Los Angeles is a food lover’s dream. It is incredibly ethnically diverse, has access to amazing produce with farmers markets all over the city, it’s full of everything from hole-in-the-wall to trendy restaurants, to food trucks with the best $1 tacos you’ll every try (I’m talking about you, El Chato Taco Truck!!)…the list goes on. There is really something for everyone in LA. Whether you crave healthy and seasonal food, or a burger with bacon jam and sweet potato fries is more your style, LA has got you covered. I live in Santa Monica and I am so lucky to live near all kinds of delicious restaurants – there are so many places that you need to try, so let’s call this restaurant guide part I!
Gjelina: Gjelina, located on Abbot Kinney in Venice, is a neighborhood restaurant with a colorful, flavorful, rustic, and seasonal menu that is all about celebrating organic ingredients. This is a great spot for date night, catching up with friends, and for brunch on the weekends. Ask your server for recommendations on the menu, as it changes throughout the year – some of my favorites have been their pizzas, grilled apricot with burrata and country ham appetizer, and the butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel and creme fraiche. This place is always packed, so be sure to make your dinner reservations ahead of time! They don’t take brunch reservations but show up before 10am and you probably won’t end up with too bad of a wait. If you end up with a wait, go wander around Abbot Kinney to pop into art galleries, boutiques, cafes, and wine bars.
Blue Plate Taco: I love Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica and their”Fresh and light beachside cuisine”. This is a super fun and laid back spot right on Ocean ave across from… you guessed it, the ocean. Watch the sunset and enjoy the view while you sip on margaritas, chips and guac, ceviches, tacos and freshly made salsas. If you get cold they will happily give you a blanket to wrap yourself in while you sit on the patio! What more do you need? (Besides more margaritas).
Milo and Olive: Milo and Olive is known for their amazing bakery, their farmer’s market and seasonal inspired small plates, salads, pizzas, and… their garlic knot. Order the garlic knot. The garlic knot is heavenly – it is essentially dough wrapped around cloves of garlic, tied with a cord, which is then baked to perfection in a wood fired oven. The result is tasty and fresh baked bread stuffed with dreamy, spreadable, roasted garlic on the inside.
Huckleberry: Huckleberry is quintessential California farm-to-table style cuisine, with an artisan bakery and cafe. Great for breakfast, lunch, or brunch. Huckleberry is owned by the same couple that owns Milo and Olive, so you can expect more delicious seasonal inspired plates here!
Plan Kitchen + Check Bar: AMAZING BURGERS! The Plan Check bar is a gastropub with creative and gourmet burgers, craft beers, and tasty appetizers. All of the burgers here are so delicious you can’t just try one! If you go with a friend or two, order a few different kinds so you can try them all. The burgers here aren’t super heavy and greasy, just incredibly flavorful. My favorites are: their famous “PCB burger”, which has americanized dashi cheese, housemade ketchup leather, caramelized onions, mixed pickles, and a crunch bun, the “Blueprint Burger”, which has smoked blue cheese, crispy bacon, fried onions, roasted garlic steak sauce, and peppercress, and their “Southern Fry”, a fried chicken sandwich with smokey fried jidori chicken, spicy green pimento cheese, duck breast ham, and pickles. The Plan Check Kitchen + Bar is also known for their homemade donut dessert. Make sure you come to this place ready to eat!
Father’s Office: Father’s Office is another famous LA spot, which has a strict no-substitutions policy when it comes to their burger, and understandably so. The Father’s Office Burger comes with caramelized onions (more like an onion jam), gruyere cheese, arugula, and blue cheese. This burger is HEAVY and I can never finish the entire thing, so go with a friend to split it, or go when you are ready for a big meal (you’re going to want a side of their fries, too). Father’s Office is also known for their great craft beer list on tap, so be sure to ask if they have more rare beers when you go, like Pliny the Elder!
Mercado: Delicious Mexican food in Santa Monica! This is a perfect spot to grab dinner and enjoy some margaritas before heading out with friends on a Friday night. On their menu you’ll find their “Elote Callejero” – grilled sweet corn, caramelized onions, chile piquin butter, queso cotija, their “Dos Gringas” – spit-roasted pastor, oaxaca cheese, red onions, cilantro, Yxta salsa brava, avocado salsa, flour tortillas, as well as chile rellenos, enchiladas, and more!
Bay Cities Italian Deli: Bay Cities is a famous Italian deli and market in Santa Monica. I have a soft spot for Bay Cities – it reminds me of all the little markets I shopped at while studying abroad in Rome, Italy. They have a fabulous deli section with Italian salads and fresh sandwiches on their house-made bread, as well as entire market with artisan Italian cooking ingredients, from fresh homemade pasta to Italian candies, Lavazza espresso, and sauces. They are famous for their “Godmother” sandwich, but you really can’t go wrong with anything there. One of my all time favorites from Bay Cities is their mac and cheese from the hot food section to the right of the deli, so make sure you order some of that, too! Expect to wait when you go on a Sunday around lunchtime, as this is a popular spot. You can order your sandwich online if you are not up for the wait. As a side note, they are not open on Mondays!
Tar & Roses: Delicious small plates! Some of the menu items here are subject to change, depending on what time of year you go. The Oxtail dumplings, smoked trout crostini, and the strawberry crostata are a must! They have an adorable outdoor patio that is perfect for a romantic date night or a celebration with friends.
Wurstkuche: Pronounced: “worst-kutche” (I think). Wurstkuche is DELICIOUS and such a fun restaurant. The menu here consists of gourmet sausages that you order on a bun with your toppings of choice, i.e. caramelized onions, sauerkraut, roasted peppers. The sausages have everything from a classic bratwurst, mango + jalapeno chicken turkey sausage, rattlesnake + rabbit with jalapeno peppers, to sun-dried tomato and mozzarella sausage (which is surprisingly amazing). Make sure to order fries and a dipping sauce, like their chipotle aioli or their bleu cheese walnut + bacon dip. And last, but certainly not least, complete your order with a beer! They have a long list of beers on tap to choose from to go with your meal. After you order your food you walk down a long hallway that opens up into an awesome and packed dining area with communal tables, a bar, all of the different kinds of mustard you could ever dream of, and a DJ playing music. Wurstkuche is also ideal for a big group because you can make a reservation ahead of time and you pay before you sit down to eat (so much easier than splitting the bill with a big group).
Sugarfish: If you like sushi Sugarfish is a must – this is my favorite sushi spot in LA. Sugarfish has the most impressive, flavorful, and fresh tasting nigiri, sashimi, and hand rolls. I always make a point to take friends and family visiting LA here and it is a crowd pleaser every time! Order the “Trust Me” menu, it is the chef’s menu and you get to try so many different exciting flavors.
Salt & Straw: I am so pumped that Salt & Straw opened up in Venice! They are an artisan ice cream shop with creative and delicious flavors, and their original Portland location was so popular the ended up eventually expanding to Larchmont, and now Venice on Abbot Kinney. I am a sucker for their “Roasted Strawberry & Toasted White Chocolate” ice cream, and some of their other popular flavors include “Sea Salt & Caramel Ribbons”, “Honey Lavender”, and “Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache”.
What are your favorite restaurants on the West side? Or what restaurants have you been wanting to try? Let me know in the comments – happy eating!