Santa Monica + Convertible + 5 hours
Yikes. The sun sorta came out and I was just offered my friends convertible for the afternoon. I'm new here, and have been without automobile, and I was thinking of driving up PCH which seems like it will be a wonderful view. I want to head out at about 1:00 for a couple of hours each way. Is there anywhere I should stop on the way for (a) great restaurant or (b) great place to pick up some sea food to cook at home over the oscars. I know thats a pretty broad question, but, if you could only go on that highway once in your life, where or what would you eat? (me = spicey, savory, world food but realize thats probably not going to be on this roadside)
If you head north on PCH you will hit Gladstones restaurant which is a casual mostly ourside dining restaurant - pretty popular - peanut shells on the ground and fairly good food. It is just outside Santa Monica not too far.
Or, drive south toward Manhattan and Hermosa Beach. Lots of little restaurants toward the piers of both beach towns. Look for locals eating in restaurants. Lots of the local casual bars have tv's - SHellback Tavern is in Manhattan - local style pub - might be fun.
Hit up Malibu Seafood. I like to pick up some steamed shrimp or fried fish, then head across the street and eat it right on the sand. It's also a good place to pick up fresh seafood to cook at home. It's not cheap, but the variety and quality are excellent.
I've lived in Santa Monica for ten years and the only place I buy fresh seafood is from Santa Monica Seafood, 1205 Colorado Avenue. They're open today until 5. As for driving, I personally don't care for Gladstone's. Tons of tourists, overpriced and average quality. If the weather holds out and you're heading north, Malibu Kitchen in the Country Mart on the right at the traffic light in Malibu is a tiny 'old fashioned' country mart where you can order from the counter all kinds of comfort foods (roast beef, macaroni and cheese, pretzel sandwiches, my fav) and they have a good coffee bar, a nice selection of handmade cheeses, candies and pastries. You can walk right across PCH and enjoy your picnic on the beach in the state park. There aren't many great choices farther north. Geoffrey's on the left out of town is great for atmosphere, but tends to be pricey/stuffy sometimes. Tonight being 'oscar night' though, you'll be able to have any place almost to yourself there. Not because everyone's at the awards, but no one wants to be seen out because then everyone will know for sure they aren't there.
If you want to head south, take Lincoln South and turn right on Jefferson, then left on Playa Vista. Take the road along the ocean into Manhattan Beach. Lots of nice little places there. Uncle Bill's Pancake House, Mama D's for example. You can't beat the view, the people. Go for a walk along the ocean and take in the roses that are planted everywhere. Lucky you!
Gladstone's (mentioned above) is one of 4 somewhat touristy restaurants right on the beach - the other 3 are, going north from Gladstones, The Charthouse, Moonshadows, and Dukes.
They all share the best asset - namely, being right over the water. You can easily get a window table at an off hour like 2 p.m. on a weekday, and have a superb view. If you're lucky, you'll see dolphins leaping in the water.
Of the 4, I think Gladstones is the one with the worst food, and probably Moonshadows is the best. Charthouse is serviceable; good if unimaginative food of the quality of a nice hotel restaurant, maybe. I haven't been to Dukes in a long time, and only had bar munchies instead of dinner, so I can't review it.
In terms of ambience, Moonshadows is the most upscale; Dukes is huge and bustling; Gladstones is touristy and more kid-friendly, and Charthouse is smaller and quieter.
So, depending on your mood, you could
1) shuck peanuts and drink beer outside at Gladstones with the gulls wheeling over head
2) sip a cocktail or glass of wine and nibble on fried calimari by the window at Charthouse
3) lounge on a banquette on the patio, or sit in a cabana at Moonshadows
4) Sip a pina colada and dig your toes in the sand at Duke's Barefoot Bar (if it's still like this - I was last there about 4 years ago)
Malibu Seafood is great, too; it's on the shore side of PCH, but the upper patio has great views.
Other good beachside places to explore are the restaurant at Paradise Cove, which is right on the beach although you have to pay to park before you even set foot in the door.
There's also a little restaurant right across from the beach on Westward Beach - It used to be called the Gray Whale, but now it has another name. Just take Westward Beach Road to where it ends at a parking lot, and the restaurant is on the left - a little grey house.
With all these places, the food isn't the most important thing, its the view and the location.
For great food, still on PCH, but without a view, try Cholada Thai, just past Topanga Canyon Blvd., or Allegria in Malibu proper - high quality Italian food. Another good place to eat is Taverna Tony, in Malibu Country Market, for Greek food.
Do not - repeat, do not!! - Go to the Reel Inn. Pleasant ambiance outside, great concept (order your own cooked to order) but execution - Horrendous! The food is dreadful.