As any good trip to California goes, you will inevitably find yourself at the beach at some point. We love a beach trip to Santa Monica– it’s close to L.A., the pier is lively and fun, gorgeous views are plentiful, and the city is full of that California-cool vibe. If you’re here for a short day trip or leisurely long weekend, Santa Monica has a vibrant restaurant scene, and we’ve got you covered with eleven of our top picks for the best Santa Monica restaurants.
Santa Monica does California cuisine so well, but don’t worry, we sprinkle in a few other options, too. Every one of these restaurants puts quality and attention to detail at center stage by focusing on artisanship and using fresh, high-quality foods from local farmers and purveyors. And, as a result, delicious is a given.
11. HiHo Cheeseburger
If you find yourself wandering down the Third Street Promenade in need of a classic burger, look no further than HiHo Cheeseburger. HiHo takes its burgers seriously and has carefully sourced nearly every ingredient it uses on its small but impactful menu. About that menu: HiHo essentially serves one thing: the HiHo Cheeseburger (featuring onion jam, house-made pickles, and a mustard-grilled patty) or the less dressed up “classic” version with only patty, cheese, and ketchup. It’s clear HiHo is all about the beef– they use exclusively grass-fed and finished whole cuts of wagyu beef that are ground fresh daily in house. The good news is this emphasis on quality results in an incredibly juicy and flavorful patty to make for a dang good burger. HiHo is proof that simple can be best and utterly delicious.
$$ American (Traditional)
1320 2nd St Ste. B, Santa Monica, CA 90401
SUGARFISH is a local sushi favorite with locations throughout the Los Angeles area, including just off the Third Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica. SUGARFISH brings in the best fish available fresh every morning, so it’s no surprise the fish is the star of the show in their rolls and nigiri, while accompaniments are designed to complement each fish’s unique flavor and texture. No matter what you order, be prepared to be blown away by the simplicity and beauty showcased in the sushi at SUGARFISH. If you happen to be here during lunch, go with a “Trust Me’s” for the ultimate curated sampling of the best SUGARFISH has to offer. Trust us– SUGARFISH knows how to do sushi, and we absolutely recommend them as one of the best restaurants in Santa Monica.
$$$ Sushi Bars, Japanese
1345 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401
9. Father’s Office
Located on ultra-cool Montana Avenue, Father’s Office is an old-school gastropub with an incredibly authentic retro vibe. Picture a gleaming, high-shine bar and warm-toned wood everywhere and you’ve got it right. Father’s Office has a surprisingly fleshed-out menu for a bar, but beware of their “no nonsense” approach: no reservations, no outside food, and no substitutions or modifications to menu items. Here, you get what you get and you won’t need to throw a fit because the food is that good. You’re here for what put Father’s Office on the map, The Office Burger, which features caramelized onion, bacon, gruyere, Maytag blue, and arugula. It literally melts in your mouth thanks to being made with wagyu beef and is a burger you won’t soon forget. Be sure to accompany your burger with an order of salt & vinegar tater tots. Don’t ask for ketchup, they don’t have any. We promise the tots don’t need it.
$$ Burgers, American (New), Gastropubs
1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403
Locally loved cafe and bakery Huckleberry was started by two Santa Monica natives who fell in love working at sister restaurant Rustic Canyon. The entire menu at Huckleberry is served from 7 am to 3 pm, so whether it’s chicken schwarma, a breakfast burrito, or anything from the beautiful pastry case that strikes your fancy, go for it no matter the time. While the menu may seem a bit hum-drum at first glance, that familiarity is exactly why we love Huckleberry and consider it one of the best Santa Monica restaurants. They serve the classic homestyle favorites we all feel nostalgic about but in an elevated, flavor-packed way that is far from forgettable. Meet a friend for brunch or lunch and order a smattering of items from the menu to share. A side of Dad’s Pancakes are a must, and a to-go box full of pastries is almost mandatory.
$$ Breakfast & Brunch, Bakeries, Cafes
1014 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
7. Tar & Roses
Tar & Roses is one of our favorite Santa Monica restaurants for celebrating. Their dining room is moody and intimate, and they also have the perfect patio complete with exposed brick to enjoy the ocean breeze. Give their globally inspired menu a quick glance through and you’ll soon realize they know their way around vegetables. The beauty of California’s produce is on full display at Tar & Roses as vegetables are a key element in many of their small plates and shareables. Order the fan-favorite oxtail dumplings to start things off, followed by the spaghetti carbonara (complete with a soft egg on top), and anything else your server recommends for a meal that feels truly special.
