In Los Angeles, long weekends often call for road trips. And road trips, of course, call for roadside stops filled with food, beer, and (if you’re doing it right) views. For decades now, diners eager for all three know to stop at Neptune’s Net, the Malibu-adjacent seafood shack famous for its biker scene and countless pop culture cameos.
Oh, and the fish and chips are pretty tasty, too.
Anyone who’s spent time, or grown up, in Los Angeles has their own Neptune’s Net connection. They’ve either stopped off as a wide-eyed child on family excursions, or hung around for hours with friends during a day in the surf. Expat Angelenos make pilgrimages back to the place they know and love, and those groups of motorcycle riders continue to trek the weekend hills for a beer on the patio. Fans of Fast and Furious will know the facade, as will keen-eyed gamers who have spent time in the fictional world of Grand Theft Auto 5’s San Andreas.
Neptune’s Net began life during the early days of the American road trip, when Los Angeles was bustling with burger stands and drive thrus. The restaurant’s humble 1956 beginnings came by way of a retired aerospace engineer named Eastman Jacobs, though most folks simply called him Jake. The restaurant property, and its former attached office space and gas station, was first known by the name Panorama Pacific, though many locals simply called it Jake’s Diner.
At the time, Malibu was mostly a craggy oceanside community that mixed artists, surfers, some wealthy types, and folks looking to live outside the urban sprawl. The city wouldn’t formally incorporate until 1991, and even today, despite what most Angelenos may say or think, Neptune’s Net doesn’t actually reside within the city of Malibu itself (that ends at Leo Carrillo). The restaurant sits just over the county line, in unincorporated Ventura County.
Over the years, the Jacobs family ran their roadside diner in much the same way, before selling off in the ‘70s to the Seay family who continued to tack on additions and square footage, including much of the outdoor dining space and separate non-restaurant seafood ordering counter. The current owners are actually two families, the Lees and Kims, who have held onto the property since the 1990s. Reps for the restaurant say they have no plans to sell any time soon, and are actively seeking historic landmark designation for the restaurant.
That makes sense, given the generations that have made Neptune’s Net a famous place, particularly during the summer months. While the restaurant is technically open all year round (except for one day off: Thanksgiving), the owners estimate that roughly 80% of the annual business comes in the warm summer months, when ocean breezes cool off the open patio out front. Those numbers stem from a wave of tourists who flock to Southern California, family adventurers who already call the state home, high school and college-age kids on break, and anyone local who just wants a day at the beach and a tuna melt.
The best-selling dishes are as enduring and predictable as the restaurant itself. More than half-a-million visitors line up every summer to score seafood samplers and fish and chips trays. During chillier summer months, they’ll go order clam chowder heaved into bread bowls. Grilled fish is also a staple in its various forms, either as a platter with sides or in kid-friendly fish tacos. For adults, rows and rows of coolers in the back come lined with beers, including lots of craft varieties, marking Neptune’s Net as the largest seller of beer in the area.
Of course, not everything is always picture perfect, despite the postcard views. Last year’s devastating Woolsey Fire spared Neptune’s Net while ravaging other restaurants and homes, though it did knock out the restaurant’s internet, phone, and power for weeks. The place still doesn’t have working toilets with running water (they rely on port-a-potties instead, thanks to a drought restriction).
During the middle of the day on summertime weekends, Neptune’s Net is a certifiable zoo of cars, motorcycles, people in sandals dangerously crossing the Pacific Coast Highway, and long queues of hungry tourists inside. Crowds are lightest before 11 a.m., with hungry crowds packing in as soon as midday comes.
So, for the long Labor Day weekend (or any time for that matter), it’s best to just hop in line and go with it. After all, the beers are cold, the ocean horizon is at eye level, and the staff inside of Neptune’s Net is frying and flipping, calling orders and handing them out, just as fast as they can. At least on this stretch of California coastline, and for generations of diners who still feel Neptune’s Net in their hearts, time doesn’t really matter all that much.
Neptune’s Net. 42505 Pacific Coast Highway Malibu, California.
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