When you live in Los Angeles, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between January and June, except for one thing: summer means you head to the beach. From Malibu to Manhattan, LA has some truly fantastic stretches of sand offering everything from beach volleyball to fire pits to watching a guy charm a snake out of a Dodgers hat.
But chances are that after four hours of lying around in the blazing sun, you and the crew are starving. That bag of chips you brought got cashed before noon, and you need something substantial before everyone loses it. That’s why we’re here. We’ve broken down your best options beach-by-beach, so no matter where along the coast you and your friends end up this weekend, you’ll have your eating plans covered.
The best seafood on PCH is at Malibu Seafood, and it’s everything we want after a day at the beach. Swimsuits are more than acceptable, the fish and chips is excellent, and the squid and fries is even better. There will be a line, and there will be a wait for your food, but when things are this relaxed, you will not care.
Neptune’s Net is a PCH classic. Which means it does get ransacked on the weekends, but somehow you’re always glad you stuck it out. This isn’t the best seafood on PCH, but it’s still pretty damn good (give us that clam chowder any day), and the people watching at this biker bar is second to none.
Whether you snuck booze into your cooler or not, chances are you’re going to want another round after three hours straight of beach volleyball with strangers. Watch the sun go down at Duke's Barefoot Bar. Duke’s main restaurant is pretty fancy, but their outdoor Barefoot bar is laid-back and casual, with everyone swimsuits as the attire of choice.
Pier-adjacent restaurants are normally terrible. This is not the case at Malibu Farm Pier Cafe. The menu is pretty simple, and the order-at-the-counter setup is even more so. Stop off on your way to Zuma for scrambled eggs and salmon, and head back for the burger on your way home.
Will Rogers State Beach
After a day at Santa Monica Beach witnessing tourists trying to get a tan on top of the burn they achieved yesterday, you could probably use a trip to Tallula’s. It’s a little out of the way, at the bottom of Entrada Drive near PCH, but that also means things don’t get insane here. While we don’t love this place for dinner, it’s great for a Happy Hour of margaritas and guacamole on the small side patio. You do want to come here with actual clothes on (not your bathing suit), and with your wallet full - it’s not exactly fancy here, but it’s also not exactly cheap.
Patrick’s is one of the places you crawl into after a day at Will Rogers and end up leaving your car at because you got too hammered. To say this roadside diner is kitschy would be doing it an injustice. Patrick’s is a full-on time warp, to an era we’re not exactly sure ever existed. The menu is massive, with every type of sandwich and burger, which means no matter how big the crew is, everyone will find something to eat. Patrick’s also does an excellent breakfast if you want sustenance before the sand.
Santa Monica Beach
You watched a man fishing/clearly avoiding his chatty son-in-law while you sat in the sand all day, so now you’re in the mood for seafood. Head to Punta Cabras, a combo casual taqueria and full restaurant 10 blocks in from the beach on Broadway. Sit at the bar so you can order off both menus, meaning red snapper from the restaurant and the Westside’s best fish tacos from the taqueria side.
We’re still wondering why LA hates BYOB so much, but at least we have Cha Cha Chicken. The Jamaican spot right off the sand is one of the few true BYOB joints in the entire city, and also just a great place to grab some lunch with friends. Their leafy patio is the ideal place to roll in with a couple of six-packs, get a plate of chicken, and soak up even more of the Santa Monica sun.
After a hot day of pretending you know how to properly hit a volleyball, you’re probably in the mood for a burger. HiHo has the best old-school burgers on the Westside, and it’s only two blocks from the beach. We’re not sure what we like more about this place - the burger, the fact that it’s casual enough that you can stay in your bathing suit, or the key lime pie for dessert.
You’re ignoring the fact that you’re absolutely waking up tomorrow sunburned, and powering right through to the bars. While downtown Santa Monica has no lack of places to get a drink, The Craftsman remains one of our favorites. A fantastic craft beer list, solid bar food, and a great patio is the only way we want to wind down our day at the beach.
One of our favorite things about Rose Cafe (we have a few) is that it can be used in so many different ways. Run in and grab some pastries and a coffee before you hit the beach in the morning, or after you’ve had enough sand, sit inside (or better yet outside) and have a bowl of pasta with a glass of wine for dinner. Or do both.
It’s an obvious choice, but it’s also obviously a good one. Gjusta is the neighborhood cafe we all wish we had, especially if it meant we could eat those brisket banh mis every day. It’s also completely underused as a casual dinner place - the food is just as good and the crowds are much smaller. Also, get the burger.