Tar & Roses
$$$ American (New), Wine Bars, Seafood
602 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
6. Milo & Olive
Another member of the Rustic Canyon restaurant group we absolutely love is Milo & Olive, a bakery and pizzeria that is not to be missed. While Milo & Olive offers a delightful breakfast menu and a bakery case full of delectable pastries, you’re here for the pizza. The signature 48-hour process time for the dough yields a crust that is chewy and substantial with amazing flavor. The pork belly sausage + kale pizza with braised garlic and tomato cream is phenomenal and 100% worth the garlic breath you’ll have after a slice or two. Chase it with a piece of dark chocolate snacking cake and no one will be the wiser.
Milo & Olive
$$ Pizza, Bakeries, Italian
2723 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
Take a break from Santa Monica’s promenade and beach scene for a quick drive inland a few miles to Brentwood Country Mart, a community shopping center adored by locals and celebrities alike since 1948. The mart has expanded beyond its humble beginnings to become quite the destination for curated luxury goods, and what good would a market be without a few top-notch eateries. Our favorite is Farmshop, a bakery and market serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as offering an impressive array of takeaway prepared goods and deli items (their cheese selection is unreal!). We especially love Farmshop for brunch – everything is so well-executed and absolutely delicious. The brioche French toast with whipped mascarpone, berries, and crown maple syrup is both simple and indulgently rich at the same time. Served with smoked bacon, it might be our favorite way to start a lazy vacation day.
$$ American (New)
225 26th St #25, Santa Monica, CA 90402
4. Bay Cities Italian Deli
Another Santa Monica restaurant locals will ride or die by (it’s more like an institution, really) is Bay Cities Italian Deli. Bay Cities is exactly the full-fledged Italian deli and market you might expect to find in New York or Boston– this place is the real deal. Grab a number when you walk in the door and be prepared for a bit of a wait to get a killer sandwich before heading a few blocks to the beach for the day. You truly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the prosciutto parma and the godmother (complete with all the sliced meats, provolone cheese, pickled peppers, and “the works”) are favorites.
Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
$$ Delis, Sandwiches, Italian
1517 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Since its opening in 2015, Cassia has consistently received local and national acclaim for its California take on Southeast Asian cuisine. We agree with the masses: Cassia is absolutely one of the top Santa Monica restaurants. With a classy, warm interior and a patio that always manages to feel like the perfect temperature, dining at Casia is a culinary experience worth snagging a reservation for. Start with an order of Vietnamese “Sunbathing” prawns for a bit of heat, then cool things off with the green papaya salad loaded with fresh herbs and spiced walnuts. The steak frites are a must, followed by a scoop of toasted coconut sorbet to finish on a sweet note.
$$$ Singaporean, Vietnamese, Seafood
1314 7th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401
2. Wexler’s Deli
Wexler’s Deli is a bona fide Jewish deli with outposts in LA and Santa Monica. Stop in for all-day breakfast, lunch with friends, or a towering pastrami sandwich simply because it’s completely delicious. There’s honestly never a bad time to stop by Wexler’s. Wexler’s takes a lot of pride in the craftsmanship of their smoked meats– salmon, pastrami, corned beef, turkey, you name it, they probably smoke it– always sliced fresh for each order. If you’re here for breakfast, a house-made bagel with pastrami lox and cream cheese simply cannot be beat. As far as sandwiches go, we love the MacArthur for the acidity the coleslaw provides to cut through the richness of the pastrami. For the full-on Jewish deli experience, a bowl of matzo ball soup, which manages to be comforting even on a warm summer day, is a requirement.
$$ Delis, Breakfast & Brunch, Sandwiches
616 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
1. Rustic Canyon
Located on a quiet section of Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, Rustic Canyon serves up a well-balanced menu with a variety of seasonal offerings and long-time favorites. Reservations are recommended and be sure to ask for a booth for a more intimate setting since you’ll likely be coming here for a special occasion. Rustic Canyon’s menu is perfectly designed to order something from each section to share with the table– we recommend ordering 1-2 plates per person. Start with the highly praised Beets & Berries, a colorful dish of roasted beets, purple quinoa, and raspberries with sprinklings of green from chopped pistachios and avocado. Next, order the seasonal pasta (it’s always phenomenal). And for a sweet finish, a scoop of honeycomb ice cream for an unforgettable meal at one of our favorite Santa Monica restaurants.
$$ Wine Bars, American (New), Cocktail Bars
1119 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401