Summer in Malibu: 20 Ways to Make the Most of the Coast

Summer in Malibu - H 2014
Jessica Sample

Summer in Malibu - H 2014

The beach enclave is sizzling with hot new restaurants, shops and home buyers (welcome, Netflix's Ted Sarandos), and possibly its own wine appellation.

This story first appeared in the June 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.


1. The Hottest Table by the Beach

Barbra Streisand, Sean Penn and Charlize Theron, Robert Downey Jr. and Julia Roberts are just a handful of the regulars who turn up for the organic, farm-fresh fare, mostly grown locally, at chef Helene Henderson's nearly year-old MALIBU FARM PIER CAFE (23000 Pacific Coast Highway, dinner Fri.-Sun.), perched at the end of the Malibu Pier. What started out as a pop-up last summer has evolved into one of the area's most talked-about dining destinations, thanks, in part, to Henderson's beloved status as the founder of the Malibu Farm dinner series, sold-out alfresco dining extravaganzas held at various local farms -- and even on the pier itself. (The next farm dinner takes place July 19.) Though far more casual than the popular Nobu and Nikita (opened last summer by Larry Ellison) and mainstays Mr Chow and Taverna Tony, it's become the coast's must-visit spot. Says Malibu local and environmental philanthropist Kelly Meyer: "It's the best restaurant and coolest place to eat and meet by far." Henderson's husband is Blue Crush director John Stockwell.

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2. Nantucket on the Pacific

Also on the Malibu Pier -- the sleepier cousin of its amusement-ride-filled Santa Monica counterpart -- is the new MALIBU PIER RESTAURANT & BAR (23000 PCH), overseen by chef Jason Fullilove, formerly of Campanile. The restaurant occupies the space that once housed Alice's, The Beachcomber Cafe and Ruby's Shake Shack; its bar has taken over the boathouse. Both spaces have been reimagined by visual consultant Joshua Klein, who cut his teeth at Ralph Lauren. "I think outsiders have a perception of Malibu that is glitzier than its actual rugged charm, so I needed to keep the experience organic." Look for an Ed Ruscha anchor print, a Richard Phillips surfboard and Dennis Hopper photos. "You feel like you are back east in Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard," says Jodi Guber Brufsky, founder of activewear brand Beyond Yoga. "It's got great food and atmosphere."

3. Live Music and Mezcal

Mexican restaurant CASA ESCOBAR (22969 PCH) has made a welcome return to Malibu after leaving the beach town in 2003, when, alongside a handful of Malibu Village properties, the restaurant was destroyed in a fire. The eatery opened in January in its new home, the former Malibu Inn. It continues a hotel tradition of hosting live music on weekend nights -- after all, the spot was once owned by Neil Young.

4. The Local Hangouts

Head to JOHN'S GARDEN SANDWICHES AND SNACKS SHOP (3835 Cross Creek Road), a Malibu institution since 1975. "It's an old-school, after-surf hangout," explains Meyer. Guber Brufsky agrees: "Everyone is always there, especially those with little ones, as the playground is the perfect babysitter." The family-run eatery turns out such sandwiches as The Pier and Zuma Submarine, in addition to soups, burgers and shakes. Another local fave is 42-year-old MALIBU SEAFOOD (25653 PCH). The unprepossessing patio is a go-to for Gersh Agency senior managing partner Leslie Siebert: "The best food in a parking lot is Malibu Seafood. Bring your own wine and enjoy the best lobster dinner in L.A." And for "takeout curried sea bass you can pass off as your own cooking," head to CHOLADA THAI BEACH CUISINE (18763 PCH), says director Rupert Wyatt (2015's The Gambler), who owns a trailer in surprisingly tony Paradise Cove Mobile Home Park with his screenwriter wife, Erica Beeney.

5. Family-Run Cucina

Go for carne, pesce and zuppe at GRAVINA (28925 PCH), a family-run restaurant that made its debut in the former Sage Room space. Restaurateur Giuseppe Segreto cut his teeth at the city's most notable Italian eateries including Toscana and Ago before opening the space in February, where wife Mariella Segreto helms the stoves.

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6. New Surf and Turf Spot

Restaurant group Mastro's, whose portfolio includes the Beverly Hills steakhouse mainstay, is headed to the beach, taking over the prime oceanfront real estate once held by the Malibu Chart House. Starting June 14, its seafood-forward MASTRO'S OCEAN CLUB (18412 PCH) will open for dinner seven nights a week, in addition to weekend brunch.

