Santa Monica Restaurant Week – A Must Visit

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Santa Monica Restaurant Week – A Must Visit – Santa Monica is one of California’s most iconic destinations – from the 3rd street promenade, to the pier, to cozy shops and cafes on Montana and Wilshire – Santa Monica is a must visit when in Southern California. 

This post is sponsored by Visit California. All opinions are my own.

I love to partner with companies I know my readers will love just as much as I do – and there is no place on earth like California for a vacation!

I took a four part road trip to taste my way from Santa Monica California, through Oxnard, and on to the Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo to check out California Restaurant Month, and all the amazing food throughout California’s Central Coast.

To see my entire road trip plan, please start here. 

To learn more about California Restaurant Month and get ideas for your own culinary trip through California, please head here.

There is never a better time than now to Visit California – heading in the off-season saves a ton of money, but is also ideal for less crowds, and amazing restaurant specials.

I was recently invited to visit Santa Monica California to taste my way through some of the city’s standout Restaurant Week dishes featuring the 2019 Ingredient of the year: persimmon.

I couldn’t have gone on a better year – I love persimmons, and always complain I can never find delicious, juicy persimmons where I live in Colorado. They are one of my favorite fruits!

While you can spend tons of time in Santa Monica (I’d suggest a couple days to really take in the town), I’m writing up an itinerary for a day’s stay in Santa Monica – including what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks – based off my quick trip to Santa Monica for 24 hours to celebrate Santa Monica Restaurant week since it was a perfect way to taste your way around the city.

This quick itinerary will show you around the city, and get you tasting plenty of Santa Monica’s delicious Southern California foods.

About Santa Monica Restaurant Week

Santa Monica Restaurant week takes place in January, when crowds are at a low, temperatures stay cooler, and the hills are bright vibrant green – making it the perfect time to visit Santa Monica.

And of course, Restaurant Week is the best time to visit Santa Monica because there is so much amazing food!

Visiting Santa Monica was such a fun first stop on part of a four-stop road trip I took up California’s central coast recently – it was a great way to get excited for tons of delicious food and fabulous exploring I had ahead of me.

For more ore information on California Restaurant Month, click here.

Santa Monica is a dream destination for so many – but for me, it’s a very nostalgic city to pop into!

I was born in Santa Monica… and spent a lot of my childhood at my Grandma’s house just off Lincoln.

Most of my mom’s (very large) extended family still lives in Santa Monica or closeby; so visiting Santa Monica is very much like visiting home to me, even though it changes so much every time I visit that it also always feels new.

It’s impossible to not look around Santa Monica and think of times I spent there as a kid, or bump into family while walking around town.

It’s hard for me to write a short post about a city I have such a long history with – and for this recap, I am going to stick to just the restaurants and attractions I visited on this trip – this is in no way an exhaustive guide through Santa Monica, because there is just so much to do an explore, I could never fit it all in!

(Expect more soon!)

What To Do in Santa Monica

Santa Monica has so many things to do, it’s hard to pick just a few!

Santa Monica Pier

200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

The Santa Monica Pier is known around the globe – it’s a picture perfect spot that many people think of when thinking of Southern California beaches.

The pier is full of fun – from an amusement park, to tons of fishing, to street performers, shops, and great people watching – to delicious food and drinks – you’ll find tons to explore on the Santa Monica Pier.

I can honestly kill tons of time happily people watching on the pier – especially in winter months when it is less crowded. You can see all types of people from all over the world in just a few minutes on the Santa Monica Pier.

I also love to stroll through the arcade games, check out the beach foods, and watch the waves rolling in.

Some of the best shots you can take of Santa Monica are from the pier – since you can see the beach, stretching along to Venice and Malibu.

The pier is also great for watching waves at night – the bright glow of the restaurants on the pier makes the waves crashing below seem so vivid.

1624 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401

The carousel at the Santa Monica Pier dates back to 1947 when it was added to the hippodrome on the pier.

The carousel is a fantastic spot for photos, and is fun for kids and big kids… it’s a gorgeous historic building, and the carousel is straight out of a fairy tale.

Plus rides are only $1 for kids and $2 for adults, making even the prices nostalgic!

Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier

380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

A trip to the pier is nothing without stopping by Pacific Park!

Pacific Park is the amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier – and is full of fun, from games and arcade favorites, to a roller coaster, large ferris wheel, and fun carnival-style rides.

The amusement park at the pier is easy to stroll around (there is no admission to “get in” – ride tickets are sold separately, so if you want to just watch the rides, you won’t have to spend.)

While Pacific Park can get quite crowded in summer – especially on weekend nights – in the winter, it is fabulous.

Explore the Beach

Santa Monica is known for the laid back beach vibe, and of course, with that comes the beach!

Santa Monica’s beaches stretch from Venice to the south all the way to Malibu to the north – making it one of the most sought-after locations in all of Southern California.

You can rent a bike right on the beach in front of the pier, and head to the Strand – a 22 mile rec path that stretches from Pacific Palisades to Torrence – or just explore town.

For more bike trip ideas in Santa Monica, head here. 

Shop Along 3rd Street Promenade

3rd street promenade has always been a buzzing tourist spot – but I remember a very different promenade in Santa Monica in the 80’s and early 90’s.

If you’re looking for the best shopping, the promenade has you covered. From high end fashion to fun and funky boutiques – and plenty of yoga and surf shops mixed in, the 3rd Street Promenade has tons of fabulous choices.

Don’t miss: the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 8:00am – 1:00pm at the intersection of Arizona Ave and 2nd Street.

Take The Free Ride

Per their site: Text location to (please allow 10-15 minutes for pick-up) 310-895-9204.

The Santa Monica Free Rides makes stops all over town – and you can also call for a pickup!

The free ride is an electric vehicle that uses electric shuttles, who are funded entirely through local advertising. They make stops all over Santa Monica, are green, and are so much fun!

The free ride shuttles even have a little photobooth in them, so be ready to have a blast as you ride from spot to spot in Santa Monica!

The Free Ride operates throughout Santa Monica with regular stops at these locations between 11:30am and 9pm:

  • Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
  • Shutters on the Beach
  • Doubletree Suites Santa Monica
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Santa Monica Place
  • 3rd Street Promenade
  • Main Street

Find out more about the Santa Monica Free Ride here. 

What To Eat in Santa Monica

Santa Monica has some of the hands down best foods you can find on the planet, making it a dream vacation for any foodie.

Santa Monica has so many amazing options for food – for pretty much any dietary need you can think of.

Vegan, keto, vegetarian, halal, pescatarian, raw, paleo, gluten-free – you can find it ALL in Santa Monica. Plus plenty of dietary needs you never knew about!

Santa Monica Restaurant Week

This year to celebrate Santa Monica Restaurant Week, all restaurants created special dishes focused on the persimmon – 2019’s ingredient!

Be sure to learn all about California Restaurant Month, which takes place each January here. 

Breakfast in Santa Monica

Santa Monica is bursting with cafes, bakeries, and coffee shops – plus plenty of juice bars and doughnut shops – making finding a delicious breakfast here pretty easy.

Huckleberry Cafe

1014 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Huckleberry Cafe is one of my favorite spots in Santa Monica for their delicious coffees, gorgeous pastries, cooked to order dishes, and deli counter lunch takeaway salads.

Must Order: 

Cinnamon Roll

Huckleberry’s cinnamon rolls are crunchy, sweet, and light – rolled in crunchy sugar with tons of buttery cinnamon flavor.

Bear Claw Kouign-Amann

If you’ve never had a kouign-amman, you’re in for a treat with Huckleberry’s bear claw take on the delicious French treat. Crunchy and full of almond flavor, but light and puffy in the middle, makes this an ultimate cant-miss while in Santa Monica.

Espresso Cielo

1431 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Espresso Cielo is just a short stroll to the pier or the 3rd street promenade on 2nd in between Broadway and Santa Monica, and serves knockout espressos and coffee drinks, alongside gourmet pastries.

Must order:

Pretty Lattes

If you’re hoping for a pretty coffee shot, you won’t have much trouble with Espresso Cielo’s cute blue cups and wood tabletops.

