Despite being located on an ocean, LA doesn’t have the reputation for seafood that the East Coast does. We have some of the best sushi on the planet, but we’re lacking in restaurants covered in Moby Dick paintings and old ship wheels. You know, where you get your cod delivered to your table by a grizzly former sailor, or however they do it in Boston.
But while our best fish restaurants might not look like old pirate hangouts, they do serve excellent seafood. Whether you’re looking for white tablecloths, you’d be down to try a fish you didn’t know existed, or you just want to scarf down a lobster roll in your car, you can find a seafood restaurant for your needs in this guide. And if what you really want is sushi, we have a guide for that too.
It’s a scientific fact that food from the ocean tastes better if you eat it while looking at the ocean, and Malibu Seafood is one of our favorite places to do both. Owned and run by the fisherman who caught that piece of fish you’re about to put in your face, this little shack on PCH is here to provide you with all your beach-adjacent seafood needs. The menu is full of classics - squid and chips, steamed mussels, a peel your own shrimp plate - and the elevated patio is ideal for taking in the views. Even with the line that snakes through the parking lot on weekends, we can’t make leave Malibu without stopping here.
If you don’t live in the South Bay, you might think driving to Manhattan Beach for some raw scallops is crazy talk. It’s definitely not. A meal at Fishing With Dynamite makes you feel like you’re on vacation in New England, especially if you can get out of work and be there for a Friday lunch. The Peruvian scallops are some of our favorite things to eat, and you should not miss the key lime pie.
If the image that popped into your head when you read “seafood guide” was a bunch of stuffy, white tablecloth restaurants, then you need to visit EMC. This KTown spot is lively and fun and ideal for pretty much any occasion - sports watching, dates, and group dinners all work here. The seafood menu itself is super varied, so you can do anything from oysters and salmon carpaccio to fish tacos. But make sure the uni pasta is on your table regardless.
Eating at Providence is an event - you’ll be there for at least three hours experiencing one of their multi-course tasting menus. There’s a man who will prepare your salt-baked Santa Barbara spot prawns tableside, a cheese cart, and a packaged sweet brioche to take home for breakfast the next day. But Providence does event eating in a way that doesn’t feel pretentious, and does feel like it’s worth the money. The food itself is imaginative and delicious, and can involve everything from abalone and geoduck to more familiar things like rockfish. If you’re looking to throw down for an incredible meal, look no further than Providence.
Son of a Gun is the old reliable of the Animal/Jon & Vinny’s/Trois Mec empire. No one really talks about it too much, but it’s always there when you need it. Big group? Take over the giant window booth at the front of the restaurant. Dinner with the pescaterian in-laws? Bring them here, and they might actually start liking you. This place is fun and casual, and relatively easy to get into. Order from every seafood section of the menu, and also get at least one fried chicken sandwich for the table.
It’s Tuesday, you’re leaving work, and you’re too tired to go out but you want something more exciting than your once-a-week Thai takeout spot. Make a quick stop at Cape Seafood for the weeknight dinner you need. This is a fish market run by the people behind Providence, so you can always come here to pick up something to cook, but we heavily endorse any of the items on their constantly-changing blackboard menu. Their lobster roll and salmon bagel are fantastic, and while it’s on the pricier end of takeout, you’ll get an excellent meal out of it, even if you eat half of it in your car while stuck in traffic.
Turns out “snook” isn’t a 1920’s slang term for a game of pool - it’s a type of fish, and it’s the speciality at Coni’seafood in Inglewood. And you should be ordering it. The Mexican seafood restaurant is worth the drive for the marlin tacos and really any of the things they’re doing with shrimp. Plus, they have a big, bright interior and a BYO wine policy. Bring enough friends to share a whole fish.
It’s weird that there aren’t more seafood restaurants in Venice. The ocean is right there, but apart from a couple of poke places off the boardwalk and the fish tacos at James’ Beach, you’ll find more bowls of pasta on Abbot Kinney than you will pieces of fish. At least this not-very-beachy beach town has Salt Air. This is the place you’ll come on a Tuesday night for small plates, and accidentally end up ordering a second bottle of wine. The steelhead trout tartare and mussels will always be on our table, and we’d advise you to place an order for the excellent dessert monkey bread ahead of time. Just so you don’t forget.
You’re trying to plan a date and all you know is that oysters are aphrodisiacs and also they’ll make you look fancy. Head to L&E Oyster, our favorite date spot in Silver Lake. You can choose between the more casual bar/lounge area upstairs, or do a proper dinner at the restaurant downstairs depending on what kind of night you want this to be. Either way, you can share some good drinks and any of their seafood dishes (we also recommend the mussels and chorizo toast) before suggesting a walk around the reservoir. Or to your home, if you’ve had enough oysters.
Seafood meals are usually a dinner thing, but for the best seafood lunch in town, head to West Adams and stop in at Holbox. This order-at-the-counter spot is in the Mercado La Paloma, that severely overlooked food hall near USC. You’ll like pretty much anything on the menu - the lobster tacos and the ceviche tostadas are excellent, and you can be in and out in time to get back for your 1pm meeting.
If you’re a relocated East Coaster having steamer withdrawals, Connie & Ted’s is a good way to avoid spending too much money on a ticket to Rhode Island. This casual West Hollywood spot has mellowed from its Gwyneth-Paltrow-is-in-the-corner days a couple years back, and has become a neighborhood hangout that works any day of the week. Almost everything on the menu is great, from those dipped-in-butter steamer clams to the enormous shellfish tower. And if you need a break from the sea creatures, the burger is definitely worth ordering.
To enjoy a meal at Santa Monica Seafood you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. Which is eating inside a fish market on the Westside that always seems to be at its busiest at your aunt’s preferred dining hour of 5:30pm. But if you’re cool with having your dinner conversation interrupted by bossy shopping grandmothers who want that piece of tilapia, not that slightly smaller one the guy behind the counter picked up first, then you’ll probably be very into this place. If you can, get a seat at the bar and get involved in the oyster happy hour - otherwise you’ll be eating your (unbelievably fresh) fish next to those shopping grandmothers.
Eating at Jae Bu Do is an experience you won’t soon forget. This Korean Seafood BBQ will, like other KBBQ spots, leave your hair smelling like smoke for days. It also might leave your mouth/face/torso burned from boiling seawater. You will eat fish you didn’t know existed and probably wish you hadn’t learned about (like hagfish, the slimiest thing in the ocean). You will eat an oyster the size of a baby. You might also have a lot of fun. This is the place to bring an adventurous group of friends who are willing to go to battle with you.