You might've heard a few things about Malibu. The 30 miles of coastline northwest of LA has long been a playground for the rich and famous, PCH road-trippers, and weekend warriors making the most out of their Saturday. It’s The Hamptons of Los Angeles, only much richer and with way better beaches. But the food situation? That leaves a little bit to be desired.
A quick jaunt down the PCH and the only things you might notice are 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 perhaps the best sushi on the West coast, if you’re eating poorly in Malibu, you simply didn’t do your homework properly. Luckily, we did it for you. Here are the 14 places you need to be eating at in Malibu.
There’s really no other way to put it - Nobu is THE restaurant of Malibu. Combine world-class sushi with the best patio on the water, and you’ve got one of the most revered restaurants in California, let alone just Malibu. To be clear, you are going to spend money here. A LOT of money. But this is Chef Nobu we’re talking about, and Oprah just walked in on a friend date with Spielberg - you’re not in Kansas anymore.
As a general rule, the closer a restaurant gets to a pier, the worse it becomes. But actually on top of one? Forget it. Unless, of course, it’s Malibu Farm. The Scandinavian-tinged restaurant has a fairly simple menu, but it is a fantastic one. And those views off the pier never hurt anybody. If you want a quintessential Malibu experience without having to take out a second home mortgage, Malibu Farm is where you go.
There’s no shortage of quality seafood along Malibu’s coast. But for our money, the best is at 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 care. The sun is out, there’s sand in your hair, and the ocean is literally right there.
Our apologies to Kim Kardashian, but the most popular name in Malibu food is not Nobu. It’s Neptune’s. The 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 Cali vibes can't be beat.
Malibu is the unofficial 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 have kept things modern and lively. This is definitely a special occasion type place and you’re definitely going to drop a lot of money. But with insane ocean views and the best crab cakes in town, you won't hear a peep from mom and dad about it.
You might assume the pier is the center of all things Malibu. But one trip over to the Country Mart will prove otherwise. The upscale, outdoor mall is a scene cut right out from a Kate Hudson lifestyle blog, but once you navigate through the seemingly endless row of L’Occitane’s, there’s actually some pretty good food here. And none better than John’s Garden. The 40 year-old sandwich shop/window is a Malibu classic, offering up simple (and excellent) sandwiches for all your post-canyon hike needs.
What do you get when you take the the fresh fish from Malibu Seafood and the retro vibes over at Neptune’s? Reel Inn. The festive shack right at the mouth of Topanga Canyon often gets overlooked by its two competitors, but that’s a mistake. Reel Inn has quality seafood at good prices without all the crowds and hype. The ocean-facing patio never hurt anybody either.
Chances are quality Thai food isn't the first thing that pops into your head when figuring out what to eat in Malibu. But if you’re craving some drunken noodles or panang curry, Cholada is a surprisingly fantastic option. The tiny restaurant adjacent to Reel Inn looks like another PCH seafood shack from the outside, but inside it's a no-frills, family-run Thai joint dishing out the best Thai classics on the PCH.
It’s easy to forget with all the million dollar mansion and celebrity rehab centers that Malibu is also home to a major university - Pepperdine. While most of those kids aren’t exactly strapped for cash, they’re not hanging around Moonshadows either. They’re going to Lily’s. The tiny Mexican cafe around the corner from Zuma is dishing up excellent Mexican classics across the board, but you’re here for one thing - the breakfast burrito. Three eggs and all the refried beans in existence stuffed inside, making this the best hangover cure on the coast.
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 a lush oasis dishing out some shockingly authentic 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 spots on the water, Taverna’s lively, local vibe will be music to your ears.
Walking into Saddle Peak feels more like you’re checking into a wilderness lodge in Jackson Hole than a restaurant above the Malibu coast, but that’s the allure. With everything from bone-in ribeye to emu tenderloin, this is an obvious meat lovers paradise. But for the non-carnivores among us, there’s some solid vegetarian options too. If you’re tired of all your old go-to date spots, Saddle Peak’s romantic 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 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 their margarita 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 neighborhood gastropub 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 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 with casual peyote use than a place to grab brunch. But rest assured, it’s very much the latter. The food is solid, the old-school Topanga Canyon vibes are palpable, and that leafy patio is all you want on your Saturday getaway.