Santa Monica Is Serving Up Some Unforgettable Meals

Written By: Eddie Sanchez of Hungry in LA
Photographed By: Travis McCoy Where to Eat in Santa Monica

If you want to experience a day of the best things Los Angeles has to offer, like ocean views, shopping, and of course, really good food, then I would say let’s go to Santa Monica! Yes, I know you have your doubts about what some label a “tourist town,” but as a native, born and raised in LA, that’s not the Santa Monica I know.

Growing up just a few minutes away from the crashing waves of the world famous Santa Monica Pier, I’ve spent my entire life living and working here on the Westside. As a local food writer, who truly loves food, I’m always looking to find great places to eat. It’s my passion for this city and its diverse food scene that inspired me to create HUNGRY IN LA, a blog and Instagram account that connects people to the best food and drink in Southern California. With so many great finds in this vibrant beach community, Santa Monica is the ideal setting for an amazing food adventure.  

You’re still not so sure? Trust this local to take you to the best restaurants in LA and consider me as your guide to the best food in Santa Monica. I hope you brought your appetite!

 

Red O Taste of Mexico

Picture the best of authentic Mexican cuisine accented with nuances of light California style in a modern yet approachable setting: that’s Red O Taste of Mexico on Ocean Avenue. The James Beard award-winning chef, Rick Bayless, has created something special here. Visitors and locals alike flood to the lively bar for one of the best happy hours in Santa Monica. To eat, we’re ordering the Corn and Goat Cheese Tamales served with a tomatillo salsa. The heat of the salsa, plus the sweetness of the corn masa and the distinct sharpness of the goat cheese all blend together for a perfect bite.

1541 Ocean Ave Ste 120
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.458.1600

 

O+O Sicilian Kitchen & Bar

With inspiration from the travels of Chef and Owner, Georgi Yaneff, O+O Sicilian Kitchen & Bar combines Italian authenticity with a Californian influence on their innovative menu. The dark wood decor and twinkling patio lights create a great vibe for casual lunch with friends or date night dinner. The food is equally impressive, especially the Pistachio Pizza, with pistachio cream, mozzarella, shaved parmesan and mortadella. Delicious as it is unique, it’s no wonder why this is becoming one of the most Instagrammed dishes in Santa Monica! Add this to their selection of fine wines, beers or creative cocktails, and this will become one of your new favorite places!

1705 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
424.272.8700

 

El Cholo

One of the oldest restaurants in Los Angeles, established in 1923, El Cholo has serious roots here. The Santa Monica outpost is just like the mid-city original, serving comfort Mexican dishes with strong margaritas to wash it all down. It’s a fun and casual place to relax and unwind with friends. Evidently, they’re known for inventing the nachos in 1959, but it’s the Cochinita Pibil that you’ll want to make sure you order. The dish is made up of tender pork, slowly roasted under banana leaves with orange and achiote spices. Comfort food at its best.

1025 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.899.1106

Water Grill

There’s just something about being by the ocean that makes you crave seafood, and Water Grill is the perfect cure. This restaurant is one of my favorite spaces in Santa Monica with giant windows opening towards Ocean Avenue revealing glimpses of the Pacific. The vintage, turn-of-the-century nautical design with dark wood and tufted leather booths, looks like a place Ernest Hemingway would have enjoyed eating a meal. While the live lobster tank calls for an order of surf and turf, the must-have dish here is the Wild Eastern Scallops. This satisfying dish consists of perfectly seared scallops over seasonal vegetables and a flavorful and rich onion based sauce.

1401 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.394.5669

 

Sidecar Doughnuts

You like coffee? You like doughnuts? Of course you do, they’re a match made in heaven! And the best place for doughnuts (in my humble opinion) is Sidecar Doughnuts, just a few blocks away from the beach. The original outpost in Orange County was so popular that we drove an hour and a half in LA traffic until they finally opened a location here about a year ago. So what makes it so good? To start, they use only the finest ingredients possible and make everything in-house from scratch. All doughnuts are handcrafted in small batches throughout the day, so you’re guaranteed a fresh, melt-in-your-mouth doughnut that will make You and Carbs, best friends. While the main attraction here is the creative monthly flavors like Lemon & Thyme or Bourbon Pecan Pie, be sure to order the Huckleberry doughnut—it’s what they’re known for. Oh, and as for the coffee? They serve their own special blend in collaboration with Stumptown Roasters. It’s a smooth cup of Joe.

