The Best Upscale Santa Monica Restaurants

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, and Asian. 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.

Best Places in Santa Monica for California Cuisine

California cuisine is a style of cuisine marked by an interest in fusion cuisine (integrating disparate cooking sales and ingredients( and in the use o freshly prepared local ingredients. The food is typically prepared with strong attention to presentation.

  Cast Restaurant & Lounge 

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.

  Ivy at the Shore

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.

  Penthouse at the Huntley Santa Monica

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.

  Michael's Restaurant Santa Monica

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.

  Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen

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.

Best Spots in Santa Monica for French and French Asian Fusion Cuisine

Chinois on Main

Come to this iconic eatery owned by Wolfgang Puck, specializing in Asian-French fusion cuisine, and prepare to fall in love with the sophisticated decor, it's romantic cozy vibe, and it's perfect location on Main Street, which offers plenty of places to stroll to both before and apre dinner.

Chinois is spendy but worth it - you may want to check out the prix fixe menus available for lunch and dinner to keep costs down.

2709 Main Street; (310) 392-9025

Melisse Restaurant

Josiah Citrin's chic French-New American restaurant, known for its season-driven prix fixe menus.

1104 Wilshire Blvd.; (310) 395-0881

Best Italian Restaurants in Santa Monica


This intimate upscale Italian restaurant will have you feeling like a Capo. You can't go wrong with the fresh and tender Italian meats, delectable seafood and pasta dishes. The vast wine selection has something for every palate and budget.

1810 Ocean Avenue; (310) 394-5550

Giorgio Baldi

114 West Channel Road; (310) 573-1660


3115 Pico Blvd.; (310) 829-4313

Via Veneto

3009 Main Street; (310) 399-1843

Top Santa Monica Seafood Restaurants


1910 Ocean Avenue; (310) 581-5533

Enterprise Fish Co. Santa Monica

174 Kinney Street; (310) 392-8366

The Lobster

1602 Ocean Avenue; (310) 458-9294

Water Grill

1401 Ocean Avenue; (310) 394-5669

Prime  Santa Monica Steakhouses

BOA Steakhouse

101 Santa Monica Blvd.; (310) 899-4466

Get a Room: Private Dining in Santa Monica

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.

› Best Upscale Santa Monica Restaurants


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