The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Dining in Los Angeles
It’s dinnertime, and here’s why you should bother to brave the L.A. traffic: to experience the intersection of world-class dining and excellent weather. Plus, you know, the beach. Here are the top waterside, rooftop, alleyway and patio dining experiences, for all budgets. What a time to be alive hungry.
Plant Food and Wine, Venice
Matthew Kenney’s plant-based menu at this chill Venice spot will satisfy vegans and possibly convert their eye-rolling, animal-product-eating friends. Whether it’s a raclette starter (made from cashews, naturally) or a surprisingly dense heirloom tomato and zucchini lasagna, this elegant but unassuming restaurant is just like its Venice ’hood: upmarket, socially conscious and packed on weekends. Go during the week to enjoy the monastic vibe of the open-air patio, where partial shade means your own flesh won’t be cooked, either.
1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 310-450-1009 or matthewkenneycuisine.com
This new fine-dining spot from chef Eric Bost has been getting raves for its jazzed-up versions of eclectic California fare; the crusty fresh bread is served with avocado-inflected butter, and a seared rib-eye comes with tart baby plums. Its environment is equally creative, with a half-enclosed patio designed in the minimalist Belgian style that’s equal parts Kardashian abode and car park (in a good way). Don’t miss the cocktails from cocktail savants Matthew Belanger and Lauren Corriveau, including the Palo Santo, which incorporates Scotch whisky, apricots and a California wine aperitif—along with a bit of the healing wood for which it’s named.
6703 Melrose Ave.; 323-486-6703 or auburnla.com
A new rootop aerie a block from the Walk of Fame, with a pretty insane view and small bites including Baja yellowtail and carnitas bao. The whole operation is run by the same people who operate Century City’s Hinoki & the Bird, so we’re enjoying great things from the Mexican-Asian mashup of a menu.
1550 N. El Centro Ave.; 323-978-7377 or sorrahollywood.com
Fig & Olive
It’s summer, so you or your out-of-town guests will be shopping Melrose for the right new outfit/accessory/Glossier lip tint. Lucky you, there’s the warm-weather pop-up Rosé Terrace at Italian trattoria Fig & Olive, and it’s bang on the sidewalk so you can enjoy your bright glass of grenache or berryish bottle of Montepulciano while watching the cool crowd stroll past.
8490 Melrose Pl., West Hollywood; 310-360-9100 or figandolive.com
When this seaside dining room’s website crows that it’s one of the most Instagrammed restaurants in the world, it’s doubly correct. The spot is memorialized not only for its crazy-gorgeous setting (a minimalist deck sitting wide on Carbon Beach) but also for its beautifully presented and well-executed (and dearly priced) Pan-Asian food. Don’t miss the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño and chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s famous black cod with miso.
22706 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; 310-317-9140 or noburestaurants.com
Everson Royce Bar
You’re in Silverlake. You fancy a drink and a light bite. You’d be crazy not to have one with all the arty trappings of the neighborhood, including a happy mural by graffiti artist Eric Junker and a steady stream of the creative types who live in the area. Share some smoked potato taquitos with tomatillo avocado salsa and fries while sipping on boilermakers made with Japanese whiskey.
1936 E. Seventh St.; 213-335-6166 or erbla.com
With a seafood tower to die for (with crab legs so plump they’re practically jogging off the plate), this Southeast Asian fusion spot has a permanent spot in our heart. Plus, the gorgeous patio comes complete with heater lamps and lap blankies to ward off the West Side chill. And, mmm, green papaya salad with spiced walnuts.
1314 Seventh St., Santa Monica; 310-393-6699 or cassiala.co
The Polo Lounge
One of a handful of special old-school Hollywood places still in operation, this garden restaurant-bar of the Beverly Hills Hotel is all palmy and filled with flowers—and basically a trip back to the past. Lunch isn’t as buzzy-profesh as it once was, but you can still catch sidelong glances of performers during cocktail hour and at dinner. Over a McCarthy Salad (the chopped affair created for a polo player in the ’40s and served here ever since), a glass of wine and the tinkling of a piano player, you’ll be the star of your own show.
The Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-887-2777 or dorchestercollection.com
True Food Kitchen
Vegans, celiac sufferers, vegetarians: Don’t settle for one or two menu selections like you usually do when dining out with friends. Come here, where bigwig health guru Dr. Andrew Weil and his team will feed you organic kale, butterfly pea flower and a bunch of other dishes with ingredients designed to make you healthier. It might sound tedious and, well, un-yummy, but it’s quite the opposite. The seasonal menu items—such as summer’s heirloom tomato and watermelon soup with turmeric ponzu, and cauliflower polenta bowls with asparagus, snow peas and watermelon radish—are as appetizing as the whole “elevated health food” concept is Californian.
395 Santa Monica Pl., Santa Monica; 310-593-8300 or truefoodkitchen.com
Fine-dining Thai cuisine courtesy of star chef Sang Yoon, this sleek spot in the Helms Bakery District presents Instagram-worthy fare like a whole fish swimming upright on its plate, artfully placed greens accenting the crispy exterior. Reserve a table on the patio to enjoy the night air and to catch your breath after the spicy vinaigrette on your Sichuan dumplings.
3239 Helms Ave., Culver City; 310-202-6808 or lukshon.com
Spago Beverly Hills
Even after all these years (the first Spago opened in 1982), chef Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills fine-dining establishment still packs in the celebs, and on any random night you can see them hobnobbing as they walk through the cozy patio anchored by a large stainless-steel outdoor fireplace. Budget be damned, start your meal with caviar accompanied by lemon crème fraîche“snow” and order the summer truffles to be shaved over your handmade agnolotti.
176 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-385-0880 or wolfgangpuck.com
Ca Del Sole
This charming Italian restaurant has been serving traditional Neapolitan fare to Toluca Lake–area residents for 25 years, and the country-village-style back patio is the place to experience it. Piping-hot fried calamari, roasted beet and goat cheese salad, and pan-seared jumbo scallops are among the favorites here.
4100 Cahuenga Blvd., Toluca Lake; 818-985-4669 or cadelsole.com
This low-key yet high-ambition Japanese restaurant, housed in a formerly unused bungalow on the Chateau Marmont grounds, is from the respected chef who opened En Japanese Brasserie in New York City’s West Village. Ask for a spot on the patio, where you’ll curl up on shibori-upholstered chairs amid a circle of bamboo and feast on the chef’s kaiseki-style menus (one with chicken and fish, one vegan), featuring dishes like miso oden and clay rice pots with salmon.
8097 Selma Ave.; 323-963-5269 or hanarela.com
Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s wine-centric West Hollywood restaurant opened with a then-groundbreaking concept: Tailor a small-plates menu around a carefully curated selection of wines by the glass. That was back in 2002, and since then the restaurant has expanded to a new location on West Third that’s the rarest of finds, a see-and-be-seen lunch spot where the well-heeled and beautiful crowd is happily eating meals like the farmer’s lunch (roasted veg and chickpea puree and toast) and blistered tomato, Meyer lemon and olive focaccia. Cheers to the dozens of wines by the glass.
8700 W. Third St.; 310-859-9859 or aocwinebar.com
The Rose Venice
After beloved West Side chef Jason Neroni basically reinvented Santa Monica dining with Superba, he took on making over a neighborhood institution, Venice’s Rose Café. The poky diner was reinvented as a sprawling multi-use complex that includes a place to get your coffee and muffin in the morning, a front patio to watch the crowds go by as you eat lunch, and for a sexy date night, hipster-style, a back garden area where you can’t go wrong with a dozen oysters and the morel mushroom tart. Be sure to pause on the way to the loo for a gander at noted skate artist C. R. Stecyk III’s wall of handbills.
220 Rose Ave., Venice; 310-399-0711 or rosecafevenice.com
Let’s say you gave up on brunch around the time the traffic and parking tickets became too intense. Well, the spread at this Silverlake restaurant is worth getting behind the wheel (or, considering the locally distilled vodka and mescal punch, springing for a Lyft). From ceviche to burrata toast with a poached egg, through lemon ricotta pancakes and house-made biscuits, you’ll be so busy nom-nom-nom-ing that you won’t even notice how cool you are under the shade of the old-growth oak that shades the patio.
3626 W. Sunset; 323-666-6116 or cliffsedgecafe.com
Who says you need to be near the beach to enjoy a brisk breeze or a fantastic seafood meal? Not you, after you sit on the shady downtown patio here, enjoying a Pacifico beer–battered crab with green papaya and green bean slaw or grilled shrimp and avocado salad.
