Michael Fiorelli has doubled down on his love for L.A.'s beach cities. A six-year resident of Santa Monica, the chef last year opened Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach, bringing a lifetime of experience in high-end, high-voulme fine dining to this much more intimate beachside setting.
In fact, Fiorelli's love for the Los Angeles coastline is so great that when we spoke to him about doing a "Where the Chefs Eat" column with us, he suggested the idea of keeping his picks to the beach cities. All the better — here are Fiorelli's 10 favorite eateries near the ocean.
10. NY&C Pizza in Santa Monica
"This is my go-to for late-night pizza in my neighborhood. They do both New York- and Chicago-style, but I'm always going for two slices of the New York cheese. It passes the crucial crust test — it's thin but doesn't flop down in the center."
9. Huckleberry in Santa Monica
"If I have a morning open, I'm going to Rustic Canyon's sister restaurant Huckleberry for Green Eggs & Ham, or their killer fried egg sandwich. Zoe Nathan just owns it with the pastry counter, too. I'm not much of a dessert guy, but everything she puts out is crafted with so much integrity. The muffins, the maple bacon biscuits that walk the line between sweet and savory, and the salted caramel that should be a toothache but just nails it."
8. Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market
"Anyone who cares about food in LA needs to experience the Santa Monica farmers market on a Wednesday morning. It still trips me out to see all the chefs who have inspired my own career down there buying fava beans and grabbing up early-season stone fruits. It's the who's who of the food world, and it's really humbling and cool to be part of that community."
7. Fishing With Dynamite in Manhattan Beach
"I have nothing but mad respect for what David LeFevre has done for the dining scene in Manhattan Beach and feel lucky to be his neighbor in this tight-knit community that has really evolved into a serious food town since he sparked the revolution with the opening of M.B. Post. When I can get away from the kitchen at Love & Salt, the first place I want to go is the bar at Fishing With Dynamite. I'm getting the oysters, fish tacos and any cocktail from Ken behind the bar."
6. Two Guns Espresso in Manhattan Beach
"I really appreciate what these two guys are doing for the coffee culture in Manhattan Beach. They offer a great product and are sourcing thoughtfully, so you're getting Straus Farms milk in your latte."
5. Gjusta in Venice
"It's all about the smoked fish here. I grew up in New York on Long Island (East Moriches), and while the concept of Gjusta is pure Abbot Kinney, with the DIY seating on crates in what's essentially an overgrown backyard, the fish situation reminds me of my favorite places in the city. Get the bialy with lox, and then impulse buy everything you see in the counter."
4. Sushi Chitosi in Redondo Beach
"When we were getting ready to open Love & Salt and literally working around the clock, Rebecca Merhej (our chef de cuisine/pastry chef) and I came here for dinner. We were so tired of eating pizza and pasta at the restaurant, so we stopped in. They offer a really authentic Japanese tasting menu with geoduck, clam, uni and stuff you rarely see in L.A. proper, let alone at a dive in Redondo. So I ask Rebecca if she's open to eating anything, and she says anything but monkfish liver. First course, comes out, and the guy leans over the counter and says, 'Here is your first course — monkfish liver!' I thought I was going to fall over! But it was so good that she loved it."
3. La Española Meats in Harbor City
"I discovered this place when I was down at mar'sel at Terranea Resort. Their product is really top-notch: the best Spanish-style sausages, cheeses and cured meats in the area. If you plan ahead, go on a Saturday when they are serving paella. Buy a bottle of wine from their shop and park at one of their picnic tables for a couple hours."
2. The Hungry Cat in Santa Monica
"For seafood in Santa Monica, this is the spot. It's the lobster roll, the mussels, the crab — basically anything that David Lentz is putting out is going to be super fresh, seasonal and exactly what you want to be eating in that current moment."
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1. Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica
"Jeremy Fox is killing it here, and you can just feel the passion that he's putting on the plate. I love what he's doing with whole grains and vegetables, which are the areas where I feel the most exciting things are happening in food right now. He's interpreting them in a fresh way, so you'll get things like beets and charred strawberries, black barley with ramps, and potatoes with chicken gravy."