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7 Of The Best Santa Monica Restaurants Right Now (2024 Edition)

By Veronica Fil

Sundrenched and bordered by surf, it’s no surprise that Santa Monica has its fair share of tourist traps. But fear not, there’s plenty of culinary gems to be found in this seaside city—you just need to know where to look.

Here’s seven of the best Santa Monica restaurants that live up to the hype.

Cassia 

1314 7th St, Santa Monica

Cassia Santa Monica Los Angeles Southeast Asian dishesImage credit: Cassia | Instagram

With a menu based on local and seasonal produce, Cassia is a Southeast Asian restaurant that is somehow also quintessentially Californian. Their playful but skilled take on farm-to-table eating spans the traditional (perhaps a punchy laksa or beef rendang) to more unique cultural mashups, such as the Vietnamese caesar salad piled with anchovies, croutons, dried figs, red onion and fresh herbs (which once tasted, simply makes sense). Cooked and raw seafood platters are also available, ranging in size from dainty to delightfully large. Service is relaxed and reflective of the general Santa Monica vibe, with a social atmosphere that’s fit for everyone from families to first dates.

Soko

101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica

Soko Santa Monica Los Angeles Sushi bar boxImage credit: Soko | Instagram

Hotel restaurants tend to get a bad rap, but this 8-seat sushi bar located by the lobby of Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows is pleasantly unexpected. Guests sit in close proximity, curved around an L-shaped counter as they watch Chef Masa Shimakawa as he carefully prepares colourful bites of sushi, nigiri and sashimi, handling them like rare jewels. It’s exclusive yet surprisingly casual, and given the intimacy of the restaurant, the paper menu order forms (like the ones you might expect at a lunchtime sushi train) seem somewhat out of place. But don’t let that deter you; Soko is a highly interactive experience, and the chefs will happily guide you through an off-menu omakase if you can’t decide what to order.

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery

1517 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery counter Los AngelesImage Credit: Alex Lau | Website

There’s no fancy white tablecloths at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery, but the food is at the level of the finest Santa Monica restaurants. Part deli, part gourmet grocery store, the Bay Cities menu includes fresh pasta, salads and fully prepared dinners to take home. The go-to order, however, is a sandwich packed full of deli meats, cheeses and antipasto. The warm, crusty bread rolls are baked in-house every 20 minutes—and put your local Subway to shame.

Tar & Roses

602 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica

Tar & Roses Santa Monica dishImage credit: Tar and Roses | Instagram

Between the bone marrow with red onion marmalade, Singaporean chilli crab cakes, spaghetti carbonara and chilli-kissed oxtail dumplings, it's impossible to pin down an exact genre of cuisine at Tar & Roses. But who needs labels when the food is this delightful? Homely hospitality is the name of the game at this neighbourhood wine bar, which locals flock to for its globally-inspired menu of small plates and sophisticated snacks. Even the late great Jonathan Gold, arguably one of the world’s most famous restaurant critics, claimed that their fried cauliflower dish was more delicious than a prime steak. Chef’s kiss.

Michael’s

1147 3rd St, Santa Monica

Michael's Santa Monica Image credit: Michael's | Instagram

Michael's is one of the longest standing Santa Monica restaurants, founded way back in 1979 (before chefs had their own reality tv shows). Like the menu itself, the restaurant has seen some seasonal changes over the years: it’s launched the careers of American kitchen legends like Nancy Silverton, opened a spin-off in New York, inspired cookbooks and undergone a few cosmetic procedures (which is commonplace around these parts). But while the dining room is a little retro, the restaurant remains a shining example of market-driven, contemporary Californian cuisine. Michael’s was once a pricier, white tablecloth affair, but these days it’s got broader appeal, offering more affordable dishes and an impressive happy hour menu that features lobster rolls, duck leg confit, charred octopus and $12 signature cocktails. The lush, outdoor patio is the place to be when the weather's good—which in Los Angeles is almost always.

Crudo e Nudo

2724 Main St, Santa Monica

Crudo e Nudo Santa Monica flatlay of dishesImage credit: Crudo e Nudo | Instagram

Run by two creatives—one a chef, and the other a multidisciplinary artist—Crudo e Nudo is an eclectic raw seafood bar that celebrates local, sustainable ingredients and a general intolerance of unnecessary waste and plastics. Unsurprisingly, crudo is the star of the show here, delivered in an array of formats from striped bass to salmon and abalone. Delicate slithers of seafood might come dressed in smoked oil, za’atar and coriander blossom, or served with rose, fennel pollen and yuzu. Of course, being Santa Monica, hearty vegan options are also available here and are thoroughly recommended.

Milo and Olive

2723 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica

Milo and Olive Los Angeles

There are moments in life when a morning slice of pizza is absolutely necessary. That’s when you need the wood-fired breakfast version served at Milo and Olive which comes topped with pork belly sausage, egg, roasted potato, fontina cream, pickled chillies and mozzarella. But as the day unfolds at this casual Santa Monica restaurant, the menu expands delving into freshly made pastas, salads, sandwiches and share plates. It’s all accompanied by a beer and wine list that’s best enjoyed whie sitting on the outdoor patio to soak up the sun.

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