If you aren't sourcing local farmer's market ingredients for every dish on your menu, can you even call yourself a Santa Monica restaurant? The answer, as far as this list is concerned, is debatable. But, whether it's a high-end sushi bar, juicy burger joint, or Mediterranean rooftop cafe, there's no shortage of fresh, organic, local, and sustainable ingredients listed on virtually every menu from Wilshire Boulevard to the Santa Monica pier.
Seafood is certainly a menu highlight across the board, which is a given considering Santa Monica's ideal Pacific Ocean-adjacent location. There's also a Vegan Ethiopian restaurant worth checking out, as well as some old-school steakhouses and Italian restaurants and delis worthy of the list, as well.
Whether you're a longtime Los Angeles local or a tourist looking for an unforgettable meal with views to boot, check out our list of the best restaurants in Santa Monica and let your palate thank us later.
Read more: The Most Famous Food In Every State
Crudo E Nudo
Two Santa Monica locals came together to build a restaurant around raw fish and sustainability, and their efforts have earned them one of the top restaurants in Santa Monica. Crudo e Nudo opened as a pop-up establishment during the pandemic in an effort to fill a safe seafood void in one of Los Angeles' most sought-after suburbs. What started as a temporary concept evolved into a thriving restaurant offering local, fresh, and high-quality seafood with an Italian twist.
The menu features locally sourced seafood like halibut, abalone, kanpachi, and a crudo trio for the adventurous raw fish eater. Daily crudo offerings rotate frequently and are based on the freshest catch of the day.
What sets a top-tier Santa Monica restaurant apart from its competitors boils down to high-quality ingredients that are sustainably and/or locally sourced. The trend trickles down from high-end to hamburgers, and it's why HiHo Cheeseburger stands out as one of the best restaurants on our list.
The simple-style burger joint serves up 100% grass-fed Wagyu beef, as well as non-GMO toppings and made-from-scratch milkshakes. There's no high-fructose corn syrup in any of its ingredients, and the buns are preservative-free. While a $20 burger is the norm nowadays throughout California, this Santa Monica burger establishment keeps prices reasonable with a baseline double burger starting at just under $10, which is a steal considering the superior quality.
Owned by a pair of husband and wife duos, Cassia is one of Santa Monica's most revered Southeast Asian restaurants and is known for its bold flavors, exceptional ingredients, and elegant outdoor patio. The award-winning establishment has received recognition from James Beard and the Michelin Guide, as well as praise from top news outlets like the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
The menu is nothing short of innovative, with appetizers like the Singapore-inspired Kaya toast topped with coconut jam, butter, and a slow-cooked egg, or the Beef Rendang entrée featuring coconut curry, sambal, lime leaf, peanuts, and Jasmine rice. The dessert selection, chilled seafood bar, and wine list are also marvels worthy of mention.
Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica isn't just a restaurant — it's a neighborhood institution and a concept that extends well beyond the restaurant walls. As the flagship location for the Rustic Canyon group of restaurants, it sets the bar high with its California-meets-Mediterranean flavors, next-level seasonal menu, and welcoming, warm vibes.
Pretty much every item on the menu is made in-house and sourced from the local Santa Monica farmer's market, with a shoutout to specific farms included next to menu items. From beef tongue to a brioche brûlée, there's a homey, sophisticated flare to James Beard-nominated Chef and Owner Jeremy Fox's creations.
Not everyone can pull off a French bistro like award-winning Chef Dave Beran at his Santa Monica-based Pasjoli. With accolades ranging from James Beard to Michelin, Beran has perfected his approach using Parisian techniques combined with Southern California's finest, high-quality ingredients.
The warm and inviting bistro is located in the heart of Santa Monica and features vaulted ceilings, exposed brick, and an open-concept kitchen where diners can observe the intricacies behind Beran's menu. The duck leg confit with cauliflower gribiche, the whole stuffed quail with caramelized fennel ragout, pistachios, and blackberry-peppercorn jus, and the chocolate soufflé are a reverie of French flavors.
This rooftop bar and restaurant in Santa Monica not only transports diners to Southern Italy with its distinct Italian flavors, but the spectacular view of the Pacific coastline also offers a stunning escape that makes you feel as though you are truly dining on the Mediterranean.
Elephante is run by the Wish You Were Here group in collaboration with restaurateur and interior designer Nicholas Mathers. Don't let the corporate-style ownership fool you into thinking the menu is nothing short of surprising, contemporary, and memorable. Dishes like the whipped eggplant, grilled octopus, big eye tuna tartare, veal Milanese, and the branzino are among the culinary highlights. With an after-hours DJ on weekends, Elephante takes dinner and dancing to the next level.
Bay Cities Italian Deli
Open since 1925, Bay Cities Italian Deli is one of the oldest Italian delis in Santa Monica and is arguably the best thanks to its authentic, homemade menu and specialty Italian ingredients. The Santa Monica institution is also a frequent stop for celebrity chefs like Giada De Laurentiis, who swears by their homemade pizza dough.
The deli is known for its array of traditional-style Italian sandwiches — like the mortadella, liverwurst, and hand-trimmed pastrami — which can be pre-ordered and are also available for catered events. There's also a gourmet market onsite, with imported Italian wines, cheeses, olives, and other authentic grocery items.
When it comes to setting a precedent in dining, look no further than Michael's Santa Monica restaurant, which opened in 1979 and is standing the test of time. Paying homage to California cuisine, this longtime establishment was founded by Michael McCarty. With a second location of Michael's in Manhattan, McCarty now splits his time between the two, and he also oversees both restaurants' extensive and award-winning wine lists, which include wines from his own vineyard in Malibu.
The Santa Monica dining room is nothing short of breathtaking, with an open-air concept and lush foliage surrounding diners for an intimate and inviting experience. McCarty is also responsible for launching numerous chef's careers, each adding a twist to the classic California menu. Notable dishes include Santa Barbara–sourced salmon and caviar carpaccio, charred octopus salad, and a 28-day dry-aged prime ribeye.
Tar & Roses
Although a kitchen fire and the pandemic threatened to close the doors on Tar and Roses, the Santa Monica restaurant has reopened with rave reviews. Chef Andrew Kirschner is praised for his wood fire technique, and as a Santa Monica native, his menu is a tribute to the culture and authenticity of his southern California hometown.
The menu features a diverse array of meat and seafood, including octopus skewers, lamb kabobs, and oxtail dumplings on the starters list. Entrées like the wood-roasted half chicken, pot of steamed shellfish, pork tenderloin, and whole fried snapper for two are likely why reviewers have praised his cooking. Plus, there's an entire section devoted to vegetables, and the Los Angeles Times has said the cauliflower on the menu is the rare occasion where a vegetable beats a steak.
Whether it's date night or a private event or catering service you're looking for, Lunetta is where you will find it. The restaurant with an adjacent coffee and pastry shop thrives on serving local, quality ingredients, and Executive Chef and Founder Raphael Lunetta focuses on family-style plating and an unpretentious dining experience showcasing California's finest ingredients.
The space in Lunetta is sectioned off with different themed rooms, including an outdoor patio, a covered indoor-outdoor space dubbed "The Cove," an Island-style room, a gallery room with long booth tables, and the "Moon Bar" area, which is a cozy cocktail bar serving up craft beers, artisan wines, and clever cocktails.
When it comes to sushi, there are tiers of quality, risk-taking, and authenticity, and none is more authentic than Mori Sushi located just outside of Santa Monica proper. The Michelin-star restaurant is no longer run by award-winning Chef Mori, but his legacy and impact on the restaurant's menu and overall philosophy are still present today. The menu serves up organic, wild-caught fish and farmer's market-fresh produce with an emphasis on Japanese-sourced ingredients. The technique is legitimate Japanese style from creation to plating, and the menu rotates seasonally.
If you're going to build a restaurant around one food item, lobster is a crowd-pleasing safe bet. Perched above the famous Santa Monica pier with vast views of the Pacific, The Lobster pays tribute to one of the ocean's most beloved crustaceans. With an honorable mention in the Michelin Guide, the seafood restaurant is a favorite among locals and should not be mistaken for an overly tourist location.
Breathtaking views set the scene while steamed, buttery, award-winning lobsters are the star of the show. There's also a plethora of mouthwatering seafood options on the menu, such as locally sourced uni, Alaskan king crab legs, seared yellowfin tuna, Dungeness crab cakes, black mussels, clams, and pretty much every other type of fish or shellfish under the sun.
