The 12 Best Restaurants in Santa Monica To Eat at in 2021
There is much more to Santa Monica than its grandiose pier, sandy beach, and interesting collection of locals. The coastal city sung about by Everclear is not only a nightlife hot spot but home to some of the best eateries in the greater LA region. Whether you’re after a full course meal, a venue with killer views, or a relaxed feed with a few brews, Santa Monica has it all.
If you’re looking for inspiration, were have collected 12 of our favorites that are well worth a visit. Bon appetite!
Located within the historical Fairmont Miramar Hotel, FIG serves up fresh ingredients in seasonal dishes both on a poolside patio as well as within the modern, European-esque dining room. If you choose to sit inside, dine under an abundance of hanging greenery as you sip on a refreshing Miramar Centennial that combines vodka, lemon, hibiscus rosemary, and Champagne to celebrate 100 years of the Fairmont Miramar. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, order the featured classic cocktail of the month and let the bartenders treat you to a surprise.
Also, keep in mind that FIG places an emphasis on sourcing ingredients from local farmers’ markets, meaning the menu has a tendency to change rather frequently, though there are a few solid dishes that you can expect to find all year round. Some of our favorites include the main lobster cobb, cacio e pepe, Mary’s half roasted chicken, and Margherita pizza. If you’d rather visit FIG for a weekend brunch, don’t miss out on their buttermilk donuts and FIG eggs benedict.
Featuring a full cheese bar, Forma Santa Monica is an upscale and modern Italian restaurant that offers decadent pastas and impressive entrees. Though they don’t serve cocktails, the intimate atmosphere at Forma makes for the perfect place to sip on some renowned vino. To start off, make sure you order some cheeses from the cheese bar and expose your palette to the wonders that are available in regards to gourmet cheese.
If you’re unsure of what to order, let the server know if you prefer stronger or more mild flavors, and then let them do the decision-making! For entrees, you definitely can’t go wrong with one of their Dalla Forma pastas, where the freshly cooked pasta is tossed in a large wheel of Italian cheese right before being served.
Go for either the chitarra cacio e pepe or the tortellini and you won’t be disappointed. While they are famous for their pastas, be sure to order one of their meat-forward dishes such as the mustard and herbs butter filet mignon so that you can truly experience the full range that this restaurant has to offer.
If you follow literally any Instagram influencer, chances are you’ve had Élephante’s stunning views and stiff drinks pop up on your feed. This trendy, Mediterranean-inspired restaurant is definitely the sort of place where people like to be seen, however, they manage to live up to the hype with their delicious food and tasty craft cocktails.
Along with having three bars on the property, there is plenty of fun and comfortable seating areas depending on the vibe that you are going for. If you’re hitting the town with a romantic date, request one of the more intimate two-seater tables along the glass railing for a nice ocean view. If you’re out with a group of friends, try to get a comfy couch or table next to the fireplace for drinks and apps.
If you’re unsure of what to order, just know that you can’t go wrong with one of their famous pizzas or their truffle pasta. If you’re only wanting to get some appetizers, order the Brussel sprouts and burrata and pair them with an invigorating Revival cocktail.
Located on the rooftop pool deck of the Santa Monica Proper Hotel, Calabra is Mediterranean-style food with a California twist. In addition to more traditional dishes like hummus and baba ganoush, Calabra also has a unique sushi menu that is available Thursday through Sunday.
Order their Yuzu salmon or rooftop rainbow roll along with a bottle of sake and enjoy the stylish and modern setting of Calabra. If you’re wanting more of a filling, sit-down dinner, we recommend their whole branzino, sunchoke scallops, and Calabra fries. End the evening with a chocolate truffle cake and mezcal in Montenegro cocktail.
5. Bay Cities
Bay Cities Deli is hands down one of the most beloved and popular sandwich spots in all of Los Angeles, let alone Santa Monica. Located right off of Lincoln Boulevard, Bay Cities Italian Deli and Bakery is the perfect spot to grab some delicious sandwiches and pre-packaged treats before heading over to the beach for a picnic at sunset. You can even pick up some Italian wine or beer while there.
Though you really can’t go wrong with a classic roasted turkey sandwich on their famous Italian bread, one of their more popular sandwiches is the “Godmother,” which has prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella, Genoa salami, and provolone cheese. Make sure to get it with “the works” which includes mayo, mustard, Italian dressing, onions, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and a chopped pepper blend. Delicious.
