Santa Monica Restaurants

True Food Kitchen

Located in Santa Monica Place, just across from the famous 3rd Street Promenade, True Food Kitchen is a bright, lively place for a bite to eat and probably the best example I could find of a menu that encapsulated the current Santa Monica local food style.

Plenty of choices for vegan, vegetarian, allergy-friendly and every other consideration in between, you can indulge in your favourite foods here without feeling guilty about not getting your veggies in.

This is the place to experiment with healthier options for topping a pizza!

FAV item? Pizza with brussel sprouts and bacon

Ester's Wine Shop & Bar

A few blocks from my AirBnB rental, Ester's Wine Shop & Bar is obviously a neighbourhood gem.

Quick and comforting plates are all about pairing with their wines so they don't overshadow what's in your glass, but are tasty enough for local neighbours to stop in constantly for lunch-time take out.

Staff are knowledgable without seeming snooty and the shelves of wines surrounding the room ensure that you are more than tempted to take a bottle of your favourite home with you.

It wasn't listed on their wine list, but they will do half-sized pours so you can have the chance to try a few.


FAV item? Grilled cheese with ham was sloppy and gooey and perfect with a few white wine samples.


1 Pico

Located just a short walk south of the Santa Monica Pier, 1 Pico is the fine dining hotspot within the oh-so-cute Shutters On The Beach boutique hotel.

The veranda overlooking the beach is the best seating for a proper outdoor lunch in this area to catch some rays and watch the beach-goers and tourists bustle about.

The menu is full of light and fresh foods that are easy to snack and even easier to share.

FAV item? Flatbread with tomatoes and goat cheese was simple and oh-so-light and crispy.


Water Grill

My husband has been dining here just about every visit to Santa Monica so he was excited to take me to show it off a little...even if it was just a between-meal snack.

Fresh seafood is their claim to fame, obviously, so we don't pass up fresh oysters when we can.

Service was professional but relaxed and you can tell the staff love working there which just makhsfor an overall positive dining experience.

Grab a table by the window to catch some sun and watch tourists head towards Santa Monica Pier.

FAV item? Appetizer-sized tortellini with mushrooms is the perfect size and flavour as a follow up to a platter of fresh oysters.

Blue Daisy Café

It is THE place for breakfast or brunch in the residential area of 7th street and sitting on the patio is a bonus, if you can get it.

Made-from-scratch favourites, upscale and trendy items and simple but hearty platters are what this cafe does well.

On the Saturday morning of our visit, the lineup for a table went around the building.

So that says something.

FAV item? That French toast in my classic breakfast platter was so good, I almost regretted just not ordering it on its own.

North Italia

You can still smell the beach on 2nd street but you are still close to all the buzz and people-watching of the 3rd Street Promenade from the bar of North Italia.

The design is sleek and open, but everything on the menu is old-school Italian with a few fresh California ingredients making an appearance here and there.

It is a true blend of old world meets new world.

The tomato sauce is as good as what an Italian grandmother would serve you on a Sunday afternoon and the salads make up for the indulgence by being lighter, but interesting counterpoints.

FAV item?  That buratta plate with winter squash, fuji apple, toasted hazelnut, sage and date made me so happy, that I took notes so I can make it on my own at home.

Venice Whaler (at Venice Beach)

There is a lineup consistently outside of the Venice Whaler when the sun is shining on Venice Beach. Everyone wants a cool cocktail, a view of the busy beach and a place to be "seen".

The menu is classic - burgers, appetizers, soups and salads with some tacos, mussels and pizza thrown in.

The cocktail menu was most impressive. Classics with a twist without having 10 ingredients and too much flair. It is about fresh, refreshing and craving another. On the patio would be bottomless!

FAV item? Although their Whaler Burger was voted Top 10 in LA, the fries were better and their cocktails were top notch - try the Californication - Spa Water to trick yourself that you're having something healthy!

The Penthouse


After the cold and snow that we had lived with the month or two prior, we craved sunshine and a view that showed anything but winter.

The Penthouse has the best of view of LA, the ocean and the bustling downtown shopping core beneath it.

Taking up the entire Penthouse floor of the renowned Huntley Hotel, The Penthouse is modern and sleek dining at its best.Our lunch order came out FAST - almost TOO fast. I am not sure if they were in a hurry to get through the lunch service, expecting a busy DineLA week, but we were brought our second course with barely a sip taken of our wine.

We even had a wrong dessert sent to us and when we asked the server, she quickly responded that the kitchen has been changing the menu often this week so that "must be it" and then sped away. (We saw others being served the correct dessert moments later, so I am guessing she just didn't want to take IMG_4417the time to get us a new one.)

Regardless of the service, the food was great. Clean, simple, not overdressed and portion sizes were perfect for lunch.

...and the view was exactly what we wanted - including the sunshine!

FAV item? Lobster Roll (from the DineLA menu)

UPDATE - Spring 2018 - Dinner was terrific! Reservations are recommended for Friday night as the bar area was jam-packed for cocktails and socializing. This night, I spoiled myself by having their mac'n'cheese.

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar


I was originally scheduled to dine here for a dinner reservation but due to personal circumstances, I missed dinner, but I managed to squeeze in a few hours at their bar a couple of days later for their Happy Hour.

Rustic Canyon is a warm space with wood tables and small booths and naturally shows as a relaxed space to enjoy casual food and wine with friends or loved ones.

