The question I hear most often from friends when they visit Santa Monica is inevitably: What are the hot new Santa Monica restaurants? Who's the newest chef in town?
While I'm well-acquainted with the top-rated Santa Monica restaurants, I don't however keep up with the 'it' places of the moment. Rather, I tend to favor unique restaurants that have withstood the test of time (and repeated visits) and consistently hit the mark.
It is for them - and for you - that I've created this list of the best places in Santa Monica to enjoy an upscale dinner. These are the restaurants I'd choose for date night in Santa Monica, a birthday or anniversary celebration, or if I had the urge to splurge on dinner.
They're listed by type of cuisine, ranging from American- and California-inspired to French, Asian and Mediterranean. No matter which restaurant you choose, one thing is for certain: You're in for a delicious, memorable evening. Here's where to eat for every mood.
The 5 restaurants below feature a variety of California cuisine styles, integrating disparate cooking styles and using freshly prepared local ingredients. The food is typically prepared with strong attention to presentation.
Cast Restaurant & Lounge at the Viceroy Santa Monica is where you'll find creative food, hand-crafted cocktails, and stylish outdoor cabanas where you can enjoy both.
The menu is equally creative: the deviled eggs with kimchi & bacon starter is not to be missed; My Grandma's Bolognese - a hearty main dish mix of tagliatelle, sausage, veal, bone marrow and parmesan reggiano - is guaranteed to satisfy even the hungriest in your group. 1819 Ocean Avenue; (310) 260-7511.
The flower-filled Ivy at the Shore has the same high-quality food as the original Ivy on North Robertson, without the Beverly Hills pretenses.
The menu offers a little bit of just about everything - from Italian to American to Caribbean fare (in short that means pasta, meat, and seafood dishes primarily) - so it is a guaranteed to be a hit no matter how picky your party might be. 1535 Ocean Avenue; (310) 393-3113.
The Penthouse on the 18th floor of the Huntley Hotel takes dining and nightlight to new heights.
Rooftop restaurants in Santa Monica don't get any better than the 360 degree views here.
And dinner here? It's among Santa Monica's most enticing - both for variety and creativeness. Start with charcuterie of artisanal meats and homemade pate.
Move on to entree like fresh-caught halibut, a variety of pastas, and premium-cut steaks. Desserts here are a star turn. 1111 2nd Street; (310) 394-5454.
The New York Times Style Magazine, in a December 2016 feature on newly reimagined institutions where creative types once worked and partied, featured Michael's Santa Monica.
It was here that "Godfather" author Mario Puzo often hosted family-style dinners with Francis Ford Coppola (Puzo frequently referenced the restaurant in his books) on the outdoor, 70-seat patio at Michael's.
The patio remains intact today in the newly remodeled restaurant, which is still home to its original famed art collection featuring works by John Baldessari and David Hockney, among others.
The highly seasonal, market-driven menu continues today to please the most discerning of palates. 1147 3rd Street; (310) 451-0843.
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Rustic Canyon offers a regularly changing menu of Farmer's Market-inspired dishes with ingredients that come from local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen who practice sustainable agriculture.
Executive chef Jeremy Fox, an acclaimed Michelin star chef formerly of Ubuntu in Napa, brings his own vision of seasonality, simplicity and quality to Rustic Canyon's kitchen. The food here is made and plated with sharing in mind, so that you can order for the table and taste different dishes. 1119 Wilshire Blvd.; (310) 393-7050.
2709 Main Street; (310) 392-9025
1104 Wilshire Blvd.; (310) 395-0881
1810 Ocean Avenue; (310) 394-5550
114 West Channel Road; (310) 573-1660
3115 Pico Blvd.; (310) 829-4313
3009 Main Street; (310) 399-1843
101Wilshire Blvd.; (310) 319-3111
1 Pico Blvd.; (310) 587-1717
108 West Channel Road; (310) 230-9100
1910 Ocean Avenue; (310) 581-5533
174 Kinney Street; (310) 392-8366
1602 Ocean Avenue; (310) 458-9294
1401 Ocean Avenue; (310) 394-5669
101 Santa Monica Blvd.; (310) 899-4466
2700 Wilshire Blvd.; (310) 453-4000
If you'd prefer a bit more privacy during your dinner in Santa Monica, you can always take the route Selena Gomez and The Weekend chose when they stepped recently out for dinner at Giorgio Baldi: They got a room. As in private dining room.
Whether you're like-minded when it comes to privacy or simply want to make a special meal even that more intimate, you've got options at many of these Santa Monica restaurants.
You don't need to b a rock star - but having a rock star's budget might help. While private dining at Capo will set you back $15,000 for the night, many of these restaurants also offer the privacy you seek - and are a bit less spendy.