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.
John’s Garden3835 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu | 310.456.8377
John's Garden has occupied the same spot in the Malibu Country Mart since long before it was known as the Malibu Country Mart. It's changed a few hands in its 40 years of business, but the sandwich menu has kept to the same standards of freshness and goodness the whole time. Every regular has their favorite, and ours is the Surfer Princess—a perfect turkey-on-wheat piled high with sprouts, avocado salad, and Vegenaise. It pairs well with the coconut-macadamia-chocolate-chip cookie. You can grab a seat by the swings so the kids can play through lunch.
The Vitamin Barn23823 Malibu Rd., Malibu | 310.317.4833
This is a good pitstop pre-detox, offering everything from green juices, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies, to a Wellness Shot that's supposed to keep colds and flus at bay.
Malibu Kitchen & Gourmet3900 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu | 310.456.7845
Located in the Malibu Country Mart, the breezy sea vibe makes this feel like it could be on the shore back East (the owner is, in fact, from New York). The flat and crispy chocolate chip cookies and cranberry muffin are particularly delicious, as is the tuna salad sandwich and fried chicken (when available, which is rare). There are a few tables scattered about, though most take their loot to go. Keep in mind that lines stretch out the door on weekends. (Hint: Don't have your cell phone out while ordering—the staff here tends to get grumpy if a customer is distracted during the process.)
Rosenthal18741 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.456.1392
A relaxed tasting room on the east side of the PCH (marked by giant blue beach chairs that you won't miss), Rosenthal has a small interior that opens onto a mountainside, hidden backyard space outfitted with picnic tables, umbrellas, and patio lounge furniture. They serve two labels: The Malibu Estate wines (mostly reds) are made from the twenty-acre Malibu vineyard that's four miles in and up from the ocean, and their Surfrider label (more variety) sources grapes from around California. Rosenthal offers tasting flights but the move is to post up with a bottle of wine and some friends on the back patio—if you can, plan to bring snacks/a picnic spread and games with you, although you can buy a cheese spread there, and there's a food truck, plus live music on the weekends. (Rosenthal is also next door to Reel Inn, which is always an option if you're in the mood for seafood. And it's directly across from beach access, at Topanga, if you want to squeeze in some time at water, too.)
Malibu Farmers Market23555 Civic Center Way, Malibu
The Malibu Farmers Market is a low-key operation—so low-key, that it hasn’t yet made it on the radar of LA’s Sunday farmers market crowd. Actually, its compact size is what makes the experience so enjoyable. Set up in the local library parking lot, within walking distance of the Country Mart, this is where you’ll find the freshest seasonal produce, driven in from local organic farmers that morning, pastry and snacks by small family owned businesses, and the prettiest just-picked flowers. Best of all, there’s usually plenty of parking.
SunLife Organics3835 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu | 310.456.7070
Much more than just a juice bar, owner Khalil Rafati opened SunLife Organics in Malibu in 2011 to share what he’d learned through his own journey to wellness—which unsurprisingly involves lots of fruits, veggies, and some superfoods—in a community-oriented space. Amazing cold-pressed juices and acai bowls abound; their “Billion Dollar Smoothie” ingredient list includes reishi, cordyceps, hemp milk, and chlorophyll, just to name a few. If that’s not your thing, there are also sandwiches (think: grilled cheese, pesto panini) and sundaes made with their organic frozen yogurt. Along with several other Southern California outposts, they have a second Malibu location, too.
The Sunset6800 Westward Beach Rd., Malibu | 310.589.1007
This famed whitewashed bungalow has gone through many incarnations over the years, but the unobstructed views of Zuma Beach and good OG-Malibu vibes have stayed consistent. As the name suggests, the sunsets here are epic, so it makes sense that weeknight happy hour stretches till 9pm. Food-wise we suggest sticking to the bar menu in the lounge (ceviche, fish tacos, ribs, and three types of fries) rather than committing to a sit-down in the main dining room. Keep in mind that parking can be a pain on weekends.
Mastro’s Ocean Club18412 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.454.4357
This location used to be home a different steakhouse, called the Chart House, before Mastro’s fairly seamlessly replaced it a few years back. After all, the real draw here isn’t the food, but the view: Perched on the beach, with very little distance between you and the water, expansive glass windows showcase a truly magnificent panorama of the Pacific. Warm, luxe interiors and great seafood round out the experience; angle to come here for a drink (and an appetizer) around sunset.
Lily’sPoint Dume Plaza Shopping Center, 29211 Heathercliff Rd., Malibu | 310.457.3745
Lily's has a full breakfast and lunch menu, but everyone really comes here for their huge, enough-for-two breakfast burritos, which are packed with eggs, bacon, cheese, and beans and served with a side of their signature green salsa (which is good enough to drink). There's nothing like them, especially after a long morning spent surfing.
The Country Kitchen21239 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.456.8708
Recently, there’s been a lot of speculation about the state of The Country Kitchen’s lease, but somehow the teeny hole-in-the wall burrito/burger joint persevered. Taking up the same sliver of a small strip mall across the PCH from the water since the early ‘70s, it’s the go-to for post-surf session bacon-egg-and-potato breakfast burritos and chili-cheese burgers. There’s nothing fancy about the execution—though it’s always delicious and wallet-friendly—and the same can be said of the picnic-table seating, which is great when you’ve wandered in off the beach (i.e. no shoes or shirts required).
Coffee and Waffles28920 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 424.644.0517
Chef Ludo Levebvre's (of Petit Trois and Trois Familia) has waffles on the brain. Levebvre is soon to set up shop in a tricked-out trailer, outside Malibu’s The Native Hotel, where a grab-and-go menu—perfect for the surfers who are up early hitting Surfrider Beach—of three types of waffles (sweet, savory ham and gruyère, and the most special—coconut, dried shrimp, and cilantro) will be on offer. Coffee pours come courtesy of local purveyor Eucalyptus & Pine. Photo courtesy of @folklor.la
Caffe Luxxe22333 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.394.2222
Childhood friends Mark Wain and Gary Chau wanted to bring a Northern Italian coffee shop sensibility to LA, and created a spot where you could hang for hours and people watch. (They currently have two other locations—in Santa Monica and in Brentwood at the Country Mart.) The newest location, right by Carbon beach, serves up their signature hand-crafted espresso coffee and pastries making it easy to get your caffeine fix as you zip up the PCH.