From Malibu to Manhattan, LA has some truly fantastic stretches of sand offering everything from beach volleyball to fire pits to watching a guy charm a snake out of a Dodgers hat.
But after four hours of lying around in the blazing sun, you and the crew are starving. That bag of chips you brought got cashed before noon, and you need something substantial before everyone loses it. That’s why we’re here. We’ve broken down your best options beach-by-beach, so no matter where along the coast you and your friends end up this weekend, you’ll have your eating plans covered.
We imagine that when McDonald’s opened their first location in San Bernardino in 1937, the burgers looked and tasted a lot like what you’ll find coming out of this Venice burger window, just blocks from the beach. Grilled on a flat-top with onions, topped with American cheese, pickles, and house sauce, and served on a Martin’s potato roll (and costs only $3.95), the burger is low-brow, but high-quality. Pair that with one of the best patios in town - a sandy, colorful oasis filled with lots of picnic tables that doesn’t not resemble your elementary school playground - it’s the perfect for when you’ve got seaweed in unmentionable places and just need something to eat, stat. They also have a second location, on the actual boardwalk, just in case you’re not in the mood for walking more than 15ft.
Gjusta might be an obvious choice – the Venice deli a few blocks from the beach is big, busy, and usually filled with everyone from locals to tourists and their suitcases. In addition to their grab-and-go menu, they now have an extended patio, where you can sit back and discuss whether or not you just saw Tom Felton at the beach with your friends. Plus, their breakfast and lunch foods are still second to none. Try the burrata and tomato sandwich or open-faced bagel with an entire farmers’ market’s worth of produce and housemade gravlax stacked on top, and we think you’ll understand why Gjusta has so many devotees.
Taking over the former MTN space on Abbot Kinney, Valle’s menu leans Oaxacan, and the regional staples - tlayudas with quesillo and cocoa-bean spread, fantastic amarillo and verde moles - are worth your attention. But for a day after the beach, we recommend sitting on their back patio and ordering some hearty tacos. The focus is on flavorful, well-seasoned meats, like achiote-rubbed chicken with salted cabbage, and a grilled pork collar with pineapples, al pastor-style.
If you’re looking for some of the freshest seafood on the Westside, head immediately to Dudley Market. This neighborhood seafood restaurant in Venice is located steps from the boardwalk and now has a new front patio with excellent views of the beach and ocean. There’s a casual atmosphere here, so it doesn’t even matter if you roll up in a silk ball gown or just a beach towel. There are a few tables in their alleyway, giant platters of seafood on each of them, and propane heaters if you’re catching a little wind chill. And if eating delicious oysters and fish tacos while staring off into the surf isn’t your ideal post-beach dinner setting, we don’t have that in common.
La Cabaña Restaurant
As relaxing as the beach may be, there’s also that part that involves getting sand in every crevice of your phone and flocks of seagulls chasing you down. Head to La Cabaña instead. They’ve got one of the most colorful, relaxing patios around (with a fountain and all), ideal for winding gown on and grabbing some chips and quesadillas, then thanking the beach gods that a seagull didn’t poop on you. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the house mariachi band perform on the roof.
If you want to pretend your dip in the ocean was on the Amalfi Coast while eating your pizza, go to South End. This spot has a whole bunch of Italian wines, plus some of the best pizzas in the game - and that’s pretty much it. The only real difference from the Italian vacation in your head is that you’re eating it in a strip mall in Venice, California. The pizza itself is kind of similar to the ones found at Pizzeria Mozza - wide, thin airy crusts under the simple toppings. Get the mushroom, speck, arugula, and egg-topped Boardwalk or the meat-loaded District 11.
SANTA MONICA BEACH
Everyone knows that breakfast burritos are the unofficial food of any good beach trip (it’s just science), and there’s no better place to explore that than at Alfalfa. Located on the somewhat soulless Santa Monica Main St., this new spot serves some of our favorite tortilla-wrapped dishes in the entire city. Plus, their back patio is a sunny little nook that’s ideal for catching sun rays with a friend over great coffee and pastries, or an excellent breakfast burrito with silky eggs and charred shredded potatoes that you’ll want to hug before dousing it in salsa, and devouring it.
After a particularly harrowing day at Santa Monica Beach witnessing tourists trying to get a tan on top of the one they received yesterday, what you probably need is a trip to Tallula’s at the bottom of Entrada Drive near PCH. It’s a perfect place for a great Happy Hour of margaritas, guacamole, and a few tacos on their spacious patio with a few friends. It’s not so casual that you can roll up in your bathing suit (at least throw on a tasteful cover-up, or something).
The colorful Caribbean spot right off the sand is one of the few true BYOB joints in the entire city - and also just a great place to grab some lunch with friends. Their leafy patio will make you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation, and is the ideal place to head to with a couple of six-packs, order a plate of coconut chicken served with mango and jerk dipping sauce, then continue to soak up even more of the Santa Monica sun.
Open since 1987, Santa Monica’s Tehran Market has long been one of LA’s premier Persian grocers, a reliable source of spices, produce, and sweets for the city’s sizable Iranian population - and us, in need of a proper snack after ingesting, like, so much salt water at the beach. Their famed Sunday-only kebab grill, run out of the back parking lot, is now open all weekend long, and you’ll find aisles upon aisles filled with flatbreads, saffron sugar candies, pickled vegetables, teas, rice, and freezers stocked with cheeses, halal meats, prepackaged meals, and (of course) pints of [Mashti Malone] ice cream.
