Santa Monica has long been known to locals as a culinary mecca. However, it hasn’t been until more recent years that the rest of the country has started to take notice.
In 2021, the city of just over 8 square miles captured 15 Michelin distinctions. Three restaurants received Michelin stars, two received Bib Gourmand awards, and 10 earned Michelin Plate honors.
So here you have them all in one place, the best Michelin Star restaurants in Santa Monica.
Always remember to double-check dates, opening times, and weather conditions before traveling.
What is a Michelin Star Restaurant?
But before we begin, here’s a quick breakdown if you aren’t familiar with these distinctions:
A Michelin star is the highest distinction for culinary excellence. There are three levels of Michelin Star awards: one, two, and three-star designations. One star is considered “a very good restaurant,” two stars is considered “excellent cooking that is worth a detour,” and three stars means “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.”
A Bib Gourmand award denotes a restaurant that offers high-quality food at a reasonable price point. The standard for a reasonable price is “two courses with either a glass of wine or dessert for around $40 or less (pre-tax).”
This is the newest and least prestigious award of the three. However, being least prestigious in the Michelin Guide is a lot like coming in last at the Olympics. While these restaurants didn’t get a higher award, you’ll still find “restaurants where the inspectors have discovered quality food.”
Top Santa Monica Michelin Star Restaurants
Two Michelin Stars in Santa Monica
There is only one Santa Monica restaurant that has received a two-star designation
- Address: 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90401
The most highly awarded restaurant on this list is Chef Josiah Citrin’s restaurant Mélisse. With just 14 seats over five tables, this is obviously reservation-only. This intimate setting is something the most ardent food lovers will gush over. If you can get a reservation, the eight-course tasting menu is a once in a lifetime experience.
One Michelin Star Restaurants in Santa Monica
There’s more than one place in Santa Monica that has been distinguished with a Michelin Star, take a look:
- Address: 1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90401
This market-inspired seasonal restaurant and bar is a perfect first foray into the world of Michelin restaurants. Locally sourced ingredients speak to Rustic Canyon’s humble sophistication. With an attached wine bar, you have no shortage of options to pair with your meal.
- Address: 2732 Main St., Santa Monica, 90405
If you can’t get to France, Chef Dave Beran’s French bistro is the next best thing. With a bevy of traditional French dishes at a Michelin level of creativity, even the hardest to please will be impressed. If money is no object, the pressed duck is the clear choice, if available. This is the highest-end version of “dinner and a show” as a chef will be tableside with antique equipment for part of the preparation.
Bib Gourmand Restaurants in Santa Monica
The following high end restaurants in Santa Monica have been distinguished as Bib Gourmand:
- Address: 115 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 90401
There are only two Bib Gourmand restaurants in Santa Monica, and they’re quite different from each other. Tumbi offers Indian food in an industrial setting, with creative takes on classic Indian dishes you know and love. If you’re feeling adventurous, the best parts of the menu are street food and “pot” options.
- Address: 1241 5th St., Santa Monica, 90401
Sharing the same modern sensibilities as Tumbi, Colapasta sets its sights on trattoria-style dining. Overall, this is the more modestly priced of the two, though neither is on the expensive end of things. All pasta is handmade on-site, and you can find a rotating menu of soups and antipasti.
Michelin Plate Restaurants in Santa Monica
These remarkable places in Santa Monica have been distinguished with the Michelin Plate award
Milo + Olive
- Address: 2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90403
Milo + Olive is one of three restaurants in the Rustic Canyon Family to win a Michelin Plate in 2021. This woodfired pizza spot is light, friendly, and easily accessible to all food lovers. Entertainment is available in the form of the chefs masterfully rolling the dough in front of you. As with all good Italian-style spots, order the gnocchi.
- Address: 1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90401
You’ll find that Citrin is connected to top award-winner Mélisse through a garden entrance. Citrin has a much broader menu of meals and à la carte choices than its counterpart. You’ll still find Californian-influenced French cuisine here. If you aren’t sure what to get, the capellini with lobster Bolognese is a popular choice.
- Address: 2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90403
If you want a decadent Italian option, this may be the best choice for you. You’ll see a menu full of Italian staples with the freshest ingredients and unique charm. Even classics like the popular cacio e pepe are imagined in a different yet equally appealing light.
- Address: 2421 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 90404
If you dropped a diner into a culinary school, you’d come out with Birdie G’s. The second of the Rustic Canyon Michelin Plates, Birdie G’s, takes a classic diner and turns it on its head. You’ll be surprised at the home-style menu. Don’t let that stop you from ordering a sloppy Joe (here, a Sloppy Jeremy) at a Michelin Plate restaurant, though.
- Address: 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica, 90401
This trendy rooftop spot is more than just a flash in the pan (pun intended)! While the space itself is beautiful, this Mediterranean-influenced contemporary restaurant competes on quality more than ambiance. Luckily, with an array of small, shareable plates, diners can enjoy a wide swath of the menu at once.
- Address: 1602 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, 90401
It’s always good to see a classic Santa Monica spot getting its due. Started in the early 1920s, The Lobster really came into its own after the 1960s. While it’s easy to write this off as a tourist trap, that can’t be further from the truth. Seafood lovers will be excited by the menu in this cozy and efficient Santa Monica staple.
Chinois on Main
- Address: 2709 Main St., Santa Monica, 90405
This is a hodgepodge in the best sense. You have Asian, Californian, and French influences all under one roof in this busy local spot. If you have to lean into one influence, Asian offerings like the Cantonese duck with plum sauce are the way to go.
- Address: 2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, 90405
Not to be confused with the associated Lunetta all-day café (which is quite good too), Lunetta does high-end takes on contemporary American classics. Not quite as much of a diner as Birdie G’s, Lunetta is more of an upscale market. If you fancy a relaxed place for dinner and drinks, Lunetta makes a strong case for top billing on this list.
- Address: 1147 3rd St., Santa Monica, 90403
Michael’s has made a habit of churning out famous chefs in Santa Monica. This American-style restaurant is ambitious, to say the least, going through a menu facelift and new life with each new chef. Anything with a fish or a bird on the plate is a winner here.
- Address: 1314 7th St., Santa Monica, 90401
Last but not least is the final Michelin Plate award for the Rustic Canyon Family. This Asian-influenced hotspot has a robust menu with offerings the whole family will appreciate. Whether you want to order from the raw bar on a date or just take the family out to enjoy Vietnamese cuisine, Cassia won’t disappoint.
These Michelin Star restaurants in Santa Monica are some of the most delicious places to try when you visit. Are you hungry yet?