Feature

Where to Eat on the Coast: From Malibu to Long Beach

By Lesley Balla  |  June 27, 2016
Credit: Salt

Whether you're taking a day trip along the Southern California coast, or you're spending a day at one of its fabulous beach towns, you need to know where to eat. You'll want fuel to go with your Beach Boys soundtrack as you cruise up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, with surf, sun and sand stretching as far as the eye can see. After all, being on the coast reminds you why you live in LA (or why you wished you did), and there's no need to ruin that moment with bad food. Here are the LA beachside restaurants to try when you want cocktails, seafood, great steaks and burgers to go along with that view, from Malibu to Long Beach.

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  • Credit: Nobu Malibu

    Malibu
    The land of sunsets, surfers and stars (the celebrity kind) has its fill of great places to eat. For the best lookout, the historic Malibu Pier has two restaurants, the more casual Malibu Farm Pier Cafe for healthy bowls, omelets, cold-pressed juices and more for breakfast and lunch at one end, and the full-service restaurant and bar for mostly organic, seasonal fare for lunch and dinner at the other. A secret stop for a glass of wine, cocktail and lunch or dinner just a few steps west of the pier is the small Carbon Beach Restaurant and Bar at the Malibu Beach Inn. For seafood, there's Neptune's Net and Malibu Seafood, the latter perched on a hill with unobstructed views of the waves. When money is no object, head straight to Nobu for high-end sushi and Japanese dishes; it's now open for breakfast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday too. For steaks and seafood towers with billowing clouds of dry-ice smoke, Mastro's Ocean Club hangs over the sand with waves crashing practically up to the best seats in the house — along the windows, of course.

  • Credit: The Lobster

    Santa Monica
    The Hungry Cat has turned into El Gato en La Playa for the summer, a Baja-style seafood spot serving grilled tacos, Mexican seafood specialties and plenty of margaritas. For classic breakfast and lunch fare (think omelets, pancakes, sandwiches and burgers), Patrick's Roadhouse has been a go-to for locals and tourists alike for generations. Most of the restaurants along Ocean Avenue have sunset-perfect vistas, including Water Grill, where oysters, chilled shellfish and cocktails reign supreme. Go up to Suite 700 on the roof at the Hotel Shangri-La for cocktails, light bites and amazing views up and down the coast. The Lobster at the head of the Santa Monica Pier recently (and finally) upgraded the decor, making this one of the nicest dining rooms and bars in the neighborhood for brunch, lunch and dinner — and also the busiest. On the Pier, try a burger from Pier Burger or a bowl of shellfish or fish and chips at The Albright. Tony hotels like Shutters and Casa del Mar have a lock on upscale dining that overlooks the beach at One Pico and Catch, respectively. Or just sit on the small lobby patio at Shutters for housemade potato chips and a glass of bubbly.

  • Credit: Hotel Erwin

    Venice
    While Rose Avenue and Abbot Kinney offer some of the best dining around LA, you need to head to the boardwalk to eat along the beach. There are windows for grab-and-go poke, including Poke-Poke and the new Wild Poke; hot mini donuts for only $6 at Zelda's Delicatessen; and people-watching over breakfast or lunch at The Sidewalk Cafe or over a beer and burger at Venice Alehouse. Get high, or rather go to High Lounge at the Hotel Erwin for unobstructed views from the rooftop bar. Just off the boardwalk is Dudley Market, where chef Jesse Barber serves up ultra-seasonal New American dishes in a cafe-marketplace, and Menotti's has cool beats and cold brew nearby. Near the pier, the Venice Whaler offers a full menu of casual beach fare like burgers, pizzas and salads. And there are excellent cocktails at the Crab Shell Bar and a to-go window to take things to the sand.

  • Credit: Salt/Pacifica Hotel

    Marina del Rey
    It might not be on the beach, but the boats bobbing in the marina create a wonderful backdrop for sunny days and starry nights. On one end, Cast & Plow at the Ritz-Carlton offers buffet brunches on the weekends plus seasonal dishes at dinner; the best spots are outside along the bike path. Cafe del Rey's bar and window seats are still wildly popular for the boating set. And at relative newcomer Salt at the Marina del Rey Hotel there's a fantastic outdoor lounge for light bites and drinks around fire pits, and an innovative modern American menu from chef Mark Gold.

  • Credit: The Strand House

    Manhattan Beach
    You'll find sweeping ocean views, a hot scene both up and downstairs, wood-fired pizzas and fresh seafood among the offerings at The Strand House, which sits at the foot of the main drag in Manhattan Beach. A few doors away, there's always a crowd (including a lot of LA Kings hockey players) at Rock'n Fish; try for a table toward the street where you can still get a glimpse of the waves. A block away, you can see the sun set down the alleys across from David LeFevre's MB Post and Fishing With Dynamite — don't miss the biscuits at the former and the oysters at the latter. Though you can't see the ocean from Love & Salt, The Arthur J and The Rockefeller, they're all great spots to hit before or after walking the beach or the pier.

  • Hermosa Beach
    The party vibe rarely lets up in this beachy enclave, with most places located either on the Strand or a hop and a skip from the beach. The Mermaid is still a hot spot for steamed clams and mussels, popcorn shrimp and cocktail specials for happy hour; Good Stuff, located a mere bop from the beach volleyball nets, is always bustling for breakfast and lunch; and Martha's 22nd Street Grill is a classic breakfast staple. To drink, get rowdy at Hennessey's right across from the pier, or be slightly more grown up at The Deck (aka the legendary dive bar, The Poop Deck).

  • Redondo Beach
    Keep it casual along the International Boardwalk near the pier at places like Quality Seafood, where you can buy fresh crabs, have them cooked and ready to crack at a table overlooking the marina. Nearby, Naja's Place is a beer-lover's paradise with more than 80 on tap and a heavy focus on craft brews. A few doors down is the newish King Harbor Brewing Co., a tasting room for Redondo's first local brewery. And there's a Bluewater Grill location in the marina, one of the better chains for fish sandwiches, oysters and more.

  • Credit: Nelson's/Terreana

    Rancho Palos Verdes
    Head to the Terreana resort for a getaway that feels much farther away than it is. The gorgeous grounds feature several restaurants, all with spectacular coastline vistas. Go casual at Nelson's, which is more classic bar and comfort food with cocktails and craft brews — the sunsets are stunning, and don't forget to ring the bell when you see a whale. For something a little more refined, Mar'sel is the upscale dining room for weekend brunch and starlit dinners. The best tables are outside.

  • Credit: Sir Winston's/Queen Mary

    Long Beach
    Long Beach is one of the places where the old adage is true: The closer you get to the water, the more likely the biggest restaurants with the best views will be mediocre chains. For something unique, reserve a table at Sir Winston's on the Queen Mary. There's history, maybe a few ghosts and every seat is a good one. Have a drink at the Observation Bar before or after.

  • Credit: San Pedro Fish Market

    San Pedro
    Until that multi-million dollar revamp of the kitschy Ports O' Call Village gets underway (the newly minted San Pedro Public Market will open in 2020), you can still sit on the industrial waterfront and watch the cruise ships head in and out of port at places like the San Pedro Fish Market, known for its expansive patio and "world famous shrimp tray," a tray piled high with spiced shrimp and garlic bread. The plan is to keep the restaurant open during construction and move it to a new location upon completion.