We don’t need to remind you that LA is a massive city. When Cher’s dad famously said “Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes” in Clueless, he must’ve been referring to 3:30am on Christmas Day - because in reality, it’s triple that number.
And while that obviously means treacherous work commutes and maxing out mileage limits on your car lease, it also means that if you live on the Westside, you’re never going to see your Eastside friends. Blame the distance, blame the stark cultural differences between the two areas - either way, getting them to come towards the beach is difficult. But with these 17 spots, it’s not impossible.
This isn’t just a list of the best restaurants and bars on the Westside. These are spots that Westsiders are proud to show off, and places Eastsiders can’t find on their side of town. And if that’s not enough to get them on the 10, you need better friends.
Hidden behind Scopa Italian Roots in Venice, Old Lightning may sound like one of those contrived speakeasies you stopped going to years ago. It’s not. Yes, this reservation-only bar is tricky to get into (they’re only open on weekdays and spots fill up fast), but once inside, you’ll be treated to one of the largest and rarest collections of liquor in the country. The tiny space looks like a tiki-themed airport lounge from the 1960s, and if you want to take a photo, you won’t be able to - because they take everyone’s phone at the door. As far as the actual drinking goes, you can certainly order something off their cocktail list, but you should really do a tasting instead. Just name your liquor, and the amount of money you’re willing to drop (they range from $50 to $5,000), then spend the rest of the night sipping Oaxacan mezcal from a distillery that closed in the ’70s.
Felix is home to the best pasta in Los Angeles - and if that’s not enough for your friend to get off their vegan co-op’s futon and head westward, it’s a good indication you should cut them out of your life. Located on Abbot Kinney in Venice, this upscale Italian restaurant is by no means the easiest place to get into (reservations should be made several weeks in advance), but the hack is to just head over early to the bar, where seats are first come, first serve, and the full menu is available. But no matter when you’re there, don’t even think about skipping the focaccia.
You know the only way you’re going to get your friend to drive from Glendale to Mar Vista is to promise something they can’t get on the Eastside. Head to Coni’Seafood. The classic Mexican seafood spot from Inglewood opened a Westside location a few years ago, bringing its incredible ceviches, marlin tacos, and grilled snook to an area of town that needed some drive-worthy seafood. Maybe you’re next, Glendale.
Your friend who lives in Glassell Park and paints glass for a living says nothing interesting happens on the Westside. Time to take her to Saddle Peak Lodge. The 100-year-old building located deep in the Santa Monica Mountains has been everything from a Pony Express outpost to an actual hunting lodge, and today, it stands as one of the most unique restaurants in all of Los Angeles. With three separate floors, themed rooms (there’s a library and an attic filled with tiny boats), and roaring fireplaces in every direction, a meal here feels like you’re having dinner at a sprawling Montana estate. Their menu of incredible, hard-to-find meats only adds to that fact.
Perhaps due to its somewhat random location in the LAX-adjacent neighborhood of Westchester, Cinco is one of the most under-the-radar restaurants on the Westside. The casual space is big and modern, they have a great craft beer list, and even better mezcal cocktails. Their al carbon tacos with NY strip steak are excellent, but you definitely can’t leave without an order of the memelas: thick corn tortillas topped with black bean puree, queso fresco, and any meat of your choice. Cinco is the kind of neighborhood spot where you begin your evening - then end up staying the entire night.
The one thing Eastsiders never want to talk about it is just how bad the sushi is on their side of town. So be sure to rub that fact in your friend’s face by taking them to Sasabune. The classic Brentwood sushi spot has locations in Beverly Hills and Glendale, but there’s still something special about eating in the tiny Wilshire Blvd. space. You can certainly order off the menu here, but to be honest, we’ve never even looked at the thing. You’re here for the omakase, which isn’t exactly affordable - it starts at about $100 per person - but considering the amount of high-quality fish you get, you won’t hear much complaining from your friend.
There is no shortage of beach-y dive bars on the Westside, but if you’re going to take your Highland Park friends to one, make it Hinano. Located steps from the Venice Beach Pier, you could walk past this classic dive 100 times and write it off as another cheesy filler spot - but that would be a huge mistake. Because once inside, you’ll find a sawdust-covered heaven with dirt-cheap beer, a burger we’d put up against any in Venice, and quite possibly the ghost of Jim Morrison, too.