631 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.587.0022

 

Milo & Olive

Who says the West Coast doesn’t have great pizza? In Santa Monica, one of the best pizzas, if not the best, is at Milo & Olive. Wood-fired, perfectly charred and chewy crust is what you get at this Westside staple. Your go-to pie will be the Pork Belly Sausage and Kale that’s so delicious you won’t want to share a slice. With tons of braised garlic and creamed tomato sauce, you probably won’t be sharing a kiss with anyone either.

2723 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403
310.453.6776

 

Blue Plate Oysterette

A raw bar with views of the water—sold! About a half-dozen different oysters are chalked up on a board at this quaint yet lively spot across the street from the ocean. By the name, you guessed right, it’s oysters on the half that we’re ordering. Pair it with the house-made cocktail sauce and a crisp drink, and you’re all set.

1355 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.576.3474

Treats

Forget the chain shops. For the best fro-yo in Santa Monica, Treats is your place. The family-owned shop makes handcrafted treats with imaginative flavors, like frozen yogurt pumpkin pies. The real hero of course, is the frozen yogurt. Cone or cup? How about a waffle ice cream sandwich. It’s always fun to experiment with the endless options for toppings at this new and noteworthy spot.

1700 Ocean Park Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405
310.310.3328

 

Herringbone

The seafood driven restaurant by “Top Chef” contestant, Brian Malarkey, is one of the most impressive spaces along Ocean Avenue. It’s spacious and bright, with high ceilings, rustic reclaimed wooden tables with aqua colored metal chairs. Large wooden planters hang in the patio with lots of greenery all around. It looks like my wife’s Pinterest board, but with really amazing food. We’re here for the legendary lobster roll so get ready for generous amounts of lobster meat prepared with lemon-mayo, tomato and pickles on a house-made roll.

1755 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.971.4460

 

Blue Plate Taco

I’m just going to say it, Southern California has the best tacos and in Santa Monica, the taco game is strong at Blue Plate Taco. This cool and modern take on a taco shop is a great place to hang out with friends. Grab a drink and stay awhile, they even have Mexican serape blankets at the tables in case those ocean breezes get too chilly. As for the food, it’s a toss up between Pork Belly Tacos with onions, cilantro and agave crema or Shrimp Tacos with pumpkin seed pesto, jicama and cilantro crema. Why not do both? Just be forewarned that it’s three tacos to an order with rice and beans, so it’s a lot of food. If you’re working on that beach bod, then you may want to make your order a “Flaco Taco,” lettuce cups in place of tortillas. Also, don’t forget to grab some chiclets chewing gum from the giant jar on the way out.

1515 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.458.2985

 

Sweetfin Poke

Poke is still one of the hottest food trends right now and with so many new spots opening up, my favorite place to get my fix is Sweetfin Poke. One of the first of its kind to open, Sweetfin continues to dish out this city’s best poke bowls. Fresh and sustainable fish with high quality ingredients, shines through in each made-to-order bowl they serve. While their signature bowls are great, I always go with building my own with fresh salmon, crispy onions, edamame, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, seaweed salad and yuzu kosho—a spicy citrus sauce. I have to admit, I probably have this once a week. Pro tip: avoid the long lunch lines and order ahead through their website, then go to the beach and enjoy your bowl while watching the waves.

829 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310.395.1097

Eddie’s favorite places in Santa Monica for:

  • Juice – The Hive: A cool local spot for organic juices, kombucha tea and honey shots along with killer acai bowls.
  • Coffee – Dogtown Coffee: The Lords of coffee, this unassuming little surfer/skater coffee shop will meet all your caffeine needs. On a sunny day, order the Sea Salted Caramel Iced Coffee.
  • Wine – Esters Wine Shop & Bar: Floor-to-ceiling walls lined with bottles of wine, this art-deco style bar offers plenty of options for vino. Pro tip: Dive in deeper by attending their Sunday wine tastings and learn more about your favorite varietals.
  • Craft Beer – Library Ale House: Library-themed bar on the charming stretch of Main Street with over 30 craft beers.
  • Cocktails – Copa d’Oro: Home to barman Vincenzo Marianella, “The Godfather of Cocktails,” this place offers some of the best crafted cocktails around.

Leave Your Car At Home: If you’re commuting from the Eastside, leave your car at home and step on the newly opened Expo Line Light Rail. It takes you between Downtown LA and Santa Monica in less than 50 minutes. And once you arrive to Santa Monica you can get around on one of the bikes from the city’s bike share program.

Farm Fresh Wednesday: Make the most your trip and choose to visit on a Wednesday when over 75 vendors come out to the famous Santa Monica Farmers Market. Locals, visitors, and the best chefs in town, all come out to shop some of the finest from California farmers.

Eddie Sanchez
Hungry in LA
@hungryinla
We’re Not Hungry IN Santa Monica Anymore!  Where to Eat in Santa Monica