The Most Essential Seafood Restaurants in LA
Whether you want fancy or chill, flown-in or local, raw or cooked, these are the places to go for the best fish in town.
There’s something magical about eating seafood by the sea, a sort of rustic romance like you’ve just breezed in from the Mediterranean to a Greek fishing village and grabbed an ocean creature right off a boat. We may not quite have that luxury, but we’re damn close—there are restaurants stretching right up to the edge of the Pacific, and we’re within range of both Baja’s bounty and the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest. LA is also a major hub for seafood from all over the world, with easy access to imports from New England, the Gulf of Mexico, and the legendary markets of Japan.
Enviable climate and product make LA one of the very best places to eat seafood, whether you’re at the beach or on the opposite side of town. So grab a table in the shade, a glass of crisp white wine or a cold light beer, a little tiny spoon for the mignonette, and allow yourself to be transported to Greece, Japan, Mexico, or even all the way to Malibu. Spanning sushi, mariscos, oyster happy hours, and more, these are the 16 best seafood restaurants in LA.
There is a sleeper hit on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, chef Dan Smulovitz’ new restaurant Savida, which just opened for dinner Thursday through Saturday nights, in addition to lunch service every day except Monday. The menu is fully seafood-focused, with a particularly impressive collection of raw fish dishes that take liberal inspiration from Japan, the Mediterranean, and Mexico—that globetrotting ethos makes sense, considering Savida is a concept that Smulovitz literally trotted across the globe, relocating the restaurant here from Israel. There’s an octopus tostada slathered with a bright and lemony tzatziki sauce, hamachi with yuzu kosho and mint, and cured bonito with creme fraiche and dill. There are also tuna tacos and a smoked trout salad with fresh strawberries, a lobster roll slider, and a summertime gazpacho shot—the menu reads like your jet-set friends’ lunch plans for the summer.
How to order: Order online through Toast.
If you picture in your mind the au-courant fish house, the kind of place that a recent transplant would take a skeptical visitor to say “See, LA isn’t so bad,” you’d end up with something very much like Dudley Market. So there are tinned conservas and natural wine, wild-caught fish by the pound to take home, a menu that changes too much to be listed online but always includes a fresh crudo, dim lighting and a thumping soundtrack and extremely cool merch. But don’t be intimidated by the obvious hipness—the energy is chill and the fish is perfect, sourced as well as they claim and prepared with a deft hand and a clever touch.
How to order: Walk in, or order from the market online.
Mel's Fish Shack
Even if you weren’t thinking about a po’boy when you turned onto Jefferson, it’s hard to make the trek between Crenshaw and La Brea without stopping for one at Mel’s Fish Shack. The Cajun-style seafood institution is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and Georgette Powell’s restaurant is still firing on all cylinders. They knock out battered and fried fish plates using a wide variety of fresh seafood, including wild-caught options like sand dabs, snapper, and sole with some excellent Southern sides. You can also get your fish grilled over salad or wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, and on Mondays their special coconut-based Crab Soup is an under-the-radar delight.
How to order: Online orders through ChowNow.
It is no coincidence that one of the best fine dining restaurants in LA—and one of the best restaurants period—is deeply focused on seafood. And not just any seafood, but sustainable, ethical, wild-caught seafood sourced from both local waters and abroad. Chef Michael Cimarusti and his team treat their fish with sophisticated techniques and elevated presentations that aim to highlight the quality product instead of obscuring it, showcasing those beautiful sea creatures throughout their vaunted two Michelin-starred tasting menu. The sustainable ethos doesn’t end at the edge of the water—they have also introduced zero-waste programs in pastry chef Mac Daniel Dimla’s chocolate desserts and behind the bar in bar director Kim Stodel’s wild collection of shrubs, infusions, and garnishes made from kitchen leftovers.
How to book: Reservations available by calling 323-460-4170.
Holbox is a top-tier mariscos stand, but it’s a fit for this category in particular because of chef Gilberto Cetina Jr.’s meticulous sourcing. When you walk up to the counter in Mercado La Paloma, there will be an array of sea creatures splayed on ice under the glass. There may be Hawaiian kanpachi, scallops from Baja, or local rockfish ready to be diced into ceviche, sliced into aguachile, or fileted and fried into classic fish tacos at any moment. The saucework is bright and punchy and preparations are on point, a perfect complement to the pristine fish.
How to order: Takeout is available directly through their website.
Any sushi chef worth their knives can source and slice quality seafood, but not all of them can talk about it the way chef Katsu Hisanaga does at Yui. The tiny sushi bar in the charming town of Sierra Madre flies a little below the radar in LA’s excellent sushi landscape, but on the quality-price-variety matrix it’s hard to beat. A quick scroll through the restaurant’s Instagram reveals an endless stream of fishphotos, which list the specials, their place of origin, and a charming little tidbit, a description or fact or personal remembrance about the fish. Maybe you will eat a beltfish so long it spills off of chef’s cutting board, or discover the three edible kinds of sea cucumber (they have red ones, the sashimi grade kind), or learn what skipjack can tell you about the weather (when they get fat, it’s almost fall), or maybe you’ll catch Hisanaga playing a 1953 Telecaster guitar. Whatever it is, it’s worth the drive out the 210 and up into the foothills.
How to order: Reservations and takeout available over the phone at 626-325-3840.
