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From LAX to Santa Monica - Where's the best place to eat?

We'll be traveling in August landing at LAX around lunch time. I want us to drive up the coast towards Santa Monica and take in the sights. I know we'll be hungry after our flight and thought we could grab a bite of lunch along the way. We like all types of food but my better half doesn't care for seafood so we can leave those suggestions off.

We're open to something different like a food truck that I've been reading about or really anything. The two main things for us it that it be casual and that it be good. Price range it's that important - that doesn't mean I'm looking to spend $45 for a hamburger and fries - but if it comes highly recommended we would consider it.

Thanks for your help.

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  1. August? You really plan ahead!

    Anyway, I recommend Gjelina.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sushigirlie

      +1 Gjelina in Venice California. Make a reservation but I don't think they're taking them for August just yet.
      Food trucks can be found every Tuesday night at Ocean Park Blvd and Main St behind the museum in Santa Monica, you'll find many good trucks there and they change weekly.
      For a great casual sandwich try Bay Cities Italian Deli and their tasty Godmother with genoa salami, mortadella coppacola, ham, prosciutto, provolone on fresh hot Italian bread.

      Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
      1517 Lincoln Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

      1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

    2. For a nice lunch in a pleasant place I like to recommend Le Petit Cafe in Santa Monica, my main reason for planning any SM visit to coincide with midday. Not cheap but reasonable, swell owners (Alsatian, I believe) and pleasant staff. They have good takes on bistro food, and good American as well. Last time I had a very good burger and fries; I'd been hoping for some more of their duck confit, but it was off the menu, and I realized I'd never tried'em on plain American. Good salads, starters, wines by the glass. I usually spend $20-$25, and it's always worth it.

      1. FYI, casual and affordable are going to cost a little bit more depending on where you're coming from. I moved here and had a bit of sticker shock when it came to restaurants in the Santa Monica/Venice area. You can add a good 20% on your bill for the westside premium.

        And most restaurants are pretty casual....most places you can walk in with a sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers and they would serve you.

        My recos:
        $ (<$10 per person)
        La isla Bonita - Mexican Taco Truck in Venice - great ceviche, tacos, tortas and burritos

        In and Out Burger - on Washington Ave in Venice - classic California chain. Look up the "secret menu"

        Abbot's Pizza Kitchen on Abbot Kinney in Venice - salad pizza - fresh salad on a pizza crust. So californian and cheap. good walking neighborhood - same street as Gjelina

        $$ (10 - 20 per person
        )Gjelina Take Away. Food is great, but you miss on the ambiance of the restaurant and potential celebrity sighting if you're into that kind of thing. http://www.gjelina.com/Menus/gta.pdf

        Alibi Room if you want to try the famous Kogi korean tacos in a modern bar setting. In Culver City a little bit out of the way from LAX/Santa Monica path, but worth it.

        Father's Office - great burgers & belgian beers. Good gastropub - has salads and good apps. No reservations & a little cramped. Santa Monica on Montana Ave.

        $$$ (you could get lunch for $20-30
        )Gjelina - I like this place as well. But you definitely need reservations. In Venice on Abbot Kinney. Very popular restaurant - small plates, thin crust pizzas.

        Milo & Olive - new restaurant on Wilshire - small restaurant with excellent thin crust pizzas better than Gjelina IMHO and good seasonal salads, pasta dishes.

        Father's Office
        1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

        Alibi Room
        12236 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

        1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

        Milo and Olive
        2723 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

        3 Replies
        1. re: toffifay

          I don't think Father's Office in San Mo is open for lunch.

          1. re: foodiemahoodie

            Lunch only on weekends at Santa Monica Fathers Office

            Father's Office
            1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

          2. I think what you would like is "Sauce on Hampton" . One block off Main @ Rose (Venice/Santa Monica area). A true locals favorite with BLD menu (on the web) served all day long which gives you a great variety of outstanding food.

