Santa Monica Restaurants

Establishment neighborhood
Stella Barra
2000 Main St., Santa Monica
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.)
Aestus (Closed)
507 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
This is the kind of slightly elevated, but not too stuffy neighborhood spot that’s been missing in this little corner of Santa Monica. The bar is just as great for catching up with a pal over a craft cocktail as it is for dining solo, while the dining room can easily accommodate groups large and small (we like to grab a table with views of the open kitchen). The menu is rife with approachable, hearty dishes—handmade pastas, veggie-packed quinoa bowls, steak frites—that make both celebratory occasions and weeknights when you don’t feel like cooking extra-special. The recently introduced Sunday Italian Suppers get you a three-course meal and dessert for $45.
Hinterland (Closed)
2917 Main St., Santa Monica
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.
Local Kitchen + Wine Bar
1736 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica
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.
Ingo’s Tasty Diner
1213 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
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).
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