The Los Angeles West Side Guide
The West Side can be broken into Venice, Santa Monica, and West LA, which is home to Sawtelle Avenue (aka Little Osaka) and its many incredible noodle and sushi spots. And thanks to the beach, numerous parks, and kid-centric shops, it’s also ideal for hanging out with the littles.
Farmshop225 26th St., Brentwood | 310.566.2400
Jeff Cerciello (former Thomas Keller culinary director) perfects the bakery-cum-larder-cum-restaurant concept in this sunny space with all-day dining at rustic communal tables including a wonderful family-style dinner with a market-driven menu. Ingredients here are top-notch and Cerciello knows what to do with them, keeping the food exciting and tasty without over-complicating. The Roast Jidori Chicken is a standout, along with any of the fresh seafood or excellent produce-based dishes. There's an attached mini-grocery store with an excellent cheese selection, pastries, and prepared salads and sandwiches.
Sasabune11917 Wilshire Blvd., Brentwood | 310.478.3596
The givens: Unadorned sushi, attentive service, a busy and buzzy atmosphere. What sets it apart from the other west side options is very simple. It's the rice. Perfectly moist and served slightly warm, it's the ideal vehicle for the fish, which is, for the most part, presented sans sauce (why mar perfection?). They offer a $28 lunch special that condenses the omakase menu but still packs the same punch. There's also a location in Beverly Hills, and now one in New York.
Father’s Office1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica | 310.736.2224
Order the Office Burger, complete with bacon, caramelized onions, gruyere, and blue cheese (no substitutions allowed), with a side of sweet potato fries, and one of an encyclopedia's worth of craft beers. There's another location in Culver City.
Café Gratitude512 Rose Ave., Venice | 424.231.8000
Everything on the menu is an affirmation, so if you can stifle the giggles at names like "I Am Connected"—which is actually an amazing zucchini cilantro hummus—you'll find that the vegan food here is delicious, even for those who normally refuse to go meat and dairy-free. There are picks for every sensibility, from coffee milkshakes (made with almond milk), to cashew cheese topped corn tacos to Indian curried lentils. There are three locations—Hancock Park, Venice, and the Arts District—and the Café Gratitude team also has a Mexican iteration in Hollywood called Gracias Madre.
Chinois on Main2709 Main St., Santa Monica | 310.392.9025
This place has been around since the '80s, but in the intervening years, it's lost none of its appeal. As a pioneer in the Asian-fusion space (one of Wolfgang Puck's first restaurants), Chinois—which marries French and Chinese cuisine—totally revolutionized the L.A. food scene. Now, the food feels wonderfully familiar in a space that looks straight out of Ruthless People. The curried oysters, duck pancakes, and spicy miso black cod are classics. A trip here always brings a real sense of nostalgia, as this was one of the first foodie destinations in California. The excellent service and family-style servings make it perfect for a group (and there's a private room to accommodate, too).
Echigo Sushi12217 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.820.9787
This is as low-profile as it goes for strip mall sushi, which says a lot. It's always quiet (besides the elevator jazz in the background that lends a shred of ambiance) and there's never a wait to get a table. Whether you're ordering off the menu or opting for the set omakase at the bar, it's nicely affordable, too, which doesn't translate to lower grade fish. Photo: Benyeh2
Giorgio Baldi114 W. Channel Rd., Santa Monica | 310.573.1660
Giorgio's is like a culinary second home in Los Angeles, in no small part because this is still a family operation, and it shows. The service is warm and attentive, and the unfussy and fun vibe is the perfect backdrop for the incredible Northern Italian fare. Go for the octopus carpaccio with deep fried capers, penne langostine, sweet corn agnolotti with truffle butter, and sea bass—and stay for the white truffles, which are imported from Piedmont every fall. While it's not exactly casual, Giorgio's is never uptight, meaning children are always welcome at the table.