7. Grab-and-Go Gourmet

The addition of VINTAGE GROCERS (30745 PCH) to the Trancas Country Market fills the void left by the departure of Hows grocery market in 2011, when the shopping center also changed hands. This independently owned store, located between Point Dume and El Matador beaches, caters to local tastes with a selection of all-natural organic products, including offerings Malibu Honey and Malibu Family Wines. The market sells brick-oven pizzas, sandwiches, sushi made in-house and even kombucha on tap.


8. Hip Hoodies and Tees

For surf-inspired T-shirts and rainbow-splashed hats, head to the Malibu outpost of AVIATOR NATION (22967 PCH), the beach-minded clothing company owned by Paige Mycoskie, sister of Toms founder Blake Mycoskie and a one-time contestant on The Amazing Race. The retro, L.A.-made line is at home amid the trippy decor, featuring a wall of record albums, a groovy wall mural and a teepee. Don't forget to pick up a Malibu Surfrider hoodie, the brand's ode to the popular area surf break.

9. The Malibu Country Mart Newcomers

Recent additions to the outdoor shopping and dining center (3835 Cross Creek Road) -- which already counts John Varvatos, Oliver Peoples and Mr Chow as tenants -- include boho-chic California brand GYPSY05, Maui-based LETARTE swimwear and VINTAGE MALIBU, a boutique where fashion fiends can trade, sell, consign and buy watches, jewelry and clothing from the likes of Patek Philippe, Fred Leighton and Chanel. Also new is Arlington and Jacqueline Forbes' CANVAS MALIBU, part clothing store, part contemporary art gallery. The couple, who ditched their TV producing careers to go into retail, sell their own casual men's clothing label (including jeans and button-downs) as well as hard-to-find international and cult brands (including Golden Goose and Nili Lotan) alongside a rotating roster of art. Siebert shops there because "they carry hot new designers and one-of-a-kind items."

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Whimsical jewelry designer ALEXIS BITTAR -- think Native American-inspired, hand-carved Lucite earrings and statement-making gold barbed cuffs -- has unveiled his latest boutique at this modern, open-air shopping complex (3939 Cross Creek Road), his third L.A. location to date. It's joined by fellow newcomer VILEBREQUIN, the St. Tropez swimwear brand that simultaneously has debuted a Santa Monica store inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. Grab a Cuban sandwich or fish tacos on site at CAFE HABANA, where co-owner Rande Gerber threw a brunch in May to celebrate his friend George Clooney's engagement to Amal Alamuddin.

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11. Living Hostess Gifts

ONE GUN RANCH (22634 Mansie Lane) takes the concept of farm-to-table to a whole new level with its biodynamic farm boxes (from $150), a go-to gifting option for locals including Daryl Hannah and James and Suzy Amis Cameron. The boxes, made on the ranch from reclaimed silver pinewood and filled with compost, are planted with seasonal offerings ranging from kale to carrots to cucumbers and fennel. The fully grown organic harvest arrives ready to be picked, straight from the box.


12. California's New Wine Country

Malibu's soil is getting as much love as its sand these days, thanks to the area winemakers who have put the beachside terroir on the map. So much so that Malibu Coast is on the cusp of receiving its own American Viticulture Area appellation -- a distinction reserved for geographic areas where a combination of factors (earth, climate, topography) is characteristic to the region's wine. The new appellation will predominantly cover the Santa Monica Mountains, extending to area wineries including CORNELL WINERY & TASTING ROOM (29975 Mulholland Highway) and MALIBU FAMILY WINES (31740 Mulholland Highway). Vintages from Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyard -- founded by former electric-bass musician Elliott Dolin, who played with Manhattan Transfer -- are served at local restaurants such as Gravina, Nikita and Tra di Noi (a favorite Italian spot of record producer and resident David Foster).

13. Burgers and Beer

For a low-key local vibe, head to Point Dume for OLLIE'S DUCK & DIVE (29169 Heathercliff Road, Suite 102), a casual gastropub that opened its doors in 2013. It's a favorite of the town's 29-year-old mayor, Skylar Peak.


