Considering millions of people flock to LA for our famously beautiful weather, it's actually a bit shocking how few restaurants in the city are outdoors or feature an outdoor patio. In places like New York and London, locals flood the streets as soon as temps rise above 60 degrees, taking over the outdoor tables at cafés or the streetside bars at local pubs. But here, we rarely take advantage of our warmer temps and clear skies, hiding indoors until June gloom clears up. Luckily, it seems that the tide is changing, with more restaurants factoring the great outdoors into their overall design. And what better place to enjoy oceanside dining than Santa Monica? Below, we've listed our favorite patio options in SaMo, for soaking up the sun from brunch until dinner.
Brunch @ O + O Sicilian on Ocean
One of Ocean Ave's new arrivals, O + O Sicilian quietly opened at the end of 2016 in the Elovate Vegan Kitchen space, offering classic Italian dishes and plenty of wine and cocktails. Their brunch menu is definitely where it's at though, with beachside bottomless spritzes & mimosas for $20 without the trashy touristy surroundings. They have some typical brunch go-to's, like Italian-style frittatas and a really nice smoked salmon bruschetta, but our favorites definitely included the Burrata and Heirloom Tomato pizza (a non-traditional choice for brunch, but worked surprisingly well), and the Arancini, fried risotto balls with mushrooms, spinach, and ricotta. Everything was fresh and tasty, and the patio couldn't have been a nicer venue to enjoy a long meal on the weekend.
Lunch @ True Food Kitchen, Santa Monica Place
This Santa Monica place staple seems oft-overlooked-- maybe it's due to the healthy menu or touristy location, but my recent trip was my first time on the patio. Though the patio isn't particularly huge and isn't totally waterside, it's nevertheless a prime spot for enjoying the ocean breeze and people watching. True Food Kitchen promotes healthy eating and has plenty of vegetarian/vegan/gluten free options, yet their all-day menu thankfully boasts a full cocktail menu and plenty of indulgent bites (like a grass-fed burger and lasagna bolognese). I particularly loved the edamame dumplings, which were plump and engulfed in a flavorful dashi broth with truffle oil. The Albacore Sashimi was similarly light yet flavorful, with avocado and a yuzu ponzu (yum). Even the more-indulgent margherita pizza didn't leave me feeling guilty or weighed down. I went with a group of blogger gals, and we sat and chat for hours over glasses of rosé, enjoying the light but tasty bites.
Dinner @ North Italia on 2nd Street
A new opening in Downtown Santa Monica, North Italia is an Arizona transplant with locations in El Segundo (and plans to keep expanding). Usually, when I think Arizona chain, I don't think high-quality, fresh Italian on a beautiful, spacious, outdoor patio, but that might just prove my own prejudices. I recently came for dinner and was not only blown away by the massive restaurant, and their lovely, modern design and colorful patio (that is easily one of the largest street-side patios I've seen in Santa Monica and LA as a whole), but I was really impressed by the super fresh and flavorful food. From tender meatballs to light salads and some seriously delicious tortelloni, North Italia has conquered casual Italian food in Santa Monica. The Chef's Board was definitely a must-have, with a lovely selection of Italian meats + cheeses, accompanied by delicious roasted peppers, marinated eggplant, and more. I'm a sucker for burrata and heirloom tomatoes, so I particularly loved the Burrata with heirloom tomatoes and croutons, as well as the heirloom tomato salad with avocado. Burrata tortelloni was similarly fantastic and really indulgent (in the best way), while the meatballs and Chicken Parm were as good as they get. I would highly recommend North Italia for a casual but delicious Italian meal on a lovely outdoor patio.