Michael’s1147 Third St., Santa Monica | 310.451.0843
More than 25 years after opening, this place—like its counterpart in NYC—is still going strong, retaining that old-school Santa Monica feel. With new chef Miles Thompson’s revamped menu, Meredith Hayman’s fresh cocktails, and a breathtaking redesign of their lush back patio, we’ve recently come to regard it as our very classy new evening drinking destination. The candle-lit back patio is a magical spot for hosting an event.
Milo & Olive2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.453.6776
Many would argue that Milo & Olive has some of the best pizza on the West Side, if not all of L.A. We have to agree. This is the third restaurant from culinary power couple Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, and much like Huckleberry and Rustic Canyon, the menu is completely ingredient driven. Breakfast and weekend brunch is devoted to classic egg dishes (a totally decadent creamy polenta with poached eggs wins, every Saturday) and baked treats. For dinner, a pizza-salad-pasta combo is the ideal order for two. The restaurant doesn’t accept reservations so come early to snag a spot at the bar, which offers uninterrupted views of the open kitchen, or at one of the marble communal tables. Thankfully, they recently completed a much-needed expansion. They recently opened Cassia, too.
Via Veneto3009 Main St., Santa Monica | 310.399.1843
Delicious regional Italian dishes, mainly from Rome and Tuscany, are served in a stylish, bustling space with romantically hushed lighting here. Co-owned by guitarist Warren Cuccurullo of Duran Duran, this place has a distinct European vibe and often star-studded crowd. The fresh ravioli is incredible and they serve the best cioppino in town.
Scopa Italian Roots2905 Washington Blvd., Venice | 310.821.1100
The first thing to know about Scopa is that it’s massive. In addition to a sea of cafe tables there are shared banquettes, communal tables, and a stretch bar which is home to an extensive spirit offering (there’s a healthy wine list as well). They even have a private room upstairs, with a peek-a-boo window overlooking the main dining room. We suggest starting with one of the expertly curated Italian cold cut and cheeses plates before diving into the more substantial pastas and mains. The menu is packed with classic Italian dishes (lasagne, whole branzino) which Chef Antonia Lofaso (of Top Chef fame) executes flawlessly. This is also one of the few non-Italian bakery spots in town where you can get a decent cannoli. Plus, unlike many L.A. eateries, this one serves food until midnight on most evenings.
Tasting Kitchen1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.392.6644
You’d never guess that The Tasting Kitchen sits on one of Venice’s busiest thoroughfares: It’s partly because of the fortress-like entrance, and partly because the loft-y, two-floor space revolves around a small grove of transporting olive trees. The food—modern Italian by Portland transplant Casey Lane—is excellent, made even better by the comfortable, leather wrapped Eames chairs, welcoming bar area, and always kind and attentive service. While it's one of the city's major culinary destinations—and gets really booked—if you walk in at 6, you can generally always get a table, and there are two big communal tables in the bar. If you have at least 20 people, you can book their elegant private space upstairs.
Mélisse1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.395.0881
Luxe ingredients like lobster and caviar, made with a nod to traditional French technique, earned Melisse two Michelin stars. A tasting menu is basically mandatory at a place like this—if you're adventurous go for Chef Josiah Citrin's Carte Blanche menu. It's a great place for a white tablecloth-style event in one of their private rooms, too.
Cassia1314 7th St., Santa Monica | 310.393.6699
Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb are basically the First Family of West L.A.’s food scene. There’s Rustic Canyon, which started it all, and Huckleberry Café, and Milo & Olive, and Sweet Rose Creamery, and now, Cassia, which they opened in partnership with another great culinary couple, Bryant Ng (R.I.P. Spice Table) and Kim Luu-Ng. With three stretch bars, a stunning Art Deco dining room, and buckets of natural light, it’s by far one of the biggest and most beautiful spaces in Santa Monica, and the Southeast Asian-inflected food is some of the best we’ve ever tasted. The airy space, not to mention the convenient location, make it a no-brainer for small parties and events as well—call ahead to reserve the separate private dining room which can comfortable seat up to 20 people .
