You’re at the beach, relaxing, and just soaking up that awesome California sunshine when hunger pangs hit. Where do you go to find the best Santa Monica beach restaurants? What’s nearby? What about Santa Monica Pier restaurants? Well, we’re here to give you some options. By Breanna Wilson
For a place with history, grab an organic micro-roasted coffee and a bite at Dogtown Coffee. Located in an old surf shop, this is a popular cafe with locals. The menu comprises everything from breakfast burritos to salads and paninis, plus plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, including the option to make any slider or sandwich with gluten-free bread.
On the beach, you can’t go wrong with, Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals, situated right next to The Marvin Braude Bike Trail, also known as The South Bay Bicycle Trail or The Strand, just north of the Santa Monica Pier. In addition to this location, Perry’s has locations south of the pier, easily accessible on foot or bicycle. Built with the purpose of serving beach-goers, Perry’s serves homemade pizzas, wraps, omelets, fish n chips and the like. Bikes, beach umbrellas, boogie boards, surf boards, stand-up paddle boards and more are all available for rent here too. It’s a true one-stop shop.
If you want to keep it on the light side, Nékter Juice Bar is near the beach and has plenty of options to keep you feeling comfortable in your swimsuit. Choose from an array of fresh juice and smoothie options, and add an Açai Banana Berry Bowl or Pitaya Bowl to get you through the day.
Sit-down restaurants in Santa Monica Beach
Right on the beach, inside Shutters on the Beach, 1 Pico is an upscale beach restaurant known for its brunch and lunch, serving up a solid mix of seafood, American- and Italian-inspired dishes, from pork chops to beef carpaccio. You’ll be in good company here, as A-list celebrities are regularly spotted as guests. For a more casual dining on the beach, Shutters’ other restaurant, Coast, has a more waterfront café feel to it. Open for lunch and dinner, it’s also popular on the weekends for brunch, with entrees like lemon ricotta pancakes and eggs benedict.
An Ocean Avenue favorite, Cora’s Coffee Shoppe is an unpretentious, quaint café that serves mostly locally sourced, organic dishes. The bougainvillea canopy encloses the outdoor patio, creating a secret garden that can be a nice escape from the Santa Monica bustle just outside. Come for brunch or a late lunch and enjoy unique dishes like the burrata caprese omelette or jidori chicken breast tacos.
Another celebrity favorite, BOA Steakhouse, is popular with both locals and tourists. While BOA is known for its steaks and oysters, the table-side Classic Caesar salad presentation always is a crowd- pleaser. Also, seasonal cocktails are a nice accompaniment, such as the Boa 405, a unique cocktail featuring 42 Below Vodka, fresh strawberries, simple syrup, fresh lemon sour, balsamic vinegar, and cracked black pepper. Be sure to make a reservation, as the place is usually packed.
For an upscale, but not stuffy dinner with the ocean just outside, Water Grill’s Santa Monica location offers a seafood dining experience for the adventurous at heart. The menu has an entire page just for the raw bar, featuring oysters from all up and down the east and west coast. For the seafood lover, there are a number of different whole fish entrees, such as European sea bass or New Zealand pink bream.
Last, but not least, for a true beach ambiance, take in Cha Cha Chicken, which feels as much of a Caribbean experience that you can get in California; open-air, Caribbean music, and all. Specialties here include the Cha Cha Chicken, smothered in Jamaican jerk sauce and coconut fried chicken. Bring your own beer and make a day of it.
Sunset dining at Santa Monica beach restaurants
Right on Ocean Avenue, Blue Plate Taco’s ocean-facing patio is where you want to be when the sun starts to set. Start with some house-made chips and guacamole, order a round of fish tacos and finish your meal strong with some churros for the table. Blue Plate Taco’s relaxed atmosphere and proximity to the beach make it an easy stop after a long day at the beach (or after shopping along the Third Street Promenade).
For sunset dining right on the Santa Monica Pier, there’s The Lobster, which has no shortage of lobster entrees, including steamed, grilled and poached lobster, as well as lobster-infused dishes, like the Lobster & Shrimp Sausage Bolognese. For the real adventurous eater, there are a couple caviar options, one from Russia and another from France.
Hotel Shangri-La's rooftop lounge and bar, ONYX, offers some of the best views in Santa Monica. Come at sunset, grab a seat next to one of the fireplaces, and order from the small bites menu until 10 p.m. This is one of the most laid-back sundowners in the city.
The Penthouse, the rooftop restaurant at the Huntley hotel, is worth the visit, too. From here, 18 stories above the street, you can take in 360-degree views of Santa Monica. For something on the lighter side, the Black Truffle Grilled Cheese is a favorite among locals. Dinner ranges from seafood, such as crispy salmon, to vegan options, such as the vegan house-made pasta with vegetables from the local farmers’ market.
Santa Monica Pier Restaurants
The restaurants on the Santa Monica Pier boast incredible panoramic views of the Pacific. The longest running restaurant on the Pier, The Albright, is a family-run business that is committed to sustainably caught seafood. Rusty's Surf Ranch, a laid-back beach bar, offers great options for seafood lovers - plus they have a large dance floor and live music on the weekends. Inspired by the film Forrest Gump, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. has a fun family atmosphere where shrimp is the specialty, but the menu has something for everyone. For unobstructed views of the coastline, grab a seat on Mariasol's ocean patio for mouthwatering Mexican cuisine. And for a classic burger and fries (not to mention mouthwatering milkshakes), head to PierBurger.