Ah, the shrimp cocktail. Is there any dish more indicative of the start of summer? Of course, you could eat the simple crustacean + sauce meal any time of the year, but there’s something about the mixture of warm weather, a strong drink served outside (a martini, perhaps?), plus the sense that you’ve got nothing but warm weather and days spent falling asleep at the beach ahead that makes the shrimp cocktail experience all the more special. Or, maybe, we just really really like eating peeled shrimp. Could be that one.
So, whether you’re a SC novice, or make your own cocktail sauce from scratch, we’ve rounded up the 13 best shrimp cocktails in the entire city. Consider this your official bucket list.
THE SHRIMP COCKTAILS
There’s no shortage of seafood spots in Malibu, but if you want the best of the best, you go to Broad Street. Located behind the Country Mart, this East Coast-style seafood shack serves great versions of classic dishes like lobster rolls, clam chowder, and fish and chips, but it’s their raw bar that deserves most of your attention. We love their fresh oysters, crab claws, and daily crudo, but the shrimp cocktail is the perfect appetizer if you just came from the beach and need something refreshing in your stomach. It comes with eight lightly-peppered jumbo shrimp and a sweet, tangy house cocktail sauce that we’ve been known to eat with a spoon. If you’re in the market to really go big, you can also get the cocktail as part of the $150 seafood tower.
The shrimp cocktail at L&E Oyster Bar is massive, meaty, and very, very herby. Each prawn easily takes four-to-five bites to consume and must weigh as much as an AirPod case. They’re covered in an aromatic Old Bay rub, and are the perfect accompaniment to any sort of meal you’d want here, whether that’s an appetizer to a longer night, or simply served with a glass of champagne while you read the book you brought with you on the upstairs balcony overlooking Silver Lake. Maybe something by Sally Rooney?
You won’t find fresher shrimp than what’s being served at Coni’Seafood, so if you’re craving shrimp cocktail, this Mexican spot with locations in Inglewood and Del Rey needs to be at the top of your list. Here, the shrimp are served in a big bowl filled with a mild, salty broth and chopped cucumbers, onions, and tomato. Approximately 10 lime wedges line the side if you want to kick the citrus levels up a bit, and we recommend taking advantage of that option. But at the end of the day, what makes Coni’s version so special is the shrimp itself. They aren’t huge, but they’re slightly sweet and give off a tiny pop with each bite. Also, there are probably 15-20 of them floating around in the bowl, easily constituting an entree if you want it to be.
This Manhattan Beach steakhouse is a place that works just as well for dates as it does for dinners with tie-wearing clients. And even though you’re going to want a plate of red meat at the table (we’re partial to the rib eye), skipping the shrimp cocktail would be a mistake. Sure, the old-school ice cream dish it comes in is a little awkward - you’re definitely going to spill some sauce onto the table - but it’s still one of our favorite things here. The jumbo shrimp are, indeed, jumbo, plus taste sweet and are entirely tasty, paired with their excellent cocktail sauce.
The shrimp cocktail, or coctel de camaron, at Holbox is nothing short of a masterpiece. Of course, we’d expect nothing less than from the South Central Mexican seafood king, but it’s a dish that’s easy to skip over while you eye their ceviches, tacos, and uni tostada. It comes in an elegant, almost medieval glass goblet, with nice, jumbo pieces of shrimp (peeled down to the tail), oysters, octopus, and slices from one of the freshest, non-bruised avocados we’ve ever seen in our entire lives. All of it is held together by a wonderful broth, a tomato-y soup that’s just a little spicy and comes in a pretty, opaque dark orange color, kind of like the pastels you’d get all over your clothes in elementary school. Of course, still order things like the bright-green scallop aguachile, but make sure to throw their coctel de camaron into your order as well.
OK, this one isn’t a shrimp cocktail, per se, but when you experience a campechana as world-shattering as the one at Mariscos Jalisco, you’ve got to include it. Served in a tall, Styrofoam cup, the rich tomato-based broth tastes as if someone took a michelada and shook it together, martini-style, with an ocean’s-worth of seafood. There’s abalone, shrimp, baby octopus bits, and an entire raw oyster in there. In other words, it’s a shrimp cocktail in its ultimate form: a little heat, a touch of acidity, and again, one entire oyster.