Gjelina1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.450.1429
It’s been several years, but Gjelina—a restaurant that ushered in a new sort of veggie-centric California cuisine—is as mobbed as ever. The crowds make a lot of sense: Everything is always excellent, from the aforementioned vegetable sides to the whisper-thin jalapeño and smoked mozzarella pizza. Come when it opens so you can snag a table on the patio out back. (If the lines are too long, grab something to go at GTA, its takeaway spot next door.)
Salt Air1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.396.9333
There's a decided beach house vibe going on here, from the white brick walls to the white marble tables and chairs. Dotted with skylights, it's sun-drenched, too. The menu is seafood/bistro, like olive-oil-poached salmon, steak au poivre, and lobster rolls—with the oysters and fries being our favorite order. Thin glass tumblers filled with wine, illustrated menus, and food intended to be shared makes this an ideal place for dinner with friends (or a date). Photo: Jakob Layman
R+D Kitchen1323 Montana Ave., Santa Monica | 310.395.3314
You can’t tell just by looking at it, but R+D Kitchen is actually part of Hillstone Group, and happens to be one of the best restaurants in Santa Monica. Our standing order? Ding’s Crispy Fried Chicken sandwich, which is delicious and huge and therefore, comes pre-sliced into four only slightly more manageable pieces. The space itself can get packed at night, but totally doable for lunch any day of the week.
Plan Check1800 Sawtelle Blvd., West LA | 310.444.1411
Plan Check is primarily known for the Plan Check Burger (PCB), which pairs a juicy patty with their signature ketchup leather (it’s like ketchup-flavored fruit leather). With the burger hogging the spotlight, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the restaurant also serves what’s arguably one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the city. The secret is that they cold smoke and brine the chicken before it’s fried—the perfectly crispy, flavorful result is served with pimento cheese, duck breast ham, and crunchy pickles. There are two other locations, on Fairfax and Downtown.
Sunny Spot822 W. Washington Blvd., Venice | 310.448.8884
Food truck celebrity-turned restaurateur Roy Choi is a local hero in LA, and Sunny Spot really feels like a neighborhood joint. The quirky décor matches the Caribbean-inspired menu with orange benches, blue chairs, and stools topped with floral-print vinyl. The comfortably shaded patio can get pretty rowdy on weekends when Venice locals stop by for a boozy brunch.
Shima1432 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.314.0882
Tucked away behind an unmarked gate (visible only because of its smattering of lanterns), Shima flies wonderfully under the radar on a street full of high-profile restaurants. At this elegant Japanese spot, you'll find brown rice sushi that's mouth-wateringly fresh. Menu adds like spicy lotus root and mushrooms sautéed in white truffle oil make this more than your typical sushi spot.
Flores + Sons2024 Sawtelle Blvd., West LA | 424.273.6469
The space here is soaring and clean-lined, from the garden-like outdoor patio in the front to the oversized booths in the back to the arched counter that overlooks the kitchen (our favorite spot). The varied interior provides a nice backdrop to the quilt-like array of small plates, sourced from every far-flung corner of the globe. You could be trying Middle Eastern style roasted baby carrots with mint and yogurt alongside Southern collard greens with ham, and then finish in Italy with an eggplant parm. The parm, by the way, is great here, as is the tender, perfectly dressed kale Caesar.
Hamasaku11043 Santa Monica Blvd., West LA | 310.479.7636
Where East meets West. And by that we mean that its central location—right off the 405—makes it an excellent meeting point for friends from opposite sides of town. It’s also where sushi purists and California Roll enthusiasts can dine at the same table. There’s an extensive menu of cooked dishes, along with the whimsically-named rolls like Green Dragon, Asylum, and Sixteen Plus.
The Apple Pan10801 W. Pico Blvd., West LA | 310.475.3585
This Los Angeles classic is still staffed by many of the same people who worked the U-shaped counter when we were kids: It's a stand-by for great reason. The menu is edited, the paper-wrapped burgers are no-frills and excellent, and the pie always comes à la mode. Cash only.
