You don't have to live the surf lifestyle to work up an appetite and eat at the best Malibu restaurants and bars. This coastal city's spots offer some of the freshest seafood in the region—surprise, surprise—but there's so much more than sushi and beachy digs. On PCH you'll find some of the most iconic dives and patios along the coast, as well as fantastic gelato and Greek fare. There's barbecue and alfresco dining to be found in the hills, and wood-fired pizza to be enjoyed near the water. Here's our guide to eating through Malibu like a local—we hope you brought your appetite, and maybe some sunscreen.
The best restaurants and bars in Malibu
Enjoy a meal at one of the city's most iconic special-occasion stalwarts, which just so happens to sit at the edge of the Pacific for a view that can't be beat. The unenclosed dining room makes even "indoor" views of the sea possible from every angle, and tall hedges to the sides of that killer patio only add to this high-profile spot's exclusive vibe. Straightforward seafood and steaks are king here, though you'll find a few deviations from the norm by way of alligator wontons and miso-braised tofu. Reserve a spot on the patio for sundown, for best results.
Looking for authentic Italian gelato? You've come to the right place, and that place is in Cross Creek. Find a range of flavors at Grom, all folded into cage-free eggs and high-quality cream, churning fresh fruit and artisanal ingredients into thick and lucsious scoops. But this cheery gelateria goes beyond, serving up fruit sorbet, granita Siciliana (Italian ice), hot chocolate, gelato shakes and ghiaccioli—those adorable, colorful frozen fruit pops that sit in the case up front.
We almost feel guilty including this spot, because it's been such a well-guarded secret amongst locals for decades. But it's our civic duty to clue you in on some of the best Salvadoran and Mexican food just off PCH, and it's the perfect place to grab a casual and hearty meal. For roughly 30 years, Lily's has been a hidden Latin-food gem serving what are probably the best burritos in Malibu. Call ahead, because this spot can get crowded. (And don't skip the breakfast.)
Breathing new life into the former home of Guido's (R.I.P. Guido's), the brand new Malibu Burger Co. brings customizable burgers to the table, offering patty choices of beef, bison, veggies, turkey or fish. Top 'em with cheese, house-made ketchup, vegan cheese, pickled shallots, marinated tomatoes and more, then wash 'em down with a thick 'n' creamy milkshake.
Take a drive through Latigo and make a turn onto Calamigos Ranch, where one of Malibu's most fun and lively restaurants awaits. The giant Jenga and bean bag games, as well as picnic tables, make it a perfect alfresco destination—and then there's the food. Grab some of the "nouveau barbecue" smoked on-site, or snack on some of the elevated bar bites: tater tot poutine, blue crab hush puppies or one (or all) of the variety of bruschettas. There's brunch and a kid-friendly menu, to boot, not to mention a full bar that's also stocked with frosé.
Waterfront? This spot's water-on. Find upscale cafe fare in a casual setting in this bright and cheery eatery at the very edge of Malibu Pier, serving up fresh California fare like cauliflower pizza as well as some serious grass-fed burgers. Enjoy organic veggies, farm-fresh eggs and more all while perching over the Pacific. Not bad, not bad at all.
Cruise down PCH until you see the billboard of a large, leisure-inclined lobster sporting a Hawaiian shirt and a drink in its claw—that's when you know you've hit Malibu's fried-fish motherload. This tiny seafood shack has been serving some of the area's freshest fish, clams, crab and squid since 1972. The deep-fried fish and chips is the classic order here, but the grilled tuna, crab salad or steamed clams also hit the spot. Whatever your order, grab it from the window and take a seat on the expansive patio and enjoy the ocean view. Then, grab a raw fillet or a whole fish, some soft-shell crabs or shellfish from the market on your way out. (Your future self will thank you.)
Malibu Yogurt's been serving froyo before it was, well, cool. This sweets staple serves 16 flavors of fat-free yogurt, plus regular ice cream, making pared-down sundae classics, scoops and swirls for more than 30 years. Mix and match your bases and toppings, get them in a shake or piles high in scoops on a waffle cone. When you want to satisfy your sweet tooth like a longtime local, this is where you go.
If you don't see a line of motorcycles parked out front, you're not getting the full Neptune's Net experience. Fortunately, this Malibu landmark slash biker bar slash fried-seafood destination is delicious no matter who's there, be it tourist, A- or B-lister or an entire hoard of bikers. Expect a wait for a table, but be sure that once you're asked, specify that you want a seat on that oceanview patio. Expect platters of fried seafood, standard American bar fare—burgers, chili fries, hot dogs, the usual—plus tacos and nachos. (Go for the seafood combo plates to get the most out of your visit.)
Longtime locals will remember Nobu as being nestled in the corner of Malibu Country Mart, but while the world-class restaurant's location has changed, its quality and creativity haven't budged a bit. Still one of the city's top restaurants—and one of the region's best sushi restaurants—Nobu now features prominently along PCH with a spectacular view of Surfrider Beach. Along the water is the perfect place to celebrate Nobu Matsuhisa's inspired sushi and seafood-centric menu, whether it be crab cakes topped with an uni bernaise, the artful salmon kelp roll or the legendary black cod with miso. Reservations here are a must, as is a seat on that stellar oceanfront patio.
Sitting pretty on 1,000 acres in Malibu and the stunning Santa Monica Hills, Saddlerock Ranch offers scenic terrain, a vineyard, wine safaris, historic caves and stellar views, but if you're into dining, it's got even more up its sleeve: Saddlerock Gardens, the venue's dinner series. Each alfresco event features its own unique, family-style menu that kicks off with a drink and some mingling, all while you can watch Saddlerock's team of chefs preparing the meal outdoors. At roughly $125 per person it's also a great deal—each event is roughly five hours, and includes wine pairings.
Looking for something a bit more hands-on? You can also book a separate hike and harvest ($50), where you'll get a tour of the land and cultivate some of the farm's organic vegetables that include everything from avocados to kale. At the end of the day, reflect on some garden-picking well done with a complimentary tasting from Malibu Wines and a tote bag full of fresh vegetables to take home. What's not to love?
Spruzzo sits right by Zuma, making it the go-to spot for to-go pizza on the beach for decades. If you're avoiding the possibility of sand in your food—sure, fine, that's probably the responsible thing to do—then the freshly remodeled dining room will still give you a glimpse of the ocean while you enjoy those wood-fired pies or generous pasta portions. See also: There's a firepit, if you're taking in the view from the patio.
Ask any local where to find the best Greek in Malibu, and the answer will always be Taverna Tony. Find a bright and rustic setting indoors and a trellised patio outdoors, setting the scene for platters of Mediterranean fare. Order whole, grilled fish, a spread of house-made dips (the taramasolata is a must), rotisserie meats and addictive pastas that magically disappear from your plate. Can't decide? We can't blame you. Opt for the Greek feast, which includes 15 items, so you can really get a full taste of the menu.
Looking for more to do in 'Bu?
While some associate Malibu with mansions perching on the cliffs and surfers bobbing on the breaks, we tie the city to L.A.'s most stunning natural wonders. Forget the tarnished glitz of Hollywood and the posh landmarks of Beverly Hills; these things to do in Malibu make us question why we don't spend every single weekend in the waterfront city. From some of the best beaches around to hiking trails with waterfalls—and a little bit of wine tasting to wind down—we've rounded up our favorite things to do in Malibu.