            1. i agree with the Gjelina recommendation. usually it costs me about $20 BEFORE beverage, tax and tip for lunch there.
              (if you arrive around 2:30pm, or so, it is usually pretty easy to get a couple of spots at the communal table(s). ) at 3pm they switch to an abbreviated menu of pizza and charcuterie until 5:30 when they start serving from their dinner menu.
              also, have you ever taken this drive before? the drive "up the coast" is actually about a block east of the coast and all you will see from your car are buildings until you are almost in santa monica. if you plan to get out of your car, and walk a bit, there will be much more to see.

              2 Replies
              1. re: westsidegal

                Gjelina is excellent -- a great example of modern California cuisine -- but they don't take reservations for lunch.

                1. re: nosh

                  Yes they do. I have a reservation for this friday afternoon.

              2. There's no "coast drive" from LAX to Santa Monica. You take Lincoln, then you can get over to Pacific, but you won't see the coast.

                Gjelina is a great suggestion.

                1. Contrary to what our esteemed posters are saying, there actually is a coast drive from the airport, but it's a bit convoluted and Chowhounds parameters don't allow a blow by blow direction.

                  From Imperial Highway, just south of LAX, you go west to the end and catch Vista Del Sol, a mile or so stretch of uninterrupted ocean view. Not much in terms of food, however.

                  Where Vista Del Sol ends, you turn right onto Culver and catch that to Lincoln Blvd. If you take Lincoln Blvd north, turn left (west at Washington Blvd. There you can catch 26 Beach which serves really interesting hamburgers, especially the California Roll Burger. Further west will take you to Abbott Kinney where you can catch Gjelina or

                  the Alibi Room(evening only) for the famous Kogi tacos.

                  Get back onto Washington to Pacific AVe. and take that north thru the heart of Venice Beach. Pacific becomes Nielsen which becomes Ocean Ave. This is the heart of Santa Monica Beach. Here you might try the Lobster which is a bit overpriced, but the view is gorgeous, or Zengo in the Santa Monica Place, which has some view of the Promenade and a very interesting Latin-Asian fusion.

                  The real Coast drive is after Santa Monica to Malibu.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Ogawak

                    >>From Imperial Highway, just south of LAX, you go west to the end and catch Vista Del Sol...<<

                    The name of the street should be Vista Del Mar, unless something has changed - just don't want the OP to go crazy looking for this street by name.

                    The rooftop at the completely redone Santa Monica Place has a panoramic view that is very accessible. If you want to get an idea of where you've been and where you will be going, it's a good stopping point. As Ogawak has recommended, Xengo would probably be your best bet. I'd really enjoy a charcuterie and cheese platter from From Norcino with a bottle of wine from Venokado while taking in the view from one of the glass booths, but I honestly don't know if wine is allowed on the general dining area.

                    August in Malibu might be a good time to consider Geoffrey's in Malibu. It sounds like the OP might be from some non-beachy location. If that's the case, this kind of meal would be memorable.


                    1. re: Ogawak

                      the disadvantage of taking Vista del Mar for the one mile that you describe is that the Hyperion Treatment Plant, which proceeses all of the LA sewage is located near there and sporadically it emits a really disgusting smell which takes over the whole area.
                      Hard to enjoy the view with that smell spewing out.
                      Better, imho, to wait until you get to Santa Monica for your ocean views.

                      i do, however, agree with the recommendation of 26 Beach restaurant for their ~$15 burgers and entree salads.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Thanks for the corrections, Bula and WSG re Vista Del Mar. Re Hyperion, I guess my sense of smell isn't as refined as yours, which explains why you have better taste than I. I have driven that route many, many times.

                        I second Geoffrey's up the Malibu Coast. If you get up there, also check out Grom's gelato.

                        1. re: Ogawak

                          I think the issues around El Segundo that may reduce the likeability of Vista Del Mar may or may not be an issue to most. The Hyperion plant is one, but the Chevron oil refinery is more consistently noticeable to me - it's further south so it may not be an issue. The overbearing one for me is the airport noise.

                          I think steering the OP further north would give them what they probably have in mind for driving along the coast. It's either that, or heading further south around the Palos Verdes area, but I think that drive becomes more precarious for those unfamiliar with the area, as well as finding it harder for a Chow rec in the immediate area.