6. Crudo e Nudo
Crudo e Nedo is definitely the best spot in town to grab some of the freshest fish along with some unique and biodynamic wines. With a focus on sustainability, guests of Crudo e Nudo can feel good about where their food is coming from, and the crisp and clean flavor will make you feel as though you are eating the most reputable seafood out there.
Though they have several top-notch wines available by the bottle for take-home, you’ll definitely want to pair your meal with a nice glass per the owner’s recommendation. When it comes to the Crudo, you definitely cannot go wrong with their halibut which comes sitting on top of a divine oil along with sesame seeds and green onion.
The fish seriously melts in your mouth, and you’ll need to have some toasted bread on the side to soak up all the remaining oil. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the Crudo Trio which allows you to get three chef’s choice crudos that might be on or off the menu. Sit on their quaint Main Street patio as you’re reminded why beachside living truly results in the best and most fresh local ingredients.
Though it is a bit more of a lowkey spot, Solidarity is known for its authentic Polish food that has kept regulars coming back for more than 40 years. They have a great happy hour that runs Tuesday through Friday from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, so if you can make it, definitely be sure to take advantage of their $5 pierogis, $5 grilled cheese with strawberry jam, and $8 Warsaw Mules.
Solidarity’s fenced-in patio is complete with string lights and its own outdoor bar, making it a great spot for dinner or just drinks and some appetizers. If you’re hungry enough for some entrees, indulge in their fan-favorite goat cheese dumplings or their chicken paprikash.
8. Heroic Italian
From upscale sandwiches to fine wine, Heroic Italian truly makes a heroic feat when it comes to making great food. With a menu that changes seasonally, there are always new and contemporary recipes popping up for guests to try (and enjoy). Some major highlights on the current Heroic Italian dine-in menu are the handmade lobster ravioli with tobiko in sherry “bisque” and the 24hr braised short rib with fresh polenta.
Of course, no Italian dinner is complete without a glass of vino, so be sure to ask your server for a recommendation based on what you decide to order. Heroic Italian also makes some great subs for those looking for a quicker alternative when grabbing lunch.
Located in the Ocean Park area of Santa Monica, Manchego transports guests to Spain with their spectacular sangria and traditional tapas. This mom-and-pop restaurant is a fan-favorite for locals due to its innovative pairings and impeccable attention to detail. Being that the owners make regular trips to Spain, the menu at Manchego is constantly evolving, meaning there is always a reason to return and try something new.
Some consistent menu items that you won’t want to miss include their mac and Manchego cheese with truffle oil, gambas (spicy garlic shrimp), and spinach croquettes. At the end of your meal, cure your sweet tooth craving with some of their creamy panna cotta or flan de yeye.
10. Blue Plate Taco
Blue Plate Taco is a hip Mexican restaurant located right on Ocean Avenue. Both their tacos and drinks have a contemporary twist to them, and their dishes tend to be a little lighter than authentic Mexican cuisine. If you enjoy a refreshing cocktail, you’ll definitely want to give their La Pina a spin. This pineapple-based margarita has an interesting kick due to the pineapple being charred and the flavor is made even more intense with a little cilantro.
While Blue Plate Taco does have some great salads and fajitas, you should opt-in for some tacos as your main course. Between the shrimp, lobster, and carnitas tacos, you’ll surely be satisfied.
FIA is a romantic and pretty expansive restaurant that sits right on Wilshire Boulevard. With critically acclaimed Chef Brendan Collins as the man behind the menu, the cuisine at Fia is predominately inspired by the Italian Coast. With dishes like grilled Spanish octopus and handmade cavatelli, you’ll find yourself ordering more than you can probably bargain for due to the pure temptation that this magnificent and diverse menu has.
Fia also makes a big effort to change their menu based on the seasons, leading them to source ingredients locally and ethically. Some other menu highlights that you should have on your radar are the char-grilled lamb chops and the sweet corn agnolotti.
12. King and Queen Cantina
Since its opening in 2020, King and Queen Cantina has seriously made some major waves in Santa Monica. Combining authentic Mexican flavors with a more modern approach has led to some insanely innovative dishes such as their hot Cheetos Japamex sushi roll and their bone marrow tacos. In regards to drinks, obviously, a margarita or two is necessary to round out the Mexican-inspired meal.
However, if you are having a hard time choosing just one flavor, go for their Margarita flight and give their cucumber, watermelon, pomegranate, Gardez, and mango Margaritas a try. Keep in mind that they do not take reservations and they tend to get pretty busy. If you can, snag a spot on their outdoor patio and catch some great people-watching along Ocean Avenue.