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A table full of dishes and drinks at Xuntos.
Spanish dishes and drinks from Xuntos in Santa Monica.
Wonho Frank Lee

19 Superb Santa Monica Restaurants

All the best places to eat in the city by the sea

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Spanish dishes and drinks from Xuntos in Santa Monica.
| Wonho Frank Lee

Famous for its iconic pier and walkable Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica has something for everyone when it comes to restaurants. While there are plenty of tourist traps to watch out for and many places that don’t necessarily stand out, the city is chock-full of hidden gems and noteworthy destinations, too. From casual hangs perfect any time of day to fine dining destinations that require planning, here are 19 superb Santa Monica restaurants to try.

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Golden Bull Restaurant

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Established in 1949, this historic steakhouse off the PCH reopened in 2018 with a refreshed old-school vibe and fine-tuned chophouse menu. The dinnertime menu covers the classics with Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, lamb chops, New York strip, and a bone-in ribeye. Remember to order some stiff cocktails including Manhattans and martinis.

One of Santa Monica’s most exciting sushi spots, Soko features an eight-seat counter and a smattering of tables where chef Masa Shimakawa prepares stellar nigiri, sashimi, and other raw Japanese fare. Meaning “storeroom” in Japanese, Soko feels like a literal hole in the wall, but with the quality of a destination omakase spot.

Soko at Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica.
Soko at Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica.
Fairmont Miramar

Michael's

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Michael’s is more than just a Santa Monica institution with a great art collection and a nice patio. It’s a decades-old icon, a precursor to the modern California cuisine movement, the kind of place that has helped to make countless careers over the years. Stop by for a drink, some of the freshest produce around, and to see what all the fuss is still about after all these years.

Michael’s Santa Monica patio.
The patio at Michael’s.
Wonho Frank Lee

Bar Monette

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Led by former Toronto chef Sean MacDonald, this tiny restaurant in the heart of the touristy part of Santa Monica could be the best place to eat in the area thanks to its seasonal dishes cooked with a fine-dining level of precision. The Neapolitan-style pizzas could be perceived as polarizing: If you’re a fan of blistered puffy-crusted pies, then they’ll be your cup of tea. But the other parts of the menu are excellent, like the Aunty Wendy’s treviso salad or blistered maitake mushrooms, even if they carry a Santa Monica beach premium.

An overhead shot of a blistered pizza on a marble surface with wooden board beneath.
Pizza from Bar Monette in Santa Monica.
Leo Cabal

Shirubē

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This Tokyo import from one of the chefs who popularized izakayas in Japan has opened in the former Musha space in Santa Monica, steps from Third Street Promenade and making this perhaps the best restaurant in the tourist-heavy area. Expect a solid sake menu, well-sliced sashimi plates, and an incredible seared filet of mackerel that fills the room with the aroma of blackened fish skin. Sitting at the counter affords the best view of the action from the open kitchen.

Sashimi plate from Shirubē in Santa Monica.
Sashimi plate from Shirubē in Santa Monica.
Matthew Kang

This adorable new tapas bar and Spanish restaurant from talented chef Sandra Cordero takes over a bi-level space in Santa Monica’s Downtown area, adorned with interesting visual touches inside and a sleek seating area across four rooms. Cordero’s pan-Spanish cooking sticks to a simple formula of quality ingredients and skilled cooking, including excellent fried anchovies, gambas al ajillo, and even razor clams when in season.

A wall with 3,000 scallop shells at Xuntos, plus banquette seating.
Inside Xuntos in Santa Monica.
Wonho Frank Lee

Bryant Ng and Kim Luu-Ng's Cassia has been heralded by critics and diners alike for its elevated Vietnamese, Chinese, and Singaporean fare with French bistro accents. Many of Cassia’s greatest hits include the kaya toast, beef rendang, laksa, and chickpea curry.

Citrin Restaurant

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Josiah Citrin’s namesake restaurant inside the former Melisse serves a four-course menu and a la carte options, too. (It also has a stellar bar-only happy hour Tuesday through Saturday that offers $10 glasses of wine, $11 cocktails, and a curated selection of plates at a discounted price.) For a gastronomical experience, head to two-Michelin-starred Melisse for a tasting menu that runs over $300 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

Lobster bolognese at Citrin in Santa Monica.
Lobster bolognese at Citrin
Matthew Kang

Rustic Canyon

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Rustic Canyon showcases Southern California's seasonal bounty, with dishes from chef Jeremy Fox like Milanese chicken with leeks, cracklings, date butter with ginger, and preserved lemon. This is one of Santa Monica’s most storied and reliable places for modern California cuisine. It’s also a consistent crowd-pleaser — a smart choice for dining out with family visiting from out of town.

