Best Sunset Dining in L.A.: Ranked by Hollywood Insiders

Courtesy of Malibu Farm Cafe
Malibu Farm Pier Cafe

For an al fresco experience, the views are always stunning, but the food, oftentimes, not so much. THR stacks up these 11 seaside outposts on a culinary scale.

A version of this story first appeared in the July 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Nobu

22706 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-317-9140
Rating: ****

Moving to new digs just above the surf did not mean the sushi stalwart would lose its regular clientele. The comfy confines of the old Nobu at the Malibu Country Mart were swapped for waves crashing right beneath the patio, sunsets just beyond the pier and a surprising lack of paparazzi parked out front. Software mogul Larry Ellison coaxed the move (his failed Nikita restaurant next door still sits empty, although a beach-side Soho House is rumored to be going in). Regulars like Les Moonves, Robert Downey Jr. or the Kardashian-Wests never have to wait for a table, whether it’s inside the streamlined dining room or out on the gorgeous patio with its picture-perfect view of the sand and crashing waves and sunsets beyond the Malibu Pier. "It’s great scenery with the waves crashing up on you," says manager Brian Medavoy. "There’s an energy when you walk into the place." Although the food has to keep up with the new dramatic location, as has always been the case, yellowtail with jalapeno, lobster ceviche, and black cod with miso still reign supreme.

The Hungry Cat

100 W. Channel Rd., Santa Monica, 310-459-3337
Rating: ****

At the foot of Chautauqua Boulevard and West Channel Road, just a clam’s throw from Santa Monica Canyon and Pacific Palisades, this seafood-centric spot on the Pacific Coast Highway is a neighborhood hangout for Michael Keaton, Reese Witherspoon and Kate Hudson. With wood-paneled walls and a fireplace, the upstairs private dining room has unobstructed view of the ocean. Sit downstairs, especially at the raw bar, and the glare of a perfect Santa Monica sunset sets the scene. Of course, a few thousand cars might pass by at the same time. You can’t miss the restaurant: It’s now graced with a big yellow octopus done by artist Eric Junker. Always get the clams with chorizo, oysters on the half shell, sea urchin so fresh, you scoop it out of the shell yourself and whatever ceviche is available. Seasonally fresh cocktails are the best here.

Mastro’s Ocean Club

18412 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-454-4357
Rating: ****

This more seafood-focused outpost of the popular chain has all the trappings of its Beverly Hills sibling, only with a much better view. The best tables along the windows are reserved for the likes of Walt Disney’s Pictures’ Sean Bailey and wife Char, Kobe Bryant, Iggy Azalea, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, many a Kardashian, and David Arquette, who proposed to now-wife Christina McLarty there with kids in tow. But it doesn’t matter: Every seat is a good one, as long as it’s facing the waves and surf that’s practically hitting the building outside. The chilled seafood towers with billowing dry-ice clouds, bone-in rib eye, lobster mashed potatoes and butter cake are as good as ever.

Malibu Farm Pier Cafe

23000 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-456-1112
Rating: ***

Thanks to Helene Henderson, whose popular farm extravaganzas attracted the Malibu elite, the charming and super-casual cafe at the end of the pier — order at the counter, take a number and find a seat — is now the must-be spot for healthful-leaning breakfasts and sunny lunches. Seats along the side offer views of the Surfrider Beach and everyone on their boards, but upstairs has the most unobstructed view of the coast in both directions. Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, Real Housewives and Gordon Ramsay are just a few of the devout followers of multigrain pancakes, bacon-and-egg sandwiches, salmon-topped salads, and jars of cold-pressed juices. This summer, Henderson takes over the Malibu Restaurant & Bar at the other side of the pier, which allows for even more cocktails, surfer-watching and sunset selfies.

Carbon Beach Club

22878 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-651-7777
Rating: ***

With former owner David Geffen and Eli Broad as neighbors, the Malibu Beach Inn restaurant on Carbon Beach is a hidden gem for beachside dining. On perfect summer days, the small hanging patio is packed, as it should be: Waves crash directly under it, which get even more beautiful at high tide. Ask for a table along the edge for the most dramatic effect. It’s still not as overrun as the pier, a shell’s throw to the right, or Nobu, a quick sandy walk to the left. When dusk hits, the fire pits are ablaze, martinis are poured and the crowds die down. Locals sneak in from time to time, as do the Canyon dwellers. Otherwise it’s guests of the 47-room inn dining on coastal California cuisine so they don’t have to get too dressed up. Foie gras torchon with kumquats, grilled New York steak and albacore escabeche are better than they should be for a hotel restaurant with a perfect location. There’s also a burger and beer night on Thursdays for anyone looking to slum it.

