Beach lovers flock to the sandy shores of Santa Monica to soak in the sunshine and eat delicious food. But nowadays, it attracts more than surfers, rockers, and bar dive hoppers.
What was once a secret for locals is now a beacon for chefs and food critics alike. This little city’s food scene is exploding!
So what’s the scoop behind Santa Monica’s food revival?
Let’s dig in!
Where Is Santa Monica?
Santa Monica is a beach town located just west of Hollywood, near Los Angeles. Although most consider it an LA neighborhood, it’s technically a different city. It’s got an airport, a college, and a city hall.
But what makes the city unique is its California laid-back beach vibes. Movies like Rebel Without A Cause and The Big Lebowski were filmed there for a reason. You’ve got the beach and the boardwalk. You can ride the famous Ferris wheel or stroll along Palisades Park. Even when the area buzzes with crowds, it’s still seductively relaxing.
Santa Monica has its share of dive bars and somewhat seedy corners. But that’s part of its charm. You’ll meet people who have happily lived there all their life. Whether you want to catch a wave or toss a frisbee, you’ll feel cool just by being there.
Pro Tip: Avoid visiting these Most Overrated California Tourist Attractions.
About the Santa Monica Food Scene
Santa Monica’s small size, balmy weather, and beachside attractions make for a booming food scene. The city measures about eight square miles. However, most prime spots are within walking distance from the beach.
Casual eateries and food trucks run all along the coast. You can get great tamales right on the famous pier. But if you’re looking for a high-end, seasonal kitchen menu with great wine, check out The Rustic Canyon. It’s one of many Michelin-starred spots to try.
What makes the Santa Monica food scene so special is the variety. You can even skip the restaurants and explore one of the four local farmers’ markets instead. California soil is a produce grower’s paradise. Be sure to grab some avocados if you can.
Is Main Street the Hottest Santa Monica Food Destination?
Something yummy is happening just south of downtown. Main Street between Strand and Marine was usually passed up for the plush spots down in Venice. But nowadays, Venice is out, and Santa Monica is in.
When French bistro Pasjoli opened in 2019, Main Street came alive. Although the area had plenty of bars already, something shifted. More restaurants opened up with a smaller neighborhood kind of vibe. And although 2020 was a trying year for everyone, the block thrived with its abundant open-air seating.
California chefs credit much of the recent boom to the Westside vibes you get from strolling down the sidewalk. Randy Clement of Vamos Vamos says the network of locals who care about the area makes Main Street a great place to be. The new restaurants just keep coming!
Best Main Street Restaurants in Santa Monica
With over twenty spots to choose from, narrowing your search for your Santa Monica food experience is challenging. And we’re just talking about what’s on Main Street! We think these three restaurants are the best palace to start.
Crudo e Nudo
Crudo e Nudo takes fine dining to the next level. Owners Leena Culhane and Brian Bornemann are on a mission to build long-lasting relationships with their vendors. This means your server will know which fisherman caught your entree. And that veggie atop your salmon is only found on one farm in Califonia.
Eating seafood at Crudo e Nudo is a truly memorable experience. But it’s an expensive one. Menu items range from $16 to $60 and change depending on what is most fresh and in season.
Who doesn’t love a margarita after a long day at the beach? Chefs Randy and April Clement love them so much they decide to open a restaurant. Vamos Vamos serves up an incredible variety of cocktails with names like the Chimayo Drip and Truth or Consequences.
Oh yes, and they serve food too.
Come to Vamos Vamos for some of the best Santa Monica Mexican food. Menu items include nachos, carne asada fries, tacos and sopapillas. You can even get a pizza with green chili on it.
If a good ole burger is your thing, then check out Heavy Handed. Owner Danny Gordon started with a pop-up stand on his driveway in 2020. His pal Max Miller joined him and opened a food truck a year later. And by 2022, their first brick-and-mortar location took Main Street by storm.
Heavy Haded serves up burgers, french fries, and ice cream. You can get a regular beef or a short rib patties. And both come in double and triple sizes. All of them come with house-made pickles and Heavy Handed’s secret sauce.
Best Places to Stay Near Santa Monica
After your delicious food, you’ll have more than enough choices for where to spend the night in Santa Monica. So we’re highlighting three different kinds of stays.
Malibu Beach RV Park
If you want to travel during the winter, then put Malibu Beach RV Park on your list. The caveat is you need a big budget. Nightly prices range from $90 to $140 per night, depending on when you book, the size of your camper, and the number of guests. But given the stunning ocean and mountain views, it may be worth it.
The park is located about 30 minutes north of downtown Santa Monica. Wifi service is good, and amenities include electric and water hookups, laundry, and showers.
Channel Road Inn
We recommend the Channel Road Inn for a taste of Califonia’s seaside living. Located on the quiet north side of Santa Monica, this bed and breakfast is a charming getaway. Each room has a slightly different design. The fact that you could have a fireplace or a balcony is remarkable.
One night at Channel Road Inn will cost a couple around $400.00. But this includes breakfast, free parking, and wine with cheese in the afternoon. You can even borrow bicycles for a trip into town.
Shore Hotel is a great option if you want a lovely stay at the center of it all. Rooms are over $200 per night. You’ll be steps away from the Santa Monica Pier, and you can bring your pets. Hotel amenities include a gym and a business center. But with the ocean at your feet, we think you may skip the pool.
The Shore is a green-certified hotel, which means it’s a leader in environmental design. You can ditch housekeeping for a night and save ten dollars while you save water. The hotel also uses recycled materials in every aspect of its design and maintenance.
Pro Tip: Want to snooze in the sand? We found The Best Beach Camping in California.
Experiance Santa Monica’s Food Revival
Whether you’re a foodie or just looking for some California sun, the Santa Monica food scene is something to experience. Spend the day at the beach, then stroll along Main Street and pick a spot to dine.
Or start at a farmers market before heading to the pier. The world is your oyster – or tamale, or burger and fries. Just make sure you bring your appetite. With so many choices, you may have to get one of everything.
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: