When you live in Los Angeles, a day at the beach with friends is not a seasonal getaway, it’s a way of life. 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. It’s fantastic, and there’s no better way to prove to your East coast friends on social media that you’re loving your LA life.
But chances are 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. And that’s why we’re here. Below we’ve broken it all down, beach by beach, so that no matter where along the coast you and your friends end up this weekend, you’ll have your post-beach eating (and drinking) options covered. See you down there.
No trip to Malibu’s most popular beach is complete without a jaunt over to the all-time great seafood shack - Neptune’s Net. The PCH classic admittedly gets ransacked on the weekends, but you’re somehow always glad you stuck it out. Is there better seafood on the PCH? Sure. But you're at Neptune's for those sweet retro vibes and what's easily the best people watching on the coast.
Do you know where the best seafood on the PCH is, though? Malibu Seafood, and it’s everything we want after a day at the beach. Swimsuits are more than acceptable and the fish and chips is some of the best we’ve eaten in town - the squid and fries is even better. There will be a line, and there will be a wait for your food, but when you’re this relaxed, do you even care?
Whether you snuck booze into your beach cooler or not, chances are you’re going to want another round after three hours of aggressive beach volleyball with strangers. And nothing beats posting up at Duke’s Barefoot Bar and watching the sun go down. Duke’s main restaurant can get pretty fancy, but their outdoor Barefoot bar is all casual beach vibes, meaning swim suits and sandy feet are always welcome.
Pier-adjacent restaurants are, let’s face it, normally terrible. Not so with the Scandinavian-tinged Malibu Farm Pier Cafe. The menu is pretty simple, and the set up even more so, but both are top-notch. 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
Reel Inn certainly doesn’t get as much attention as Neptune’s Net, but they use that to their advantage. Just up the street from Will Rogers, Reel Inn gives you the nostalgic vibes and fresh seafood only without the hoards of manic tourists screaming around you. They’ve got a great outdoor patio to unwind in, and lots of TV’s if you want to catch some of the game before heading back home. Whatever you order, order it “cajun style”.
Definitely on the classier side of the post-beach options, The Hungry Cat is a seafood shack, all grown up. Known for it’s East coast vibes, The Hungry Cat is going all West coast this summer with the season-long pop-up “El Gato En La Playa”. What does that mean exactly? It means the same great raw bar options you’ve come to expect, just with a major Baja twist. Think Peruvian scallops, uni shooters with tequila, and all the fish tacos you can handle after an afternoon of body surfing.
Patrick’s is one of the places you crawl into after a day at Will Rogers and end up leaving your car because you're too hammered. To say this roadside diner is kitschy, is 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 under the sun, meaning no matter how big the crew is, everyone's finding something they want. Patrick’s also does an excellent breakfast if you're looking for sustenance before the sand as well.
Santa Monica Beach
A lot of places along the coast talk a big game about being right on the beach, but then you go to a place like Big Dean’s and realize they’re lying. Big Dean’s is so on the beach, you can’t even access it from a road, only the boardwalk itself. A complete throwback dive bar, Big Dean’s remains the best place in SM to throw back a few beers in the midday heat and then promptly sprint back into the ocean buzzed. Just don’t run off before getting that burger first.
Another day goes by and this town still hates BYOB. At least we have Cha Cha Chicken. The Jamaican jerk spot right off the beach is one of the few true-blue BYOB joints in the entire city, and also just a great place to grab some lunch with friends. Their leafy patio is the ideal spot to roll in with a couple of 6-packs, grab a plate of chicken, and we realize this is the only way humans should live.
You’re ignoring the fact that you definitely got sunburned today and powering right through to the bars. While downtown Santa Monica has no lack of places to get a drink, quality can sometimes lack. The Craftsman, one the other hand, has it all going for them. A fantastic craft beer list, solid bar food, and a great patio - the only three things we need after a day at the beach.
