The Definitive Santa Monica Dining Guide

Los Angeles

The Definitive Santa Monica Dining Guide
The Definitive Santa Monica Dining Guide

Courtesy of Pono Burger (EDITED)
Courtesy of Pono Burger (EDITED)

Los Angeles Santa Monica used to be the redheaded stepchild of the Los Angeles culinary scene -- sure, there were some good eats in the neighborhood, but restaurateurs focused their efforts on Downtown, Hollywood, and elsewhere, probably figuring our proximity to the beach was a decent enough deal. But no longer! Now we get poached lobster, shrimp saganaki, and a sweet ocean breeze: these 15 restaurants -- some old, some brand new, all very delicious -- are proof that SM has something for everyone. More Stuff You Will Like

Courtesy of Lauren di Matteo

Best carnivore mecca: Belcampo Meat Co.

  1026 Wilshire Blvd West Hollywood has Animal, but the Westside has Belcampo, where you go to OD on meat-centric dishes like grilled beef heart, goat tartare, and tallow chips. It’s an ethical carnivore’s dream, too, since Belcampo prides itself on humane practices and high-quality, 100% organic cuts. Continue Reading

Courtesy of Estate

Best vegetarian spot: Estate Restaurant + Bar

  1519 Wilshire Blvd While Estate offers plenty for meat eaters, you can (and should!) bring your favorite vegetarians here. They’ll be thrilled that Estate's options -- like quinoa/baby kale, roasted portobello flatbread, and pad Thai (sans chicken and shrimp) -- include a lot more than plain old Caesar.

Best sandwiches: Bay Cities

  1517 Lincoln Blvd It’s easy to forget that this OG Italian deli makes over 20 different kinds of sandwiches, because most people only talk about its famed Godmother -- and we can’t blame ‘em. That salty, satisfying stack of Genoa salami, mortadella, cappicola, ham, and prosciutto tucked into a chewy Italian sub is hard to beat, and well worth the trek west.

Courtesy of Matthew Kiefer

Best fancy place for when parents are paying: Mélisse

  1104 Wilshire Blvd This contemporary French spot does things the old-school way; after all, it boasts two Michelin stars, 10-course tasting menus, and the kind of service that includes folding your napkin every time you leave the table. Bring mom and dad here for the egg caviar and foie gras.

Best late-night food: Swingers

  802 Broadway Many an inebriated Westsider has stumbled through the doors of Swingers, which stays open until 3am. Thursday through Saturday. This ‘60s-style diner serves alcohol, too, but it’s better-known for classic late-night fare to help sop up all those tequila shots.

Courtesy of Milo & Olive

Best pizza: Milo & Olive

  2723 Wilshire Blvd If you judge your pizza by its crust (and who doesn’t?), you’ll appreciate Milo & Olive’s perfect pies. M&O churns out crisp, thin-crust artisanal pizzas from a wood-fired oven, then tops it with equally addictive sauce and cheese.

Best date spot: Cadet

  2518 Wilshire Blvd Cadet doesn’t have ocean views, or even particularly nice street views, but its dimly lit, candle-flickering interior and strong craft cocktails make this rustic French eatery the ideal date destination. Be sure to practice saying “boulettes” and “tartine” before you go -- those dishes are a must.

Courtesy of The Lobster

Best almost-tastes-alive seafood: The Lobster

  1602 Ocean Ave At The Lobster, a landmark on the pier, seafood’s so fresh that the chef only has 24 hours from when he finds out what’s available to prepare his weekly specials. Don’t ignore mainstays like its perfectly cooked, tender butter poached lobster -- bib required.

Courtesy of Ox & Son

Best brunch: Ox & Son

  1534 Montana Ave This Montana Ave eatery whips up the kind of decadent concoctions only acceptable at brunch. Got a sweet tooth? Opt for chocolate bacon bourbon pancakes. Feel like savory? Go for the Boy’s Club Burger, a not-so-secret-anymore menu item with bacon and truffle aioli. No matter what you’re in the mood for, though, definitely order the $14 bottomless mimosas.

Best cheap eats: Tacos Por Favor

  1406 Olympic Blvd If you’re looking for an authentic taqueira on the Westside, this cheap, no-frills joint is it. Go for the street-style tacos -- they use corn tortillas, fresh toppings, and salsa that’s legitimately spicy.

Courtesy of Herringbone

Best oyster hour: Herringbone

  1755 Ocean Ave To be fair, there aren’t too many oyster happy hours in SM (a discussion for another day) -- but Herringbone’s, which runs Monday through Friday, is still exceptional. For a buck each, load up on as many fresh-shucked, juicy oysters as you can handle, in addition to cocktails, wine, and beer.

Courtesy of Pono Burger

Best burger: Pono Burger

  829 Broadway Yes, the burgers taste good, but knowing that Pono’s patties are made from grass-fed, organic beef that’s locally sourced is a nice feel-good bonus. Plus, most come with interesting, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that extras like the spicy guava rum sauce in its popular Kuawa Crunch.

