Finding Great Food in Santa Monica
One of the great aspects of either living in Santa Monica or visiting the city is all of the great food that you can find around town. There are hundreds of different restaurants in Santa Monica to consider, ranging across all types of food, environments, price ranges, and much more. Whatever you want to eat and wherever you want to be, you’ll always be able to find great food in Santa Monica. Take a look at this guide that provides a sampling of the food and restaurant choices you’ll find across several different categories.
Santa Monica Restaurants and Local Establishments
Santa Monica has a growing reputation as a haven for fine dining, and for up and coming chefs to open up their own unique restaurants and new locations. When you want a great date night, you want to celebrate an occasion, or perhaps see and be seen as you enjoy the best food around, then these standout restaurants are where you should begin your journey.
- * Ivy at the Shore: With a great location on Ocean Ave, you can eat outdoors and take in the view as you enjoy some fine dining. Great ambience, delicious food, impeccable service and much more can be found at this exclusive, crowded, and yes, pricey but must-visit restaurant.
- * BOA: Enjoy the upscale lounge atmosphere of BOA as you enjoy a wonderful steak or seafood entree, or opt instead for one of the delicious sandwiches, salads or appetizers. The food is simple in the best way, but the experience, sights and sounds are what BOA is all about.
- * The Lobster: Oysters, shrimp, clams, and yes, lobster, are the focus at this Santa Monica favorite which first opened over 80 years ago. Don’t forget to visit during The Happiest Hour, with unbeatable cocktail and food specials., and be sure to grab an outdoor spot at sunset for a can’t forget experience. One of the most popular restaurants in town, and with good reason.
- * JiRaffe: JiRaffe has a small and seasonally changing menu offering the freshest and finest of local ingredients. A great spot for top scale seafood and local gems, you’ll also find a large wine list including all of California’s best. Located at the Promenade on Santa Monica Blvd.
- * Ozumo: Contemporary Japanese cuisine right from Santa Monica Place, you’ll find classic sushi, tempura and more Japanese favorites, sake and wine, and a fun lounge atmosphere that makes the location a real destination.
- * Michael’s: Located on the Promenade, Michael’s composes its menu only from what can be found seasonally fresh and local. The menu definitely is focused on seafood, but you’ll find veal, lamb, chicken, streak and everything in between. The prices are high but your taste buds will thank you.
- * Xino: A mix of classic Chinese flavors with California personality, Xino is a unique restaurant and lounge located in Santa Monica Place. Come for lunch or dinner, and of course, dim sum. Dont’t forget that any meal accompanied with your special someone must have a special “Aphrodisiac Cocktail” to go along with your food.
- * Sushi Roku: It wouldn’t be Santa Monica without world class sushi, would it? Located on Ocean Ave, you can pick and choose your way across the freshest rolls, sushi and sashimi around, or you can also get entrees and soup. Enjoy fine sake and, if you’re up for it, let the chef guide your experience with his special chef tasting menu.
- * Il Fornaio: Il Fornaio is about classic Italian food, offering great pasta, seafood, pizza, antipasti and more. You’ll find the classics you’ve always had, taken up a notch and made with authentic care and flavoring. Located on Ocean Avenue.
- * Locanda del Lago: The authenic northern Italian food and flavors whisk you away to Milan and Lake Como. Seasonally changing items, and food that cuts across barriers and offers something for everyone, Locanda del Lago has earned its lofty reputation and celebrity status.
- * Sonoma Wine Garden: Located in Santa Monica Place, Sonoma Wine Garden offers Mediterranean dishes and flavors that can be as light or filling as you’d like, and also offers a great brunch selection all throughout the week, and of course, a stellar wine list.
Affordable Santa Monica Food for the Family
While the ritzy Santa Monica establishments listed above are great, sometimes you need to scale back the cost of your meal, or simply enjoy something more casual, or appropriate for groups and families. Well known chain restaurants are scattered across town, but you’ll also find the local favorites and hidden gems, small cafes and more which really make the Santa Monica food scene that much more fun.
- * California Pizza Kitchen: California Pizza Kitchen has a spot off Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. At the forefront of the gourmet pizza movement, CPK is affordable and great for the family or a group of friends, and offers all of its classic and signature pizza combinations.
- * Hooters: Right on Santa Monica Boulevard, Hooters still offers the same appeal and fun it always has. Good wings, cheap, plentiful beer supply, burgers, and of course, the waitresses and sports too.
- * The Counter: The Counter is all about “Custom Built Burgers” allowing you to choose your ingredients, size, flavors, toppings and style, including the option of having burgers in a bowl in place of on a bun. All told, hundreds of options to choose between, and fun starters too, like Fried Dill Pickle Chips.
- * Wolfgang Puck Express: Located on the Promenade, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck here offers more accessible and affordable fare that both the foodie and the picky eater will be able to enjoy.
- * P.F. Chang’s: The popular Asian and Chinese food chain has a location on Wilshire Blvd off the Promenade. Great dishes, good portions and prices that won’t set you back too much are all part of the appeal.
- * Buca di Beppo: Enjoy massive portions of family style Italian food at Buca di Beppo. Visit the 2nd Street location, to keep your budget intact while feeding the whole family, and still bringing home leftovers to spare.
- * Jinky’ Cafe: Specializing in breakfast, but also offering lunch, dinner and dozens of different chilis, this is a Southern California original with heavy Mexican influence and great flavors.