14. $6,500 for a Wellness Week

For total Malibu immersion -- and a beach-body crash course -- head to the exclusive RANCH AT LIVE OAK (12220 Cotharin Road) in the Santa Monica Mountains. Six guests are admitted to the fitness and wellness program each week, which includes plush accommodations, daily hikes, tough workout sessions and well-earned private massages. A seven-day program will set you back $6,500. For weekend getaways, David Geffen's posh oceanfront MALIBU BEACH INN (22878 PCH) is the area's hands-down choice, with standard room rates starting at $675 during the summer. Visitors will have one more option to look forward to, with the renovation of the property formerly known as Casa Malibu Inn, which was purchased by Larry Ellison in 2007. Architecture and design firm Studio PCH -- the same company that designed Nobu Malibu -- has been tapped to oversee the 16-room, Japanese-inspired project.


15. Cardio in a Trailer (With Pink)

Since launching her JUICY ATHLETIC MOVES (3650 Cross Creek Road) workout in 2009, instructor Neda Soderqvist has developed a diehard fitness following, counting Pink, Minnie Driver and Mira Sorvino among her fans. Devotees pack into Soderqvist's Cross Creek Road trailer for the intense cardio workout, choreographed to high-energy music. Her JAM sessions are not only designed to tone and strengthen, but can also burn up to 1,200 calories each time. "You feel like you are in someone's personal dance studio," says Guber Brufsky, who attends workouts several times a week. "It feels very real and authentic, and not overly commercial."

16. Spinning by the Shore

East Coast indoor cycling phenom SOULCYCLE (3874 Cross Creek Road) has continued its expansion west with the opening of its sixth L.A. studio, this time at Malibu Village. Instructors dish out their motivational cues as riders sweat it out on the 52 bikes. Cindy Crawford, Kelly Wearstler and Brooke Burke have been spotted there since the studio's opening in April.

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17. Yoga With a View

Fans of SunLife Organics juice and smoothie bar are doubling up on their health kick at the brand's new MALIBU BEACH YOGA studio (29169 Heathercliff Road, #217), located upstairs. Views of the Santa Monica mountains and the Pacific Ocean pair with classes ranging from Kundalini to yoga for kids. "Yoga and health food just seem to go hand in hand," explains founder Khalil Rafati, who, along with sisters Karen and Stephanie Jones, opened the jewel-box studio in late 2013. "There's nothing like having an amazing acai bowl first thing in the morning and then hitting an awesome yoga class right upstairs, then coming back downstairs for a protein-packed organic smoothie."


18. The New Neighbors

It's "Howdy, neighbor" to these newly minted Malibu homeowners. Last year Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann snapped up the Malibu Colony estate of late producer Laura Ziskin for $10.8 million, while Netflix's Ted Sarandos and wife Nicole Avant plunked down $10.2 million for David Spade's house on La Costa beach. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin picked up a Lautner-designed beachfront spread for $14 million earlier this year; it's now rumored to be Martin's new residence since the pair announced their "conscious uncoupling." In April, Leslie Moonves and Julie Chen upgraded to a new place on Carbon Beach when they paid $28.8 million for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's pad; their original (and smaller) house on La Costa beach is currently on the market for $12 million.

19. The Year's Biggest Real Estate Deal

East Coast real estate investment firm Jamestown purchased Malibu Village, the city's largest shopping center (at the intersection of Cross Creek Road and PCH), for more than $120 million last month. The 50,000-square-foot property joins the Atlanta-based company's existing portfolio, which includes Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco and Chelsea Market in New York. Change-averse locals may not need to worry: In keeping with its reputation, Jamestown says it isn't planning any wholesale redos and is expected to place an emphasis on local businesses and artisanal food purveyors.

20. The Heiress' Ugly Divorce

In 2011, heiress Paige Laurie Dubbert (daughter of Nancy Walton Laurie, whose uncle is Walmart founder Sam Walton) and her husband, Patrick, purchased the Trancas Country Market, a local institution since 1953. The shopping center, emerging from an upgrade overseen by architect Douglas Burdge, has attracted a slew of soon-to-open tenants including Mangia (from restaurateur Antonio Alessi of Tra di Noi), and Burdge's own Malibu Beach House, an interior design shop which will carry furnishings from such designers as Kathryn M. Ireland and Martyn Lawrence-Bullard. But the development has run into its share of troubles, starting in 2011 when local residents signed a petition in an attempt to block a tenant eviction. Now the development is at the center of the couple's divorce, which became public in April. In court papers, the 32-year-old heiress (infamous for surrendering her USC degree after it was revealed that she paid her roommate to do coursework) has accused her husband of using Trancas Country Market to siphon family money. He's responded by accusing her of an affair.