When chef Josiah Citrin split his (former and current) Michelin starred ultra-fine dining restaurant Mélisse into two different restaurants, the menu wasn’t the only thing that changed. Now divided between an intimate 14-seat hidden alcove for Mélisse and the more casual (but still pricey) fine dining spot Citrin, the combined Santa Monica dining space now provides Citrin’s comforting yet wholly gourmet takes on classics, like pitch-perfect roast chicken coated in garlic and breadcrumbs and refreshing oysters under sorrel and cucumber while leaving ample room for acolytes in search of the chef’s awe-inspiring, now-legendary tasting menu.
For those who don’t live on the Westside, making the trek to Santa Monica for lunch or dinner can be daunting. Will there be traffic? Probably. Will it be hard to find parking? Unless you’re in one of the public lots around Third Street Promenade, probably. But will the food be worth it? Yep. From destination-worthy sushi to every price point and type of Italian food under the sun, this small, tourist-friendly beachside city is full of amazing restaurants worth the drive across town. Although by no means exhaustive, check out our list of 15 Santa Monica restaurants you shouldn’t miss—then get back to your L.A. dining grind.