Tsujita LA2057 Sawtelle Blvd., West LA | 310.231.7373
This L.A. outpost of a popular Japanese restaurant is somewhat of a mecca for noodle snobs: Made all the more elusive because Tsujita only serves their artisanal ramens at lunch (come dinner, it’s traditional Japanese fare). Fortunately, they just opened an Annex on the opposite side of Sawtelle, where you can get bowls of Tsukemen-style ramen all day long.
Nong La2055 Sawtelle Blvd., West LA | 310.268.1881
Considering Nong La’s immense popularity, it’s easy to forget that it’s actually a small, family-run operation. It started with brother-and-sister duo, Elaine and Victor Phuong, and their mom Khanh Phan, who sourced family recipes and adapted them into a perfect menu of Vietnamese banh mi, egg-topped fried rice, and a light, flavorful pho that you can customize to your liking. The new La Brea location is just a smidge fancier than the Sawtelle original but the menu is for the most part identical. Tip: Treat yourself to a glass of the homemade passion fruit iced tea—it’s delicious and just sweet enough to constitute as dessert. A new location just opened on La Brea.
Hinterland2917 Main St., Santa Monica | 310.399.0805
Even though there’s no sign indicating you’re at the right place, you won’t have a hard time locating this small-ish restaurant thanks to two major factors: the crowds of regulars who’ve come to rely on it for after-work drinks and casual dinners, and the welcoming white-tiled interior outfitted with brass details, a stretch bar, and cozy booths. From the perfectly charred octopus salad, to the roasted chicken, everything on the menu is meant to compliment the beer and wine list, though Executive Chef Maximilian DiMare’s Southern-tinged style of cooking lends itself especially well to weekend brunch dishes—specifically, the killer shrimp and grits, which are, thankfully, on the dinner menu as well.
Totoraku10610 W. Pico Blvd., West LA
LA's secret Japanese beef restaurant, Totoraku, isn't so much a secret anymore. But it's still incredibly difficult to get into. You either have to know chef-owner Kaz Oyama or know someone who has dined at Totoraku before and knows him. (The ultimate seal of approval as a guest of Totoraku is getting a business card at the end of your meal with the private number used for reservations.) Nothing about the look of Totoraku is impressive. It's marked from the outside by a sign for "The Teriyaki House Pico," a failed restaurant of Oyama's. Inside the tiny space, there is little to no decor to speak of. And there's no wine menu—interestingly, Totoraku is BYOB. But there's probably no better place for beef—of all kinds, served raw, cooked, and grilled right at your table.
Ingo’s Tasty Diner1213 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.395.4646
There's a rowdy happy hour scene at this relatively new arrival in Santa Monica: Packed out with spacious booths, this has the vibe of an old-school diner, but with a fancy, provenance-driven menu. You'll find all the standards (hamburgers, big bowl salads, et al), but they're gussied up and sourced from local farms and purveyors. Though the drinking game is strong, it's kid friendly (there's a separate menu, as well as Etch-a-Sketch's to keep the family busy).
Baltaire11647 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood | 424.273.1660
This big, splashy steakhouse smack in the middle of San Vicente delivers on all the American classics you'd expect (filets, lobster rolls, and the requisite sides, like creamed spinach and mashed potatoes). It's expensive, but fun for groups or cozy date nights.
Local Kitchen + Wine Bar1736 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.396.9007
The Ocean Park Avenue in Santa Monica has been having a bit of a mini-renaissance, a micro-movement that started with Maire Byrne’s Thyme Café, which opened in 2009. Now, she’s opening a second restaurant on the street—Local Kitchen + Wine Bar. The new spot is a little bit more dressed up than Thyme, with a sit-down menu and rounded-out wine list. The interior is light and airy, with an intimate outdoor porch and two big, long bars: one in front of the sky-high wine rack and the other in front of their blazing pizza oven. Stephen Murray, formerly a sous chef for Michael Chiarello at Bottega in Napa, is the guy you’ll find manning said oven and running the rest of the kitchen. The American-style menu is filled with seasonal, California fare, but it’s a little bit heavier than you’re used to seeing from Byrne: Expect classic pizzas, straightforward pasta, and pared down meat dishes. If you’re not up for the full dinner, stop by before seven for a very well-priced happy hour.