Sometimes a seafood craving is best sated by a white tablecloth meal, with white wine and white linen pants and white sails bobbing in a nearby harbor. And sometimes you just want a heaping pile of fish, chopped and seasoned and scooped into a takeout tray that you can eat on a picnic table or a blanket or in the front seat of your car. The Redondo Beach takeout counter Jus’ Poke is an essential spot for the latter kind of seafood experience, a classic take on the Hawaiian dish that hews close to the traditional island version. Co-owner Stefanie Honda is a South Bay native but her father and grandfather moved here from Maui, and she’s continuing their fishing tradition with their straightforward, high-quality poke. The Original and Shoyu pokes are perfect renditions of the Hawaiian icons, and the Hawaiian Chili Peppah brings in a slap of heat thanks to sharp Bird’s Eye chiles.
How to order: Pickup and limited delivery available through their website.
This pandemic pop-up grew a loyal following selling boxes of fish and chips with vegetables and cold Coors, then rocketed to celebrity status when they switched the format to a fish sandwich. They started out offering pickups from their Echo Park bungalow, then expanded to Smorgasburg, and now they have taken over a procession of restaurants around town. There was the long-running pop-up at Highland Park’s Checker Hall, and now they’ve bounced around spots like Crudo e Nudo, Dudley Market, Chainsaw, and Ojai’s Pinyon. Wherever they go, founders Anna Sonenshein, Forrest Florsheim, and Niki Vahle bring their immaculate menu of crudos, smoked fish dip, and whole fried seafood with them. And don’t overlook their vegetables, which run headlong towards the bitter, punchy end of the spectrum, a perfect complement to fried things and natural wine.
How to order: Check their Instagram for dinner date announcements.
Santa Monica Seafood
Santa Monica Seafood is a fish market that supplies sea creatures to a lot of local restaurants, but it’s also a full-service cafe and restaurant with some of the freshest seafood in town. Grab a seat at the oyster bar and throw a few back, then go for a bowl of their excellent Cioppino or maybe a Grilled Swordfish Sandwich. They’ve also got a nice selection of mostly California wines to pair with your fish, and on your way out you can stop by the seafood case to pick up fresh fish for the week.
Broad Street Oyster Co.
Christopher Tompkins’ seafood spot has exploded from a mobile raw bar into a bicoastal fish party with five locations, including three stationary restaurants in Malibu, Grand Central Market, and Santa Barbara and two regular pop-ups at Smorgasburg DTLA and Smorgasburg Miami. Each one is a rowdy good time with fresh fish sliced into crudos, stacked into magnificent towers, or cooked into Cioppino, paired with a funky fun wine list and crisp local beers. It’s hard to beat the fresh ocean breeze at their Malibu location right off the lagoon, but a pop in to GCM downtown is a damn good way to get your fish fix too.
How to book: Walk in or order online.
The Reel Inn
The Reel Inn is a rugged fish shack right off of PCH, a refreshing antidote to the shimmering excess of much of the rest of the Malibu coastline. The menu is expansive, an entire aquarium with most of it under $22. Choose your fish from among halibut, seabass, ahi tuna, trout, mahi-mahi, and more, then choose how you want the fish prepared—grilled, sauteed, or blackened—and your two sides. Portions are generous, as are the wine pours and the pricing on pitchers of decent craft beer.
How to order: Order over the phone for takeout, 310-456-8221.
Water Grill is an institution in this category, a longstanding bastion of luxury seafood cooking that is about to open its seventh location, which includes locations in Santa Monica and Downtown. In all those years their kitchens haven’t lost a step, staying up to date with lovely seasonal cooking that relies on impeccable sourcing and creative preparations. The raw bar is legendary, with oysters from both coasts and a wide selection of other shellfish. The charcoal-grilled whole fish are always a good choice, whether there are seabass, sole, or anything else on the menu that day.
Connie & Ted’s
This West Hollywood spot is a New England seafood shack with a modern California twist, with a raw bar, three different styles of New England chowder, and a real focus on shellfish. There’s a lobster roll, peel & eat shrimp, clams served a half-dozen ways, and whole lobsters priced by the pound. There’s plenty of other seafood too, from a Portuguese Stew to Fish and Chips and more, all served in an airy space with an open kitchen and lots of al fresco dining that faces Santa Monica Boulevard. A view of LA traffic might not replace the coast of Maine, but if you close your eyes and ears, the food will take you most of the way there.
Blink and you might miss this tiny ceviche outpost from lawyer-turned-restaurateur Octavio Olivas who hails from Mexico City. But that also means that everyone in the small space is afforded a front row seat as Olivas chops up fresh seafood and garnishes it with everything from lime and cilantro to yuzu gelée, serrano oil, trout roe, seaweed, and borage flowers—with daily rotating specials. There are a few sidewalk tables for those who prefer an al fresco experience.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
Found Oyster Bar
Don’t be fooled by the unassuming exterior of this 26-seat hole in the wall that’s adjacent to a convenience store—it’s what’s inside that counts. The cozy bar (and raised outdoor deck) is a love letter to East Coast seafood shacks and traditional seaside bites, but most people come here for one thing and that’s the oysters. They’re straight from general manager Joe Laraja’s family oyster farm in Massachusetts, but the (short) menu also pays homage to seasonal West Coast produce in items like the scallop tostada, wedge salad, and bar steak. And if you’re feeling extra fancy, they also have some of the finest Ossetra caviar on the menu. A full list of seafood-appropriate wines, ranging from sparkling to skin contact and chilled red are also available.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
Fishing with Dynamite
After his initial success with M.B. Post, chef David LeFevre opened up his 32-seat oyster bar and seafood restaurant just a few doors down. Fishing with Dynamite is more casual than its South Bay sister restaurants that also includes The Arthur J, but the food served in this small, light-filled space is nothing less than fantastic. Raw dishes are the main attraction so expect oyster platters, Peruvian scallops, shrimp cocktail, and hamachi sashimi, but you won’t find a lobster roll here—blue crab and shrimp rolls are a modern take on the traditional seafood sandwich.