When it comes to many “best of Malibu” lists, there's something left to be desired. Malibu has a relatively underdeveloped food scene, and there's a tendency to allow a good view to make up for pricey, subpar food. But there are some solid, off-the-beaten-track places that locals frequent, and they're well worth checking out.
From post-surf egg sandwiches to killer pizza to unmarked Mexican food trucks, these are the best places to eat and drink in Malibu like a local.
The Country Kitchen
This roadside stop has been a favorite of Malibu locals since 1972, so much so that when it threatened to close in 2014, patrons successfully rose up with a petition to keep it open. The Country Kitchen's claims to fame are its breakfast burritos and its egg sandwiches served on a warm roll with mayo and your choice of bacon, ham, sausage or hot pastrami. For lunch, go for the “Big Burger,” which comes on an extra long, toasted French roll. The “California” version has two quarter-pound patties, bacon, avocado and cheese, or keep it classic with the regular cheeseburger. Either way, you're going to want a side of crispy tater tots. 21239 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 456-8708.
This supplement shop brimming with teas, vitamins and tonics is tucked away between a dry cleaner and a Ralph's. It also happens to be home to the best juice and smoothie bar in Malibu. Locals head to Vitamin Barn to get their daily fix of green juice, fruit smoothies, post-workout protein-packed shakes and wellness shots and teas. Insider tip: The signature lean protein shake, the Vitamin Gene, is named after owner Gene Arnold and is better if you sub the almond milk with hemp milk. While the store stays open until 6 p.m., the juice bar usually closes around 4 p.m. 23823 Malibu Road, Malibu; (310) 317-4833.
Malibu Farm Restaurant
Malibu Pier Cafe recently expanded on the pier with Malibu Farm Restaurant, which has turned the pier into Malibu Farms' miniature food empire. The farm-to-table fare by Helene Henderson comes with a side of sweeping ocean views and is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. While breakfast, lunch and dinner are served throughout the week, the best part of Malibu Farm Restaurant is perhaps its brunch. Head there early (brunch is only served until noon) and enjoy coconut-blackberry French toast pudding; sweet corn pancakes with berries, bacon and maple syrup; green eggs and ham shakshouka with fried eggs, gruyère, harissa chickpeas, tomatillo and chorizo; or the killer skirt steak and eggs with lobster scramble béarnaise. Street parking is difficult on weekends, so you probably will have to succumb to valet or the paid lot across the street. But once you're there, with the ocean breeze and a bloody Mary in hand, it all seems worth it. Malibu Pier, 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 456-1112, malibu-farm.com.
Located in the back corner of the country mart, you'll find Malibu's resident Greek restaurant and its owner, Tony Koursaris, most likely sitting outside the front door, greeting regulars as they walk in. On warm evenings, the outdoor patio, which is enclosed by lush purple bougainvillea, is bustling with loud music and louder voices, a lively atmosphere that seems just right for your standard Greek restaurant. The restaurant has become a staple for both locals and weekend visitors looking for a taste of an authentic Malibu-casual, see-and-be-seen dining experience. Standout dishes include the chargrilled octopus drizzled in olive oil, garlic, lemon and an ample amount of bright, fresh herbs; thick, tangy tzatziki with fresh pita bread (or veggie sticks upon request); beef-and-rice-stuffed dolmades covered in lemon sauce; and a perfectly grilled swordfish steak dressed in lemon and herbs. The standout dish, however, is from the restaurant's list of “daily specials,” which I'm pretty certain has been made up of the same five dishes for at least the past six years: a plate of butterflied and grilled giant prawns served simply with lemon, olive oil and parsley alongside the Taverna Tony's signature combination of rice, assorted veggies and lemon-paprika potatoes. 23410 Civic Center Way, Malibu; (310) 317-9667, tavernatony.com.
Pacific Coast Greens
If you're looking for a sandwich or some deli takeout to bring to the beach, PC Greens' grocery store deli counter is the place to stop. The counter is stocked with all-day breakfast burritos, rotisserie chicken, plates of turkey meatballs with mashed potatoes, taquitos and chile rellenos, an array of rotating salads (from quinoa tabouleh to shaved Brussels sprouts with Parmesan), a wide selection of sandwiches and burgers, and vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan fare. There's even an amazing vegan orange chicken. Plus, you can pick up organic, locally grown fruit from One Gun Ranch or a nice bottle of wine to sneakily drink at the beach. 22601 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 774-0791, pcgreens.com.
