Santa Monica restaurants have a taste of something for everyone. From top-rated restaurants to familiar chains, Santa Monica’s restaurant scene includes everything from outdoor dining and to contemporary California decor, making it one of the best places to visit in Los Angeles. We’re here to help you get started on where to eat like a local. Read on for some of the best restaurants in Santa Monica. By Breanna Wilson
Brunching and lunching like a local
Angelenos, in general, take the art of brunching and grabbing a coffee seriously. While you are visiting Santa Monica, you should do the same. Places such as Huckleberry Café & Bakery, with its homemade pastries and simple brunch dishes (think breakfast burritos and duck confit hash), have locals lining up around the corner for this Santa Monica restaurant. And that says a lot.
Located inside Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, FIG Restaurant, attracts visitors and locals alike! Committed to fresh, seasonal cuisine, the menu sources ingredients from the Santa Monica farmers market and includes a variety of breakfast, brunch and lunch offerings that will please any palate.
Bru’s Wiffle is another contender for one of the favorite brunch spots. This top Santa Monica restaurant features everything from avocado fries to crispy rice balls and French toast, but waffles are the real stars here. Options include waffle pizza, fried chicken and waffles, red velvet waffles, and churro waffles. With this in mind, this waffle joint takes brunching to a whole new level.
Urth Caffe is especially popular with locals because of its commitment to serving organic coffee and its wide selection of teas. The vibe at “Urth” (as the locals call it) is very upbeat, and the outdoor seating is a perfect place to unwind and enjoy Santa Monica’s year-round gorgeous weather. Whether you are with a friend or enjoying a little me time, don’t leave without at least browsing the dessert selection – it is decadent and over-the-top and everything that’s right with the world.
If you are looking for something simple, Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery whips up some of the best sandwiches in the city. The lines at Bay Cities can be overwhelming, so take a nod from the locals and do what they do: Place your order online for pickup. The Godmother sandwich is what Bay Cities is known for; it comes with prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella, Genoa salami, and provolone cheese. Order yours with “the works,” which means with mayo, yellow mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, dressing and mild or hot peppers.
Locals Restaurant Favorites on Montana Avenue
After a long day shopping on Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue, head to Sweet Lady Jane Bakery and order a slice of cake. Slices are generous and perfect for sharing. Or not.
For one of L.A.’s most talked-about burgers, check out Father’s Office. You won’t find any ketchup here, as celebrity chef and television personality Sang Yoon promises, you won’t need it. Pair your burger with one of the many beers on tap and you will have one of Los Angeles’ most famous dining experiences.
If Father’s Office is too crowded, check out Art’s Table, just a few doors down on the corner of Montana Avenue and 10th Street. Here they have everything from po’ boys to burgers to lobster mac and more. While they have a traditional burger featuring grass-fed beef, for something different go for their homemade turkey burger topped with garlic aioli and goat cheese.
Locals swear by the Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich at R+D Kitchen. This American-style restaurant is an excellent place for a shopping break. The deviled eggs, Greek-style chicken and The Newporter salad with chicken and bacon all come highly recommended by locals, as one of the best restaurants in Santa Monica.
Dinner in Santa Monica
If you are looking for a place to have a romantic date night, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen is the perfect setting. This Santa Monica restaurant’s wine selection is second to none and its small farm to table plates perfectly capture what California cooking is all about right now.
For family dining, try Stella Barra Pizzeria. The pizzas here are on the smaller side (in comparison to many other pizzas), but the open kitchen allows guests to watch all the exciting action that typically goes on behind the scenes.
Located on Pico Boulevard, off of the hustle and bustle of Santa Monica is Upper West, a creative, yet approachable restaurant that’s become popular with locals. While the menu is constantly changing, it features unique takes on some classic dishes, like the coffee crusted Kurobuta pork tenderloin and seared crab cakes. They also have an expansive happy hour menu every day from 5 pm to 7 pm, and from 5 pm to 10 pm on Mondays. For a more casual option, five blocks away is neighborhood spot, The Brixton. A restaurant, gastropub, The Brixton serves a full menu - from caprese flatbread to short rib poutines - alongside eight televisions for all your sporting needs.
For Mexican dishes with a twist, look no further than Benny’s Tacos & Chicken Rotisserie on Wilshire Boulevard. A locals favorite, Benny’s Tacos serves up all your favorite dishes and then some. One of the most popular items, the California Burrito, has French fries inside it and for dessert, try their churros filled with Bavarian cream. Bonus: there’s patio seating to enjoy the 300+ days of sunshine in Santa Monica.
When you walk into the open-air, counter-serve beach shack named, Cha Cha Chicken, you might not expect much. Once you bite into the signature Jamaican jerk Cha Cha Chicken you will understand why this is a great locals’ favorite restaurant in Santa Monica. Be sure to order sides of dirty rice with black beans and fried plantains. Moreover, remember: Cha Cha Chicken is BYOB, so come prepared.
With recipes featured by Oprah’s magazine, and raves from Zagat and Sunset, chef-owner Alan Jackson’s fast-casual chain, Lemonade, has spread like wildfire. Its Santa Monica location lives up to the hype with a seasonally rotating menu of goodies like citrus-poached salmon and herb grilled chicken sandwiches. And the lemonade? There are seven interpretations ranging from old-fashioned to blood orange, each equally thirst-quenching.