Blue Plate have a mini Santa Monica empire going on, but Blue Plate Taco is definitely our favorite. Colorful and casual, it’s kind of raucous and definitely loud, which may or may not be due to the pitchers of cocktails being served. These aren’t the best tacos you’ll ever have (you’re on the Westside, after all), but they're certainly not the worst. In this tourist-swarmed part of Santa Monica, it’s definitely one of the best options.
One of our favorite things about Rose Cafe (we have many favorite things) 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. Sit inside (or better yet outside) and have a bowl of pasta with a glass of wine at the end of the day.
It’s an obvious choice, but it’s also obviously a good one. Gjusta is the neighborhood joint we all wish we had, especially if it meant we could eat those meatball sandwiches everyday. It’s also completely underused as a casual dinner place - the food is just as good and the crowds are so much smaller. Also, get the burger.
This place has crossed so far over the line into kitsch that it might almost be cool again. Steps away from Venice Beach (but not the Boardwalk, thank god), it has a patio that’s not totally a patio, an indoor section with white tablecloths, and there’s even lighting made out of board shorts. And while the fish tacos are what made them famous, we’re very partial to the rotisserie chicken ones too. The bar scene is worth it for the only-in-Venice moments alone.
The type of dive bar that we presume Venice was once full of, Hinano Cafe is the perfect place to end a beach day. The move here is definitely to order beers and burgers, snag a pool table and settle in for the evening. If it was good enough for Jim Morrison, then, well, it's definitely good enough for us.
One of LA’s best beaches sits immediately adjacent to one of it’s best beach neighborhoods - Playa Del Rey. And at the heart of this sleepy enclave sits The Tripel, the ideal spot to roll up after lounging in the sand all day, grab a few craft IPAs, and eat what's easily the most underrated burger in town.
So the Everclear watermelon slices were a terrible idea. Time to get sustenance. Make moves to ASAP Phorage, the small walk-up counter in the back of a PDR convenience store who happens to be dishing out banh mi’s and pho better than almost anybody. You can take it to-go or sit on the few tables provided. Either way, grab a gatorade on the way out - you’re still going to need it.
We all know the beach is your happy place. And 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 more glasses of wine. Bacari is a casual wine bar in the heart of PDR with a fantastic wine list and excellent finger food to wind down your day. There’s also 90 minute open bar for $25 if you’re in the market to go to the moon instead.
There’s several reasons why Dockweiler is LA’s best beach, but there’s none more important than the fact there’s fire pits. The only beach in LA county that allows open flame, the real party doesn’t get started till after sun down at Dockweiler. And what better way to get things going then ordering the best pizza in the area right to the beach. Party on, lovers.
In the midst of Manhattan Beach’s increasing opulence, FishBar remains one of the few places you can roll in with friends after the beach, grab a couple beers and some fresh fish, and not empty your bank account. The dive-y spot north of the downtown chaos has extremely affordable prices, a fantastic happy hour, and the kind of laid back vibes you came to the beach looking for. The lobster mac is a must.
The true embodiment of everything Manhattan Beach, Simmzy’s is a must-stop brunch spot prior to any MB outing. Head over early to beat the crowds, get a little rowdy with some mimosas, and score that number from the hottie at the bar. Your Saturday’s just begun.
After three hours in the sun, the only thing your body really want is an ice cold beer. You're in luck. Steps from the pier is one of the best places to grab a drink in all of Manhattan Beach - BrewCo. Not only does this neighborhood bar have a fantastic craft beer menu, they've got some great bar food to soak it all up with. You’re simply not leaving here without getting the nachos.
MB has always had a solid offering of low-key Mexican joints, but for us, nothing beats El Sombrero. Only a five minute walk from the beach, this 40 year old staple has dirt cheap prices, a nice little dining room, and the kind of old-school Cali/Mexican food you want after throwing your body against waves all afternoon. We’re talking enchiladas, chile rellenos, and all the wet burritos your surfer soul can handle.