South of the 10, north of Ocean Park Boulevard and west of Lincoln lies a culinary surprise: Main Street, Santa Monica. (We're comfortable with how accurate that SNL sketch “The Californians” is.)
The proverbial “no man’s land” that fits comfortably in neither Venice nor Santa Monica (despite technically being ZIP-coded into the latter), this strip has quietly been racking up some serious culinary street cred, and it’s about time it gets the recognition it deserves. Here are the top spots to grub on this blocks-long, local’s favorite dining destination.
M Street Kitchen
At least as far as breakfast goes, egg sandwiches — on house-made sourdough English muffins — rule the roost at this family-friendly eatery on the quiet end of Main Street. Pair one with a selection from the brunch cocktail menu (including some zero-proof options), a side of candied bacon and a banana chocolate chip cookie from the counter. Trust us. That's the way to do it here.
2000 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 396-9145, mstreetkitchen.com.
You may come for the cheese-inspired name, but we can guarantee you’ll stay for the sangrias and truffle mac and cheese. This welcoming Spanish tapas bar has a nice little daily happy hour, weekend bottomless mimosas and a charming patio.
2518 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 450-3900, manchegosm.com.
Ashland Hill has been around for less than two years, but it’s already established itself as home of perhaps the best beer garden–style patio on the Westside. There’s an extensive craft-beer menu and a kickass burger, but there’s also an excellent wine list, interesting food and plenty of healthy choices to go around. It’s the kind of place you want to go for everything, and it's just as appropriate a choice for a date as it is for dinner with your parents.
2807 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 392-3300, ashlandhill.com.
Stella Barra Pizzeria
This writer doesn't want to make the outlandish claim that Stella Barra Pizzeria is the best in the city, but it might just be the best in the city. Red and white wood-fired pies are made from hand-tossed dough in varieties such as shaved mushroom with Gruyère and truffle oil, organic sausage and shaved fennel, and prosciutto and egg. The best complement to a Stella Barra pizza? One of the restaurant’s starters (hint, hint: the baked local goat cheese) and a glass from the wine list.
2000 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 396-9250, stellabarra.com.
For all the hype surrounding Joe Jonas’ Hinterland, the unmarked storefront-style eatery doesn't look flashy and celebrity-owned. It’s a tiny spot, somehow comfortable and uber-trendy at the same time. And locals come back time and time again for the charcuterie, pork chops and octopus salad.
2917 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 399-0805, hinterland.la.
Urth Caffe isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but you can’t blame anyone — tourists included — for loving this local micro-chain. Yes, there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait in line. And no, it’s not the kind of place to have a leisurely lunch with your laptop. But it’s the kind of place where the food tastes the way a warm hug feels: familiar and easy.
2327 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 314-7040, urthcaffe.com.
Don't be fooled by the Venice ZIP code and Navy Street address: Culturally speaking, Chaya Venice is, in spirit, one of the most iconic concepts along Main Street. And as a long-standing member of the south-of-the-10 culinary club, Chaya Venice has been serving up Asian dishes to Angelenos for more than a quarter of a century. But don’t think this restaurant is stuck in the past — it reopened after an extensive overhaul in September. The revamped concept offers the same inspired flavors, and now brings in another generation of scenesters.
110 Navy St., Venice; (310) 396-1179, thechaya.com.
Sunny Blue should come with a warning, because once you’ve tried this tiny shop’s homemade omusubi, you’re not going to able to stop talking about it. Seriously, this Japanese street food — rice balls with different fillings, wrapped in nori — is the kind of food you just want to tell people about. Affordable, portable and totally delicious, it’s a pretty great grab-and-go lunch option.
2728 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 399-9030, sunnyblueinc.com.
JINYA Ramen Bar
L.A. ramen royalty and WeHo import JINYA Ramen Bar has settled in nicely on the north end of Main, serving soup and noodles like it’s their job (it is). Go for a classic bowl, like the spicy tonkotsu, or opt for one of the inventive varieties, such as the Sprouting Up Ramen with Brussels sprouts, the garlicky Cha Cha Cha or the Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen. Whatever your choice, you can bet the noodles will be thick and the broth will be flavorful.
2400 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 392-4466, jinya-ramenbar.com.
The kind of beloved neighborhood spot you’ll want to become a regular at, Library Alehouse is known for its extensive beer menu, hearty plates, large back patio and bottomless chips and salsa. The one downfall of the notoriously popular spot has always been the wait, but good news — for the first time ever, Library Alehouse has a reservation system. Technology arrives!
2911 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 314-4855, libraryalehouse.com.