Malibu, California is most famously known for its celebrity residents, high-end real estate, and beautiful beaches — but for locals, "The Bu" is our cozy little southern California surf town with the best seafood and restaurants around.
Growing up in Malibu was nothing short of a dream. With the sandy Pacific beaches as our playground, this tight-knit community was a safe and joyful place to be brought up.
Nowadays, Malibu consists of a lot of high-end shops, restaurants, and Barbie dreamhouses that are definitely on the pricey side, much different from the Maibu I knew growing up. Luckily, some of my favorite restaurants from childhood are still going strong, and the food and ambiance are just as incredible as always.
From beach shacks along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu Farm at the famous Malibu Pier, here are 10 of the best restaurants where real Malibu locals still eat — according to someone who grew up there.
Cuisine: Healthy lunches & snacks
Address: 3835 Cross Creek Rd, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: Malibu’s town center, the Malibu Country Mart, is home to countless boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. It’s also where you’ll find the best sandwiches in Malibu.
John's Garden first opened its doors at the Malibu Country Mart in 1975 as a fruit stand, and with time, it evolved into one of Maibu’s best lunch stops. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are those of playing in the park at the Malibu Country Mart and stopping in at John’s Garden afterward to sink my teeth into the Surfer Princess, their signature sandwich with turkey, avocado, lettuce, and tomato.
Community picnic tables are scattered outside the pickup window of this unsuspecting local haven, the atmosphere is beach casual, and the food is top-notch. They also serve a wide variety of soups, salads, and smoothies.
Address: 23410 Civic Center Way, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: Another local favorite dining spot in the Malibu Country Mart is Taverna Tony. Upon entering this traditional Greek eatery, you feel like you've been transported to the Mediterranean. A trellis blanketed in bright pink bougainvillea covers the romantic patio, and inside, on certain evenings, belly dancers sway their hips to traditional music among the many tables.
My favorite dish here has always been the vegetarian paradise, which is a bountiful portion of traditional dips, pita, and other Greek delicacies that are meant to be shared amongst a few diners — it’s a piece of heaven in every bite.
Address: 29211 Heathercliff Rd, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: Lily's Malibu is a true hidden gem in The Bu. The owner Lily, originally from El Salvador, dreamt of sharing her passion for Latin American flavors through traditional salsas, burritos, and other delicious dishes. Locals have been frequenting this joint since its early beginnings and can’t seem to get enough. Some even call their orders in ahead of time to skip the long lines that can gather in front of the cafe.
While Lily’s has a long list of delightful breakfast and lunch items on the menu, the town's favorite is the juicy bacon breakfast burrito served with fluffy egg, pinto beans, and cheese all wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla. Every burrito comes with a side of Lily’s special hot sauce, which is simply marvellous. Due to popular demand, Lily now bottles and sells her special sauce, so if you swing by for a burrito, be sure to pick up a jar of sauce to bring home with you!
Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine
Address: 18763 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: To the passerby, Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine may look like nothing more than a blue beach shack situated on the Pacific Coast Highway at the southern entrance of Malibu. Still, any local will tell you that behind its wooden creaky doors lies so much more!
The atmosphere in Cholada is laidback, beachy, and casual. The indoor seating has views of the Pacific Ocean, and the aroma of traditional Thai cuisine fills the room. Behind the restaurant is a cozy garden where diners can sit beneath lush green trees and indulge in Thai classics like pad thai or one of their many succulent curries.
The current owners have been proudly serving up sensational traditional food to the Malibu community since 2000. Los Angeles Magazine encourages its residents to take the triple freeway drive to Malibu just to dine at Cholada. Why? Because it’s just that good!
Address: 25653 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: Local favorite Malibu Seafood is hard to miss as you’re cruising down the PCH. Its large sign, with its bright red beachgoing lobster adorned in a Hawaiian shirt, is quite inviting. This spot has been supplying the community with the freshest seafood since 1972. It’s a complete fish market where you can pick up an array of freshly caught seafood, and it also has a takeout menu.
You can order some fish and chips, a tuna burger, or choose from a long list of other seafood treats and enjoy it on their comfy and spacious patio, which is located just across the highway from one of Malibu’s many gorgeous beaches.
Malibu Country Kitchen
Address: 21239 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: Malibu Country Kitchen is a little piece of Malibu history. They opened their doors in 1972 and have been serving delicious and affordable food ever since. This hole-in-the-wall burger and burrito shop is located in a parking lot in the southern part of Malibu. Here, they keep things simple — order at the counter from their long list of delicious burgers, sandwiches, and burritos, and take it to go for a beach picnic or enjoy it at one of their three tables. The ambiance oozes easygoing vibes, and you’re likely to see locals and surfers still wearing their wetsuits from the morning’s surf, chowing down on some scrumptious food.
Address: 29575 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: Spruzzo is located directly across from the sandy shores of Zuma Beach, a perfect spot to indulge in tasty Italian-style dishes and fabulous cocktails after a day of lounging on the sand. This local gem has been serving up delectable pizzas, pastas, and salads at affordable prices to the residents of Maibu for decades.
If you came for the great food, you’ll want to stay for the views. Their large outdoor patio allows guests to take in the sight of one of Malibu’s most beautiful coastlines. The atmosphere is friendly and low-key, keeping the vibes refreshing and relaxing. The food is always good, the service is on point and the location is mesmerizing.
Address: 6800 Westward Beach Rd, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: Malibu is home to some stunning beaches, so why not dine along one of these picturesque sandy shores? Well, The Sunset can make that dream come true. Its location on the vivid coastline of Westward Beach means your dining experience will come with some breathtaking views.
They also have a substantial menu loaded with appetizing dishes like their decadent seafood platters, creamy risottos, and fresh salads. If you stay for sundown, it becomes clear where this hidden gem got its name — watching the sunset here is a truly unforgettable experience.
Address: 42505 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: Neptune's Net is a Malibu classic. It’s loved among locals and tourists alike — and for good reason, as the food and views are great and the atmosphere is one of a kind. On any given day, you can see surfers, bikers, cyclists, and hikers all fueling up at this funky little beach shack.
Located just in front of County Line Beach, this one-of-a-kind restaurant has been serving its diverse clientele since 1956. This quintessential California eatery dishes out heavenly seafood, chowders, and all the tasty sides like coleslaw, fries, and onion rings. Any of their delicious dishes pairs well with an ice-cold beer — sit back, enjoy, and take in all the people-watching and California views.
Cuisine: Farm-to-table Californian
Address: 23000 Pacific Coast Hwy Building C, Malibu, CA 90265
Why You Need To Go: This dreamy farm-to-table restaurant is located on the famous Malibu Pier. They offer a full restaurant at the start of the pier and a counter-service cafe at the end of the pier. Both restaurants have a full bar, flavorful and fresh food, and jaw-dropping views.
The menu has so many options that it makes it hard to choose just one thing to order. I recommend going with friends so you can order a few things to share and get the opportunity to enjoy as many heavenly flavors as the Malibu Farm has to offer. If you choose to venture out onto the pier where their counter-service cafe is located, have your camera ready — there are many great photo ops as you stroll down this historic wooden pier, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a dolphin playing in the Pacific in the distance.