Hinano Café is the kind of dive bar we presume Venice used to be full of. Laidback and chill, this Westside icon has been around since the 1960s and is where you go in for one drink, then walk out plastered and more than likely, with the addition of a lower-back henna tattoo. There’s a daily 4 - 8pm happy hour, free popcorn, pool tables, sawdust on the floor (can’t imagine what that’s for), and an absolutely legendary burger. If you’re looking for a low-key spot to grab a few too many drinks after dodging tourists and close-up magic magicians on the boardwalk all day, Hinano is your spot.
Just steps from the Third Street Promenade, Interstellar is one of your best post-beach meals in Downtown Santa Monica. Whether you’re rolling solo or with a group of friends, the small cafe’s menu pulls inspirations from lots of cuisines - you’ll find bulgogi burgers, katsu curry, pasta, chilaquiles, tacos, club sandwiches, and much more - and all of it hits the mark Plus, the patio is small, shaded, and discreet. If we were to write a pilot about a celebrity who goes missing after he sets off into the desert to take promo shots with cacti for his new tequila brand, we’d write it here.
You’ve been tossed around in the waves all day, there are pieces of seaweed in your hair, and the last thing you want is to put your name down at a restaurant then wait for 45 minutes. Head to Andrew’s Cheese Shop instead. Over in Santa Monica, this much-beloved specialty store has been around since 2008 and carries a wide variety of artisan cheeses, olive oil, wine, and fancy grab-and-go sandwiches. They’ve become a staple of the neighborhood, much like the term “farm-to-table” or the flocks of Bird scooters you’ll see speeding around at any given time. There’s often a decently sized, but fast-moving line here, their crunchy baguettes are second to none, and you can always count on the people behind the counter to show you something fun and unique.
Broad Street Oyster Company is a fantastic seafood shack in Malibu that’s filled with so many oysters, mussels, shrimp, and uni you’ll wonder if their “local source” is actually the Aquarium of the Pacific. You’ll want to order a bit of everything here - oysters and spot prawns from the raw bar, a cup or two of their excellent clam chowder, maybe even a Caesar salad if you’re craving something green - but make sure to include their lobster roll. We like it served hot and absolutely smothered in butter, this luxurious sandwich is sure to impress even the pickiest seafood eaters. Yes, we’re looking at you, East Coasters.
As far as we’re concerned, no trip to Malibu is complete without a stop at Neptune’s Net. This random seafood shack on the side of the PCH is as no frills as they come – you order at the counter, wait for someone to call your name over the intercom, then enjoy baskets upon baskets of freshly fried clam strips and bowls of clam chowder. The crowd here ranges from intimidating-looking biker gangs to groups of twenty-somethings, to families making life-long memories, all enjoying the kiss of the brisk sea air and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
Malibu Seafood is the ideal post-beach spot – not only can you find the best seafood along PCH here, but it’s also casual and fun, meaning swimsuits are always acceptable. It’s everything you could possibly want, after a long day of floating around in the ocean and burying your friends under mounds of sand - the fish and chips is crispy and excellent, and the squid and fries is even better. There will definitely be a line, but when things are this relaxed and beautiful, who cares?
There are a number of great ways to escape the chaos and congestion of LA, but none compare to the magic of a meal at The Old Place. Located up in the Santa Monica Mountains, stepping into this 19th-century saloon/steakhouse (it was originally a general store and post office) feels like you’ve entered a scene from a Turner Classic, except everyone here is immediately your best friend, not a bounty hunter. The menu is full of tremendous comfort food staples like chicken pot pie, apple crisp, and a 32oz. bone-in ribeye that’s one of our favorite cuts of meat in town. Just make sure you arrive early, so you can explore the tiny town of Cornell and get a glass or two at the wine bar next door.
After spending a day in the sun, a plate of pasta is probably the last thing you want to eat. But you might want to reconsider – because Jame Enoteca is one of our favorite reasons to visit the Westside. It’s a small strip mall pasta spot in El Segundo, serving solid versions of burrata-adorned prosciutto, pesto mandilli, and pork shank around. Their spicy paccheri is a scientifically-proven cure to beach-related exhaustion, and they’ve got a great selection of wines to help with that, too. They also have one of the only kale salads in LA that we can confidently tell you to go out of your way for.
Ali'i Fish Company
Eating raw fish at the beach is perhaps a bit macabre for some, but for us, it’s just another opportunity to order lunch from Ali’i Fish Company. Simply put, this order-at-the-counter cafe in El Segundo serves some of the best poke in the city. From spicy ahi to ponzu-soaked salmon, the menu here is on par with anything you’d get in Hawai’i. Which makes sense - the owner used to be a buyer at the Honolulu Fish Auction, so all the seafood they serve is shipped in from the islands.
In all of Manhattan Beach’s increasing opulence, FishBar remains one of the few places where you can roll in with friends after the beach, grab a few beers and some fresh fish, and not empty your entire bank account. A divey spot north of the downtown chaos, FishBar has extremely affordable prices, a fantastic happy hour, and the laid-back beach feel we’re finding less and less of in the South Bay. Get the lobster mac.
Gabi James is a little fancy for Redondo Beach - i.e. still pretty casual for everywhere else - and a nice option if you want a relatively quiet meal after the beach. The food here is excellent, and the people at the bar all look like they’ve been coming here consistently for the last twenty years (always a good sign), so order a tortilla espanola, some jamon, and a glass of albariño, and brainstorm how to get their kind of life.
A pier filled with knock-off t-shirt shops might not be the first place you’d look for an incredible seafood spot, but you’ll find one on the boardwalk in Redondo Beach. Quality Seafood is a completely chaotic fish market, where you select what you want from a seafood case loaded with freshly caught fish on ice, and they cook it however you want. And the way you want it is deep-fried - our favorites are the red snapper and steamed Dungeness crab, but you really can’t go wrong.