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            my daughter went to middle-school across the street from that plant which continually belches noxious gasses. one of my former roommates worked there, and when he came home, his clothes smelled of the chemicals.

                            nevertheless, if SREP930 decides to take that route, the brand new Hacienda restaurant on pershing is on it, and, although i haven't yet tried the pershing Hacienda, the overwhelming odds are that the food they serve is fine for a quick "bite."

                      2. re: Ogawak

                        Thanks for the info about the drive - street names and all - (and the restaurant info)
                        Much Appreciated.

                        1. re: Ogawak

                          I forgot to add that where Washington and Pacific meet is near the famous Venice Boardwalk, but you will have to stop and park somewhere to check it out as you won't be able to see it from the car.

                          1. re: Ogawak


                            Not only did I get the Vista Del Mar name wrong, I got you the wrong Roy Choi restaurant on Abbott Kinney. It's the former Beechwood, now Sunny Spot which is on Abbott Kinney and does not serve the Kogi tacos. I'm sure everyone is confused now.

                            1. re: Ogawak

                              Ogawak, you're on a roll... ;-D> Sunny Spot is actually on Washington Blvd. where Abbott Kinney dead-ends into Washington.

                              Sunny Spot
                              822 Washington Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

                          2. While I love Gjelina, it's freaking LOUD, and indoors. I eat there alone, and enjoy it. But in August? Try Larry's in Venice. Absolutely great small plates at night, like mussels in green curry ($14). The delicious Medjool Date Cake in Salted Caramel Sauce is exquisite and they have larger portions for lunch (see the accompanying pork-cheek BLT photo)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sockbunny

                              Gjelina has a back patio that's outside and the one time I went to Larry's I enjoyed the food a lot, but couldn't hear any of the other 4 people I was dining with because the noise level was almost to the point of intolerable. Maybe it was just a bad/loud night? Anyway, I'm not stating a preference, just adding my 2 cents on your assertions.

                            2. The staff at Gjelina are very rude and it is so loud you cannot hear yourself talk. They will make no changes to the menu - not even put dressing on the side.
                              Three Square on Abbott Kinney in Venice is good. Their pretzel burger is delicious.
                              Shutters in Santa Monica has a wonderful view of the ocean. It's a hotel but the food is better than most hotel food. Bay Cities has amazing sandwiches but you basicaly eat them in a parking lot. You may also consider driving up the coast to Malibu.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: flowergirl

                                never had rude service at gjelina, and I've been dozens of times

                                1. re: budlit

                                  I have found the service takes and complete 180 in gjelina from lunch to dinner. It's oneo f my favorite nice lunch places in town. For dinner, you could not pay me to eat there...


                                2. re: flowergirl

                                  gjelina is on my regular rotation.
                                  have always been treated nicely there.
                                  never have encountered any rudeness.
                                  that said, though, i generally eat a late lunch there, and rarely eat dinner there.

                                3. I suggest restaurants on Main st. in Santa Monica. Lula's (mexican) offers a happy hour menu, which is ridiculously cheap, but tasty from 1:00-6:00 aside from their regular menu.
                                  Chaya - pricey but good
                                  Locanda Veneta - casual italian
                                  For restaurants on the water:
                                  Back on the beach cafe - good food, level with the beach (meaning you don't have to walk down steps, which is the case for most waterfront restaurants in the area)
                                  Gladstones - good seafood, wildly popular during the summer, and ideally you want to sit at an outside table with a view of the ocean.
                                  Dukes - Malibu - limited seating outside, and you definitely want a table with a view of the ocean
                                  Moonshadows - same as Dukes

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: hkl74

                                    respectfully disagree with the recommendation of gladstones.

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      respectfully agree with the disagree of Gladstones.

