May 22, 2024

Adventure Awaits Journeyers

Discovering the World Anew

Travel magazine 2024 Culinary Trends Santa Monica Top Spots

6 min read
A gourmet plated dish featuring medium-rare sliced steak garnished with herbs and edible blue flowers, accompanied by a whole roasted carrot, a charred bone with marrow, and a dollop of puree on a white plate.

Santa Monica has long been renowned as a leading culinary destination in Southern California. In just 8.3 square miles, Los Angeles beach city is home to over 400 restaurants – including 18 Michelin recommended. With a favorable location and visitor profile of global foodies, the city attracts international chefs, new restaurant concepts and already thriving establishments to the area. As a result of its booming dining scene and innovation, Santa Monica is poised to be one of the top culinary destinations in 2024.

According to Food & Wine’s 2024 culinary travel trend predictions, Santa Monica leads the charge when it comes to satisfying the desires – and taste buds – of food savvy travelers. The beach city ticks off several boxes on the recently published list including: Wellness tourism, Immersive culinary experiences, Destination-focused dining, Hyper-local ingredients, Zero waste/sustainable practices and Alfresco dining.

“Santa Monica is a pioneer in the culinary space, which is undoubtedly attributed to the talented chefs who believe enough in this city to choose it as their home,” said Misti Kerns, President and CEO of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism.

“The proximity and easy access to weekly farmers markets bursting with fresh produce and organic ingredients are just a couple of reasons why Santa Monica’s food scene is so renowned.”

Wellness Tourism is focused on selfcare and mindful eating, and Santa Monica has offerings peppered all throughout the beachside city.

Impasta – provides healthy pasta dishes made with vegetable noodles, including zucchini, hearts of palm and spaghetti squash. All the dishes are thoughtfully curated using low-calorie, low-carb and 100% gluten-free ingredients. And it’s new to the seaside city’s Downtown area!

La La Land Kind Café – not only does this café hire and give back to fostered youth, but they also offer delicious, health-focused drinks like the Butterfly Matcha Latte – which uses blue butterfly pea flower and ceremonial grade matcha. You can find them on Montana Avenue.

Colapasta– one of Downtown Santa Monica’s mainstays, the Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant sources certified organic raw ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmers Market, as they pride themselves on meeting rigorous quality standards. The Italian restaurant specializes in house made pasta.

Immersive Culinary Experiences include exciting activities/dining that involves guests participating in cooking lessons or learning about wines and flavor profiles accompanying each course.

The Gourmandise School – consistently recognized as one of the best cooking schools in the Los Angeles region, Gourmandise offers hands-on cooking and baking classes for all skill levels, with classes ranging from weekslong series to develop and improve skills to private parties for up to 50 people to group classes and more. Check them out at Santa Monica Place.

Andrew’s Cheese Shop – a staple on Montana Avenue, Andrew’s Cheese Shop offers exciting classes and events such as the family-friendly Grilled Cheese and Wine Pairing night, Cheese 101 Course and more. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions about the cheese and wine selections, as Andrew’s impressive expertise is on full display during the events.

Melisse– Santa Monica’s only two-starred Michelin restaurant, comes from the brilliant mind of Josiah Citrin. With only two seating’s each night in a 14-seat restaurant, this fine French dining eatery offers an eight-course menu and is a bucket list experience. Tag along as chefs and sommeliers guide patrons on a culinary adventure of the senses. Don’t forget to try its sister restaurant, Citrin, also Michelin starred and conveniently right next door. Both are in the upscale Wilshire neighborhood. Need a quick and delicious meal? Josiah recently opened his third Santa Monica restaurant – the fast casual Augie’s on Main – the chicken sandwich is highly recommended.

Destination-focused Dining brings the charm of the area to its menus, which are inspired by the destination.

The Lobster – the Michelin-recommended and iconic institution, is nearly a century old and offers some of the best sunset views in Santa Monica. The restaurant specializes in California spiny lobster and oysters from the creative mind of chef Govind Armstrong, a regular at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, always in search of seasonally driven ingredients.