- * Hakata Sushi and Bar: Stop in for lunch or dinner at Hakata Sushi and Cocktail Bar for some delicious sushi ranging from the classics to more innovative ideas, plenty of cocktails to go around, happy hour specials and more at this casual and fun restaurant.
- * The Shack: Shack up at the Shack, enjoying classic American bar food like burgers, nachos, wings, hot dogs, pizza and all of the other staples. Have a cold beer and catch the big game with your buddies.
- * Marmalade Cafe: The small but growing California chain offers fresh baked goods, dozens of tasty salads, a number of sandwiches, and a great breakfast menu that’s sure to please as well.
- * Kay and Dave’s Cantina: Your favorite neighborhood party and Mexican food spot has a few locations in the immediate area, including on 26th Street in Brentwood. Dine outside and enjoy the evening weather with some good beverages, tasty dishes and good friends, or stop by the morning after for a Mexican breakfast.
Quick Service and Fast Food in Santa Monica
Of course, not every meal has to be an affair. Sometimes you just need a quick, cheap bite, but you still want your food to be tasty and fresh of course. Within Santa Monica you’ll find plenty of the national chains we all know and love, as well as other more local and regional fast casual restaurants for you to stop at.
- * Carl’s Jr: The popular fast food burger joint (which has some of the best commercials) has a location on Pico Boulevard. Stop in for one of their famous charbroiled burgers, a number of chicken sandwiches and wraps, and more.
- * Sushi Itto: Located at Santa Monica Place, Sushi Itto is a quick-hit spot to fill your sushi cravings. Sushi can be authentic, tasty, and even exotic, without being out of your price range or overly exclusive.
- * Johnny Rockets: The vintage diner chain has everything you’d want and expect to find, from thick shakes and malts, to root beer floats, dozens of different burger combinations, and more. Located on the Promenade.
- * Panera: Panera is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with a number of health-conscious choices including sandwiches, soups and salads.
- * Pinches Tacos: When you want authentic Mexican flavors and offerings at great prices, as opposed to the more Americanized offerings of many establishments, then check out Pinches Tacos in the Santa Monica Place mall. Delicious tacos, tortas, flautas and more.
- * Charlie Kabob: One of several locations of the mini-chain, Charlie Kabob is all about fresh, healthy ingredients, offering a combination of Persian flavors and California and American stylings. Choose from a number of kabobs, pita sandwiches and more, located in the Santa Monica Place mall.
- * Subway: Located right on the Promenade (and a few others scattered around), you can stop it for a delicious and healthy Subway sandwich at any time of the day. Can’t miss with their classic sandwiches and fresh baked bread.
- * Jack n Jills: Breakfast, brunch and lunch are available at the Santa Monica location of this small California chain of bakery cafes. There are dozens of choices to suit any mood you might have, from a breakfast crepe to tasty rotisserie chicken with all of the classic sides, amazing paninis and salads and more.
- * Umami Burger: Get in on the gourmet-burger craze with Umami Burger. Find the most unique burgers around, with fresh ingredients, innovative concepts and combinations, vegetarian options and more. From the Manly Burger to the Earth Burger, to the signature Umami Burger. Don’t forget a tasty side and one of their amazing condiments and special sauces.
Dining at the Santa Monica Promenade
If you’ve ever strolled down the 3rd Street Promenade or seen a picture of the locale, then you already know that it is lined with restaurants, cafes, bars and lounges of all kinds. Many of the restaurants listed above are either directly on the Promenade, are located along the adjacent blocks, or can be found in the Santa Monica Place mall at the end of the street.
Great for eating outside, soaking up the weather, having a drink and people watching, you can find casual and quick places, and more upscale locations as well on the Promenade. Unless otherwise stated above, almost all of the restaurants already listed are right on or near the Promenade.
Dining at the Santa Monica Pier
Visitors know that one of the must-see attractions of the Santa Monica area is the world famous Santa Monica Pier. You might come from the attractions, rides and activities, or the people watching, the view and the history. Whatever you come for though, you won’t have to leave with an empty belly. Here are a few of the most popular dining options located right on the Pier itself:
- * Bubba Gump Shrimp Company: Start off your meal with a tasty smoothie or an alcoholic frozen beverage, and then indulge in some huge portions of delicious and fresh seafood. The famous chain has many locations, including this one right on the pier, and is worth a visit for the affordable prices, tasty dishes and fun atmosphere. More shrimp then you can handle, but plenty of other seafood choices as well.
- * Mariasol Cocina Mexicana: Everything you’d want to find in a Mexican restaurant with a scenic view of the ocean and beach. Traditional and popular Mexican dishes are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and don’t forget to try a margarita or two with your meal.
- * Rusty’s Surf Ranch: Music, special events, a great happy hour, and much more add to the party scene at Rusty’s Surf Ranch. Food that will please every member of the family or group, and prices that will allow you to dig in and order another round.
So figure out where you want to go in Santa Monica, what you’re in the mood to eat, and what kind of experience you’re looking for, and you’ll be all set for your night on the town or weekend lunch break. This certainly isn’t an all-inclusive list of all the restaurants that are located in Santa Monica, but it’s a great start, and it will help you narrow down your options while visiting some of the most popular and highly rated establishments in and around Santa Monica.