Almond Croissant

The almond croissant at Espresso Cielo is flaky, buttery, sweet, and packed with almond paste and crunchy toasted almond slices.

Lunch in Santa Monica

The Upper West

3321 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405

The stretch of Pico near the 10 was never the buzziest of areas – but Pico has gained some seriously cool restaurants, shops, and bars to pull you into the area.

The Upper West serves lunch and dinner + bar fare with a solid bar menu packed with great wines, beers, and craft cocktails.

Must order:


-Thai Peanut Noodles

Dinner in Santa Monica

Stella Barra

2000 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Stella Barra is a gourmet pizza lover’s dream – the kitchen pumps out delicious pizzas with fresh California ingredients and interesting new flavors.

Stella Barra’s cocktail program is also very strong – offering up delicious craft cocktails to wash down your pies.

Must Order:

Pizzas – what else from a pizza place? The pizza at Stella Barra was phenominal – a crunchy, salty thin crust loaded with tons of delicious cheese and fresh toppings.

Since we visited during restaurant week, Stella Barra made a roasted persimmon pizza to celebrate the ingredient of honor – and it was phenomenal. I hope they consider keeping that pizza on the menu, because I could eat it every single day.

Cocktails –  We tried a spiced apple mule that was out of this world – it was a little winter-y, but nice and cold for a refreshing spiced apple cocktail that knocked our socks off!

Meat on Ocean

1501 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Meat on Ocean is the perfect date night or business dinner restaurant – loaded with steaks, seafood, and delicious food from one of Santa Monica’s best locations – on Ocean Avenue just across the street from the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.

Meat on Ocean is known for their meats – there is an epic charcuterie board, raw bar, as well as a robust steak and seafood menu.

Must Order:

While the charcuterie boards are a huge draw (they have a fantastic list of meats and cheeses you can pick from to make your own epic charcuterie board), I about died and went to heaven with two favorite appetizers from Meat on Ocean (that are perfect to start your tasting tour of Santa Monica with):


The simple hummus at Meat on Ocean was SO addictive. It is spicy, creamy, salty, and just plain heavenly. I couldv’e eaten the whole bowl.

-Pork Belly

The pork belly, pictured above, was one of the softest, most tender, and absolute delicious pork bellies I have ever tasted. Pork belly, when done right, absolutely melts in your mouth – this one was so decadent, I could’ve just made a main around it.

Seaside on the Pier

250 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Santa Monica has so few rooftop bars – but Seaside on the Pier has a truly epic spot, overlooking the pier and the ocean, as well as the city!

Seaside on the Pier is a relatively new addition to Santa Monica Pier – and is still very much an “undiscovered secret”. This won’t stay that way for long – so find your way in quickly to get a spot at Santa Monica’s best rooftop bar to take in the pier from!

Must order:


Seaside on the Pier has a phenomenal cocktail program, whipping up craft cocktails throughout the building’s bars upstairs and downstairs.

We sipped on persimmon margaritas that were spicy and full of flavor – one I could drink any day of the week.


To celebrate persimmons, we tucked into another persimmon pizza – this time with arugula, a balsamic drizzle, and shaved parmesan on top.

Both persimmon pizzas were incredibly different, and both amazing!


The real standout, for me, was Seaside on the Pier ‘s salmon main. While adorned with persimmon for restaurant week, the entire dish was a knockout.

The salmon was perfectly cooked – and the rice and veg (which let’s face it, are just side attractions)- were spectacularly buttery rich.

Snacks in Santa Monica

Funnel Cakes at the Pier

380 Santa Monica Pier #2, Santa Monica, CA 90401

There is no place like Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier – it is a mini boardwalk style amusement park, complete with carousel, ferris wheel, and roller coaster – all over the crashing waves.

While Pacific Park has a ton of fun to offer, they really shine with food, too!

There are taco stands, burger stands, and drinks stands – but the star for me will always be the funnel cakes!

To celebrate Restaurant Week, we got to taste some funnel cakes topped with a persimmon sauce, which was the perfect end to a tasting around Santa Monica.

Funnel cakes at Pacific Park are practically mandatory when visiting, so be sure to stop by and see what delicious flavor they have when you go!

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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