Restaurants in Santa Monica:
10 Superb Places to try

Outdoor dining area at Papille Gustative.Outdoor dining area at Papille Gustative.

Restaurants in Santa Monica have a well-deserved reputation as a gourmet mecca. But that doesn't mean you have to break the bank to eat well in Santa Monica.

There's something everyone here, from the casual to the fine-dining end of the culinary spectrum. These restaurants in Santa Monica will leave you just as satisfied as the high-end variety.

While there are tourist traps to spare ( and a fair number of eateries that don't stand out), there are also hidden gems to be found just off the beaten path - and sometimes on it.

From authentic Caribbean Cuisine to Korean fusion dishes, these 10 superb Santa Monica restaurants offer exceptional dining options without breaking your budget. 

  1   Blue Plate Taco

Blue Plate Taco is one of restaurants in Santa Monica that won't break the bank.

Blue Plate Taco serves up Locavore Mexican fare ranging from the classics to the re-imagined.

Come for the freshly made salsas, homemade guacamole, and tasty tacos. Along with hand-curated agave spirits, the full bar also serves innovative Aguas Frescas.  

Come for the festive food and stay for the sunset and ocean views from the comfy patio. 1515 Ocean Avenue, (310) 458-2985.

  2  MariaSol Cantina

MariaSol cantina serves up the flavors and colors of a Baja Cantina on the Santa Monica Pier. Unique sauces and fresh fish offerings daily make for a supremely satisfying meal in a scenic venue above the sea.

Drink in coastline views from Malibu to the South Bay along with craft margaritas.  Lunch and dinner served daily.  401 Santa Monica Pier; (310) 917-5050.

  3  Rusty's Surf Ranch

Rusty's Surf Ranch on Santa Monica Pier is a casual, surfboard-bedecked bar and grill.

It offers tasty options for seafood lovers - plus, they have a large dance floor and live music on weekends. 

The menu features seafood, bar eats, and hand-crafted specialty cocktails in a sports bar setting. Live bands are featured on weekends. 256 Santa Monica Pier; (310) 393-7437.

  4  HiHo Cheeseburger

HiHo's cheeseburgers are among the best in Santa Monica. Two wagyu beef patties are dressed with cheese, ketchup, onion jam, lettuce, house-made pickles, and grilled to perfection. A meal here is one of the most affordable and satisfying meals on the West Side. 1320 2nd Street, (310) 469-7250.

  5  Stella Barra Pizzeria

Stella Barra is an artisanal pizzeria with an eclectic menu and open kitchen. This isn't your mother's pizzeria. Expect culinary creativity - butternut squash and California avocado pies - and traditional but equally satisfying salads and rustic small plates.

This is an airy space with an open kitchen and full bar in the center of it all. 2000 Main Street; (310) 396-9250.

6   Cult

Cult-worthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner served on tables under black and white umbrellas at this Third Street Promenade Cafe. Chef Kim Vu makes donuts in-house with glazes like vanilla and matcha mint. Devotion-worthy dishes include Howlin' Ray's hot chicken and SQUIRL pesto rice bowl. 

It's worth visiting Cult to peruse the coffee menu's hilarious descriptions. For instance, cold brew is "smooth like the 2000 Grammy award-winning single by Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas."  1460 3rd Street Promenade, (424) 835-1554

7  Interstellar

Interstellar is a laid-back spot offering Korean fusion dishes, drinks & happy hours in an airy, rustic-chic space. Chef Angie Kim and husband Daniel opened Interstellar in early 2020 in a historic building near Palisades Park.

Angie put together an eclectic all0day menu, including fried chicken and waffles, a samba butter-poached lobster roll, and Seattle-style bratwurst. Daniel is a Q Grader, a renowned coffee world accreditation, and he's created signature drinks such as an orange maple latte designed to mimic Fruity Pebbles.  109 Broadway Street, (310) 310-8820.

8  Cha Cha Chicken

Cha Cha Chicken is a long-time local favorite eatery featuring authentic Caribbean cuisine with a Latin fusion served in a colorful beach shack a block from the beach.

Favorites here include jerk chicken enchiladas, coconut fried chicken, and fried plantains - a delicious not-to-miss creation of fried bananas with a sour cream twist.  1906 Ocean Avenue; (310) 581-1684

9   La Puglia

This restaurant, bakery, and juice bar debuted along Wilshire Boulevard in 2020 and quickly became homesick Italians' favorite. Inside La Puglia, you'll find a bakery display case of bread, pizza slices, tiramisu, and cannoli, and an impressive pasta menu including seafood linguine and mezzo rigatoni with swordfish and cherry tomatoes.  1621 Wilshire Blvd.; (424) 229-5902

10  Papille Gustative

Papille Gustative features wall-to-wall wood.

Papille Gustative (Taste Buds in Latin) serves up farm-to-table artisan food with locally sourced ingredients.

The homey space features wall-to-wall wood with a message of LOVE indoors and a parklet along Main Street.

An expansive brunch menu includes a "bottom of the sea" omelet with shrimp, sea urchin, and salmon roe; and an Anson Mills rice flour waffle with ricotta and a flurry of fruits, nuts, and syrup, and Danish rye toast with anchovies, forage blanc, avocado, and Persian cucumber.   2823 Main Street, (424) 322-8040