When it comes to breakfast spots in Santa Monica, no one does it better or keeps it more real than Huckleberry Café. The bakery and café, located on Wilshire Boulevard, has been serving up organic, environmentally sustainable breakfast and lunch plates for over a decade, long before organic was the LA thing to do.
As part of the Rustic Canyon family of restaurants and markets, Huckleberry stands out by nailing the basics; they keep the menu and ingredients simple and do it right. The restaurant knows how to serve up brunch classics like an egg sandwich, kale Caesar salad, and cinnamon roll without a glitch. It's comfort food with a healthy, organic twist, and nearly every item on the menu is locally sourced.
If you're craving the all-American beer and burger combo, no one does it better than Father's Office restaurant and bar in Santa Monica. With two other locations in Culver City and downtown Los Angeles, this gastropub isn't for everyone, especially if you like to smother your burger in ketchup. The restaurant has a no ketchup, no substitutions, no alterations policy that is strictly enforced, and for good reason. The famous Office Burger is perfectly concocted with flavor combinations that need not be changed. Other menu highlights include a fried chicken sandwich, deviled eggs with fried capers, bone marrow with salad and toast, and a duck confit salad.
Named after its illustrious ingredient, the beloved formaggio cheese, Santa Monica's Forma restaurant is where contemporary Italian cuisine meets Southern California flare. Located in the treasured historic district that is home to numerous Italian restaurants, Executive Chef Piero Topputo and General Manager Mario Sabatini have come together to create a dining experience that stands out among its competitors. And, there are a lot of them to speak of along Montana Avenue. The pasta is always al dente, the mozzarella is always fresh, and the tomato sauce is always locally sourced and zesty. There's even an employee known as the "cheese scraper" whose sole purpose is to cruise the restaurant scraping cheese from giant blocks into your pasta.
There are few restaurants that stand the test of time and even few dishes that remain on menus for over a decade, let alone nearly a century. The Golden Bull is not only a testament to Santa Monica Canyon's storied past but dishes like the roast beef with a baked potato on the side also pay homage to the restaurant's history. Open since 1949, the landmark establishment has generations of loyal customers, seasoned waitstaff, and a truly American-style menu that reminds us why classics are so good.
Milo & Olive
If Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan, who are we to argue with the queen of Goop. Located on the prestigious Wilshire Boulevard, Milo & Olive is a neighborhood bakery and pizza powerhouse that belongs to the Rustic Canyon Family of restaurants. The pasta is fresh and handmade, and the pizza dough takes 48 hours to rest before it's baked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. There's also a breakfast and brunch menu with some of the best pastries and breakfast items in Santa Monica. Milo & Olive is also responsible for baking all the rustic, organic, and whole-grain bread options for each of its sister restaurants, which is why it inevitably smells like a cozy bakery all the time.
There's nothing better than dining with a view, and no one does views and good food like Calabra in Santa Monica. As part of the world-class Proper Hotel, the rooftop restaurant and bar is known for its Mediterranean cuisine with a Southern California twist. Diners need not be hotel guests to basque in the poolside menu or take in the jaw-dropping ocean views from the circular bar. There's also a sushi menu on weekends, as well as all-day brunch and dinner. Check the hotel's website before visiting if you'd like to schedule your dining experience around a special guest DJ to set the mood.
If you're looking for lunch on the go or a simple snack that won't break the bank or take up too much of your precious tourist time, check out Alfalfa on Main Street in Santa Monica. This New Jersey import restaurant specializes in salads and wraps with the option to create your own by selecting from their extensive list of salad bases and toppings. There's also a section of homemade donuts on the menu that includes a Californian-style lavender donut. Alfalfa also sells chicken bone broth by the cup that is made from non-GMO free-range chicken bones. Healthy, organic, farmer's market-fresh produce is at the heart of Alfalfa, making it a newly opened restaurant that is sure to become a Santa Monica staple.
Sushi restaurants are seemingly on every corner in the LA area, but whether or not it's worth the financial splurge is the question. At Soko Sushi in Santa Monica, there's no doubt you're getting the best bang for your buck. The premier raw fish establishment is a tiny, eight-person sushi bar that is tucked away in the prestigious Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, a historic ocean oasis that sits on top of the bluffs of Santa Monica. Run by sushi Chef Masa Shimakawa, the intimate restaurant also offers sushi to go, and menu favorites include the eel cucumber roll, the red king crab avocado roll, and a wide selection of nigiri.