One Pico

One Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.587.1717
Rating: ***

With its warm marine blues, earth tones, fireplace and ceiling-to-floor windows overlooking Santa Monica Beach and bike path, the tony Shutters on the Beach restaurant could double as a Hampton’s living room. There’s as much here for the local epicure as there is for a visitor, from the special wine dinners to the gorgeous view of the horizon. A night near an open window at dusk is particularly inviting. The menu eschews the typical hotel fare with seasonal changes featuring ingredients from the famed weekly market a few blocks away, things like Maine diver scallops with preserved lemon and citrus nage, market greens with avocado and blood orange, and roasted prawns with shaved fennel. Think about having a drink on the little lobby patio beforehand — best-kept secret in Santa Monica.

Malibu Seafood

25653 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-456-3430
Rating: ***

It’s been a local favorite for almost 45 years and it doesn’t even have table service. The little shack across from Corral Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway wins big points for its super-casual digs and picnic tables up on a hill. Those in the know bring everything from tablecloths and cutlery to wine and stemware for a sort of DIY dinner party, but it’s worth the effort for the spectacular view. Summer days are insanely overrun with beachgoers and long lines, but early weekday dinners and even wintertime sunsets equate to having the place to oneself. Everything from chowder to anything grilled or fried fish, shrimp or scallops are the way to go, and it’s hard to beat the boiled lobster dinner. Even if it’s practically in the parking lot, the low-key vibe attracts locals like Cindy Crawford and director Amy Berg.

Geoffrey’s

27400 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 310-457-1519
Rating: **

Resting its laurels on the stunning location — the site of the former Holiday House, a Richard Neutra-designed cliff-side resort and watering hole that opened in 1948 — Geoffrey’s will still take anyone’s breath away, even the most jaded local. The wow factor really works on visitors, especially if they’re out to eye a few celebrities (or a Kardashian or two). Just about every seat in the house has a panoramic view of the ocean, with green Malibu flora adding to the scenery. Try to get a seat along the railing for the most unobstructed view of the waves. Food here isn’t super-contemporary, seasonal or cutting-edge, but you will fare decently with a good steak, Caesar salad, tuna tartare and crème brulee.

The Sunset

6800 Westward Beach Rd., Malibu, 310-589-1007
Rating: **

When it was known as Splash in the 1970s, this sunny spot steps away from the Zuma Beach sand was a hub for Malibu locals like Barbra Streisand, Dean Martin and Dick Van Dyke. Now it’s aptly named for its sunset views. Awash in creamy whites and earth tones, the dining room is still a hotbed of activity: Some nights it’s full of famous faces and local elite, others it’s more beach dwellers and wind-swept tourists. There’s not a bad seat in the house for spying the waves, although any along the open windows are nice when the sun is shining. The menu is out to please everyone, but stick with shellfish: linguine and clams, mussels in tomato-fennel broth, or even just oysters from the raw bar.

Ivy at The Shore

1535 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, 310-393-3113
Rating: **

The patio at this Westside outpost of the famed West Hollywood hot spot is more shrouded than the original: It’s actually indoors and shaded with bougainvillea and ivy, but it attracts just as many fans, from Gwyneth Paltrow and her family to Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Biel and more. It might not have the same view as the pier-adjacent Lobster across the street, but breaks in the foliage offer views of the park and horizon just across the street. Inside, pinks and florals and bamboo set the scene for bustling lunches, brunches and dinners. Bountiful classic American dishes are the norm, whether it’s slabs of multigrain French toast and berries for mornings or crab cakes, poached artichokes, wood-fired pizzas or lobster Cobb salads at night.

The Penthouse at The Huntley

1111 2nd St., Santa Monica, 310-394-5454
Rating: *

This is one of those places where the view makes up for any downfalls. It’s not right on the water, but a picture-perfect coastline from the 18th-floor restaurant is gorgeous. Designed by Thomas Schoos, the light, bright and sexy room is wrapped in windows and filled with curtained booths, plush chairs and sofas for lounging and dining. The scenery trumps the menu, which isn’t going to win any awards, but it is a great indoors alternative for more blustery days on the coast. Stick to basics like Maine scallops with sorrel, salmon with oven-dried tomato, and filet mignon.

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