"It never rains in Southern California," so residents and visitors are always looking for great spots for outdoor dining. There are plenty of excellent indoor ones, too, and you can categorize the best restaurants in SoCal by cuisine, price, location, owner, or any other criteria. If you're looking for a good restaurant, you need to know their names, locations, and how well they are reviewed by locals, travelers, and foodies.
Best Restaurants in SoCal
LonelyPlanet lists their favorite SoCal eateries, starting with three choices in Venice. First is Rose Café, which has two more locations in Playa del Rey and Marina Del Ray. They have a daily-changing, eclectic menu that features salads, pastries and prepared dishes like pepper-crusted short ribs and an excellent cauliflower "T-bone." You should also check out their Killer Bee pizza! These food experts' next two picks in Venice are Gjusta (café, bakery, and deli) and Plant Food + Wine (vegan).
If you appreciate fine sushi, Sora in downtown LA and Boyle Heights has a whole conveyor belt of options to pick from! It's located 69 stores up and provides views of the entire LA basin; you can eat at the sushi bar or get table service. Try the inari sushi (tofu pouches stuffed with veggies or soba noodles) or tofu cheesecake and enjoy some Japanese sake or whisky on the side.
With Mid-City and West Hollywood locations, the Moroccan-Japanese-Israeli restaurant Cleo Third Street is a study in contrasts, with fantastic food combinations that will leave you wanting more. The menu includes skirt steak kebabs, meatball shakshouka, melt-in-your-mouth ravioli and artichoke hummus; don't miss their famous Mediterranean margarita with hints of almond and fig.
Best Beach Restaurants in SoCal
If you're lucky enough to be in Southern Cali, you'll want to take advantage of the many outdoor dining options, some of which are not only the best beach restaurants in SoCal, but in the entire country! To turn things up a notch, choose ones on the beach so you can enjoy the sea breeze while treating your palate. Food Network shares an outstanding selection to pick from, and one of its top choices is Terrazza Lounge in Santa Monica. This eatery is inside the Casa del Mar hotel and offers breakfast, brunch, fabulous desserts, and an all-day dining menu with a cold seafood platter, a cheese and charcuterie board, pizzas, steaks, and salads.
Whiskey Red's in Marina Del Ray has plenty of high-end whiskey to sample, raw bar items, amazing burgers, and snow crab legs. Geoffrey's Malibu off the Pacific Coast Highway provides fine dining and sweeping views of the water and high-end entrees like steamed Maine lobster, filet mignon, sea scallops, and aged prime New York steak. You might also like Mar'sel in Rancho Palo Verdes at the Terranea Resort. The California cuisine here will make your mouth water; entrees include Australian lamb chops, coastal white sea bass, and a pork porterhouse; they also have a raw bar, Sunday brunch, and caviar on the menu.
Best Date Restaurant in SoCal
The ambiance is just as important as the food for romantic dining. While beach restaurants can be dreamy, other restaurants can be just as lovely. Locale Magazine has a list of 25 of the best date restaurants in SoCal, all designed to make a good impression. They break these down into specific categories, which are helpful if you have something particular in mind. In Orange County, they recommend Starfish Laguna for the best sushi and cocktails; if you prefer Italian food, visit Bello in Newport beach for fresh homemade pasta.
If it's a first date, though, you'll probably want something a bit more intimate. Try Lido Bottle Works in Newport Beach and share a burrata salad and the fresh "Lido catch" of the day. For something on the higher end, Palm Desert's The Gardens on El Paso provides world-class gourmet dining, with pricey restaurants like Pacifica Seafood and Mastro's Steakhouse. Also on the expensive side, Morgan's in the Desert at the La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs is elegant yet cozy and has a great bar. Sit outside on the patio and enjoy views of the desert hand-in-hand.
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