Located on the coast of Los Angeles, Santa Monica is one of the most beautiful beach towns in California. However, for many years, Santa Monica’s dining scene left much to be desired; it was known for being home to some pretty lackluster restaurants and tourist traps. Thankfully, 2023 has seen some incredible new openings on the Westside, putting Santa Monica on the map as a true foodie destination. From a stylish Spanish eatery to a charming Italian tapas spot, these are the best new restaurants in Santa Monica.
849 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403
Previously exclusive to hotel guests at the Oceana Santa Monica, Sandpiper is a bright and airy restaurant that serves coastal fare with a modern twist. The interior boasts blue walls and elevated yet beachy decor, and there is also a breezy veranda that overlooks the hotel pool. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it’s best to visit during the evening, to take in the sunset. Start with the toasted baguette and house-made lavender butter while you sip on a glass of sauvignon blanc. The hamachi crudo and nori-crusted tuna are both wonderful plates for sharing, but you also can’t go wrong with the grilled Spanish octopus. For your main course, order the Maine lobster tortellini along with a side of charred sugar snap peas. Finally, end your meal with a trio of warm cookies, before taking an evening stroll along Ocean Avenue.
516 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Xuntos is the latest Spanish restaurant to land in Santa Monica. The pink interior is fitted with elegant light fixtures, leather booths and a breathtaking scallop shell wall. Whether you snag a spot at the bar or sit on the second-level terrace, the romantic atmosphere pairs perfectly with a glass of Spanish wine and tapas. Since everything is meant to be shared, it’s best to order between two to three dishes per person. The truffle-forward bikini de cebolla are a delightful blend of savory and sweet, and the patatas bravas are a tapas classic that should never be skipped. However, Xuntos is best known for its innovative seafood, and the scallops cooked in a rich saffron butter are a must-order. The fresh local fried anchovies might seem intimidating, but they’re perfect for snacking on in between courses.
109 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Located right near the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, Bar Monette is one of the hardest reservations to score in the city. This tiny, chic eatery serves unique yet elevated cuisine, specializing in Italian tapas and wood-fired pizzas. Though there is a spacious patio out front, the beautiful interior space, filled with antique paintings, dark green walls and dim lighting, makes for the perfect date night backdrop. The menu changes regularly, but most of the pizzas are always available. The Margherita pizza can be enjoyed as is, or amped up a notch with caviar and freshly shaved truffle. Other optional pizza enhancements include bone marrow and white anchovies. Also, the ever-changing Agnolotti is always worth checking out.
218 Main St, Venice, CA 90291
Technically on the border of Santa Monica and Venice, Coucou is a beautiful bistro that serves French fare alongside craft cocktails and natural wines. The Bonnie & Clyde cocktail is a great option for tequila lovers, but if you prefer something more classic, opt for the White Negroni. The low-intervention wines also never fail to impress. For food, kick things off fresh oysters and zucchini beignets. The wood-fired prawn cocktail is also a unique play on the classic shrimp cocktail, and it doesn’t get more lavish than the Petrossian caviar service. Despite the fact that steak frites are a French favorite, the L’Haute Dog, with French onion marmalade and cheese fondue, is what dreams are made of. Of course, no visit to Coucou would be complete without soft-serve ice cream for dessert.
2424 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Between its elegant yet bohemian interior and its locally-sourced cuisine, Isla has become as beloved as its popular sister restaurant, Crudo e Nudo. Since sustainability and local sourcing are at the forefront of Isla’s ethos, the daily menu can change depending on what’s available. The charcoal skewers are a highlight, with options ranging from kanpachi and duck hearts to vegetarian-friendly shishitos and trumpet mushrooms. No matter which meats or veggies call your name, be sure to order a side of the nori and garlic rice. For a true taste of what Isla has to offer, opt for the customized, five-course tasting menu.