Looking around, it may seem the citizens of Santa Monica and Venice survive only on pressed juices, grain bowls, salads and finely crafted coffees, but heartier fare does exist in the beach town. Several new fast-casual options mean running out for a quick bite of comfort food is easier this year on the Third Street Promenade, while Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard offers every food trend. Keep in mind some restaurants now add service fees to checks, much like Europe, but novel for the U.S. Here where to find some new and tasty spots.
Classic American Eats: HiHo CheeseBurger
Locals crowd into this contemporary hamburger outlet close to the Laemmle Monica Film Center. Grass-fed Wagyu beef patties and hand-cut fries are the main attraction; pickles and vegetarian patties are made in-house. Beer and wine are served too. Seating is mostly counter-side on stools but there are a few tables. Although ideal for a quick nosh, expect the noise level to be high.
1320 2nd St. B, 310-469-7250, hiho.la
Corner Pub: The Independence
A go-to spot for AFMers (badgeholders earn a 10% discount), the spacious, light-filled Independence is known for its steak frites. New menu items include burrata toast with cherry tomatoes, a crispy fried chicken sandwich and an heirloom tomato salad. There are multiple California craft beers on tap; during the weekday happy hour (from 3-6 p.m.) select cocktails, beer and wine are only $5.
205 Broadway, 310-458-2500, independencetavern.com
Hand-roll heaven: KazuNori
The menu here is straightforward: primarily, rice and uncannily fresh seafood wrapped in crisp seaweed cones. The restaurant group behind Sugarfish and Sushi Nozawa opened 24-seat KazuNori in May. It’s tucked away, steps from Ocean Avenue; quickly made sushi hand-rolls are its mission. Order from a set menu of hand-rolls; other items are available a la carte. Two Japanese sakes and two beers are offered on the streamlined menu. A 16% service charge is included in the bill.
120 Broadway, Ste. 104, 424-999-4594, kazunorisushi.com
Fresh player: Meat on Ocean
There’s much to recommend at Meat on Ocean: the meat-centric menu ranges from small plates — and a varied charcuterie bar — to hefty cuts of dry aged beef, fashioned expertly by the restaurant’s on-site butcher. Starters range from fresh-from-Mexico shrimp cocktail to roasted bone marrow. If time is short: steak tacos and beef dip sandwiches are among the filling plates. Steaks are ordered by the cut and portion. Seating options fit the mood: from a quiet cushioned seat at the bar to comfy booths with views of the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean. More than 10 beers on tap, craft cocktails and an extensive wine list make Meat on Ocean the top new contender for deal-making or celebratory dinners in a sophisticated setting. The enterprise comes from King’s Seafood Company, owners of the nearby Water Grill.
1501 Ocean Ave., 310-773-3366, meatonocean.com
Beachy cantina: Tallula’s
The team behind Huckleberry, Cassia and Rustic Canyon added Tallula’s Mexican eatery to its upscale restaurant family in May. The seasonally fresh menu features some expected Mexican dishes — guacamole and chips and piquant nachos — while presenting creative entrees such as organic turkey enchiladas paired with quinoa. There’s now a weekday happy hour from 4-6 p.m., notable for its potent pitchers of margaritas and selection of tacos served on housemade organic corn tortillas. Steps from the beach, there’s a colorful seaside vibe to this lively cantina that attracts Palisades and Santa Monica-based showbiz execs. A 19% charge is added to all checks.
118 Entrada Dr., 310-526-0027, tallulasrestaurant.com
Italian native: Uovo
A true taste of Italy is available near the Laemmle (next to HiHo Cheeseburger). Featuring fresh pastas made in Italy and imported directly to Uovo, traditional-sauce recipes were also sourced from Rome and Bologna. The minimally styled storefront operation opened in September; most seating is on wood stools facing into the busy open kitchen. No reservations are accepted; come hungry, advises a staffer. Beer and wine selections are also from Italy.
1320 2nd St., Ste. A, 310-425-0064, uovo.la
Pasta kingdom: Felix Trattoria
The center of the action at Felix is a glass-enclosed and temperature-controlled room where chef Evan Funke artfully hand creates pastas, the centerpiece of the menu. Comfy banquettes and a muted mid-century modern interior define the cottage setting, formerly home to Joe’s restaurant. Pizza is also made by hand: the margherita is elegant in its simplicity. The delicate pappardelle with Bolognese ragu is the crowd favorite; there are nine kinds of additional hand-crafted pastas with equally savory toppings. Don’t miss the oversized mural of screen siren Sophia Loren outside. Open daily for dinner only; 20% charge added to all checks.
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., 424-387-8622, felixla.com
Instagram star: Eggslut Venice
The devotion of the internet’s food paparazzi have propelled Eggslut from a portable cart to three brick-and-mortar outlets in Los Angeles, all the way to Las Vegas. The Venice location (close to Windward Avenue) has the popular to-go breakfast/brunch/lunch sandwiches: eggs from cage-free hens (cooked to order) melded with cheese, choice of meats and served on a brioche bun or biscuit. Service is efficient but Eggslut’s tasty reputation often equates to a wait outside. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
1611 Pacific Ave., 424-387-8183, eggslut.com
Rooftop extraordinaire: High Lounge, Hotel Erwin
The roof top bar/lounge at Venice’s Hotel Erwin is a world away from the crowded boardwalk below. Unwind with of-the-moment cocktails (mescal and fernet branca are in the mix) that pair colorfully with Venice’s brilliant fall sunsets. Reserve a corner spot for the best view and make the most of a quintessential Southern California experience. Larry’s Loft is the hotel’s 1,100- sq.-ft. meeting room with three compact balconies. Updates to the suite include an airy beachfront feel that makes it ideal for cocktail parties, screenings and board meetings.
1697 Pacific Ave., 310-452-1111, hotelerwin.com