Malibu has long been a playground for the rich and famous, PCH road-trippers, and weekend warriors looking to make the most of their Saturday. It’s the Hamptons of Los Angeles, only with way better beaches. But the food situation? That leaves a little bit to be desired.
A quick jaunt down PCH and you might notice a KFC and a few old seaside restaurants with skeletons at the bar. But scratch a little deeper and there’s much more to discover. From classic roadside seafood shacks to some of the best sushi on the West Coast, if you’re eating poorly in Malibu, you didn’t do your homework properly. Luckily, we did that for you. Here are the best places to eat in Malibu.
Check out the rest of our 2017 Summer Guide here.
The post-surf breakfast burrito is basically a Malibu way of life, and Country Kitchen is where the locals get theirs. This place is right on PCH, with a walk-up window, an awkward parking lot, a handful of seats, and a giant menu of burgers and sandwiches - but ordering anything besides the breakfast burrito would be a mistake. It’s simple - with a choice of meat (get the bacon), egg, hash brown, cheese, and salsa - and not too filling, and if you show up in a wetsuit, you can pretend you actually know how to surf.
You might be a long way away from owning a ranch in Malibu, but having dinner at Saddlerock Gardens can at least give you a preview into the life you’re working on Secret-ing into existence. These once-a-month dinners are essentially a big dinner party (that you pay to be a guest at) in the mountains of Malibu, and involve the opportunity to pick the produce you’ll eat for dinner. Yes, this sounds like a Portlandia sketch, and yes, you should still go.
Nobu is the official restaurant of Malibu. Combine world-class sushi with the best space on the coast, and you’ve got one of the most loved restaurants in California. To be clear, you are going to spend some money here. A LOT of money. But this is the legendary Chef Nobu we’re talking about here, and Oprah just walked in drunk with Spielberg - you’re not in Kansas anymore.
As a general rule, the closer any restaurant gets to a pier, the more terrible it becomes. And if the restaurant is actually on the pier? Forget it. Unless we’re talking about Malibu Farm. The Scandinavian-inspired restaurant has a fairly simple, crowd-pleasing menu that’s surprisingly good. And those views off the pier never hurt anybody. If you want a quintessential Malibu experience without having to take out a home mortgage, Malibu Farm is where you go.
There’s no shortage of quality seafood along Malibu’s coast. But for our money, it doesn’t get better than Malibu Seafood. From the fish and chips to the fresh Louisiana shrimp, everything at this tiny roadside shack is fantastic. There will definitely be a line on the weekends, but you will not care. The sun is out, there’s sand in your hair, and you can smell the ocean from your spot in line.
This kitschy seafood diner on the north end of town is arguably the most popular pullover spot on the entire PCH. And while the swarms of brochure tourists can get intense, we’re never mad we went. The food is good (get that clam chowder), and the retro 1960’s California vibes are unparalleled.
Malibu is the proud world capital of ancient, overpriced seafood restaurants that aren’t worth your time. Except Geoffrey’s. This 70-year-old Malibu landmark has continued to reinvent itself through the years and has kept things fresh and lively. It’s definitely a special occasion place and you’re definitely going to drop a lot of money, but with insane ocean views and the best crab cakes in Malibu, you might as well do it at Geoffrey’s.
One might assume the pier is the center of all things Malibu. But one trip over to the Country Mart will prove you quite wrong. The upscale outdoor mall is a scene cut right from a Kate Hudson lifestyle blog, but once you navigate through a seemingly endless row of L’Occitane’s, there’s actually some pretty good food here. Like John’s Garden. The 40-year-old sandwich shop/window is a Malibu classic, serving simple and excellent sandwiches for all your beach picnic needs.
What do you get when you combine the fresh fish from Malibu Seafood and the retro vibes over at Neptune’s? Reel Inn. The festive seafood shack right at the mouth of Topanga Canyon often gets overlooked by its two competitors, but that’s a mistake. Because Reel Inn has quality seafood at good prices without all the crowds and hype. The ocean-facing patio is where you want to be.
Thai food might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about pre- and post-beach eating. But if you’re craving some drunken noodles or panang curry, Cholada is where you head. The tiny restaurant next to Reel Inn looks like another PCH seafood shack from the outside, but inside it’s a no-frills, family-run Thai joint serving the best Thai classics in town.
It’s easy to forget with all the million dollar homes and celebrity rehab centers that Malibu is also home to a major university - Pepperdine. And while most of those kids might not be strapped for cash, they’re not going to Moonshadows for dinner either. They’re going to Lily’s. The tiny Mexican cafe around the corner from Zuma serves an excellent menu of Mexican classics, but you’re there for the breakfast burrito. Three eggs and all the refried beans make this the best hangover cure in town.
Located in the Country Mart, but slightly removed from all the exhausted yoga moms and screaming Galliano-dressed children in the main square, Taverna Tony is an oasis of really excellent Greek food. If you’re looking for a quintessential Malibu date night, but don’t want to deal with the hassle (or costs) of all the main spots on the water, Taverna’s lively, local vibe is where you should be.
Walking into Saddle Peak feels more like you’re checking into a wilderness lodge in Jackson Hole than a restaurant above the Malibu coast, and that’s what you’re here for. With everything from bone-in ribeye to emu tenderloin, this is a meat lovers’ paradise. If you’re tired of all your old date spot go-to’s, Saddle Peak’s patio is the perfect place to change it up.
Let’s be clear here - Paradise Cove does not have the best food in Malibu. And that ticketed parking lot of theirs can be a certifiable nightmare. That said, once you’re actually in the place, all that fades away. Most restaurants in Malibu advertise themselves as being beachfront, but Paradise Cove is the only one literally on the beach. And if you think Mom and Dad (or a date) want anything else besides sipping a Bloody Mary with their feet in the sand, you’re wrong.
After a long day at the beach, sometimes you just want a beer without having to work for it. And in Malibu, your move is Ollie’s Duck & Dive. Right next to Lily’s, this local spot has quality food, excellent craft beer, and the kind of who-cares vibe you don’t always find around here. The Drunken Mac is an absolute must.
Technically in the mountain peyote town of Topanga, we’re including Inn of The Seventh Ray because it’s simply not to be missed. This hideaway in the trees sounds more like a nudist colony than a place to grab brunch, but rest assured, it’s very much a restaurant. And a surprisingly upscale one at that. The food is good enough, but you’re here for the fantastic patio and those old-school Topanga Canyon vibes.