Everything about Lawry’s is corny as hell, from the gleaming prime rib carts on wheels and tableside spinning salads, to the musty carpeting, towering portraits of unidentified nobles, and creamed corn itself. But that’s why you’re here, especially for birthday celebrations or when you’re in the mood to drink martinis and glare at people. And what pairs better with a martini and/or birthday than a shrimp cocktail? The five chilled jumbo shrimp arrive to the table in a chilled, rotund vessel filled with cocktail sauce. The shrimp is notably meaty and cold, and daintily dunking one in the accompanying sauce is guaranteed to make you feel one with the fancy nobles on the walls.
In a word, the shrimp cocktail from this Manhattan Beach seafood restaurant is gorgeous. It’s like the version you’d find at a wedding reception but revved up to a ten. If there were ever a shrimp cocktail heaven (as we hope there is), it would meet you right at the pearly gates. There are two sizes - a half and full pound version - and is served on a bed of crushed ice with a fragrant dill garnish and cucumber spears. The presentation is lovely, the large comes with twenty or so identical-looking shrimp lined up in a row, served with a side of cocktail sauce, a scene so orderly and stylized, it would look at home in a Quentin Tarantino movie.
The shrimp cocktail at Golden Bull in Santa Monica Canyon is not your typical shrimp cocktail. You will not get unseasoned, chilled shrimp hanging decoratively around some sort of silver goblet loaded with crushed ice. Instead, six shrimp come atop a bed of greens orbiting a ramekin of cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge. While the presentation is not quite as festive as some others on this guide, the shrimp itself is a standout. They’re seasoned with what tastes like a touch of Old Bay and some just-grated lemon zest - so tasty on their own, you barely need the sauce. Our only complaint is that this shrimp cocktail isn’t on the Happy Hour menu, and could be a touch colder.
Walking into HMS Bounty, the nautical-themed dive bar in Ktown, on a weekday afternoon is a feast for the senses. The place feels like you stepped into steerage on an aging cruise ship - there are musty leather booths, “Careless Whisper” quietly playing over the intercom, and scattered tables filled with solo diners eating steak and sipping well tequila from a shot glass. In other words, it’s an absolute dreamscape and one that’s only enhanced by ordering a shrimp cocktail appetizer. This straightforward version (four jumbo shrimp, classic cocktail sauce, and two Saltine cracks) isn’t just good because you’re having fun - it’s good because the shrimp are plump, perfectly chilled, and delicious. Also, the whole thing is only $11.99.
When we’re hungry, Tower Bar doesn’t typically come to mind. It’s not that the food at this poolside patio at the Sunset Tower isn’t good (the sliders and salads hit the spot), it’s just that the key priorities here are drinks and people watching. That’s why it’s a perfect place to order an excellent shrimp cocktail. The appetizer gives you something to do with your hands while you watch John Mayer scroll on his phone. Pluck one of the jumbo shrimp dangling over the ledge of the chilled silver ice bucket and make use of the lemon and cocktail sauce. Two shrimps in, and you will quickly come to terms with the fact that you, as well as the whole of Los Angeles, are sexy.
There’s nothing really revolutionary about the shrimp cocktail at Malibu Seafood, and that’s precisely why we like it. The PCH-adjacent seafood shack isn’t trying to do anything fancy or trick you into thinking this is some extraordinary dish. They serve it plain, simple, the way it was intended to be eaten: with super plump shrimp and a side of cocktail sauce. The shrimp themselves are perfectly hefty and come in a little plastic to-go bowl, then served with a rich, homemade sauce - the ideal complement to a day after the beach or whenever you’re wandering around Malibu and need a delicious, quick little snack.
Open since 1919, Musso & Frank is where you come to for big steaks, big red booths, and big martinis. In other words, it’s exactly where you want to be eating a shrimp cocktail. Sure, you can find more inventive versions around town, but there’s something to be said for one that involves nothing more than five gigantic cold shrimp on a bed of ice, and some salty-sweet cocktail sauce waiting in the middle like a hotel suite plunge pool.