The Malibu Guide
At its heart, the city of Malibu is a small town—with its remarkable concentration of some of the prettiest hiking trails in the country, 20-plus distinct beaches, and a close-knit community of local-owned businesses, it’s also so much more than just “27 miles of scenic beauty.” There’s a lot of history here (the land was originally inhabited by the Chumash Native Americans and the ocean breaks were among the first to welcome surfers back in the ’20s), the best of which, many would argue, is still in the making thanks to a recent influx of fledgling shops, boutique hotels, and restaurants. An easy 25-minute drive from LA, Malibu is bisected by the Pacific Coast Highway (aka California State Route 1, if you want to get technical), which runs along the California coast from Orange County, through Big Sur, and all the way up to Mendocino, leaving the beach on one side and the stunning Santa Monica mountains on the other—in other words, road-trip gold.
Malibu Farm23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.456.1112
Malibu Farm is our go-to restaurant for impressing out-of-towners, thanks to its sweeping views of the ocean in both directions (and even of Catalina Island on a clear day). You can watch surfers and stand-up paddleboarders on iconic Surfrider Beach, plus the white sangria is perfectly refreshing on a hot day. Enjoying a zucchini pizza on the porch while you watch the sun set is pretty much as California as it gets.
Nobu Malibu22706 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.317.9140
There are now 32 outposts of Nobu—and they draw a devoted tourist-y crowd—but the Malibu location, positioned on a bluff overlooking the ocean, is worth braving the crowds. The backdrop offers the kind of sweeping views that people are happy to have for something big and festive like a rehearsal dinner, plus the food is reliably good.
Ollo23750 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu | 310.317.1444
The chefs here cook with ingredients from local farms (One Gun Ranch, for one), resulting in a menu that covers all the bases (expertly prepped proteins, veggie-driven plates, and more). The space is open with natural light flooding in from every direction—trees covered in string lights rise directly out of the floor in the middle of the indoor dining area, and there's a lush outdoor patio surrounded by vines and greenery. Make sure to order a pizza.
Malibu Seafood25653 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.456.3430
Every item on the modest menu at this beloved local spot is a sure thing, whether it’s the chowder (both Manhattan or New England are available), steamed mussels, tuna burger, or fish-and-chips (the fish is gently battered, never heavy). You place your order at the counter then carry your tray up to the semi-open-air patio to take in the views of the Pacific right across the PCH. Best part: BYOB. The teeny fish market is always well stocked with the best local catch with extra attention paid to freshness, which makes sense since the owner was a commercial fisherman for years. For working off a big meal, the entrance to the Corral Canyon hiking path—quick, relatively easy, and really beautiful—is right at the adjoining parking lot, just keep in mind that the rangers are not shy about writing tickets if you park and don’t pay the fee.
Cholada Thai Cuisine18763 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.317.0025
While it may not look like much more than a roadside shack to the untrained eye, locals know that inside is where you’ll find the best Thai food this side of the 405. The interior is decidedly no frills—same goes for the backyard area—but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the lengthy menu of curries, noodles, and soups (the Tom Kah—coconut milk-broth, lemongrass, and mushrooms—is out of this world) is authentic and executed to delicious results. Get the pineapple-fried rice and a few orders of “golden bags” for the table (funny name, seriously good) and wash it all down with some Thai coffee (some of the best in all of LA).
Taverna Tony23410 Civic Center Way, Malibu | 310.317.9667
What’s great about Taverna is that while it’s definitely one of the more scene-y restaurants in town, it’s also one of the best food-wise. The menu has all the traditional Greek specialties covered (dolmathes, spanakopita, and more) with an emphasis on fresh seafood—get the bass, it’s grilled and served whole with just the right amount of seasoning—and vegetarian dishes which range from elaborate savory pastries to basic grilled veggie plates. The restaurant is deceptively large, with an outdoor patio, indoor balcony, and massive main dining room, which on weekends also hosts live music and belly dancers. For a car snack, get some humus and pita to-go—trust us.
Mr. Chow3835 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu | 310.456.7600
This outpost in the Malibu Country Mart is a little more recent than the OG Beverly Hills location, so the interior style has an all-white aesthetic with a spacious outdoor seating area, vaulted ceilings, and tons of heat lamps. What's exactly the same is their elegantly served Chinese food—our tip is to skip the prix fixe menu and order favorites for the table, family style.