This Ocean Avenue staple is neither cheap nor particularly hip but that’s no concern for owner Bruce Marder, a longtime Los Angeles restaurateur who continues to work a menu of fine wines, robust pastas, and wood-grilled meats to a never-ending stream of Westside customers.

Capo Exterior
Capo’s entrance.

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery

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This Italian deli offers what is likely the most iconic sandwich in all of Los Angeles: the Godmother. Bay Cities’ signature sub is filled prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella, Genoa salami, and provolone cheese, all contained in a crusty Italian-style filone roll. Its other sandwiches meet the needs of those who don’t want the archetypal experience, with a variety of cold cuts and hot protein options to choose from. The market side of the shop is as impressively composed as the deli.

Main Street Santa Monica needed a place like Cobi’s, a dinner spot focused on Southeast Asian cuisines that has all the charm of Grandma’s home, along with well-made curries, raw fish preparations, butter chicken, and grilled branzino. (Its weekend brunch service has also proved popular.) Be sure to ask the servers for a solid bottle of natural wine to pair with the meal.

Dishes from Cobi’s in Santa Monica laid out with colorful plates and a wood table.
Dishes from Cobi’s in Santa Monica.
Katrina Frederick Studio

Augie's On Main

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Josiah Citrin’s casual Main Street restaurant, named after his late son, serves some affordable, fast-casual versions of classic Melisse/Citrin dishes, from crispy “dirty” chicken, a terrific upscale restaurant-style griddled burger, and fried chicken sandwiches. The dishes might seem a little scattershot but everything is cooked much better than it needs to be and at inflation-resistant prices.

Dirty chicken with pan-drippings at Augie’s on Main in Santa Monica.
Dirty chicken with burger at Augie’s on Main.
Nicole Adlman

Sunny Blue

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This longtime fast-casual restaurant on Main Street in Santa Monica serves the delightful comforts of Japanese onigiri, filled rice balls that are a popular and affordable snack found in Japan’s convenience stores. Sunny Blue takes the format to new heights with curry, miso beef, spicy salmon, mentaiko, and pickled vegetarian options, all at reasonable prices. A nice departure from the mostly pricey restaurants of the Westside.

Onigiri from Sunny Blue in Santa Monica.
Onigiri from Sunny Blue in Santa Monica.
Matthew Kang

Pasjoli

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Fine dining vet Dave Beran serves up an elevated French bistro experience on Main Street Santa Monica. Favorites like the chicken liver-stuffed foie de canard brioche, steak au poivre, and whole-pressed duck continue to please longtime regulars, while the rest of the menu offers California-influenced takes on classic French fare. One of the most reliable upscale places to eat on the Westside, with service and ambiance to match the amazing food.

Beef tartare at Pasjoli.
Pasjoli
Wonho Frank Lee

Heavy Handed

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Rocking a colorful energy and sprawling parklet-style outdoor dining area, Heavy Handed draws in burger aficionados looking for ground short rib options that ooze with American cheese, crunchy pickles, and special sauce. With crisp beef tallow fries and a dessert of swoon-worthy soft serve, it’s hard to think of a more satisfying quick meal in Santa Monica.

A cheeseburger topped with pickles, sauce, and caramelized onions from Heavy Handed in Santa Monica, California.
Smashburger at Heavy Handed in Santa Monica.
Wonho Frank Lee

Goodboybob Coffee Roasters

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Goodboybob’s tucked away Santa Monica location works as an urban oasis of sorts, with a stylish indoor lounge and sprawling outdoor seating where folks can enjoy the shop’s specialty roasted coffee and drinks. Natural wine is on hand for mild day drinking, along with a slew of breakfast dishes to help soak up caffeine and booze alike. The Rolex chapati, a whole wheat wrap filled with eggs, root vegetables, and scallions, is the popular option.

Rolex Chapati from Goodboybob in Santa Monica
Rolex chapati from Goodboybob.
Matthew Kang

Layla Bagels

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There’s a quirky backstory of how this bagel shop managed to open so close to Jyan Isaac, an excellent bakery that also sells bagels, but that’s for another day. Suffice to say that Layla has come into its own as a morning destination. Clearly inspired by the likes of Virgil Village’s Courage Bagel, this shop serves open-faced bagels loaded with cream cheese, vegetables, and cured salmon that makes for perfect Instagram content.

