Santa Monica Restaurants
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.
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.
Blue Plate (Closed)
1415 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
The emphasis here is on healthy comfort food, which means that it hits all the bases for kids—there's chicken tenders, there's grilled cheese, there's quesadillas, pasta, and turkey hot dogs. There's even a pint-sized protein plate if your little one only eats cucumbers and cheese.
1814 Berkeley St., Santa Monica
Santa Monica’s Bondi Harvest brings breakfast and lunch in Sydney to LA.
2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
Situated on a somewhat random chunk of Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, Cadet has gone largely undiscovered, which is particularly beneficial come weekend brunch: When most other places on the West Side have lines out the door and wait times that creep into dinner hour, you're likely to get a table right away and a French-inflected meal that easily outshines its neighbors, courtesy of Chef Kris Tominaga. In the back, you'll find a cozy, roof-less courtyard with a lounge area and a comfortable communal table situation that's well-suited for baby and bridal showers in daytime and loud-ish birthday parties or chill work gatherings at night.
1314 7th St., Santa Monica
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 .
Chinois on Main
2709 Main St., Santa Monica
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).
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
12217 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
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
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…
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