread since 1981, long before Whole Foods opened up in nearby Playa Vista. Vegans and vegetarians alike flock to this health food store’s hot-food counter, but its rotating selection of legitimately delicious takeaway food (like cranberry and wild rice pilaf and creamy shroom pasta) can satisfy everyone.

Killer Cafe, Killer Cafe late night bites
Courtesy of Killer Cafe

Best late-night food: Killer Cafe

4211 Admiralty Way
One of the only spots in MDR that’s open 24 hours a day, Killer Cafe whips up hearty comfort food reminiscent of what you’d find at your county fair (only better). Load up on juicy peel-and-eat shrimp dripping in butter and lemon, beer-battered fried cod sliders, and blue cheese mashed potatoes -- washed down with something from an extensive wine, beer, and specialty drink list.

Best breakfast: Cafe Buna

3105 Washington Blvd
This hole-in-the-wall’s breakfast menu is impressive on sheer length alone; you’ll find it includes at least 20 different omelettes and leans heavy on griddle items like pumpkin-nut or lemon zest pancakes, cornflake French toast, and nutella crepes. If -- for some crazy reason -- you’re not feeling breakfast, don’t sleep on the wet mole burrito or signature Buna burger with all the fixings.

J Nichols Kitchen, breakfast burger
Courtesy of J Nichols Kitchen

Best burgers: J Nichols Kitchen

4375 Glencoe Ave
J Nichols’ menu has a lot going on -- there’s everything from roasted beets to topped flatbreads and smoked ribs -- but the burgers are what you want to eat here. The West LA version is a clear winner, bursting with flavor-packed bacon balsamic onion compote, melty blue cheese and gruyere, and a generous smear of lemon aioli on a buttery toasted French baguette.

Best happy hour: SALT Restaurant & Bar

13534 Bali Way
SALT’s happy hour, which runs weekdays from 4 to 6pm, is the area’s best-kept secret. Deals include quality apps like pork meatballs in San Marzano sauce and fried Alaskan cod tacos (both $9), $6 wines, and priceless harbor views -- okay, that last one’s not so much a deal as a reason to scope the place early and get a seat by the outdoor fire pits. The restaurant, which is part of the Marina del Rey Hotel, also has food offerings for every other hour of the day, including a poolside menu (get the fried chicken bucket), breakfast (served with bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys on weekends), and dinner (where the Maine lobster pasta flavored with yuzu, vadouvan, and brown butter dashi is a must, as are the other seafood-heavy entrees).

Casa Ado, Casa Ado pasta
Courtesy of Casa Ado

Best for carb feasting: Casa Ado

12 W Washington Blvd
The pastas at this cozy Italian spot are homemade and perfectly cooked, which means you won’t feel too bad blowing your cheat day budget here. Menu all-stars include the black ink tagliolini noodles tossed in a spicy marinara, as well as Casa Ado’s famous red beet pasta served in Parmesan fondue.

Best Italian: Locanda Positano

4059 Lincoln Blvd
Marina del Rey clearly has plenty of top-notch Italian spots, but this intimate restaurant is the local favorite. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming location across from an IHOP; the wild boar pappardelle and fresh seafood linguine here will transport you straight to the Amalfi Coast. Don’t skip the complimentary bread, which is served warm and crusty alongside flavored olive oils, or the dessert: people rave about the lemon sorbet served with homemade limoncello and gelato trio

Best BBQ: Morfia’s Ribs & Pies

4077 Lincoln Blvd
When you’re craving legit Texas BBQ in MDR, go to Morfia’s for sauce-drenched ribs smoked in a brick pit -- alright, maybe the sauce-drenched part is a bit more LA than TX, but you won’t be complaining. The portions are always generous, the meat’s always moist, and even if you’re stuffed, you can’t end the meal without a slice of peach cobbler or sweet potato pie.

Best date spot: Brennan’s

4089 Lincoln Blvd
Yep: the dive bar known for its legendary turtle races every Thursday is actually a fantastic date idea. Thanks to a facelift last year, this long-standing MDR pub has a new, airy look with a marble-topped bar and spacious outdoor area for cornhole, Jenga, and other games (just in case there are any awkward first-date silences). The menu got an upgrade too, so you can snack on fried chickpeas, Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, and for late-night eaters, great pizzas -- all while guzzling some eclectic beers. And aside from the excitement of the turtle races (which are still going strong), Brennan’s always has something cool going on -- whether it’s Sunday dog yoga or Friday pizza nights where you can get a complimentary pie while listening to live music.

Best multi-ethnic food: Doma Kitchen

4325 Glencoe Ave #8
Family-owned Doma Kitchen’s moved around a bit (first opening in Redondo, then relocating to Manhattan Beach) before settling on its current home. Now it’s serving Uzbek rice, borscht, and other Eastern European/Central Asian dishes to Marina del Rey diners who didn’t realize they loved Lithuanian-style slow-braised buckwheat but can’t imagine their lives without it now. Chef Kristina Miksyte, a Lithuanian native, uses farm-fresh ingredients and house-made spices in every dish. For summer, there’s a peach-themed menu that stars a raspberry-drizzled bistro salad and a grilled peach dessert with toasted walnuts and balsamic glaze.

Best lunch spot: Tender Greens

13455 Maxella Ave
No place does a build-your-own lunch plate better than Tender Greens, with options like consistently tender chipotle barbecue chicken, garlic vinaigrette-dressed kale, and silky mashed potatoes on the menu. They’re also mixing things up with a new special called the Endless Summer Bowl, which is packed with Mediterranean-inspired ingredients and flavors like tahini yogurt, eggplant, grilled trumpet mushrooms, and pickled golden raisins served with earthy kamut grains and a coriander- and cumin-infused dressing.

Best Japanese: Irori Sushi

4371 Glencoe Ave #B4
The tone is set the minute you step foot inside Irori, where -- in true Japanese tradition -- you’re not allowed to wear your funky-smelling shoes (they provide sandals instead) at the low, sunken tables. The incredibly fresh fish just further solidifies this place’s authenticity; if it’s in season, get the succulent toro trio that boasts a scary-but-worth-it market price. Irori also does a few creative takes on sashimi, though, mixing bluefin tuna with burrata and putting black truffle on halibut for an umami sensory overload.

Best place to take the family: C&O Trattoria

31 Washington Blvd
This beach-adjacent institution straddles the Venice/Marina del Rey border, but if you want to get technical, it belongs to the latter (plus, Venice’s restaurant scene is already brimming). The outdoor patio is always lively, the staff hosts a nightly sing-a-long, and everyone’s happy because even if you’re not full off of the generous pasta portions, there’s an unlimited, complimentary supply of garlic knots that practically slip out of your fingers because they’re so drenched in olive oil and butter.

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Tiffany Tse is a contributor for Thrillist and thinks watching a turtle race on a first date is totally acceptable (maybe even fun?). Follow her adventures around town at @twinksy.