Plant Food + Wine1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.450.1009
When the long-standing Axe shut its doors, a lot of West Siders were pretty bummed—but then chef Matthew Kenney, a force in the plant-based movement, swooped in to take over the space, turning the upstairs into a plant-based cooking academy. The place still has a light, low-key vibe, with exceptional outdoor seating; the difference is the menu is now completely vegan. Kenney’s restaurants across the country all do things with veggies and nuts that you don’t see anywhere else. They’re known for their aged-nut-cheese plate, fantastic salads, and the (amazing) curried cauliflower tacos.
The Rose Venice220 Rose Ave., Venice | 310.399.0711
Rose Cafe, a Venice standby since 1979, is breathing new life under the direction of chef Jason Neroni. While the interior has been updated, the space pays homage to it's long-time Venice Beach roots—local artists have decorated the walls with a mix of modern pieces and whimsical, historic, imagery of this rapidly-changing neighborhood. The space is vast, encompassing a soaring dining room, open-air patio, food market, bakery, and Verve coffee bar. The takeout counter—filled with tempting prepared foods—is a welcome addition for the time-strapped local who can't linger over their morning matcha and avocado toast. Speaking of toast, the bread here is a must-order. Other stand-outs: the cacio e pepe and the fire-roasted chicken.
Daikokuya2208 Sawtelle Blvd., West LA | 310.575.4999
There's something so comforting about a hot bowl of ramen on a cold day, and anytime there's even a hint of rain in Los Angeles, the lines at Little Tokyo's Daikokuya are out the door. What makes the ramen here stand out is the broth, which is cooked with pork bones for hours to achieve its thick, flavorful consistency. The portions are huge, so be prepared to take home leftovers. This location, on Sawtelle, has the same ramen with shorter lines.
Forma1610 Montana Ave., Santa Monica | 424.231.2868
A major player in the mini restaurant scene that's developing on Montana, Forma is the kind of place that's equally appropriate for a low-key after work bite, or a big night out. While all of the Italian classics are represented, there are some surprises on the menu, too, like a great cheeseburger and a gluten-free spaghetti that's pretty great.
The Butcher’s Daughter LA1205 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.981.3004
Taking up prime real estate on Abbot Kinney, this beloved NYC spot has finally made it out west. And it's not just East Coast transplants who have been lining up for a table in the beautifully turned-out dining room (there's also an indoor-outdoor terrace that's pretty perfect for people-watching) or a seat at one of two bars; everyone can appreciate the veggie-friendly menu (just brunch, breakfast, and lunch, for now), which includes standbys like avocado toast and breakfast burritos. The teeny but well-stocked retail space out front and the cold-pressed juice cooler are welcome little add-ons.
FIG101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.319.3111
Located inside the Fairmont hotel (the same property as the popular, young-crowd bar The Bungalow), FIG is helmed by Chef Yousef Ghalaini, and the Mediterranean menu draws on dishes he made growing up with his grandfather in Lebanon. Highlights come from the restaurant's wood-burning oven/grill: roasted veggies, wood-smoked clams with thyme and pepper relish, whole fish and, if meat is your thing, serious steaks. The beautiful indoor-outdoor space centers around the bar (cocktails are worth sampling here), and spills onto a patio overlooking the Fairmont's pool.
Stella Barra2000 Main St., Santa Monica | 310.396.9250
While it's part of a bigger restaurant chain, the Stella Barra in Santa Monica feels very much like a neighborhood spot. It's almost always packed for dinner: parties of two can take advantage of the bar seating, and there's usually room to hang in the café area (which sells unreal salted chocolate chip cookies) that connects Stella to next-door M Street Kitchen (whose bar is typically less crowded). Stella's draw is the pizza, made from handcrafted dough, sized somewhere between a personal pizza and a pie, with a fairly crisp crust and addicting, soft center. First-timers should start with the Bloomsdale Spinach & Kale white pizza—and the Italian chopped salad is a solid side. (If you're headed to the Arclight theater in Hollywood, check out the Stella location there.)
