So many amazing places to eat in Santa Monica…
But where to start?
If you scour Yelp you’ll be met with seemingly countless options for dining in what, at first blush, seems like a relatively small area.
This is where we come in with a list of our 15 best spots to eat in Santa Monica for foodies of all tastes and dispositions, whether you’re looking for finer dining or just want to scarf down one of the best burgers in the cities. Basically, it’s the foodie cliffnotes you’ve been looking for.
Enjoy the list (presented in no particular order) and, as always, if we have omissions you feel deserve mention let us know in the comments below!
1. Cha Cha Chicken
Beachy vibes and colorful sights, Cha Cha Chicken serves Caribbean food that are traditional and some with a Latin twist. Located near Main Street, Cha Cha Chicken is a place to hang out with your friends, loosen up, and try tropical cuisine. The restaurant’s signature dish, Cha Cha Chicken, is smothered in what is called Jamaican Jerk sauce, the national sauce of Jamaica. If you’re down to try Caribbean cuisine in a fun atmosphere, we highly recommend you stop by!
2. Rustic Canyon
Inspired and named by the founder Josh Loeb’s dinners at his home in Rustic Canyon, this “wine bar and seasonal kitchen” has a changing menu of farmer market inspired dishes. Produce is usually sourced from locally grown farmers and the protein selections come from quality brands like Niman Ranch, making this place a quality dining pick. Since its opening the eatery has been adored by neighborhood locals and foodies alike.
3. Shaka Shack Burgers
Shaka in Hawaiian culture is meant to convey the Hawaiian spirit of hanging loose and this cool shack exemplifies just that. Located on Ocean Ave and 17th, Shaka Shack makes burgers prepared by Chef Lisa Stalvey who was trained under Wolfgang Puck. Choose from a variety of “good for you” proteins such as grass fed angus, kobe beef, natural chicken patties, Alaskan salmon patties and more!
4. Tar & Roses
At Tar & Roses the focus is on the wood burning oven churning out mouth watering and adventurous dishes to anxious diners. Do yourself a favor and order the popcorn, probably one of the most ordered appetizer on the menu, the perfectly popped corn is tossed in brown sugar, chili and crisp bacon its a revelation! Bone marrow is awesome and you can’t go wrong with any protein or veggie dishes there. The beer and wine menu is massive for folks who like to enjoy a libation with their meal.
With countless accolades from Zagat, Forbes, Gayot and holding two Michelin stars Melisse is a French restaurant known for possessing first class dining, an elegant ambiance, and gracious service. Melisse is a must try for foodies who are looking to get a little fancy. For a complete experience try their tasting menu.
Delicious modern Mexican cuisine can be found in the heart of Downtown Santa Monica, Mercado happily serves contemporary Mexican food with signature dishes like their carnitas, created from a recipe handed down through generations. Tortillas are made my hand daily and produce is sourced from local farmers markets. Oh and did we mention… they have 60 top selections of tequila?
7. Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
This one stop shop has been open since 1925. Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery is a traditional hot spot, popular for its large portions, and it even sells pasta, bread, salads and desserts. Order their most popular sandwich the godmother!
8. The Lobster
If you want a classic American seafood experience – this is what you’re looking for. The Lobster serves up whole live Maine lobsters, a raw menu and caviar prepared by Executive Chef Collin Crannell. The glass walls of the establishment provides guest with a wonderful view of the ocean and pier. They even have a “Happiest Hour” where you can get a lobster roll, crab taquitos and pork belly sliders, YUM!
9. Father’s Office
Known for its juicy burgers and a wide selection of beer, Father’s Office lives up to the hype thats still going after many years now. Burgers with balsamic glazed onions, tender beef, and creamy sauces are what keeps customers keep coming back for more. Although the chefs do not allow substitutions, most people say it is not necessary because they’re made just right!
Hillstone offers everything from sashimi to American cheeseburgers to grilled trout. One of the appetizer favorites is the grilled artichoke with rémoulade. If you’re hungry for nearly anything, Hillstone is a great place with such a wide variety of choices; all you need to do is just come with a big appetite!
A modern Italian restaurant, Capo not only serves up great cuisine but has an award winning wine list with over 1500 selections. The restaurant serves homemade pastas, fresh seafood and fireplace-grilled meats. The white corn ravioli is stand out dish for regular patrons. An intimate ambiance and great service makes this place a perfect place for a date night.
12. BOA Steakhouse
As you can tell, the specialty here is the meat. Although a little on the pricy side, you get what you pay for. BOA has a wide range of choices for each part of a menu, and their cut meats are served with their home made specialty sauces. Boa is located right on Ocean Ave, making it a short walking distance to the beach and promenade.
13. Stout Burger
If you think you’re a burger connoisseur, you have to try Stout Burgers. Wash down your meal with their great selection of craft beers from around the world. People love the “six weeker” and the bread pudding for dessert. Pro tip for the budgeters out there- Monday through Friday from 4-6pm is happy hour where the entire menu is half off!
14. The Penthouse
If you want a swanky L.A. experience, the Penthouse is perched atop the Huntley Hotel with priceless 360 degree views of the ocean, city and beyond. The interior design is strikingly beautiful, and the menu is vast from breakfast to cocktail hour to dinner options. The view plus an affordable menu makes this place one of the most popular in Santa Monica.
15. The Upper West
There is the Upper East Side… and there is also The Upper West. The Upper West is an American cuisine that constantly changes their menu using unique ingredients from all around the world. Executive Chef Shipp serves up comfort food under international influences, try the braised short rib, bread pudding and the blue cheese fries.
Got other suggestions for the best places to eat in Santa Monica? Let us know in the comments below!