A loaded bagel sandwich with pickled onions, capers, and tomato from Layla in Santa Monica.
A loaded bagel sandwich with pickled onions, capers, and tomato from Layla in Santa Monica.
Matthew Kang

Ghisallo

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Ghisallo is a casual wood-fired pizza spot along Ocean Park Boulevard that has an outstanding backyard. Find pizza by the slice and both New York and Neapolitan full pies with toppings like meatballs or farmers’ market vegetables, plus a full selection of salads, shared plates, desserts, wine, and more.

Golden Bull Restaurant

Established in 1949, this historic steakhouse off the PCH reopened in 2018 with a refreshed old-school vibe and fine-tuned chophouse menu. The dinnertime menu covers the classics with Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, lamb chops, New York strip, and a bone-in ribeye. Remember to order some stiff cocktails including Manhattans and martinis.

Soko

One of Santa Monica’s most exciting sushi spots, Soko features an eight-seat counter and a smattering of tables where chef Masa Shimakawa prepares stellar nigiri, sashimi, and other raw Japanese fare. Meaning “storeroom” in Japanese, Soko feels like a literal hole in the wall, but with the quality of a destination omakase spot.

Soko at Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica.
Soko at Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica.
Fairmont Miramar

Michael's

Michael’s is more than just a Santa Monica institution with a great art collection and a nice patio. It’s a decades-old icon, a precursor to the modern California cuisine movement, the kind of place that has helped to make countless careers over the years. Stop by for a drink, some of the freshest produce around, and to see what all the fuss is still about after all these years.

Michael’s Santa Monica patio.
The patio at Michael’s.
Wonho Frank Lee

Bar Monette

Led by former Toronto chef Sean MacDonald, this tiny restaurant in the heart of the touristy part of Santa Monica could be the best place to eat in the area thanks to its seasonal dishes cooked with a fine-dining level of precision. The Neapolitan-style pizzas could be perceived as polarizing: If you’re a fan of blistered puffy-crusted pies, then they’ll be your cup of tea. But the other parts of the menu are excellent, like the Aunty Wendy’s treviso salad or blistered maitake mushrooms, even if they carry a Santa Monica beach premium.

An overhead shot of a blistered pizza on a marble surface with wooden board beneath.
Pizza from Bar Monette in Santa Monica.
Leo Cabal

Shirubē

This Tokyo import from one of the chefs who popularized izakayas in Japan has opened in the former Musha space in Santa Monica, steps from Third Street Promenade and making this perhaps the best restaurant in the tourist-heavy area. Expect a solid sake menu, well-sliced sashimi plates, and an incredible seared filet of mackerel that fills the room with the aroma of blackened fish skin. Sitting at the counter affords the best view of the action from the open kitchen.

Sashimi plate from Shirubē in Santa Monica.
Sashimi plate from Shirubē in Santa Monica.
Matthew Kang

Xuntos

This adorable new tapas bar and Spanish restaurant from talented chef Sandra Cordero takes over a bi-level space in Santa Monica’s Downtown area, adorned with interesting visual touches inside and a sleek seating area across four rooms. Cordero’s pan-Spanish cooking sticks to a simple formula of quality ingredients and skilled cooking, including excellent fried anchovies, gambas al ajillo, and even razor clams when in season.

A wall with 3,000 scallop shells at Xuntos, plus banquette seating.
Inside Xuntos in Santa Monica.
Wonho Frank Lee

Cassia

Bryant Ng and Kim Luu-Ng's Cassia has been heralded by critics and diners alike for its elevated Vietnamese, Chinese, and Singaporean fare with French bistro accents. Many of Cassia’s greatest hits include the kaya toast, beef rendang, laksa, and chickpea curry.

Citrin Restaurant

Josiah Citrin’s namesake restaurant inside the former Melisse serves a four-course menu and a la carte options, too. (It also has a stellar bar-only happy hour Tuesday through Saturday that offers $10 glasses of wine, $11 cocktails, and a curated selection of plates at a discounted price.) For a gastronomical experience, head to two-Michelin-starred Melisse for a tasting menu that runs over $300 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

Lobster bolognese at Citrin in Santa Monica.
Lobster bolognese at Citrin
Matthew Kang

Rustic Canyon

Rustic Canyon showcases Southern California's seasonal bounty, with dishes from chef Jeremy Fox like Milanese chicken with leeks, cracklings, date butter with ginger, and preserved lemon. This is one of Santa Monica’s most storied and reliable places for modern California cuisine. It’s also a consistent crowd-pleaser — a smart choice for dining out with family visiting from out of town.

Capo

This Ocean Avenue staple is neither cheap nor particularly hip but that’s no concern for owner Bruce Marder, a longtime Los Angeles restaurateur who continues to work a menu of fine wines, robust pastas, and wood-grilled meats to a never-ending stream of Westside customers.