Felix1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 424.387.8622
Taking over the neighborhood spot that was, for twenty-four years, Joe’s Restaurant, Felix is a very honorable successor: the just-opened dinner desitination is warm and vibrant, bringing Chef Evan Funke’s elevated spin on modern Italian fare to the neighborhood. Of course, much like many of its Abbot Kinney neighbors, Felix is already a foodie destination, drawing crowds from all over the city—definitely make a reservation, and be prepared to do it weeks in advance. And don’t miss their hand-rolled pasta, which is seriously genuine perfection.
MTN1305 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 424.465.3313
Given this new Venice Izakaya is the brainchild of Travis Lett, the restauranteur behind west side institutions Gjelina and Gjusta, we know it's bound to be a hit–and likely just as mobbed. Open to walk-ins only (no reservations), it's serving up incredible Japanese dishes from ramen to miso-heavy vegetables.
Bondi Harvest1814 Berkeley St., Santa Monica | 310.586.7419
Bondi Harvest's other location is in (of course) Bondi Beach, and their little outpost in Santa Monica, where the windows are always open, definitely has a laid-back, surf-shack vibe. There long communal tables, exposed wood walls, and actual surf boards stacked in the corner. The menu specializes in brunch, with granola-topped acai bowls, avocado toast, and light salads (we love the heritage grain), and great coffee, but the best order is unequivocally the breakfast sandwich. Pick up some Lucas’s paw paw ointment and a jar of Vegemite—both cult Australian products—on your way out.
Wallflower609 Rose Ave, Venice | 424.744.8136
Tucked away on Rose, Wallflower specializes in Southeast Asian and Vietnamese cuisine. Take a seat on the outdoor patio (disclaimer, the seating isn’t exactly comfortable but the ambiance is worth it), and order one of the insanely good craft cocktails. As much as we love the braised ribs on the dinner menu, Wallflower's savory Indonesian porridge—chicken, rice and crispy shallots—also keeps us coming back for breakfast.
Native620 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.458.4427
Top Chef contestant Nyesha Arrington is breathing new life into the very well-positioned Native—as in, it's a stone's throw from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. In the space formerly occupied by Santa Monica Yacht Club, Arrington hones in on California-inspired cuisine which leans heavily on what's freshest and in season. Everything from the short rib "rolled" dumplings—a nod to her Korean grandmother—to kabocha squash and grilled Spanish octopus reflect chef's thoughtful, considered flavor profile. (It goes without saying, the kitchen churns out the most beautifully plated dishes, too.) Perhaps one of the biggest highlights, though, is spending time with GM Juilan Kurland, who is overseeing the craft beer and wine selections (he's particularly partial to a few small-batch wineries up the coast in Santa Barbara), and if you let him, he'll sweet talk you into a sour beer pairing to cap off the night. Photos: Jake Ahles
Uovo1320 2nd St., Santa Monica | 310.425.0064
Uovo in Santa Monica is as close as you’ll get to the kind of authentic, handmade Italian pasta you'd normally have to hop a plane to Italy for. The concept was spearheaded by two of the founders of Sugarfish: The guiding principle here is the same fierce authenticity that the group applies to sushi. After consulting the greatest chefs in Italy, they decided that duplicating the magic of Bolognese pasta anywhere else would require flying it in. Fresh. Every day. The restaurant—intimate, but not cramped—does just that.
Fundamental LA1303 Westwood Blvd., Westwood | 310.444.7581
Fundamental LA is the cozy wine bar college-town Westwood has been needing forever. Executive chef Andy Lee puts the focus on seasonal Californian cuisine: During the day, it's casual fresh sandwiches and salads; at night, it transitions into a real-deal restaurant, serving elevated riffs on sourdough grilled cheese, crispy falafels, and juicy burgers. It's also becoming well-known for its chocolate chip cookies. And since it’s a wine bar, and a great one at that, you can’t go wrong with anything from the list.