401 S. Grand Ave.; 213-258-2280 or pezcantina.com
Go for a long walk on the beach and then roll in here for breakfast (served on weekends only). The green-eggs-and-ham skillet with Gruyère, chorizo and green harissa, along with a mimosa and the sound of the gulls and the waves, is the feel-good Xanax replacement your busy schedule needs.
23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; 310-456-8850 or malibu-farm.com
Located in swank ocean-view apartment building the Seychelle, this restaurant’s swagged rope decor and expansive patio will make you think you’ve landed in the contemporary upscale version of a chain seafood restaurant (there are also locations in La Jolla, Las Vegas and Waikiki). The food is way more sophisticated, though, with poached and pickled shrimp in the salt-and-brine bar, and citrus-cured salmon on the menu (along with pork chops and steak for your non-seafood-loving friends). Go for the “oyster hour,” the place’s version of happy hour, when oysters go for a dollar a pop from 4 to 7 p.m.
1755 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; 310-971-4460 or herringboneeats.com
The West Hollywood iteration of this chain of seafood restaurant-bars is among the most Instagrammed places in town, thanks to the flower plumes hanging over the open-air archway entrance to the rooftop dining area. But the real draw here is weeknight dining, when the crowds have thinned and you have all the twinkling lights of Hollywood to go with your sushi, sashimi and grilled octopus.
8715 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 323-347-6060 or catchrestaurants.com
This Venice spot started as a bakery for the Abbot Kinney anchor fine-dining resto Gjelina, but it has evolved into a deli-bakery-café-market hybrid—basically, your all-day hang. There’s a patio with roll-back canvas awnings where you can eat your banh mi Americano or porchetta melt from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Mix up your beverage order with a seasonal shrub; like everything here, it’s sourced from five different local farmers’ markets.
320 Sunset Ave., Venice; 310-314-0320 or gjusta.com
Michael’s Santa Monica
Want a crash course in Los Angeles styling from the late ’90s to now? Walk into the austere (and perhaps in need of refreshing) classic restaurant Michael’s in Santa Monica, where for 40 years celebs and their handlers have flocked. The slightly shabby bathroom and interior paint job is charming, however, and any slights are forgotten by the time you hit the patio, where tents and umbrellas guard you from the midday sun and votives light the way at night. It’s a sexy, jungly date night, one where you’re actually interested in the food, such as the miso-infused yellowtail collar and crunchy molasses-marinated pork. Squint and you can practically see Robert Evans as a young man, striding over to shake your hand.
1147 Third St., Santa Monica; 310-451-0843 or michaelssantamonica.com
You’d think the draw here would be the location, sitting right on the Santa Monica Pier, but it’s a couple of other things. One, the dependable seafood dishes (fish and chips, clam chowder) presented in a spiffily branded, tightly run ship of an operation. The second draw is the passing parade, as the steady stream of international tourists and Pokémon GO–hunting locals traverse one of Santa Monica’s iconic destinations.
258 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica; 310-394-9683 or thealbright.com
On top of the Freehand Hotel in DTLA, this poolside bar with small bites has a less corporate, more festive vibe than many places where there’s a premium on communicating “Look at me, I’m on a roof.” Here, the beach-shack bar setup and the oilcloth tablecloths make you feel like you’re atop someone’s Waikiki high-rise, not next to a hotel pool. Tuna tostadas and fried chicken with yuzu kosho are menu standouts, as is the daily punch your server will tell you all about.
416 W. Eighth St.; 213-612-0021 or freehandhotels.com
Idle Hour, North Hollywood
Revel in not only the cool night air but also the glories of SoCal programmatic architecture, which was born in the ’40s as business owners built structures in recognizable shapes designed to entice passing drivers into stopping. The front of this bar-brunch spot is shaped like a whiskey barrel, for motorists to stop in and drink during an “idle hour.” (It was declared a cultural monument in 2010.) Around back, there’s a fire pit and another example of the style—a pipe-smoking dog that served as the Bulldog Café until the mid-’60s. Wait out rush hour from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays with a happy hour menu of chicken sliders on Hawaiian bread, white-cheddar sloppy joes and root beer barbecue wings.
4824 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood; 818-980-5604 or idlehourbar.com