Farmshop in Santa Monica is the definition of farm-to-table dining. Located inside the Brentwood Country Mart, Farmshop is a casual eatery, bakery, and to-go market that focuses on California ranchers, dairy farmers, and local produce. Founded by Chef Jeff Cerciello, the restaurant marks the culmination of his time spent in illustrious kitchens like the award-winning French Laundry as well as The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. His focus is on transparency in terms of ingredients and purveyors. Cerciello's main goal is to shine a light on artisan farmers across California. The restaurant serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner depending on the day and makes for a great location for everything from large party celebrations to intimate date nights.
A list of Santa Monica restaurants would not be complete without one of LA's most cherished cuisines: Mexican food. Vamos Vamos in Santa Monica is a poetic allegiance to Mexico's finest combination of margaritas and tacos. The dining room is small and often packed. It has a menu that reflects a basic cantina, but don't let the fact that there are Mexican burgers on the menu fool you. This place is legit, especially when it comes to the vast selection of nachos. If chips smothered in cheese and various spicy toppings don't call to you, perhaps a fresh fish taco or carne asada quesadilla will do the trick. Do yourself a favor and save room for dessert — or two — as the house-made sopapillas are to die for, and the brioche bread pudding with dulce de leche is a fan favorite.
Crunchy hippie vegan restaurants serving up avocado toast and chia seed pudding are all the rage in Southern California, but Santa Monica's Berbere is taking the vegan trend to the next level by adding an Ethiopian twist. Named after a popular Ethiopian spice, Berbere is an organic-only establishment run by husband-and-wife co-owners Tezeta "Tete" Alemayehu and Tsega-Ab "Bicko" Fenta. Tofu sliders, potato and lentil tacos, lentil meatballs, a sloppy sub, and a plant-based burger are among the mouth-watering selection of entrées. There's also a selection of fresh-pressed organic juices and smoothies to quench the thirst or grab on the go. The former pop-up restaurant that is now a permanent fixture is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Capo certainly lives up to its reputation for handmade pasta, authentic Italian wines, and locally sourced ingredients. Open-flame grilled meats fill the dining room with a warm and inviting scent that will make your taste buds water, and an award-winning wine list has garnered the attention of oenophiles from coast to coast. The restaurant is beach-adjacent and is located in a historic building that once housed an automobile club, and Capo owners have minimally altered the restaurant's interior in order to pay homage to the building's unique past.
If you're out perusing the art galleries in Santa Monica's historic Bergamot Station, be sure to check out Birdie G's on Michigan Avenue. The award-winning restaurant is part of the Rustic Canyon family and has garnered dozens of "Best Restaurant" accolades from the Los Angeles Times, Thrillist, Food & Wine, the New York Times, Time Out LA, and the Michelin Guide.
The food is an eclectic mix of Southern California meets Eastern European mixed with a little flavor from the deep South and some Midwest roots. The restaurant's philosophy is based on a zero-waste model where every ingredient is put to good use. There's also an impressive wine menu that boasts chemical-free vineyards and artisan winemakers.
The Japan-based restaurant Shirubi was founded in 1978 in Tokyo, after which it expanded into other Japanese cities across the country before making its way to the United States in 2023, where it has taken the Santa Monica foodie scene by storm. The restaurant concept is modeled after an izakaya, which is essentially a bar or pub where alcohol and tapas are at the root of the experience. Sharing small plates with family and friends over a draft beer or bottle of sake is a Japanese way of life, and Shiribu is the place to experience this tradition in Santa Monica. The menu includes various styles of sashimi, noodles, tempura, and grilled meats alongside an impressive, Japanese-imported beer, wine, liqueur, and sake list.
What started as a pop-up by chef Brian Bornemann and artist Leena Culhane, who are also owners of Crudo e Nudo, has transformed into a permanent location in Santa Monica. The standard at Isla emphasizes locally sourced, sustainably caught seafood with farmer's market produce, all of which is subject to change and rotates daily depending on the market offerings. That means that the chef is constantly inspired by new ingredients and fresh catches of the day, making the experience at Isla one that evolves seasonally and is ever-changing. The restaurant also offers happy hour on weekdays and brunch on weekends.
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