Seaside Eats in Santa Monica: The City's 10 Best Restaurants

Santa Monica is one of California's most famous beach cities, for many very good reasons. Beautiful beaches, the iconic pier with its Ferris wheel that lights up the evening sky, and – of course – its countless wonderful restaurants. Visitors (and locals, too) have so many eating choices it can be a bit overwhelming, from classic high-end dining spots to restaurants overlooking the Pacific Ocean to more casual places where a bit of sand in your shoes is the norm. We've chosen our favorites, the 10 Best restaurants in Santa Monica, which include Mélisse, the award-winning, high-end French spot, as well as more relaxed spots including Italian standouts Forma and Locanda Portofino (both found on chic Montana Avenue), seafood specialists like The Lobster, classic Mexican from a famed, James Beard award-winning chef (Red O), incredibly good pizza from Stella Barra and even a wine-centric place with the best sunset view in town. No matter what culinary style suits your fancy, Santa Monica has it in spades.

Locanda Portofino
Photo courtesy of Locanda Portofino


Since Locanda Portofino opened its doors in the cozy indoor-outdoor space on Montana Avenue in 1995, it has been a local favorite, serving up a fusion of Northern and Southern Italian dishes that keep people coming back for more. With the later...  Read More

The Lobster


The Lobster began its life in Santa Monica as a little seafood shack in 1923. These days, it's a sleek, modern restaurant with huge glass walls that offer up stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the iconic Santa Monica Pier, complete with...  Read More

Sonoma Wine Garden - Santa Monica
Photo courtesy of Sonoma Wine Garden


Sonoma Wine Garden sits above the beach overlooking Santa Monica, from its location on the top floor of Santa Monica Place, the sophisticated shopping mall just steps from the ocean. The extensive wine collection pairs with a menu that leans...  Read More

FIG Restaurant
Photo courtesy of FIG Restaurant


FIG Restaurant, located inside the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica, is both a locals' hangout and a traveler's oasis, a lively place fueled by Chef Yousef Ghalaini's inspired Mediterranean-influenced menu. Start with the Bread Balloon, paired...  Read More

Stella Barra
Photo courtesy of Stella Barra


When Chef Jeff Mahin opened Stella Barra a few years ago in Santa Monica, it was actually called Stella Rossa. We're not sure what prompted the name change, but one thing has stayed the same " the pizza. It's so good you'll be texting your...  Read More

Red O Santa Monica
Photo courtesy of Red O Santa Monica


Red O is James Beard award-winning chef Rick Bayless' modern Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica, just steps from the pier (and the Metro stop). Bayless covers all the bases here at Red O, from classics like luscious guacamole, tangy salsa,...  Read More

Photo courtesy of Jenny Peters


Forma takes its name from formaggio, the Italian word for cheese, which is clearly dearly loved food in this convivial contemporary Italian eatery. Go with a crowd and share an assortment of small plates or perhaps sit alone at the bar and have...  Read More

BOA Steakhouse - Santa Monica
Photo courtesy of BOA Steakhouse


Steak lovers know that BOA Steakhouse is the place for top-notch meat in Santa Monica. This outpost is a bit more casual than its West Hollywood predecessor (with a more relaxed dress code), but there's nothing casual about the food served here....  Read More

West Los Angeles


For over 40 years, Piero Selvaggio's award-winning Valentino has provided not only excellent Italian cuisine with a Sicilian bent, but also impeccable service and a vast wine list. The famed wine list has over 1200 choices, located in a cellar...  Read More

Photo courtesy of Melisse Restaurant


Ever since Mlisse opened its doors in 1999, Chef-Owner Josiah Citrin has pushed for excellence in every element of this fine-dining experience " and has succeeded admirably. His restaurant is the kind of place where patrons dress for dinner,...  Read More


Meet Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good...  More About Jenny