Roasted sugarsnaps at Rustic Canyon
It may be the question we field more than any other: Where should I eat in Santa Monica? The city famous for its beaches and shopping, its healthy residents and fantastic quality of life, is not quite so famous for its stellar restaurants. Yet there are a ton of great places to eat, if you only know where to look. We ate our way through the restaurants of Santa Monica, visited the old standbys and the shiny new hot spots, and came away with a list of 10 restaurants that won't leave you wanting.
fish tacos at Tacos Punta Cabras
Duck into this tiny taco shop at lunchtime and you'll easily find just as many patrons as you will at bigger, fancier restaurants at the same hour - all crammed into a space the size of many restaurants' foyers. People probably will be watching a soccer game on the overhead TV while they wait for their excellent fish tacos and cauliflower tostadas, or spilling out to the few tables and chairs that are set up out on the Santa Monica Boulevard sidewalk. Run by two chefs with fine-dining backgrounds - Josh Gil at Joe's Restaurant and BLT; Daniel Snukal at LudoBites and Urasawa - Tacos Punta Cabras crams a lot of great food in that small space along with all those people. This being the Westside, you also can get more healthful renditions of street food: Order a tofu taco with some lemon habanero sauce and get the best of all worlds. 2311 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-917-2244.
anchovy salad at Michael's
Many things have changed in Santa Monica since Michael McCarty opened Michael's in 1979. For starters, there are myriad farmers markets, and not just the one McCarty championed right down the street. Michael's has changed, too, adapting to smaller plates and a bar-oriented menu, adding vegan items, pizza, even tacos. Mostly gone are the days of opulent, multicourse dinners in the beautiful patio; and, yes, Whitey Bulger's gone, too. These days chef John-Carlos Kuramoto helms the kitchen where Nancy Silverton began her culinary career, turning out finely tuned plates of mushroom risotto; salads of Little Gem lettuce, bottarga and anchovies; and duck with lentils, quince and Bloomsdale spinach. You can still dine in that gorgeous patio and, yes, study works by Richard Diebenkorn, David Hockney and Dennis Hopper in the bathroom. 1147 Third St., Santa Monica; 310-451-0843.