Where To Eat Lunch In Santa Monica

Outsmart the crowds and have lunch at one of these great Santa Monica spots.
Where To Eat Lunch In Santa Monica image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Santa Monica is a weird place—full of tourists, and also lots of people who actually work there. All of whom are fairly focused on one thing: lunch. (Although the tourists are also looking for that guy who’ll let you take a photo with his snake.)

Fortunately, there are a lot of good options (for lunch), none of which are the bad “deli” at the bottom of your office building. Whether you’re looking for a quick meal, a leisurely spot with a view, or just a place for a sandwich to scarf in your car, we’ve got you covered.



Santa Monica

$$$$Perfect For:LunchQuick EatsOutdoor SeatingCheap Eats
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Whether you're a smashburger die-hard or you’ve merely heard of them in passing, chances are you know about Heavy Handed. This walk-up spot on Main Street has a devout fanbase, and we get the hype. The burgers are simple and effective: a single, double, or triple stack with cheese, sweet, housemade pickles, and their house sauce on a fluffy potato roll. With a side of their beef tallow fries, it’s an easy option for a quick lunch, but we suggest eating your burger on the spacious front patio.

photo credit: Matt Gendal

For lunchtime tacos in Santa Monica, the casual La Purépecha is our go-to option. The handmade corn tortillas here are plump and sturdy enough to hold heaping amounts of asada, guacamole, cilantro, and onions—which they do. We prefer to spend a little more and order them taconazo-style, which adds a layer of molten, seared cheese with a satisfying crunch. If you want something a little more substantial, the machaca burritos are very solid, too.

photo credit: Ghisallo



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Ghisallo can feel like a salad counter within a slice shop within a sit-down pizzeria. Let’s break that down: this Italian restaurant on Ocean Ave has a counter where you can order anything from a chopped salad to a New York pepperoni slice to an entire rack of ribs. Or you can sit on the lovely stringlit patio with a midday glass of wine and eat a 12-inch Neapolitan pizza with spicy nduja and fermented honey. Again, Ghisallo gives you options, and that’s before you consider ordering a Tre Mani sandwich.

Tre Mani is a sandwich shop in Ocean Park that serves two of our favorite things: Jyan Isaac’s fluffy schiacciata bread and Ghisallo’s deli meats. The result is a perfect union of crunch and cured meat that holds its own in the neighborhood. These massive Roman-style sandwiches are more expensive than what you’ll find elsewhere (they range from $18-$23), but you could easily share one. Drop by the shop inside Ghisallo from 12-4pm to try the mortadella version on your lunch break. There are plenty of seats on the patio around back.

Berbere is the best (and only) Ethiopian option in Santa Monica, but also one of our favorite places to get a vegan lunch in the area. This bright counter-service spot is BYOB (if that speaks to you) and serves incredible plant-based dishes like tofu tibs, Shiro full of tender garbanzo beans, and, our favorite, the Eat The Rainbow platter. This combination comes with a few rolls of injera, plus creamy lentil stews and various sauteed vegetables that smell like a well-stocked spice cabinet.

The Best Restaurants In Santa Monica image

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The Best Restaurants In Santa Monica

When you get the itch for a big meaty sandwich, head to A Cut Above. This whole-animal butcher has a large hoagie menu with several classic options, like an Italian sub with five types of cold cuts, a mustardy cubano with smoked pork shoulder, and a fantastic banh mi. The latter is especially massive, piled with lemongrass-seasoned steak, pickles, and a tangy housemade fish sauce dressing.

Sogno Toscano calls itself a “lifestyle cafe.” We don’t know what that means. But if eating cured meat accurately describes your lifestyle (or you just need a Westside spot for lunch and a strong espresso), you’ll love this place. The Santa Monica cafe serves solid panini with chewy focaccia and imported cold cuts. These are pricey for their size—each one costs roughly $25—but they’re full of ingredients someone like Giada De Laurentiis would smuggle back from vacation. Think aged pecorino from small Tuscan villages, salame milano, and sweet onions. We like the Bufalina, which balances milky bufala with silky, salty ribbons of parma ham.

There’s nothing that screams “I’m a young, fun, cosmopolitan person living in a major city” more than tossing back oysters on the half shell while looking like a snack on a patio. And the place to do it in Santa Monica is Crudo e Nudo. The former pop-up has found a permanent home on Main Street, where you’ll be treated to a selection of low-intervention wines and entirely sustainable seafood, like daily crudos served with herbs and house-made sauces, a full raw bar, and tuna tartare paired with seeded loaves from Gjusta.