Best outdoor eating: Cassia

  1314 7th St With exposed lights strung up overhead and plenty of heat lamps, Cassia’s alfresco patio is a looker. Hopefully your date is, too: after Cadet, this Southeast Asian fusion place is your next-best bet.

Courtesy of The OP Cafe

Best breakfast: The OP Café

  3117 Ocean Park Blvd From its owner (a third-generation SM resident) to the surf-inspired décor and hearty breakfast dishes featuring fresh farmers market ingredients, this Ocean Park café is a neighborhood institution. Even better, the prices are budget-friendly with all entrees under $15.

Best hard-to-pronounce restaurant: Inotheke

  606 Broadway #101 The name's a mouthful, which is fitting since the contemporary Hellenic food at this new kid on the block is meant to be ordered en masse. There's no Greek mother here to ensure you leave with a full stomach, but between the shrimp saganaki, the cod fritters, and the moussaka, you'll do a fine job by yourself. Sign up here for our daily LA email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Los Angeles has to offer. Tiffany Tse is a freelance contributor to Thrillist and is now waiting for that date to Cadet to materialize. See what she's up to on Twitter @twinksy.

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1. Belcampo Santa Monica 1026 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

The first standalone LA location of the well-liked Grand Central Market stand sources meat from its own NorCal farm, which means grass-raised steaks, goat tartare, and off-cuts available both as dishes and at an expansive butcher case.

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2. Estate Restaurant + Bar 1519 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (Santa Monica)

This chic, dark-toned restaurant is trendy to the extreme and offers an international menu full of fish and swanky cocktails.

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3. Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery 1517 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

Slinging sandwiches in Santa Monica since the 1920s, Bay Cities is responsible for masterpieces like The Godmother, a sub made with basically every Italian cured meat, Provolone cheese, and the works (mustard, mayo, Italian dressing, onions, pickles, tomato, and lettuce). More than just a sandwich specialist, the shop also serves prepared pastas like lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and stuffed shells. While the counter crew assembles your order, browse through the grocery section that's stocked with imported Italian specialities.

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4. Melisse Restaurant 1104 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

Melisse's a Santa Monica swank-house that's serving French seafood fare. Try out their tasting menu and enjoy the scene.

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5. Milo & Olive 2723 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (Santa Monica)

Milo & Olive specializes in wood-fired pizzas (consider the pork belly sausage and kale), homemade pastries, and hearty breakfast dishes. The bakery counter is what dreams are made of, backed by a wall of huge loaves of bread and lined with a spread of decadent pastries, such as sweet cream brioche, buttery croissants, and maple walnut sticky buns. You'll want to get here early before that selection slims down, particularly for the sought-after and often sold-out bagels. All carbed out? This bright and rustic communal space also a fresh selection of soups and salads, like a sweet corn bisque and an heirloom tomato & peach.

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6. Cadet 2518 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (Santa Monica)

Cadet brings a wood-fire grill concept to Wilshire and has a dark, date-friendly interior, and a long, date-friendly craft cocktail list.

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7. The Lobster 1602 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

The Lobster remains in its original structure that was built in 1923 and serves killer lobster rolls made with Japanese mayo and pickled cucumber.

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8. Ox & Son 1534 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (Santa Monica)

An ode to the butcher father who first taught him how to break down an animal, Ox & Son is chef Brad Miller’s eclectic meditation on hearty, meat-driven fare. Set in a rustic space with floor-to-ceiling windows, the Santa Monica restaurant serves daily oysters, surf and turf specialities, and a burger topped with raclette cheese, pickled onion, and truffle aioli. It's also a brunch destination thanks to inventive breakfast sandwiches, customizable omelets, and bottomless mimosas.

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9. Tacos Por Favor 1408 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404 (Santa Monica)

Get breakfast, lunch and dinner at this cozy, unpretentious Mexican diner that makes all your favorite standbys (huevos rancheros, quesadillas, carnitas, and tacos, obviously).

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10. Herringbone 1755 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

This is the second LA location of the La Jolla favorite, helmed by Top Chef contestant Brian Malarkey. Its seafood-centered menu includes pan-roasted Ivory King salmon and a "salt and brine" raw bar flush, as well as a a slew of oyster, uni, octopus and bay scallops dishes.

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11. Pono Burger 829 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

The Hawaiian burger chain comes to Santa Monica -- and they're stationed in a sweet old WWII-era bunker.

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12. Cassia 1314 7th St, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (Santa Monica)

From the chef that brought you now closed Spice Table, Cassia is making waves of its own. We're talking Chinese bacon fried-rice and whole Singaporean white-pepper crab.

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13. The OP Cafe 3117 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (Santa Monica)

This Cali cafe features healthy, organic takes on classic American fare that's perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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14. Inotheke 606 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

This sunny, minimalist Greek diner hosts seasonally inflected fare with a modern twist-- think zucchini mousaka, grilled seafood souvlaki, and colorful veggie side plates.