One of my favorite things to do whenever I travel to a new city or country is to really experience the food that place has to offer. I like to eat in as many different restaurants as possible, and switch up the types of food. That way, I can get honest and versatile exposure to the various flavors and tastes of the city.
No excuses for my short trip to California this month. To put it simply, we ate GOOD.
Now, we we’re only in Cali for four full days, so there’s only so many restaurants we could get to, and only so much we could taste. But not one of our meals wasn’t great! So although this review won’t cover even half of the places you could go to in the SoCal region, the spots below are definitely great options to put on your list.
two east coast girls eating their way through the west coast!
First Stop: Los Angeles.
If you’re in Santa Monica, you have to go to The Misfit Restaurant & Bar on 2nd Street and Santa Monica Blvd. They have the most AMAZING cocktail menu. We went for happy hour and thought we’d get a glass or two… but the drinks we’re so delicious and going down so easy, I think we tried about four or five off the menu! We didn’t get to eat, but the crispy Brussels sprouts looked just short of spectacular.
If dozens of craft beers on tap is your thing, you’re in luck with this next one. The Venice Beach Ale House is an awesome spot right on the boardwalk. Plus, the food is really really good. Grab a seat outside on the patio so you can people watch, and gaze out at the ocean while you kick back beers and nosh on some Mexican corn.
Now I’m sure there are tons of sushi restaurants in LA that are good, even very good or great. But I suggest you head to Matsuhisa for a trendy, delicious dinner. This Beverly Hills spot is from celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, most famously known for his ever-so-popular, self-titled, Japanese restaurants. While Nobu restaurants require reservations at least 4 weeks in advance, Matsuhisa does not, and the menu is pretty much identical (if not better!) with a more casual atmosphere. Truffle chicken dumplings, lobster ceviche, super fresh sushi… it’s out of this world.
Next stop: Orange County.
If you’re in or around Newport Beach, the Rusty Pelican has the best fish in town, delivered fresh every morning. If you sit outside on the deck you have a great view of the Newport Harbor. But best of all, it’s SO affordable. We walked in and were ready to splurge on a delicious fish lunch, until we saw the prices on the menu and realized this might be the cheapest lunch we’ve eaten yet! But don’t let $15 for an entrée get you thinking this place is mediocre. The food was absolutely delicious and gourmet.
On the topic of fish, just a few towns south of Newport, there is a fish market in Crystal Cove that makes the BEST, most amazing fish tacos you’ll ever eat. Bear Flag Fish Company is a small shop that is part market, part bar, part deli-style restaurant (with just a counter and seat-yourself tables), but all 100% deliciousness. Start with the tuna poke (pronounced poe-key) salad with pita chips, then get the panko grilled white fish tacos, served with tommy sauce and pico de gallo. It’s knock-your-socks-off good. I would go back every day for that tuna poke salad if I lived close enough.
Just a few feet from Bear Flag Fish Co. is a hot-spot Mexican restaurant called Javier’s. The décor and ambiance alone make this restaurant a great nightlife option. And after a few cucumber margaritas and lobster enchiladas, you’ll fall in love with this place just like we did. With its dark lighting, candlelit seating, and a fire pit in the outdoor foyer, this place is the perfect combination of trendy and authentic.
If you’re down in Laguna Beach, the Orange Inn is the place for breakfast. It’s a super tiny restaurant inside an old house right on Coast Highway. It’s one of those adorable, locally-known spots that have been around forever and is still family-run. They make everything from scratch, including a variety of muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones and homemade banana bread. You’ll love the goodies and the story behind the Orange Inn.
Honorable Mention: Beaming Organic Juices.
This little organic heaven in Brentwood became our go-to spot for healthy breakfast on the go. We had such active days planned while in LA, we never sat down for a breakfast or brunch. Luckily, we found Beaming our first day and got hooked on their cold brewed coffee, yummy protein bites and superfood smoothies. It just wouldn’t be fair to not mention all the nutritious goodness we got from them. #LiveBeaming.
There are tons more places on my list for the next time I’m back on the West Coast, but if you have any recommendations for places to eat and drink, share them with me here!