The only thing that compares to the pleasure of a day at the beach is a beachside snack.
The salt air is practically Pavlovian in its ability to spark an appetite, but most beach bums rarely venture past the bike path in search of food. This is a mistake. Don’t get me wrong — there's plenty of glory in a Hot Dog on a Stick — but non–fast food chain restaurants are out there near the sand, too. Sometimes you just have to venture a little further to find them. Here are the best local eateries to support during a day at the beach.
Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine
Thai food isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when picturing a post-surf snack, but this low-key beachside spot is more than deserving. Head to the shabby-chic outpost nestled alongside Pacific Coast Highway for authentic, seafood-studded dishes like shrimp pad thai and Gapow catfish, stir-fried with chilies and sweet basil leaves. Cool down from a day of tanning with an uber-sweet Thai iced tea, or chase some heat with the seafood soup, which combines shrimp, squid, crab, fish fillets and mussels in a spicy broth. Parking is a mess, so here’s your game plan: Find a nearby parking spot for a day at the Malibu beach and walk to dinner. 18763 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 317-0025, choladathaicuisine.com.
The Wee Chippy
This adorably named hole-in-the-wall keeps it simple with just two menu items: fish and chips. And that's really all you need. There’s only one kind of fish, Atlantic cod, and all of the fries are hand-cut. There are options galore, however, when it comes to toppings: There are 12 salts and six dips to choose from. Foodies will rejoice at the Italian black truffle and nutritional yeast offerings, but purists can take comfort in a simple combo of malt vinegar and kosher salt. This place is to-go only, making it the ideal snack for a stroll along the Venice Boardwalk. 1301 Ocean Front Walk, #9, Venice.; (310) 450-0077, weechippy.com.
Unlike every other restaurant on this list, Sunny Blue doesn’t serve seafood. Rather, the Main Street mainstay claims the title of being the first Southern California restaurant to serve omusubi, or Japanese rice balls. For the uninitiated, omusubi are fist-sized, warm globes of rice stuffed with fillings such as cured salmon, mushrooms and pickled plum paste. The resulting snack is delicious, filling and portable — the ultimate food to carry the few blocks between Main Street and Santa Monica Beach. There are really no wrong orders here, but the miso beef (packed with beef and caramelized onions in a homemade miso sauce) is unquestionably amazing. Top it off with an order of freshly made kimchi or tsukemono (Japanese pickled veggies) to create a perfectly salty snack. 2728 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 399-9030, sunnyblueinc.com.
The crown jewel of the PCH seafood scene may not have as much hype as others (we’re looking at you, Neptune’s Net), but it’s been acting as a patio and fish market since the 1970s and hasn’t aged a day. The joint is owned and run by commercial fishermen, and their daily hauls are either sold to locals at the restaurant’s fish market or sent back to the kitchen. In other words, the seafood couldn’t be any fresher. The homemade clam chowder is a crowd favorite, but the freshly grilled seafood dinners (giant squid steak, anyone?) are equally good. Locals-only tip: Call in your order ahead of time to avoid the post-surf rush. 25653 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 456-3430, malibuseafood.com.
Poké shops have sprung up all across Los Angeles, but Poké-Poké’s beachside location gives it an edge over the competition — poké isn’t called the surfer’s sashimi for nothing. The owners of Poké-Poké, who hail from Hawaii and reside in Venice Beach, give the spot a dose of authenticity, which is bolstered by their original recipes. Order a menu standby like the Original Hawaiian Poké (with ahi tuna, shoyu soy sauce, sesame oil/seeds and onions) or go the DIY route and build your own bowl. The restaurant also offers another ultra trendy food for those with a sweet tooth: acaï bowls. Grab a bowl and sit back in the sun. The Muscle Beach–adjacent location makes for prime people watching. 1827 Ocean Front Walk, Venice; (424) 228-5132, poke-poke.com.