Tra di Noi3835 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu | 310.456.0169
This traditional Italian food spot is situated right in the center of the Malibu Country Mart, making one of the outside tables prime people watching real estate. The fact that the menu of house-made pastas, risottos, and fish dishes is undoubtedly the best in town is icing on the cake. Pro tip: if you can’t get a table, order pizza and salad (try the Tuscan kale) at the little take-out window and stake out a shaded benches or patch of grass for an impromptu picnic.
Saddle Peak Lodge419 Cold Canyon Rd., Calabasas | 818.222.3888
Disclaimer: The big-game meat-centric menu at this historic Malibu Canyon hunting-lodge-turned-restaurant (the drive up is really pretty at sunset) is not for the faint of heart. And with its scattered mounted deer busts and other such hunting regalia, neither is the décor. All that said, dining at this institution is a deeply LA-experience and not near as kitschy as it may sound—the outside tables in particular are perfect for romantic evenings. It’s not just for carnivores either—fish options, salads, and veggie sides are readily available. There’s also a $145 tasting menu for the adventurous.
Neptune’s Net42505 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.457.3095
This roadside spot has remained a Malibu classic since the 1950’s, offering the best grilled seafood and beer-battered fish-and-chips, chowder, and all the expected sides (cole slaw, fries, onion rings) in a setting that’s more biker bar than restaurant: If you don't recognize the sign from its many film cameos, just look for the line of gleaming motorcycles out front. It’s downright blasphemous not to stop in for a quick meal on your way up the PCH—leathers not required.
The Old Place29983 Mulholland Hwy, Agoura Hills | 818.706.9001
Family owned and virtually unchanged for over 40 years, this is another one of those tiny, out-of-the-way spots that feels completely out of place in Los Angeles—which is a big part of its charm. It looks like a roadside saloon, complete with giant antlers over the front door, an almost all-wood interior, and old timey bar. The food offering is classically protein-heavy (steaks, stews, and a shepherd’s pie we haven’t tried but hear is amazing) with a few non-meat—mushroom skillet, grilled veggies, a delicious house version of mac n’ cheese—options thrown in for good measure. Dining here comes with its own set of rules: There are exactly three seatings (lateness is not appreciated), no congregating outside while you wait for your table (go to the bar or Cornell Winery next door), and please don’t complain if the kitchen runs out of your favorite dish (there is no freezer on-site and things sell out).
Little Beach House Malibu22716 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.456.2400
Sharing a driveway with another highly-trafficked Malibu spot, Nobu, Little Beach House Malibu caused quite a buzz when it first opened in May 2016. (A bit of backstory: even those who were already a part of Soho House have to apply specifically to this location for access.) Much of the activity centers around the wrap-around terrace, which juts right up First Point Break and a stretch of sandy shoreline. (There are heat lamps and blankets, too.) The space itself is quintessential California, with a minimalist palette, teak wood, indoor/outdoor fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a large and impressive gallery wall featuring a mix of contemporary artwork. There’s often a DJ playing a set, or live music, and on the weekends, many gather for their weekend “Feast”—a prix-fixe brunch served from 10am-4:30pm that has everything from an omelet and carving stations to Belgian waffles and some pretty-hard-to-resist red velvet cake. (Littles are welcome, too.) An all-day menu utilizes local produce and includes standouts like the shareable cauliflower in a black garlic vinaigrette and the avocado dip, which is served with taro chips and crudité.
Malibu Burger Co.23359 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.317.0153
Leaning heavily on local ingredients, Malibu Burger Co. delivers on that satisfying craving we all have for a burger, but with the healthy-ish option to build-your-own bowl if you wish. Aside from classic beef and bison cheese-topped burgers, there are lighter options like pesto kale grilled cheese and tuna wasabi burgers. For sides, classics like Kennebec French fries, potato salad and fried pickles are up for grabs. The décor, courtesy of Matt Winter (who also happens to be responsible for Gjusta and Manuela), is rustic and beachy with red tiles, aged wood, and plenty of cacti. Bonus: on Friday and Saturday nights, they stay open 'til midnight, which is a rarity in Malibu.