                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                        "respectfully agree with the disagree of Gladstones"

                                    2. re: hkl74

                                      respectfully disagree the recommendation of Gladstone's

                                    3. I deliberately schedule my flights into LAX to arrive around lunchtime so I can go straight to the Ivy At The Shore for their famous Grilled Vegetable Salad (See Hollywood Reporter's article "Hollywood's Five Favorite Salads" http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news...). We always order a salad apiece (way too yummy to share!) and split the crabcake appetizer and a slice of my all-time favorite Key Lime pie. Foodie heaven!

                                      The restaurant is right on Ocean Ave in SanMo with the same great food as the BevHills Ivy, but with postcard views and without the paparazzi swarm. There is valet parking in front that the restaurant validates. The food is expensive and sometimes the place is noisy (if that's a problem aim for late lunch), but the decor is charming and there's a lovely ocean park to stroll off that delicious Key Lime pie afterwards!

                                      The Ivy's Grilled Vegetable Salad...definitely one of the perks of going to LA!

                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: ski_gpsy

                                        I have to disagree with the comparison of The Ivy At the Shore to the Ivy on Robertson.
                                        I'd tolerate the paparazzi for a much better ambiance and dining experience. I believe the food's a little better also.

                                        1. re: latindancer

                                          I've been going to both for over 20 years, and I have to agree w/latindancer. The food and service at the The Ivy is consistantly better than Ivy at The Shore. Personally, I love the decor on Robertson, but, I'm a chick, and love french country.

                                        2. re: ski_gpsy

                                          Good to know! As I said, we always have the same Grilled Veggie Salad, Crab Cakes & Key Lime pie so in that respect the food we order is pretty much the same as the BevHills Ivy.

                                          My friend who picks me up at LAX does have a problem with paparazzi, but on the positive side it means that we always get extremely accomodating service wherever we go, so in my experience the service at The Shore has always been excellent. However hearing your comparisons between the two Ivys will make me reconsider unconditionally recommending The Shore in the future. It's still my favorite lunch between LAX and SanMo as the OP requested, but thanks for the heads up!

                                          1. re: ski_gpsy

                                            You can get all of those Ivy favorites at Dolce Isola which is where Ivy prepares a lot of that food for their Robertson and Santa Monica locations. The food is the same at a fraction of the price. You will eat off of paper plates and use plastic utensils. You will eat exactly the same corn chowder, gumbo, chopped salad, crab cakes, key lime pie, tarte tatin, etc. Close to the airport at Cattaragus and Robertson. Open for breakfast at 8, closes at 4 during the week and 2 on weekends. They also bake all of the bread for their restaurants there. There are 2 guys working, about 6 tables. This is a true treasure. I don't think that there is one item over $10.00

                                            1. re: maudies5

                                              Thank you maudies5! What a great tip. I will reroute the drive from LAX next trip just to try what sounds like a gem of a cafe. Thank you for sharing.

                                              I also read your post talking about how alot of the good French chefs of LA trained at L'Orangerie and it brought a wistful sigh and a flood of great memories. L'Orangerie was always my favorite restaurant for all especially special occasions. What amazing cuisine, what fabulous food. What wonderful memories. Ah, sigh..........

                                              You are obviously a very knowledgeable foodie who knows her way around the good LA restaurants, especially the Westside. Any suggestion for a fantastic salad at someplace easy and casual in the Brentwood - SanMo area? Something healthy & delicious that will motivate us thru yoga class and that we can go to straightaway in exercise clothes?

                                              1. re: ski_gpsy

                                                Thanks for the kind words, ski_gpsy . Get thee to Milo and Olive. www.miloandolive.com
                                                I love their menu. Salads are great. My personal favorite is a green bean salad with golden raisins, pine nuts, cipollini onions and goat cheese This little gem of a restaurant has taken the eastern end of Santa Monica by storm. I know that many folks go there for their amazing, delicious pizzas I would be quite content dining alone and munching on the crispy duck leg and one of the salads, all of which are delicious. This food is very very special. Moreover, Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan have figured out the perfect formula: The perfect formula is a no-brainer, really. Great, fresh food, a menu which is diverse. Customer service which is (IMHO) the best in town, This is my new home away from home. I bring home dinner a couple of times a week from M&O as we don't always want to go out. Those good folks tell you what travels well. Did I mention that the desserts are incredible? I also love that they update their online menu daily. A treasure. Thanks again for the very kind words, ski_gpsy

                                                1. re: maudies5

                                                  My single lunch at Milo + Olive was so idyllic that it's hard to imagine overstating its charms. They seem to hit every note in all the ways maudies5 mentions. I don't live in LA, but will be at M+O at least once the next time I'm in town, more if I'm around long enough to take advantage.

