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 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 can be found at Malibu Seafood, which is kind of an added bonus - because this spot is 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 you’ll find, 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-straight hours 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, and swimsuits are obviously 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 spending 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.
Santa Monica Beach
We’re still wondering why LA hates BYOB so much, but at least we have Cha Cha Chicken. The Caribbean 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.
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 overlooked as a casual dinner spot - 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, play some pool, 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.
An outdoor mall in Playa Vista might not be the same as the beach in Hawaii, but the poke 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 mi 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, a few glasses of wine are a foregone conclusion. 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. Yep, they allow open flames, which means the real party 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.
El Segundo Beach
After spending a day in the sun, a plate of pasta is probably the last thing you want to eat. But you might want to reconsider - because there’s no bad time for Jame Enoteca, the strip mall pasta spot in El Segundo. Their spicy paccheri is a scientifically-proven cure to beach-related exhaustion, and they’ve got a great selection of wines to help with that, too. They also have the only kale salad in LA that we can confidently tell you to go out of your way for.
Il Romanista is a Roman-style, cut-to-order pizza spot that’s perfect when you want something quick after a day at the beach. Their pizzas are some of the best in the South Bay, so it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu - but if you’re having trouble deciding, the Curva Sud with potatoes, house-made sausage, and fresh rosemary is excellent.
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 dive-y 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.
This Hermosa Beach spot has an eclectic menu of things like shrimp tostadas, spicy jerk wings, and smoked and fried chicken - food that just feels right to be eating in the summertime. And while they don’t serve cocktails, Baran’s does have a great beer list that goes well with their Southern-ish food.
Tower 12 on Hermosa Pier feels like walking into your tchotchke-loving aunt’s beach house, if your tchotchke-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.
A pier filled with knock-off T-shirt shops might not be the first place you’d look for an incredible seafood spot, but you’ll find one on the boardwalk in Redondo Beach. Quality Seafood is a completely chaotic fish market, where you select what you want from a seafood case loaded with freshly caught fish on ice, and they cook it however you want. And the way you want it is deep-fried - our favorites are the red snapper and steamed Dungeness crab, but you really can’t go wrong. Be warned, though - the two-floor dining room is basically The Hunger Games at its busiest times.
There are a million assembly line poke places in LA, and you can get your fish over a bed of salad, or with sweet potato and asparagus, at all of them. But not at Jus’ Poke - like the name implies, this is much closer to what you’d get in Hawaii: a container filled with incredibly fresh fish, some freshly made seaweed salad, and perfectly cooked rice. And the servings are absolutely enormous. Our move is to leave someone in charge of the towels down at Redondo Beach, come grab some poke, and go back down to the sand to watch the sunset while we eat our marinated spicy tuna.
If your day at the beach involves less volleyball and more sitting in a folding chair and drinking, you’ll fit right in at Hudson House. This casual beach dive in Redondo Beach has a killer beer list, and some interesting (and quite good) food on the menu - things like pork cheek tacos, and “dirty tots” with chicken skins, fresno chilis, and pickled shiitakes.