The beach is supposed to be relaxing, but we all know it’s anything but when you’re spending the day getting sand in unwanted places. La Cabana’s low-key patio is an ideal place to wind down, have some chips and a quesadilla, and thank the beach gods that a seagull didn’t poop on you. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the house mariachi band perform on the roof.
Steps away from Venice Beach (but not the Boardwalk, because no thanks), James’ Beach is a choose-your-own-adventure. Turn right and you’re in a sea of tablecloths and dates, turn left and you’ve ended up on an indoor patio that’s an all-out party. Post-beach, you should be turning left, ordering some fish tacos, and fully immersing yourself in the weirdness that is the Venice drinking scene.
The kind of dive bar that we presume Venice was once full of, Hinano Cafe is the perfect place to end a beach day. Order beers and burgers, get a pool table, and settle in for the evening. If it was good enough for Jim Morrison, then, well, it may not be good enough for us, but it will probably be fun.
One of LA’s best beaches is next to one of its best beach neighborhoods - Playa Del Rey. And at the heart of this sleepy area is The Tripel, where you’ll drink some IPAs and eat one of the most underrated burgers in town.
An outdoor mall in Playa Vista might not be the same as the beach in Hawaii, but the poké at Da Kikokiko might be enough to convince you otherwise. A short drive from Dockweiler, this casual order-at-the-counter spot is one of our favorite places for raw fish and rice in LA. You can try one of their set combos, or build your own bowl, but either way, you’re going to need some shaved ice afterwards.
So the Everclear watermelon slice was a terrible idea. Time to get sustenance. Tucked in the back of a no-name convenience store, ASAP Phorage is a small walk-up counter that happens to be serving excellent banh mis and pho. You can take it to-go or sit on the few tables provided. And maybe think about grabbing a Gatorade on your way out.
After four hours of complete relaxation and not thinking about that work project you’re unprepared for next week, the only thing you need is a few glasses of wine. Bacari is a casual wine bar in the heart of PDR with a great wine list and excellent small plates. There’s also a 90-minute open bar for $25 if you’re looking to relocate to the moon.
There are several reasons why Dockweiler is LA’s best beach, but none are more important than the fact that there are fire pits. This is the only beach in LA county that allows open flames - the real party here gets started after the sun sets. You'll want to order the best pizza in the area right to the beach - which would be The Good Pizza.
If you’re the type to set up a resort-like camp of umbrellas, throw pillows, and a turntable on your beach day, then Little Sister is your MB post-sand spot. It’s a nice change from the burgers and beers you’ll get at a lot of the places nearby, but casual enough that you can wear your bathing suit under your clothes and no one will mind. It’s definitely an attractive spot, but if you just care about dinner, the Vietnamese food here is fantastic.
In all of Manhattan Beach’s increasing opulence, FishBar remains one of the few places where you can roll in with friends after the beach, grab a few beers and some fresh fish, and not empty your entire bank account. A divey spot north of the downtown chaos, FishBar has extremely affordable prices, a fantastic happy hour, and the laid-back beach feel we’re finding less and less of in the South Bay. Get the lobster mac.
The true embodiment of everything Manhattan Beach, - beautiful people, good food, and everybody getting day-hammered on mimosas - Simmzy’s is a must-stop brunch spot prior to almost any MB outing. Head over early to beat the crowds, then get yourself to the beach.
After three hours in the sun, the only thing you actually want is an ice cold beer. Steps from the beach is one of the best places to grab one in the entire South Bay. BrewCo not only has a fantastic stock of local craft beer, but also great bar food to soak it all up with. You’re not leaving without getting the nachos.
Abigaile is an excellent place to take a break from the spikeballing and shotgunning happening all around you at Hermosa Beach. The space is enormous, with a big outdoor balcony, so no matter how big your post-beach group is, you’ll be able to find a spot for everyone to sit together. The American menu is great, and there’s a big upstairs dance floor if you want to make the inevitable transition to dancing to Lionel Richie without having to change venues.
Tower 12 on Hermosa Pier feels like walking into your tzotchke-loving aunt’s beach house, if your tzotchke-loving aunt was cool with having a lot of former fraternity brothers hanging out there all the time. It is certainly not low-key here - there’s a big drinking scene on weekends - but you don’t always need to feel like you're in a resort. Deal with the crowds, find a table, and order a beer and the burger. It’s cheesy and meaty, and the only vegetables present are pickles. Just the way god intended.
Gabi James is a little fancy for Redondo Beach - i.e. still pretty casual for everywhere else - and a nice option if you want a relatively quiet meal after the beach. The food here is excellent, and the people at the bar all look like they come here every day, so order a tortilla espanola, some jamon, and a glass of albariño, and brainstorm how to get their kind of life.