photo credit: Yasara Gunawardena
Ask any self-respecting Angeleno: would you rather brave the Hollywood Walk of Fame on a busy Friday night or get thrown into an active volcano? We’d put money on them picking the latter. LA tourist attractions are often scams. They target naïve out-of-towners, using celebrity worship as bait, then leave your wallet drier than a California raisin. Neptune’s Net, despite its reputation as a bonafide Malibu hangout, couldn’t be further from a tourist trap.
Since opening their doors in 1956, this little seafood shack on Pacific Coast Highway has managed to charm both tourists and residents alike with oceanfront views, a relaxed atmosphere, and an honest-to-god incredible clam chowder bread bowl. A pilgrimage here doesn’t just make for a fantastic day trip, it’s an experience that will make you fall in love with Los Angeles, whether that’s for the first time or the 100th.
They also sell lip balms.
Much like Martin Scorsese and writing compelling female characters, the food here is mostly an afterthought. Other than the signature bread bowl (imagine big, doughy sourdough rounds, hollowed out and filled with New England clam chowder), much of the menu ranges from “fried seafood with fries” to “grilled seafood with fries.” If you’re looking to get fancy, order a dozen or two oysters, which are served on the half shell and taste like they were harvested straight from the sea god’s bounty himself. The crab cakes aren’t a bad choice either, especially when doused with lemon juice, ketchup, thousand island dressing, or some cursed mixture of the three. Order at the window, wait for your name to be called over the intercom, then claim an empty picnic table on their deck or patio.
As the biker gangs, families, groups of twenty-somethings, or any of the restaurant’s other regulars will tell you, you don’t go to Neptune’s Net for the food. You go to race up PCH with three of your closest friends crammed into the backseat, turning the coast into a blur of blues, tans, and surfboards. You’re there to let the ocean mist envelop your whole body, sticking to your skin like juice on a toddler’s mouth. And, maybe eat some clam chowder.
We’ve brought friends here after breakups and recommended it for both impressing out-of-town guests as well as a last hurrah for those leaving LA for good. Because in many ways, Neptune’s Net is like a punch card – each individual trip is special, but it’s that accumulation of trips, a repeated action transposed into tradition, that eventually makes this place carve out a permanent place in your heart.
Oysters, A Dozen
Nothing wrong here. Just a dozen freshly shucked oysters, seasoned with a touch of ocean spray (or tears, if you’re feeling a bit emotional).
Clam Chowder Bread Bowl
The heavens open up, angels begin to cry – alas! Neptune’s Net signature dish. One time, deep into the pandemic when we lost our grip on reality, we came here and didn’t order the clam chowder bread bowl. Big mistake. We had to watch our friend happily enjoy his bread bowl (and the little bread hat that comes with it) while trying not to look too desperate whenever he offered us a bite.
If you’re not in the mood to ingest giant portions of cream and carbohydrates, order the crab cakes. Will they be the best version you’ve ever had? No. But that’s what you get for not ordering the bread bowl.
The Wall of Drinks
One of our favorite things about Neptune’s Net is their giant wall of drinks. Craft beers, vanilla crème sodas, lagers in every flavor under the sun, and tallboy micheladas – head to the back and grab one out of their floor-to-ceiling fridge, letting your heart decide.