Most people think of Marina del Rey as a stretch of cheesy waterside restaurant/bars with horrible food and bland vibes. And they’re not necessarily wrong. But dig a little deeper and the heart of the MDR restaurant scene is actually quite the opposite.
Are we going as far as to say you should travel to MDR just to eat? Yep, we sure are. No longer just a kitschy, man-made harbor where you take your parents to get on a whale-watching cruise, Marina del Rey is finally starting to get hot. So dust off those Sperrys you haven’t seen since that Sigma Nu party in 2002 and go discover what exactly you’ve been missing out on. Here’s our guide to help.
SALT has hands down one of the best views of the marina. It’s located in the newly revamped Marina del Rey hotel and their outside deck is the perfect place to watch the boats go by and pretend you’re Gwyneth Paltrow. Their menu has a wide range, with anything from fish and chips (our favorite) to lobster pasta. This is your perfect spot for a group birthday dinner or when you want to impress out of towners.
WHAT?! THERE’S A SUGARFISH IN MDR?! Yes. Yes, there is. Rich boaters need sushi too. And their 9-course Trust Me menu is never the wrong choice.
Taking over the shopping-center spot that used to be home to Jerry’s Famous Deli in Marina del Rey, Stark’s serves American fare in a space that’s approximately the size of the contiguous United States. Both the menu - featuring everything from deviled eggs and skillet corn cakes to Impossible burgers and California snapper - and the interior (which includes a cafe, a booze bar, a raw bar, a fireplace, a patio, and booths so large you can literally nap in them) could use an edit, but the cocktails are solid, the space is comfortable, and the corned-beef-and-Swiss sandwich (a holdover from the Jerry’s days) is a fitting tribute to the former tenant.
Morfia’s is one of those places that you drive past and think to yourself that you should try it sometime. Located between a car wash and a bar, it’s pretty easy to miss, but it’s probably the only place in town you can get true Texas brisket AND baklava cheesecake. It’s tiny, with only about five tables, so it’s best utilized for take-out.
The most important thing to know about Irori is that you have to remove your shoes when entering. So if you’re going on a date, prepare accordingly. Irori is located in a really random strip mall (what great LA place isn’t?) near a giant CVS. Fun fact: You might even spot a celeb or two there. This is your go-to date spot in MDR.
Mendocino Farms locations are popping up all over LA and we were pleasantly surprised to find that one landed not far from the paddle board rental place and the old-timey (read: run down) shops that line the marina. You should hit up Mendocino for a sandwich or a salad and head to the marina for a picnic. Save yourself the obnoxious wait time and place your order online prior to arriving.
A lot of dining options in MDR are located in hotels. We fully recognize this is weird, but you need to get over it. Beachside is located in the Jamaica Bay Inn hotel and is a more casual option to SALT. You need to go here and partake in the happy hour, which they so kindly have seven days a week. Another thing we love about Beachside? They serve brunch every day as well.
GARLIC KNOTS. That’s all you need to know about C & O. Well, that and the fact you should try to sit outside. Oh and the portions are enormous. Not in an I-live-in-LA-I-don’t-eat kind of way. They’re massive in a way that some of the pasta entrees could actually feed several people. This is the perfect spot to bring your parents after you finish driving them around the marina and briefly show them the Venice boardwalk (from the comfort of the car, of course.)
Marina del Rey wears its chain restaurant badge proudly. (After all, it is the home of the original Cheesecake Factory). But we tend to think the best chain spot in MDR is Settebello – the delicious, wood-fired Neapolitan pizza factory. The industrial-chic interior is perhaps a touch put- on, but deep down you know you love it. Despite the stunning parking lot views, the outside patio is also quite nice.