In a sunny, colorful building on Pico Blvd., you’ll find Lady & Larder, a wonderful women-owned shop selling cheese, charcuterie, flowers, produce, and bottles of wine. Past the shelves stocked with fresh persimmons, candles, and German lagers is a secret lunch menu, a walk-in-only operation that changes daily. There are usually a mix of hot sandwiches and grab-and-go baguettes, like the “Yes, Honey,” which comes with turkey, ham, cheddar, and shaved gem lettuce on Bub & Grandma’s bread or the royal ham and whipped date butter-stuffed “Franch Girl,” that arrives on a Clark Street baguette. Check their Instagram for the latest updates.

As expected, there are a ton of bright, leafy salads and CBD drinks to be found at this pastel explosion of a lunch spot on Main Street. But the main stars are their breakfast burritos. There are two on the menu, both of which are behemoths to cherish (seriously, these things weigh as much as an old brick phone, circa 1975), but we prefer the Ancho Hash. It’s the vegetarian burrito, stuffed with eggs, manchego, and Oaxaca cheeses, plus a crispy-crusty caramelized mix of shredded potatoes and peppers, and it’s taken up permanent residency in our groggy morning rotation.

This tiny omusubi shop is open every day and these stuffed rice balls make for one of our favorite quick lunches in the city. We usually go for the tender miso beef with caramelized onion, the curried chicken, or the spicy cured salmon, and since everything’s under $5, why not get all three? Plus, they have free barley water, which helps us reach peak hydration.

With a menu that swings from Korean to Japanese to Mexican to Italian and back again, even the pickiest eaters will discover something great at Interstellar. This all-day cafe is one of the neighborhood’s best sit-down options - we’ve yet to try anything here that we wouldn’t endorse. Slicing through the crunchy katsu is practically meditative, and paired with a scoop of rice and curry creates the perfect bite. You’ll have similar perfect-bite experiences with the breakfast burrito, turkey club, and bulgogi burger.

Some days, when lunchtime rolls around, the last thing you want is another g*d damn salad - so instead, head to Joe’s Pizza. Located in a red-brick building on Broadway, this place looks ripped straight from the streets of Manhattan, serving giant pies prepared with house-made dough. Toppings include Italian sausage, fresh Buffalo mozzarella, and whipped ricotta, but they’re famous for their classic slices like traditional cheese and pepperoni.

We have no idea why a Jewish deli as cool as Wexler’s decided to open in downtown Santa Monica, but we’re glad they went for it. This spot has a lot more space than the Grand Central Market original, so you can sit and enjoy your pastrami sandwich without having to worry about the elbow-shoving battle for your seat that’s happening behind you. Take your time, and save room for the babka.

Lunch is an ideal time to get to this Santa Monica pizza classic because the waits aren’t as long, and there are way fewer people hanging around waiting for their takeout. We’re partial to the mushroom pie, and while we’d normally advise ordering the garlic knots, if you’re heading back to the office after lunch, your deskmate would like you to politely decline to avoid the resulting afternoon of garlic breath.

When deciding on lunch is the last thing you need to be doing, KazuNori is your place. Show up, order the five-roll menu, and you will be handed excellent handrolls one at a time. This Sugarfish spinoff is just as good as the original but with one important difference - no hour-long waits (yet). It’s an ideal spot when you want good-quality sushi, and need to be in and out in a half-hour.

Most people think of Huckleberry as that breakfast place where you have to stand in a line for a while, changing your mind ten times about whether to get that berry crostata or not. But this ignores the fact that the line is worth it and that lunch here is the best time to go, especially if you order the roasted turkey sandwich. And you can always still get a crostata too.

Getting lunch for under $10 is a tough ask in this part of town, but Samosa House on Main Street delivers. The three-item combo involves naan, rice, and your choice of three changing entrees, and comes in at just over $9. There are lots of choices for vegetarians and vegans, including the smoky cauliflower curry that shouldn’t be missed.

Unless you plan on paying a lot of money for a very average meal, Ocean Avenue is basically a restaurant dead zone. Cha Cha Chicken is a little walk from the center of the action, but totally worth it. There’s a huge patio, lots of space if you’re with a group, and some very tasty jerk chicken. Also: it’s BYOB.

Bay Cities is home to one of the best Italian meat sandwiches in all of Los Angeles, the Godmother, and it’s served in an old-school Italian deli/market. Yes, we will judge you if you order something other than the Godmother. That said, all the sandwiches here are excellent. Expect a line at lunchtime.

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