LA’s Westside invokes a lot of passion in Angelenos. Some will tell you it’s boring, others will never leave its confines - the specifics of which are largely up for debate. Your friend maintains that it’s everything west of the 405, your life coach claims that it’s anywhere between West Hollywood and when your soul hits the spiritual ocean. There’s no official answer, but there are plenty of great new restaurants in the area (which we’re defining as stretching from the beach to the eastern border of Beverly Hills). So we’ve made a new kind of Hit List, just for this part of town.
You’ve heard of farm-to-table, but what about boat-to-table? Dudley Market, the spot a half-block from the beach in Venice, literally owns their own fishing boats - and you can tell. The seafood here is fresh, line-caught, and absolutely fantastic; our favorite is the whole-fried fish with nuoc cham, but the menu changes daily, based on what they’ve hauled in that morning. They’ve also got one of the best wine selections in LA, and servers who are super-helpful when it comes to pairing an obscure Italian white with a tuna crudo.
Birdie G’s is one of the most exciting restaurants to open on the Westside in a long time, but you won’t necessarily know it when you walk in. The large, industrial space looks more like something you’d find in the Arts District, not Santa Monica, and while the exposed air ducts, cement floors, and open kitchen are all pretty standard design flourishes these days, it’s the comfort food coming out of the kitchen that’s objectively different. From sweet-and-savory noodle kugel and crab cakes to house-made matzo or a Sloppy Joe made with strawberry Bolognese on Texas toast, eating at Birdie G’s feels simultaneously nostalgic and completely new.
When we need to impress the sh*t out of someone on the Westside, we’re going to Pasjoli. This French restaurant in Santa Monica is certainly upscale, and by no means an affordable night of dining, but if the moment calls for throwing down, you simply can’t beat the experience here. Whether it’s a chicken liver-stuffed brioche, an onion tart that tastes like the best French Onion soup in existence, or a $165 tableside-pressed duck, the food at Pasjoli here is interesting, decadent, and worth every cent of its price point.
Broad Street Oyster is a seafood spot hidden behind a SoulCycle in a high-end Malibu strip mall, but it feels like it was decorated by thrift-store-raiding, hard-partying pirates (in the best way possible). And even though the Jolly Roger flags and Budweiser banners hanging from the ceiling might remind you of a frat house, the food is nothing like what they’re serving at the Kappa Sig commissary: They’ve got local shellfish like Morro Bay oysters, Malibu spiny lobsters, and Santa Barbara uni, quite possibly the best lobster roll on the West Coast (get it hot and buttered) and, during their excellent Happy Hour, $2 Bud Heavies and $10 burgers, too.
Mogu Mogu is not just another ramen shop. This Sawtelle spot serves fantastic mazemen - brothless ramen - steaming hot and with some very specific instructions. You mix up your bowl of noodles, sliced pork chashu, minced pork, soft-boiled egg, poached egg, and seaweed flakes, wait 30 seconds, and then add their house-made Umami Vinegar. The result is a bowl that’s savory, spicy, and an ideal way to end a good day, a bad day, or really, any kind of day at all.
Everybody goes to Venice looking for certain things (smoothie bowls, snake charmers, bespoke soap), but a solid steak isn’t one of them. With the opening of American Beauty, that’s changed. Located right on Rose Ave., this modern steakhouse is serving all the traditional classics - like a giant 32oz. porterhouse, stuffed baked potatoes, and a burger that has no business being as good as it is. That said, there are some slightly new and interesting things happening here, too, like a minty scallop carpaccio and a whole-cooked orata in an eggplant puree. If you’ve got a work dinner in the neighborhood and wrote off Cafe Gratitude years ago, put American Beauty at the top of your list.
Affordable handmade pasta spots are hard to come by, especially in Santa Monica, the land of $80 ravioli. That’s why we like Colapasta - and their affordable pastas - so much. From the outside, this spot on Fifth St. looks more like a Bank Of America than most Bank Of Americas, but despite an absence of curb appeal, they’re an ideal place for a quick pasta lunch or low-key date night. We love the classic lasagna, and the bigoli aglio, too - it’s loaded with garlic and anchovies, and just $11.
In most ways, Hollywood is a lot better off now than when Dear John’s first opened 50 years ago: Women are allowed to direct films now (someone should tell Oscar voters), and no one talks in that weird Trans-Atlantic accent anymore. But there are other parts that we miss, and make us very thankful that Dear John’s just re-opened. This is a dark, windowless spot where you sit in red leather booths and eat lobster thermidor, bone-in chicken parm, and colossal shrimp cocktail while you house very strong Vesper martinis.
For being a city literally built on the beach, Malibu offers very little in the way of casual places to eat and drink after a visit to said beach. Enter - The Cliffdiver. Located right on PCH, this indoor/outdoor Mexican restaurant has very solid bar food (the mushroom quesadilla is a must-order), strong margaritas, plenty of TVs, and a front patio full of lawn games. In other words, it’s the post-beach hangout spot that Malibu’s always needed.