Malibu has long been a playground for the rich and famous, PCH road-trippers, and everyday people 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 random 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 a perfect breakfast burrito, 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.
Broad Street Oyster Co. isn’t just a great place to eat along PCH - it’s one of our favorite restaurants in the entire city. The move at this barebones seafood shack (located inside of the Country Mart) is to come here with a small group for a late lunch, that way you’ll be able to order a bit of everything - oysters on the half shell, spot prawns from the raw bar, maybe a cup or two of their excellent clam chowder, etc. Just make sure to include their lobster roll. We like it served hot and smothered in butter, a luxurious sandwich that’s sure to impress even the pickiest of seafood eaters. Yes, we’re looking at you, East Coasters.
Whenever we need a break from the chaos and congestion of LA (as well as this century), we take a drive up to The Old Place. Up in the Santa Monica Mountains, it’s located on the grounds of a 19th-century general store-turned-saloon and steakhouse, complete with large, wooden fixtures and a Wild West aesthetic that’s not unlike what you’ll find in Pioneertown. The menu is filled with American comfort staples like bone-in ribeye steaks, glorious apple pies, and something called a “noodle and cheese bake” - a mac-and-cheese-like dish made with thick egg noodles smothered in melted parmesan, goat cheese, and mozzarella. You’ll want to eat this solo.
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.
Though Topanga Canyon’s LSD-fueled commune days are long gone, it’s still a fun day trip, and one that’s made even better by having lunch at Cafe 27. The almost entirely outdoor space is built into the side of a hill with sweeping views of the canyon that feels like you’re eating inside the tree-house of your childhood dreams. But instead of warm M&Ms and juice boxes, you’ll refuel on omelettes, sandwiches, and a very good avocado toast.
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.
You’ve spent the last half hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic, getting passed by a dealership’s-worth of shiny Teslas - so the last thing you want is a crowded, scene-y place to eat. Head to Reel Inn. This fun, festive shack at the bottom of Topanga Canyon often gets overlooked by its more famous neighbors, but that just means you’ll get all of Malibu’s charms (quality seafood, oceanfront patios, campy string light aesthetics that’d feel right at home at the 2019 Met Gala) with none of the bad (too many people, long lines, etc.). The massive menu is filled with everything from fried oysters to fish and chips to shrimp tacos, so no matter who you’re with, everyone will leave satisfied.
Malibu Kitchen is a deli owned by a New Yorker in the heart of the Country Mart. Step inside, and be transported to Long Island in the best of ways - the owner might curtly ask you to hurry up or slow down, the chip and beverage options are endless, and the made-to-order sandwiches are the best in Malibu - and way better (and are made faster) than the ones from John’s Garden across the way. The pulled pork on ciabatta outshines what we’ve had at most BBQ spots, but even if you go with turkey, a reuben, or an assortment of sides from the deli case, you’ll be set for your day at the beach or quick lunch afterwards.
Everyone knows that Malibu is the unofficial capital of ancient, overpriced seafood restaurants unworthy of your time and money (see: any spots not on this list), but Geoffrey’s is not that. In many ways, this 70-year-old Malibu landmark resembles our parents - it’s been around forever and, to even their own surprise, has managed to keep the spark alive, continuing to reinvent itself year after year. Come here any day of the week, and you’ll see a long line of cars in the valet, filled with couples and families ready to celebrate some Very Special Occasion. Tables are covered in pristine white tablecloths, the oceanfront views are second to none, and the crab cakes are among some of the best in town. Even though you’ll be dropping a decent amount of cash, a meal at Geoffrey’s will make you feel like the A-list celebrity that lives inside your heart.
Lucky’s is an upscale steakhouse in the Malibu Country Mart that originated in the A-Lister commune known as Montecito. Though this location lacks Oprah and Meghan Markle sightings, the crowd milling around the dining room will keep you entertained. You’ll spot locals sipping martinis and intentionally placing their hands so everyone can see their jewelry and surfers who didn’t even bother changing out of their board shorts. That said, Lucky’s is more than just a people-watching sideshow - the food is good too. We recommend doing your best to not to fill up on their excellent table rolls, starting with the shrimp and prosciutto chopped salad, and going for whatever big piece of meat catches your eye.
Don’t come to Duke’s feeling too serious. This is a kitschy Hawaii-themed restaurant on PCH overlooking the ocean, where surfboards, historical timelines, and vintage surfing videos on TVs line the wood-paneled walls. And we love it. Mostly because it’s very much a local hang. Come any evening and you’ll find a bunch of sandy people who clearly take up permanent residence at the bar, which overlooks the unobstructed Pacific. And on Taco Tuesday, the outdoor patio gets particularly packed. The margaritas are contenders for the Best In The City, and pods of dolphins are so close and frequent, it gets old after a while. The food? The tacos, salads, ribs, and burgers are good enough, and that’s just fine with us.
In a neighborhood where restaurants range from “abandoned shacks on the side of the road” to “wildly expensive steakhouses and literal Nobu), the white tablecloths and pleasant service at Nicolas Eatery provides a welcome middle ground. There’s a spacious patio out back, shaded by the Malibu mountains. The menu leans French and their open kitchen gives you a peek into the action, where you’ll catch white uniformed-chefs darting about. The food won’t knock your socks off, the fries are appropriately crispy, the lobster roll is nice and buttery, and the farmers’ market salad tastes suspiciously like a bag of mixed greens from Ralphs.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re craving some drunken noodles or panang curry pre- or post-beach, 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 spot serving great Thai favorites.
Our general rule is that the closer a 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 simple, crowd-pleasing menu filled with light, kind-of-healthy salads, protein plates, and tacos. Plus, 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 should go.
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 yogis and screaming Galliano-dressed children in the main square, Taverna Tony is an oasis of pretty great albeit pricey Greek food. If you’re looking for a quintessential Malibu date night, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of all the main spots on the water, Taverna’s lively, local vibe is where you should be, especially on weekend nights when they typically have live music and belly dancers. You could also come by for an unencumbered lunch. Their covered patio is a great place to have a drink and fill up on octopus and Greek salad before or after hitting the beach.
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.
Technically in 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.