                                                  1. re: maigre

                                                    maigre Ahh, thanks so much for reporting back. Hitting every note is fair and accurate description of the food and M+O.

                                                    1. re: maudies5

                                                      Another fan of Milo+Olive here. Wonderful pizza and very nice people.

                                                      Milo and Olive
                                                      2723 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                                        Agree. There is something about a lovely couple truly caring about their restaurant. I have seen Josh cleaning tables, setting places, acting as host and always with a look of pleasure that this restaurant really does belong to him and his wife, Zoe. Zoe, is a great baker and the one who mastered the art of pizza crusts. I have seen Zoe slicing pizzas and boxing them. No attitude at all from these nice people. They deserve all of their success.

                                              2. re: maudies5

                                                unfortunately Dolce Isola doesn't have the grilled vegetable salad on the menu.

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  The chopped salad is damn good as is the Nicoise.

                                                  1. re: maudies5

                                                    i've had the chopped salad, and yes, it's terrific...but for some reason i'm still partial to the grilled veggie. however, had this come up when i was still living in LA i definitely would have checked the place out.

                                                  2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    I wonder if they will prepare grilled veggie salad on request. They may have to modify the dish. Poached tuna instead of shrimp? Maybe. I'll check it out.

                                                    1. re: maudies5

                                                      Dolce Isola doesn't have a Mesquite flame grill which is the reason they don't do the salad. But that won't stop me from trying DI, it could actually get me to break my grilled veggie salad addiction and try other wonderful Ivy entrees.

                                                      I make the salad myself at home using Gwyneth Paltrow or Naomi Judds' copycat recipe but only when we are having a mesquite fire going. That's the only time it tastes really like the original.

                                                      I've heard that the Fresh Corn Grill restaurant in Westwood (rumored to have been started by former Ivy employees) does a perfect Ivy grilled veggie salad for half the price (but none of the ambience) of the Ivy. The reviews varied on the rest of the menu but the GV salad was a hands-down hit.

                                            2. For my money, I say try the The Tripel in Playa Del Rey.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Lambster

                                                irrc, The Tripel doesn't open until 5 or so.
                                                OP specified lunch

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  If they are arriving on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday Tripel is open for lunch from 12 noon.

                                                  333 Culver Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90293

                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                    thank you so much for this info, servog
                                                    i plan to be there much more often now.

                                                2. A quick note about Moonshadows/Duke's/Geoffrey's for the OP

                                                  The distance from LAX to Santa Monica is shorter than the distance between S.M and these restaurants (though drive time is about the same 20-30 mins from LAX to S.M. if you take the quickest route with no traffic, not one that meanders up the coast from LAX) It is a gorgeous drive up the coast North of S.M. for sure but Moonshadow's is 20 mins further, Duke's about the same and Geoffrey's is a solid 35 mins past S.M. and this is assuming zero traffic. And as usual, depending on routes and how fast you drive, it can always take much longer.

                                                  I don't disgree with the idea but you'll need to know this in terms of timing.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: ellaystingray

                                                    Thanks for pointing out these realities. I was doing the drive in my mind while posting above and thought the OP wouldn't so much appreciate the drive between LAX and Santa Monica. Screaming jets overhead, sewage treatment plant chic, traffic choked on Lincoln, Pacific and Main and fighting through Downtown Santa Monica would not leave me with a with that ethereal sense of sunshine, footloose and fancy free. For me, that drive doesn't really epitomize the Southern California coastal drive that most from out the area would envision - Santa Monica to Malibu does. And Geoffrey's for a nice summer meal would cap this off if I were doing this drive for the first time.