Capo Exterior
Capo’s entrance.

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery

This Italian deli offers what is likely the most iconic sandwich in all of Los Angeles: the Godmother. Bay Cities’ signature sub is filled prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella, Genoa salami, and provolone cheese, all contained in a crusty Italian-style filone roll. Its other sandwiches meet the needs of those who don’t want the archetypal experience, with a variety of cold cuts and hot protein options to choose from. The market side of the shop is as impressively composed as the deli.

Cobi's

Main Street Santa Monica needed a place like Cobi’s, a dinner spot focused on Southeast Asian cuisines that has all the charm of Grandma’s home, along with well-made curries, raw fish preparations, butter chicken, and grilled branzino. (Its weekend brunch service has also proved popular.) Be sure to ask the servers for a solid bottle of natural wine to pair with the meal.

Dishes from Cobi’s in Santa Monica laid out with colorful plates and a wood table.
Dishes from Cobi’s in Santa Monica.
Katrina Frederick Studio

Augie's On Main

Josiah Citrin’s casual Main Street restaurant, named after his late son, serves some affordable, fast-casual versions of classic Melisse/Citrin dishes, from crispy “dirty” chicken, a terrific upscale restaurant-style griddled burger, and fried chicken sandwiches. The dishes might seem a little scattershot but everything is cooked much better than it needs to be and at inflation-resistant prices.

Dirty chicken with pan-drippings at Augie’s on Main in Santa Monica.
Dirty chicken with burger at Augie’s on Main.
Nicole Adlman

Sunny Blue

This longtime fast-casual restaurant on Main Street in Santa Monica serves the delightful comforts of Japanese onigiri, filled rice balls that are a popular and affordable snack found in Japan’s convenience stores. Sunny Blue takes the format to new heights with curry, miso beef, spicy salmon, mentaiko, and pickled vegetarian options, all at reasonable prices. A nice departure from the mostly pricey restaurants of the Westside.

Onigiri from Sunny Blue in Santa Monica.
Onigiri from Sunny Blue in Santa Monica.
Matthew Kang

Pasjoli

Fine dining vet Dave Beran serves up an elevated French bistro experience on Main Street Santa Monica. Favorites like the chicken liver-stuffed foie de canard brioche, steak au poivre, and whole-pressed duck continue to please longtime regulars, while the rest of the menu offers California-influenced takes on classic French fare. One of the most reliable upscale places to eat on the Westside, with service and ambiance to match the amazing food.

Beef tartare at Pasjoli.
Pasjoli
Wonho Frank Lee

Related Maps

Heavy Handed

Rocking a colorful energy and sprawling parklet-style outdoor dining area, Heavy Handed draws in burger aficionados looking for ground short rib options that ooze with American cheese, crunchy pickles, and special sauce. With crisp beef tallow fries and a dessert of swoon-worthy soft serve, it’s hard to think of a more satisfying quick meal in Santa Monica.

A cheeseburger topped with pickles, sauce, and caramelized onions from Heavy Handed in Santa Monica, California.
Smashburger at Heavy Handed in Santa Monica.
Wonho Frank Lee

Goodboybob Coffee Roasters

Goodboybob’s tucked away Santa Monica location works as an urban oasis of sorts, with a stylish indoor lounge and sprawling outdoor seating where folks can enjoy the shop’s specialty roasted coffee and drinks. Natural wine is on hand for mild day drinking, along with a slew of breakfast dishes to help soak up caffeine and booze alike. The Rolex chapati, a whole wheat wrap filled with eggs, root vegetables, and scallions, is the popular option.

Rolex Chapati from Goodboybob in Santa Monica
Rolex chapati from Goodboybob.
Matthew Kang

Layla Bagels

There’s a quirky backstory of how this bagel shop managed to open so close to Jyan Isaac, an excellent bakery that also sells bagels, but that’s for another day. Suffice to say that Layla has come into its own as a morning destination. Clearly inspired by the likes of Virgil Village’s Courage Bagel, this shop serves open-faced bagels loaded with cream cheese, vegetables, and cured salmon that makes for perfect Instagram content.

A loaded bagel sandwich with pickled onions, capers, and tomato from Layla in Santa Monica.
A loaded bagel sandwich with pickled onions, capers, and tomato from Layla in Santa Monica.
Matthew Kang

Ghisallo

Ghisallo is a casual wood-fired pizza spot along Ocean Park Boulevard that has an outstanding backyard. Find pizza by the slice and both New York and Neapolitan full pies with toppings like meatballs or farmers’ market vegetables, plus a full selection of salads, shared plates, desserts, wine, and more.

Related Maps