You’re taking your Echo Park friends to Destroyer because this daytime cafe feels like you’re on the Eastside - not hidden amongst tech start-up offices in Culver City. Located in Hayden Tract, this bare-bones space looks like a microbiology lab, and the hyper-futuristic food seems like something commissioned for astronauts, not office workers on their lunch hour. But whether it’s the raw oatmeal with a vanilla disk on top or the beef tartare and something called smoked egg cream, this is one of our favorite - and most fulfilling - lunch spots in the area.
Your old roommate lives in South Pasadena now and will only come west if it’s before 10am so she can beat the beach traffic. No problem, you’re taking her to Lodge Bread. The bakery/cafe in Culver City is one of our favorite daytime hangout spots on the Westside, complete with a great front patio, beer and wine, and a fantastic menu full of all the things you want to eat early in the day. Start with the cured fish plate, add on a shakshuka, and end with our favorite cinnamon bun in Los Angeles. If you’re coming later in the day, get the wild mushroom pizza.
Sawtelle Japantown is one of the most exciting neighborhoods on the Westside, and you could spend all weekend taking your jaded Atwater Village friends to restaurants in the area. But if you only have time for one place, make it Tsujita. The Tokyo-based ramen shop is one of the most popular restaurants in the entire city, and if you aren’t lined up by 11am, prepare for a Candy Crush relapse, because you’re going to be standing around for a while. Once inside though, you’re going to be treated to a bowl of tsukemen “dip ramen” that’s so good even your cold-hearted friends will struggle to find something to critique.
“But there aren’t any fun bars on the Westside.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard one of your Eastside friends say that. Now put your hand down and take them to The Gaslite. Immediately. The classic karaoke bar in Santa Monica is still one of the most unhinged nights out in the entire city - and the kind of bar you stumble into at 12:30am, rip a few unadvised whiskey shots, and watch a heavyset man sing Meatloaf while crowdsurfing to the bathroom.
When Hatchet Hall opened in 2015, it was serving some of the most interesting Southern-tinged food in town. Fast-forward to today, and this upscale Culver City staple has only gotten better. Whether it’s fried cabbage, duck that’s been cooked in its own fat, or white cheddar cornbread we would start a religion for, this is the kind of stick-to-your-ribs food you can’t really find in LA. All the more reason to take your Eastside friend who only eats leaves harvested from his backyard.
Sure, your Silver Lake friends have Sqirl, but you’ve got Gjusta, and you’re about to show them why a porchetta melt is better than a pesto rice bowl any day of the week. This Venice bakery is certainly a scene and, during peak weekend hours, the ordering process feels more like the NYSE than a sandwich counter, but once the food starts hitting the table, even your friend will realize it was worth putting up with the chaos. Whether it’s the tuna conserva, Reuben, or bialy egg, these are some of the best sandwiches in town and Gjusta’s only a few blocks from the beach, so you can walk it all off on the boardwalk afterward.
Not that long ago, the Westside had a dearth of excellent Chinese food, but that era came to an official end when Sichuan Impression opened in West LA. The San Gabriel Valley original is one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles, and while the menu here is identical to their other locations, it’s the massive space that makes it different. Located in a sprawling second-floor space on Santa Monica Blvd., you can roll in here with any amount of people and they’ll be able to accommodate you. Which is good news for you, because whether it’s the mapo tofu, tea-smoked ribs, toothpick mutton, or boiled fish, you’re going to need some help finishing everything.
Julian has mentioned multiple times how scared he is of both the beach and straight people watching sports, but you’re taking him to Big Dean’s anyway, because you know this classic beach bar will change his mind. Essentially located underneath the Santa Monica Pier, it’d be easy to write this place off as a spillover trough for lost tourists, but Big Dean’s is filled almost entirely with Westside locals there to sit around on turf grass, eat excellent burgers, and only care about sports when the game actually gets interesting.
Cha Cha Chicken is by no means a secret, but there’s still something about this jerk chicken shack in Santa Monica that makes you feel like you’re the only one who knows about it. Cha Cha’s order-at-the-counter setup and rainforest-like patio make it the ideal post-beach destination when everyone is too covered with sand to go to a sit-down restaurant. The coconut fried rice, spicy shrimp, and giant plates of dirty rice are our usual go-tos, but you really can’t go wrong with anything at this classic Caribbean spot. Bonus: They have the only real BYOB policy on the beach.