Blossom2821 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica | 424.268.4425
Owner Duc Pham, who was born in Vietnam but raised in Anaheim, obsesses over every detail in his restaurants, from the Scandinavian-inspired furniture to the wine list to the bread on his banh mi, which is baked fresh daily. At this (new) Santa Monica location, the dining room is limited to one large communal table, which fills the entirety of the small, narrow space; when it’s warm out, there are a few small tables outside that you can snag, too. While the classic dishes are excellent at all four locations—anything on the menu with pork belly is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser—we love the Silver Lake location, which has a secret wine bar downstairs.
Dialogue1315 3rd St. Promenade, Suite K, Santa Monica | [email protected]
It's hard to imagine that on the second floor of a heavily touristed stretch of Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade you'll find one of the city's brightest young chefs quietly cooking a highly conceptual dinner every night. But lo and behold, Chef Dave Beran, who cut his teeth at Chicago's Alinea and Next, is telling a story uniquely his own—this one, deeply referencing cuisines from around the world while leaning heavily on southern California's farmers' market produce. All of this is to say that there's a reason why Dialogue is appearing on just about every "Best-Of" list. The result is artfully plated dishes built around the four seasons: a sorrel and fennel tart; squab with begonias and plum; kombu (sea kelp) braised for eight hours. At just 18 seats strong—eight at the counter and three tables—nightly dinner service is available via ticketed reservations on Resy. Photos courtesy of Erin Simkin and Mariah Tauger
The Mar Vista12249 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista | 310.751.6773
Chef-owners D. Brandon Walker and Jill Davie opened their massive, light-filled space last year, adding a much-needed restaurant to the neighborhood. It’s become a go-to for Mar Vista locals for its take on California cuisine, with a menu full of healthy veggie options like the carrot hummus with beets, arugula and frisee, and the roasted broccoli and cauliflower entrée with a sweet chili puree and almonds. Heartier dishes include a black rice and farro hot pot with black eyed peas, eggplant, and kale slaw in a shiitake mushroom broth, as well as an expertly-roasted organic half-chicken with salsa verde. The raw bar, meanwhile, offers great happy hour snacks, including shucked oysters and a scallop ceviche.
Élephante Beach House1332 2nd St., Santa Monica | 424.320.2384
In a rooftop space smack-dab in the center of downtown Santa Monica, Élephante is a breath of fresh air—quite literally, you can feel the ocean breeze from your perch on the terrace. It’s run by Nick Mathers, the force behind West Hollywood spots Eveleigh and Goldie’s, which is to say he knows a thing or two about drawing a crowd. It’s the kind of place you’ll come for cocktails but want to stay for dinner—the food, largely coastal Italian, is really good. In fact, the entire space is a love song to Pantelleria, an island that sits between the coast of Italy and Tunisia, where Mathers visited on a research trip to Southern Italy. Here, every design detail is considered: a Brazilian Tiger-wood deck, soapstone-topped bars, Moroccan rugs, plus lots of Buhera baskets brought in from Zimbabwe. Menu standouts include the whipped eggplant and tuna crudo to start, Tuscan kale salad, and the wood-fired Soppressata pizza, which is great to share with a group. If you really feel like going for it, there’s a whole lobster on offer, too. Be sure to grab a table on Resy before you decide to make a night of it. Food photos by Jakob Layman; interior photos by Connie & Stuart Uy.
Little Prince2424 Main St., Santa Monica | 310.356.0725
Little Prince started as a pop-up brunch spot in Santa Monica that—thanks to its immense popularity—is now a full-fledged permanent restaurant in an airy space with ceiling fans and beautifully rustic wood furniture. The recent expansion is no surprise, given that its chef is Ari Taymor, who formerly helmed the widely acclaimed downtown hotspot, Alma (which closed in 2015). At Little Prince, Taymor partners with Southern California farms (Flora Bella, JJ Lone Daughter Ranch) which provides the restaurant with high quality produce including squash, arugula, citrus, and avocado. Although brunch is still our favorite time to visit, dinner is just as good, especially the (gluten-free) smoked black cod with beets, sunflower, and fermented apple, and the pumpkin, persimmon, and burrata with grilled bread.