To find anywhere decent to chow on a Los Angeles County beach is a puzzling task, even for locals. But is it too much to ask to not have to take off one's bathing suit, not concern oneself with the sand between your toes, and find a satisfying meal near the ocean? We think not. Presenting your five best eat-on-the-beach options:
Hot Dog on a Stick: Yes, you might find Hot Dog on a Stick in a mall food court near you, but this Hot Dog on a Stick, just yards away from the Santa Monica Pier, is something all too special. First, it's just "Hot Dog Stick" -- the bright red box of a shack forgoes all prepositions and puts all of its attention on being the Shangri-La for LA's best damn corn dogs. And the job perk of an oceanfront view might encourage the costumed staffers to up their game of frying dogs to order (job well done, guys -- especially in those hats). Also, the fresh-squeezed lemonade is summer's ultimate thirst quencher.
Hot Dog on a Stick, 1633 Ocean Front, Santa Monica (hotdogonastick.com)
Coast at Shutters on the Beach: Angelenos are hard-pressed to find a beachfront property sweeter than Shutters on the Beach. Naturally, it would inspire countless weddings and celebrity-populated breakfast meetings, but an al fresco dinner at Coast while the sun slowly sets over your date (you know, the Pacific Ocean) is something of a little-known gift. This summer only, Coast is arranging a beautiful affair: Call it the "Summer of Bastianich." Lidia Bastianich ("Lidia's Italy," Eataly, mother to Joe Bastianich, one-third of the Mozza empire) has taken over the wine list at Coast and replaced it with 18 of her own family's Bastianich Italy-grown wines. You may partake in a Lidia-curated tasting menu, complete with wine pairings, that will transport you from Santa Monica to the coastal sands of Fruili.
Coast at Shutters on the Beach, 1 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica (310-458-0030 or shuttersonthebeach.com)
Venice Ale House: In Venice, eating was never the priority over gawking at local beloved freaks. But when Venice Ale House popped up at the corner of Rose Avenue and the Boardwalk, suddenly, Venice Beach goers could sustain themselves with an organic all-day menu of copious salads, burgers, brunch fare, and yeah, Carslbad Mussels Sauvignon. While the beach lends itself to drinking beer, this is likely one of the few spots you can order wine not just by calling out the color. It's important that there's a crisp white to pair well with the Alaskan Halibut Ceviche. (Priorities.)
Venice Ale House, 2 Rose Avenue, Venice (310-314-8253 or venicealehouse.com)
Paradise Cove Beach Cafe: Malibu is rather idyllic, and Paradise Cove knows how to play up its God-given strengths. What appears to be a very private beach community is actually quite open to the public. It offers a resort feel reminiscent of your most recent trip to Mexico, complete with umbrellas in the drinks and chairs in the sand. You're free to eat your fried calamari like a civilized person via a table, or you're welcome to snag big beach chairs and order your grub to-go.
Paradise Cove, 28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu (310-457-2503 or paradisecovemalibu.com)
Back on the Beach Cafe: This is LA's most unassuming cafe directly on the sands of North Santa Monica. It is the only cafe in the surrounding vicinity wherein your feet actually touch the sand for the duration your meal. It's certainly nothing fancy, but it's also not a throwaway meal either. This is where the locals get their breakfast scrambles and lunchtime chicken salad sandwiches while keeping score of the volleyballers spiking in front of you. After a longtime closure and major renovation, Back on the Beach Cafe is now attached to the Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica's public pool.
Back on the Beach Cafe, 445 Palisades Beach Road (310-393-8282 or backonthebeachcafe.com)