Santa Monica Restaurants
1445 4th St., Santa Monica
It’s billed as a cross between France, Italy, and Morocco, which, granted, is hard to envision. Until you get there. It’s the only place we’ve ever seen bucatini amatriciana on a menu alongside ratatouille with Provençal roasted vegetables, which is next to baba ghanoush with pita and pomegranate. But somehow, impossibly, it all works. Exposed-brick walls, bistro tables, a lively atmosphere, and really flattering lighting obviously don’t hurt. But for the times that you just can’t stomach another avocado toast in this neighborhood, Massilia is just the place.
2421 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica
Say the name Jeremy Fox and we're there. This brilliant chef, author, and vegetable whisperer has been winning the hearts and palates of goop staffers, Angelenos, and tourists for more than a decade with his inventive, mostly-plant-based dishes at Rustic Canyon. Fox is known for hyperlocal and inventive food. But there's a bit of nostalgia to his cooking, which is what you get at his latest venture, Birdie G's. Named after his daughter (Birdie) and grandmother (Gladys), Birdie G's harks back to Fox's roots with a menu that nods to his heritage (comforting matzo ball soup, noodle kugel, artisan matzo with cultured butter) and to his home state (wood-grilled chicken from a local California ranch, Pacific sand dabs piccata). And because Birdie G's is expansive and light-filled with a stylish bar, it's a spot to come for drinks, dinner, or all of the above.
2424 Main St., Santa Monica
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.
Élephante Beach House
1332 2nd St., Santa Monica
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…
1315 3rd St. Promenade, Suite K, Santa Monica
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
2821 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica
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.
1320 2nd St., Santa Monica
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.
620 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
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
1814 Berkeley St., Santa Monica
Santa Monica’s Bondi Harvest brings breakfast and lunch in Sydney to LA.
118 Entrada Dr., Santa Monica
Right off PCH on the edge of Santa Monica, Tallula's is actually almost in Rustic Canyon, the lightly-trafficked neighborhood known for its great architecture, lush vegetation, and literally a different climate than the rest of LA County. Rustic Canyon, of course, is also the name of Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan's first restaurant, the duo behind Huckleberry Café, Milo & Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery, Cassia, and now this new colorful, family-friendly restaurant. The menu bets big on Mexican fare like fish tacos and mushroom and ricotta enchiladas served the way you'd expect: with sustainably sourced meats (and seafood) and locally grown organic produce. Also of note: pastries worth saving room for, a wine list from Esters co-owner and wine director Kathryn Coker, and a solid beer and cocktail menu to boot. Photos: Rick Poon
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