If you don't live in Malibu, you probably haven't been to Ollo. It isn't very glamorous or doing anything revolutionary; it's just good food in a pleasant environment. But if you live in Malibu, it's the type of place you could eat at once a week. Ollo is housed in the old Coogies space, and you'll find Pepperdine students gossiping over their tabouleh salmon bowls, families with their kids sharing appetizers such as portobello mushroom fries with habanero aioli, and locals gathering around the perpetually bustling bar sipping on the signature Malibu Mary. The restaurant, run by chef Francesco Velasco, is classic Cali bistro food, occasionally leaning slightly Italian. Menu favorites included the roasted half-chicken with citrus chimichurri, the lamb rack with black garlic demi-glace and the wild salmon linguine with lemon cream and capers. Ollo also is home to what is hands-down the best pizza in Malibu: a perfectly charred pizza adorned with fresh, creamy burrata and fragrant basil that is silly-good in its simplicity. 23750 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 317-1444, ollomalibu.com.
Tacos El Primo
You can find this Salvadoran food truck parked on the land-side shoulder of PCH just before Topanga Canyon (if you reach Mastro's Ocean Club, you've gone too far). Expect Salvadoran-style tacos ranging from chicken to beef liver, crispy pupusas revueltas or chicharron, pan con pollo and crispy fried pastelitos stuffed with chicken or vegetables. Take your food to go or sit down and enjoy it roadside at the single foldout picnic table.
There's no shortage of places in Malibu to get the beachside staple of fried fish. But none has perfected the fried seafood game as well as Neptune's Net. Sure, it's a bit of a trek to the edge of where Malibu and Ventura meet, but when it comes to crispy fried seafood, this is the best in town — and with the isolated vibe, with nothing obscuring your views of one of L.A.'s best surf beaches, not to mention the line of motorcycles outside, it feels like an untouched Malibu of a previous age. Go to the restaurant side and grab a cold beer from the extensive collection and order the Neptune Sampler, which comes with fried fish, shrimp, clam strips, calamari, crab cakes and french fries. Or, if you're looking for something a little less heavy, hit up the fresh seafood side for oysters, steamed crab, shrimp, lobster or a ceviche. 42505 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 457-3095, neptunesnet.com.
There's no doubt that the food is great and the views are amazing. And if you're a local, you know that it's pretty impossible to get a last-minute reservation during the latter half of the week, as Nobu is usually flooded with tourists looking to enjoy a beautiful ocean view alongside their yellowtail sashimi. No worries; get your short-notice Nobu dinner by making like a local and grabbing a seat at the sushi bar, which is first-come, first-serve and usually has space because it lacks that ocean view. Nobu has an unlisted selection of fresh fish ranging from Kohada to live octopus; just ask your sushi chef what he has have unlisted for the day and he'll head to the back for the good stuff. The previously off-menu panko-crusted oysters have become so popular in recent years that they've graduated to the permanent menu. Other stand-out dishes include a Dover sole with crispy spinach, the “new style” salmon sashimi and the still off-menu and phenomenal lobster tempura with truffles. 22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 317-9140, nobumalibu.com.
Aleman Catering Services
This plain white food truck by Alejandro Perez usually spends its mornings parked in front of the former Malibu Courthouse and is relatively easy to pass by unnoticed, which would be too bad because it's serving some of Malibu's best Mexican cuisine. The best options include pinto bean–and-beef–topped sopes with fried masa cakes, saucy chilaquiles topped with bright orange-yolked fried eggs, a succulent chicken and chile quesadilla, carnitas topped with fresh green chiles, and a rich menudo tripe soup with hominy and pig feet. If you don't catch Aleman Catering in the morning, you can usually find the truck making the rounds at Malibu construction sites, and they will be happy to come by your place (within Malibu) if you give them a call. Even better, sometimes they make micheladas available for house calls. (323) 535-9944.
Malibu Beach Inn
After recently changing hands from David Geffen to Simon and Daniel Mani, the real estate mogul brothers who own the building that houses West Hollywood's Soho House, there have been some changes made for the better at Malibu Beach Inn. The completely revamped reception, restaurant, bar and lounge areas house a new cocktail program, setting up Malibu Beach Inn as one of the best places in town to grab a cocktail or sip a glass of wine while listening to the waves roll in. Snack on some of the smaller shared plates, such as uni and avocado toast, moule frites in a coconut saffron broth or a selection of fresh oysters, and you have yourself the happiest happy hour. 22878 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 651-7777, malibubeachinn.com.