The bar itself is quite small - about 8 seats - with the servers area very close by. With two bartenders working to serve the guests at the bar and to fill the many drink orders by the IMG_4470rest of the guests, it is amazing to watch them work so quickly. The cocktail selections are creative and the wine list is quite diverse.
We enjoyed a lovely cheeseboard to share and when we finished the YUMMY bread that we were served, we ordered a separate loaf with butter and olive oil.

We each sampled a few of different glasses of wine during our time there (and I snuck in one cocktail),  but we would probably could have ordered more but found it tricky to get the bartenders' attention. They were so focused on filling the other orders for the tables. was good (from what we had), drinks were good...but get a table instead of staying at the bar

FAV item? Cheese selection on the board was lovely, but I loved the milo & olive bread more that they served with it.


FIG is located in the Fairmont Miramar on Wiltshire Blvd. so its a hot spot for lunches - which is why we chose it for a lunch visit.

fig-santa-monica-dining-roomMen in suits, ladies who lunch, hotel guests coming to was very busy by 1pm.

Even though the weather wasn't exactly suitable for outdoor dining, the enclosed terrace looks out over the outdoor tables and pool area - and when the sun is shining, it's lovely! (I would love to return during the warmer months.)
The lunch menu had many selections (and they also had a DineLA version) but I noticed that they seem to specialize in spicier, ethnic flavours. Their most popular menu item - by seeing how many were on tables around the room - were the harissa-spiced fries.

Regardless of the salads or other entrees ordered, there were always a plate of fries nearby.

IMG_4441They had an impressive salad selection, too, but like most places in the LA area, they either
were designed around kale or beets (and that point in the week I had had my fill).
The hotel itself looked beautiful as well, so I can see why FIG fits in so well.

FAV item? Their classic BLT served with crisp harissa fries.

Tar & Roses


It's dark, busy and noisy - and that is just because its obviously popular.

Seats at the back of the room include a view of the kitchen's pass so for those who are interested in watching the kitchen action, it will feel a bit like sitting at a chef's table.

The menu items are unique - a blend of flavours and new cooking styles for classic ingredients. They are mostly small plates so you can mix-and-match a number of items to create your own experience. (From what our server suggested, 3 small plates per person is usually enough.)

A couple of our choices were a little too acidic for my tastes and some that include a soft cooked egg and/or cream were rich enough that they could have only been one of two courses.

If they keep changing up their menu items throughout the year, it would be a great go-to spot for foodies who want a change from the usual LA fare.

FAV item? Wood-roasted clams

eLOVate Kitchen

I had found this place online during my initial research, but I wasn't sure if I had time...but I am SO grateful that I ended up having a free lunch on my own on this trip.  I have been eating mostly vegetarian over the last year and only splurge on heavier proteins when I travel and want authentic dishes - OR when options are limited.


My love of vegetables and grains have always been a focus, so I was curious if I could easily shift into a vegan, organic lifestyle

If I had access to a restaurant like eLOVate often, I would be one of their regulars. The food was fresh, well-seasoned, hearty and comforting. I didn't miss the excess protein usually squeezed into most menus

It's fun to go through a menu and choose familiar names to order like spring rolls and burgers. Even the kids sitting at the next booth were excited to see their plates arrive.

IMG_4483I know it was only a Thursday, but the weather was beautiful and yet there was only a few tables filled when I arrived at 1pm.

Even with all of the good press that I have seen online, I was
surprised that it was so quiet. I am hoping that it is just because everyone was outside that day...because they sure missed a great lunch!

FAV item? Spring rolls (from the DineLA menu)

Michael's Santa Monica

It may not have been a tropically-warm time of year for my visit to Michaels' Santa Monica, but they have designed the space so you forget anything outside of their doors.

A warm, welcoming lounge greets you on the way to their covered, outdoor, very green dining space. Diners are surrounded by trees, bushes, vines and flowers - and with strategic lighting, can easily lose themselves in their full dining experience.

Although it was DineLA week, and a Thursday evening at 9pm, I was surprised (again) how quiet it was. A handful of people were catching up in the lounge area, but there was only one other table of diners nearby in the dining room.

MichaelsSantaMonicaRehearsal01Our server and sommelier both were very attentive and offered their assistance for recommendations. The wine was chose was a lovely pinot noir, but it could have used decanting. By the time our first glass was poured, however, our sommelier was no where to be seen. Our server also only returned after we were finished our first course, and by then, we figured it was a little late to ask.

The portions were generous - even the salads - and were well-seasoned and presented. My only regret with my order is that I didn't coax my husband to share my starter salad with me so I had room to enjoy my entire entrée.

FAV item? Mushroom risotto (and surprisingly, it's vegan!)

CAST at the Viceroy

One last breakfast, and I decided we needed to plunge. The Viceroy is a luxury, ocean-view hotel with a sleek feel and a high probability of celebrity visitors.

vsm-cast-pdr-diningroom-1280x720CAST is the main dining room for larger menu offerings and a more traditional dining style than their upscale, modern lounge next door.

Breakfast menu offerings range from a hearty steel oatmeal to a Chilaquiles Verdes with all of the usual accompaniments.

This isn't a destination for a quick egg sandwich and coffee, but a slow, leisurely, decadent breakfast or brunch to take up the first half of your day.

Service was prompt on the morning of my visit, and it was very quiet for a Friday morning even though the restaurant was half full.

Portions are large and very filling. I am glad I only ordered one course.

We both enjoyed our breakfast, but thought that the quantities were a bit much for us...but if you want value for your money?...It's here!

FAV item? Housemade iced tea (I couldn't get enough of it - De-lish!)


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