Santa Monica is a land of waves, zero humidity and California culture. With two full days to explore Santa Monica, we did what we do best, eat! Hey, it’s cheaper than shopping, right? In all honesty, I avoided the two story Anthropologie and glittering Tory Burch shop on Rodeo Drive in exchange for fabulous meals. Shoes wear out, but memories from meals last for a lifetime. Here’s a few restaurants and dishes you must try if you’re ever in the area.
- Coast Beach Cafe & Bar: Might I say there’s nothing better than enjoying a glass of wine overlooking sand and crashing waves? We stumbled upon this hotel restaurant in the midst of our first walk around Santa Monica. The atmosphere was laid back, casual and had a cottage-coastal feel. Almost like you were sitting in an old friend’s beach house catching up on lost time and relishing in the fact that you don’t have to answer emails or clean your house. We enjoyed drinks at the bar, but from what I can tell, the plates from the kitchen looked fantastic!
- Misfits: At first glance you can instantly tell the funky, trendy tables are filled with locals and regulars. At 6 p.m. on on Sunday night, the place was bursting with lively diners and full tables. The bar and restaurant reprises a “back to the bar” ideal of comfort food and signature cocktails. We ordered the shredded kale and quinoa salad with sunflower seeds, grapes, preserved lemon, manchego and parmesan. The kale was notable for its flavor as it was soaked overnight in salt water. This process completely removed any bitterness and made for an enjoyable kale salad. Their oven roasted organic chicken was marinated with white wine, garlic, fresno chili and marketgreens. This perfectly-portioned dish was tender, juicy and packed with flavor. Our meal ended with some surprise sea salt chocolate chip cookies from our waiter! We’d recommend Misfits for lunch, dinner, late night and brunch.
- Huckleberry: Everything served at Huckleberry is made on site using high quality ingredients ranging from organic flour to farmers-market produce. I was eating solo this morning, but this place is great for groups, dates or a lingering morning with your kindle and cup of coffee. Go for the Fried Egg Sandwich with sunny side up eggs, Niman Ranch bacon, Gruyère, arugula and aioli on country bread. Oh and my side of fruit was exceptional. You really can taste the difference in farmers-market produce straight from California farms.
- ShopHouse: Created by Chipotle, their newest concept serves up the bold flavors of Southeast Asia in the same format as their sister restaurant. I’ve heard rumblings that these “Asian Chipotle” restaurants exist and we were ecstatic to find one in Santa Monica. Even better, everything is gluten, wheat and dairy free, so there really is something for everyone. Click here for full menu details and start dreaming of your future ShopHouse bowl.
- Le Pain (Beverly Hills): We first found this restaurant in NYC and are delighted to see its expansion. This place puts Panera to shame. Bread is handmade, most ingredients are organic and the interiors are simple, yet stunning. One step inside and you’re transported to the French countryside. My organic frittata with goat’s milk feta cheese, bread and berries was divine! I especially enjoyed the large wood communal table and the attentive (but not overbearing) service.
- Sprinkles Cupcakes: I tasted my first Sprinkles cupcake in 2007 in Beverly Hills and I instantly fell in love. I’ve tried my baking hand with the Sprinkles Williams-Sonoma mixes, but there’s always something I’m missing, so I was overjoyed to return to my beloved Sprinkles for a red velvet cupcake. My cupcake was baked to perfection with that perfect “sweet spot” center and topped with the creamiest cream cheese frosting you’ll ever taste. I was blissfully happy after indulging in my all-time favorite cupcake. I only wish they would bring their cupcake ATM to Orlando!
- Sugarfina: Finally, a candy store for adults! No more mass candy dispensers crawling with kiddie germs, Sugarfina knows how to do gourmet for grownups. It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before they expand nationwide.This team set out to taste thousands of candies in dozens of countries and the result is a perfectly curated collection of the finest high-quality candies from around the world. If you’re into gummies, try the Bitty Berries, perfectly juicy and no funky aftertaste like some gummies. We’d give the packaging, taste and presentation at Sugarfina a 10+ out of 10!
- Seasons 52: This location is notable for it’s incredible ocean view and outdoor seating. We hesitated coming here because we have two locations in Orlando, but we couldn’t have been happier with our meal and exceptional oceanside dining. Most exciting was the cool weather and chance to enjoy their butternut squash soup with shiitake mushrooms and chives. The Maple-Glazed All-Natural Roasted Half Chicken with autumn harvest vegetables and a zesty chicken jus was tender and packed with a subtle citrus flavor. Go for the view and stay for the mini indulgences at Season’s Santa Monica location.
Photo Credits: Coast at Shutters, Misfits, Sugarfina, Sprinkles, all other images by Spork.