Santa Monica, City by the Sea

West of Downtown, the oceanfront town of Santa Monica has long sustained an eclectic food scene.

Landon Nordeman

West of Downtown, the oceanfront town of Santa Monica has long sustained an eclectic food scene. In addition to culinary pioneers like Border Grill (1445 Fourth Street; 310/451-1655; www.bordergrill.com) and Michael's (1147 Third Street; 310/451-0843; www.michaelssantamonica.com), there are newer spots like Alain Giraud's one-year-old brasserie Anisette (225 Santa Monica Boulevard; 310/395-3200; www.anisettebrasserie.com), where servers arrive with silver trays of briny oysters and steaming pots of mussels. The smell of fresh-baked ciabatta wafts through Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery (1517 Lincoln Boulevard; 310/395-8279; www.baycitiesitaliandeli.com), an 85-year-old neighborhood hub; imported olive oils, dried pastas, and fancy vinegars line the aisles, but the main attraction is the godmother sandwich, stuffed with Genoa salami, mortadella, capicola, ham, prosciutto, and provolone. Crowds are the norm at the original location of Father's Office (1018 Montana Avenue; 310/736-2224; www.fathersoffice.com); this minuscule craft beer bar and gourmet burger shack serves hand-cut fries and its justly famous Office Burger: a dry-aged beef patty topped with delectable combinations like caramelized onions, bacon, and blue cheese. At Melisse (1104 Wilshire Boulevard; 310/395-0881; www.melisse.com), chef Josiah Citrin's exquisite ode to California-French cuisine, try the poached egg topped with lemon-chive creme fraiche and American osetra caviar, or anything from the nightly tasting menu. An altogether different culinary vibe reigns at Chez Jay (1657 Ocean Avenue; 310/395-1741; www.chezjays.com), Santa Monica's go-to nautical dive for half a century; enjoy an herb butter-sauced steak and a classic cocktail while seated beneath the captain's wheel. Given the accessibility of superfresh organic produce, it's no surprise that the raw-food movement has taken root here; Euphoria Loves Rawvolution (2301 Main Street; 310/392-9501; www.euphorialoves rawvolution.com) specializes in vegan dishes made from uncooked fruits and vegetables. The thoughtful preparations include nachos and the raw-veggie Big Matt burger, served on the restaurant's own, flavorful onion bread. That restaurant, and dozens of others across LA, source their food at the Santa Monica Farmers Market (Wednesday mornings at Second Street and Arizona Avenue, pictured; see www.smgov.net for locations on other days). A linchpin of Los Angeles's culinary culture since 1981, the market, comprising 75 vendor stalls, draws chefs and home cooks in search of things like rare herbs, farm-fresh eggs, just-picked Flame grapes, and even ladybugs and snails for organic gardening. —Lesley Bargar Suter, dining editor for _Los Angeles magazine_