Lunetta all Day and Lunetta at Night – Santa Monica native Raphael Lunetta is the proud chef and owner of two Lunetta eateries – the Michelin-recommended and upscale neighborhood diner Lunetta all Day serves brunch, lunch, dinner and a unique Golden Hour menu, and Lunetta at Night offers a late night menu – both centered around ingredients sourced from the local farmers markets.

Michael’s Santa Monica – this mainstay opened its doors in 1979 and has been delighting dinners in the city ever since. In fact, Michael’s is credited as a pioneer in the farm-to-table space by being one of the first restaurants in California to offer market-driven plates using local produce and hyper-seasonal ingredients.

Hyper-local Ingredients are a plenty in Santa Monica, as nearby farmers bring their bounties to four weekly markets.

Santa Monica Farmers Markets
Santa Monica is known for its four weekly certified farmers markets that are overflowing with colorful produce and the freshest locally sourced ingredients. Taking over several city blocks, each market has its own personality and diehard patrons – including several Santa Monica chefs.

Downtown Farmers Market – the largest of the weekly markets – happens every Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., where locals and visitors can catch a glimpse of celebrities/celebrity chefs. This location is also open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the corner of 2nd and Arizona Ave.

Pico Boulevard Farmers Market – this hidden gem of a market is great for families, as it’s located at Virginia Ave Park in the heart of the Pico neighborhood. Open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Main Street Farmers Market – the Sunday market includes organic bounties, live music and more. Main Street and Pico Markets are the only markets in Santa Monica that sell non-agricultural items. Catch the fun every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Zero Waste/Sustainable Practices can be found at restaurants dedicated to reducing their footprint by producing zero trash, including its ingredients.

Birdie G’s – a Michelin-recommended eatery helmed by award-winning chef and co-owner Jeremy Fox. The menu focuses on Eastern European cuisine emphasizing zero-waste using ingredients sourced from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen who strictly abide by planet-friendly practices.

Socalo– is a beachy California cantina and Mexican pub from the brilliant minds and award-winning chefs/owners Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. Patrons feel good about eating here as they serve sustainably sourced fare procured through Smart Catch and Seafood Watch Program memberships, which thoroughly assess the ways fisheries operate ensuring they exceed and upkeep environmental sustainability practices.

Papille Gustative – the farm-to-table artisan restaurant collects food scraps in buckets to be composted and then used as fertilizer in their garden – not to mention, everything down to the cups, utensils, to-go boxes, bags, and straws are biodegradable.

Alfresco Dining allows visitors to enjoy a meal outdoors in the fresh air – preferably with views of the Pacific Ocean.

Èlephante – is a Michelin-recommended restaurant and beach house that channels the spirit and cuisine of Italy’s southern coast and aims to transport patrons from Santa Monica to the Mediterranean – both with ingredients and an incredible outdoor space that provides stunning ocean views and candy-colored sunsets.

1212 Santa Monica – located on the bustling Third Street Promenade, 1212 Santa Monica is a popular restaurant and event space with expansive outdoor seating, perfect for people-watching and respite after a day of shopping.

Water Grill – dubbed one of the best seafood restaurants in Los Angeles, Water Grill is a culinary destination in its own right. The elevated dining experience offers superior quality and the freshest seafood, accompanied by fantastic views of the Pacific.

New Openings:

Sweet Maple– renowned restauranteur Hoyul Steven Choi opened his first Los Angeles location of Sweet Maple on December 8, on Ocean Avenue. The Northern California restaurant brings its Asian-inspired brunch dishes to Santa Monica, including the wildly popular ‘millionaires bacon,’ a thick dish of sweet and slightly spicy candied bacon.

Burgette – sister restaurant to Santa Monica newcomer Bar Monette, this Parisian-inspired hamburger eatery from Toronto chef Sean Macdonald will offer small plates of cured meats and cheeses. It will open in the Downtown neighborhood in January 2024.

The Butter End Cakery – from the mind of Food Network judge Kimberly Bailey, the cakery will specialize in elaborate cakes with tiered designs in addition to elevated baked goods. The shop will open in April 2024 in the Wilshire neighborhood.

Little Hawaii Juice Bar – the new tropical-themed juice, smoothie and acai bowl shop is set to open in 2024 and is located at 1431 2nd Street. The menu offers a selection of made-to-order, refreshing items using high-quality produce sourced from the local farmers markets.

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