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? It often leaves something to be desired.
Take a quick drive along the ocean 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 in Malibu and its surrounding areas to discover. From classic roadside seafood shacks to brunches with spectacular views, if you’re eating poorly in this town, you didn’t do your homework. Luckily, we did it for you. Here are the best places to eat in the Malibu area.
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photo credit: Malibu Cafe
Unlike most of the places on this guide, Malibu Cafe doesn’t have a view of the water. But it does offer something just as spectacular: a view of the Santa Monica mountains. Getting here is a trek—about a 20 minute drive from PCH—but once you arrive, you’re gaze out on a gorgeous 5,000 acre property filled with waterfalls, tree groves, and smoky fire pits. It’s located on the historic Calamigos Ranch, an event space that’s been around since the 1930s. And although it costs a ton of money to host a party here, literally anyone can drive up and eat at the restaurant. The food is good rather than great, but nothing is straight up bad. There’s a crab salad we like that’s a mess on the plate, but generous with the shellfish. It’s a nice pick-me-up while daydreaming about moving here and living off the land.
photo credit: Moonshadows
When your overbearing aunt is in town and demands to be “on the water,” Moonshadows is exactly where you take her. Located off the PCH, this restaurant’s dining area juts out over the ocean, making it a great spot for wrap-around sunset views and feeling like you’re on a Carnival cruise liner, minus the all-inclusive cocktails. The dinner menu is just OK, with the creamy lobster and crab linguine being a safe pick, but brunch is undeniably pleasant with the ocean breeze and diner-style omelets. It’s Moonshadow’s prime location that ultimately make it worth visiting for a pineapple mojito at sunset, with or without your aunt’s company.
photo credit: Endless Color
If you took a natural wine shop, a retro vinyl store, and a pizza parlor, threw them all in a blender, and dropped it off in Topanga Canyon, you’d get Endless Color. The space looks like Burning Man meets Pee-wee's Playhouse: you’ll spy wiggly light fixtures, blob-shaped tables, and giant disco balls hanging above the cactus-lined patio. It’s casual enough to drop by after a day at the beach, but still cool enough to go out of your way for after an impromptu photoshoot on Malibu Pier. A huge chunk of the menu is dedicated to Neapolitan pies with puffy, charred, and blistered crusts. But they also serve a pretty good cheeseburger, chicken tenders, and a few side salads. If you need a whimsical departure from the stiff and stark dining rooms we’re all so used to, you’ll love it here.
photo credit: Vintage Grocers
There are plenty of places for beach snacks in Malibu (if you couldn’t tell by now), but when the only thing you want is a solid sandwich and impressive macaroni salad, Vintage Grocers has you covered. Located in the massive Trancas Country Market, this high-end grocery store is filled with all the prerequisite health food items you’d expect: green juices, specialty cheeses, and adaptogenic whatevers. But the deli is where the action is: there’s a tri-tip sandwich that comes on a hot panini-pressed baguette and is covered with sauteed onions and bell peppers for a welcome sweet kick. Plus, you have your choice of sides—salt and vinegar chips, coleslaw, pasta salad, fresh fruit, etc.—but if you’re not getting the macaroni salad… get back in line and try again. Thick, al dente elbow macaroni tossed in creamy mayo that’s used judiciously. Chef’s kiss.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
The Old Place
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.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
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.
photo credit: Liam Brown
Broad Street Oyster Co.
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.
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.
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.
photo credit: Yasara Gunawardena
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.
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.
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.
Paradise Cove Beach Cafe
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.
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 are two types of people in this world: those who like their breakfast burritos with potatoes and those who like them with beans. If you’re a proud member of the bean party, then it is highly likely that Lily’s, a tiny Mexican spot in Malibu, serves your favorite breakfast burrito in LA. Even the small size is about the the length and weight of a newborn child, and it comes loaded with fluffy eggs, cheese, refried beans, and bacon. You should add avocado, ask for all three kinds of the salsa, and call in your order in advance while you’re bombing down PCH.
Duke's Barefoot Bar
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 kinda 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.
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.
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.
Inn of the Seventh Ray
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.
Saddle Peak Lodge
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.