SoCal Group Dining Highlights: Los Angeles’ Westside and Beach Cities Dish Out Diversity

May 6, 2019

With its bounty of eclectic chefs, ethnic diversity and locally sourced ingredients, combined with a culture of wellness and reinvention, Los Angeles County has evolved into one of the world’s most dynamic culinary destinations.

L.A.’s Westside and beach cities are prime places for groups to experience the delectable treats of the region.

Spot a Celebrity While Dining in Beverly Hills

Synonymous with glitz and glam, Beverly Hills is known as the stomping ground of celebrities, including those of the culinary kind.

“There is no other place than our city where visitors and locals can experience such a wide array of innovative culinary options that offer cuisines from around the globe,” said Julie Wagner, CEO of the the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau, citing restaurants by star chefs such as Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, Curtis Stone’s Maude and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Jean-Georges.

“Beverly Hills continues to attract innovative restaurants, most recently welcoming AVRA Beverly Hills, known in New York for its Mediterranean-inspired dishes, as well as the reopening of Crustacean, featuring tuna cigars as part of its Asian-fusion menu,” she added.

When it comes to highly elevated dining experiences, Beverly Hills dishes out the star treatment, and Spago, CUT, Georgie and Jean-Georges are among the top choices for groups, all with private dining spaces and a variety of other group configurations.

Puck’s Spago has long been a favorite among Hollywood A-listers and visitors and is often referred to as L.A.’s most iconic restaurant.

From its signature wood oven pizza with salmon, caviar and creme fraiche, and handmade agnolotti with English peas, mascarpone and marjoram, to Asian-inspired dishes like Casco Bay cod “Hong Kong”-style with bok choy, lotus root and sweet soy, Spago satisfies a variety of tastes.

The original CUT by Wolfgang Puck, now in seven cities around the world, is located at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel. CUT is the renowned chef’s modern take on a classic steakhouse, featuring the world’s finest meats, from Snake River Farms wagyu beef to Japanese wagyu beef, as well as fresh seafood such as Mediterranean turbot with fennel fondant and tomato confit.

CUT boasts a sleek interior punctuated by the work of renowned artists and designers, including architect Richard Meier, artist John Baldessari and photographer Martin Schoeller, whose portraits of notable celebrities are highlights of the space, including Petit CUT, a private dining space.

Jean-George's, Beverly Hills
Jean-George's, Beverly Hills

Another top-drawer dining experience awaits at Jean-Georges, located at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. With modern twists on the traditional, the seasonal menu features caviar creations, raw dishes, soups, salads, pizzas and pasta. The bright interior is surrounded by a large terrace with passionfruit vines, and indoor and outdoor dining is available.

The hotel also features the Rooftop by JG, which offers panoramic views and a menu combining flavors from Latin America and Southeast Asia with New York flair and local ingredients.

West Hollywood Is a Hip Place to Dine

From laidback diners to hip cafes and classic restaurants, West Hollywood is a hot spot for foodies.

Two group-friendly venues representative of the destination’s culinary diversity nowadays are Lucques and E.P. and L.P. Asian Eating House and Rooftop Bar.

Lucques, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018, is the first restaurant opened by the duo of Suzanne Goin, three-time James Beard Award-winning chef, and Caroline Styne, James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year for 2018. Inspired by the principles of sustainable cuisine, their specialty is simply delicious, market-driven creations.

Now legendary on the Los Angeles dining scene, Lucques, set in an intimate former carriage house of the Harold Lloyd Estate, is accented by brick, wood beams, a wood-burning fireplace and a garden patio that is perfect for quiet group gatherings.

L.P. Rooftop Bar, West Hollywood
L.P. Rooftop Bar, West Hollywood

E.P. Asian Eating House and L.P. Rooftop Bar are hip modern options in the heart of the Design District. E.P. is rooted in Thai cuisine, combining overtones of Chinese, Fijian and Vietnamese influences and blending them with the freshest California produce. L.P., boasting views of the Hollywood Hills and Sunset Strip, serves Asian-inspired street food and handcrafted cocktails.

Santa Monica Specializes in Healthy Eating

From raw, vegan and gluten-free options to ethnic cuisine from around the world and Michelin-star restaurants, Santa Monica’s diverse culinary scene includes nearly 500 restaurants.

“The healthy lifestyle, bountiful produce and opportunities for creativity have drawn chefs from around the world to begin and expand their careers in Santa Monica,” said Misti Kerns, president and CEO of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism.

“In fact, most Angeleno chefs rely on ingredients from our downtown farmers market, named by Travel + Leisure as the best in the country, to form the basis of their menus," she added.

Santa Monica was in the vanguard of the local food movement long before it became mainstream, according to Kerns, and the use of sustainable, organic ingredients is central to the philosophies of leading chefs in town.

“Living well is a big focus in Santa Monica and is evidenced by the number of healthy options for eating,” she said.

Among the best dining choices for groups meeting in Santa Monica are Water Grill, Chinois, Melisse, Tiato and Herringbone.

Herringbone, Santa Monica
Herringbone, Santa Monica

A go-to for seafood lovers, Water Grill is a stylish, classic option on Ocean Avenue, with wood-beamed ceilings, rich wood panels, leather booths, a celebrated raw bar and a menu of fresh local catch and beyond.

Chinois is one of Wolfgang Puck’s famous restaurants, offering American fusion cuisine mixing the flavors and culinary tradition of Asia with French cooking techniques.

Josiah Citrin’s Melisse has earned two Michelin stars and is world-renowned for its cutting-edge French cuisine and chic ambience. Citrin visits the local farmers market to hand-select the seasonal ingredients that inspire his creations.

Owned by Catherine An, Tiato is named after the Vietnamese herb that is a favorite of An and her mother, chef Helene An. The herb, known for its health benefits and distinct bold flavor, is a reflection of An’s creative Vietnamese cooking philosophy.

TIATO, Santa Monica
TIATO, Santa Monica

Tiato was designed to be a restaurant and an event space, and it features Santa Monica’s largest non-hotel outdoor dining venue: an herb-filled garden hosting 220 people for meals and 400 guests for receptions. The eco-chic indoor venue has high honeycomb ceilings and reclaimed wood panels, and the private dining room is known for its beautiful reclaimed wood table.

Herringbone’s “Fish Meats Field” cuisine concept emphasizes line-caught fresh seafood, high-quality meats and local seasonal produce.

The restaurant’s modern atmosphere reflects Santa Monica’s iconic easygoing beach lifestyle and features indoor and outdoor space, an open kitchen, a raw bar and a lively bar and lounge.

Gourmandise Southern Breakfast Class
Gourmandise Southern Breakfast Class

Another unique food experience is The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories, where groups can take hands-on classes from some of the best chefs and instructors in Santa Monica.

Participants can learn everything from creating a French stovetop dinner made with fresh seasonal ingredients to the art of baking rhubarb crumbles.

Groups Will Find Dining Variety in Marina del Rey

Marina del Rey offers culinary options to satisfy every palette.

“Whether you’re in the mood for casual dining like food trucks and sports bars, upscale dining with locally sourced farm-to-table bites or a dining cruise on the water, the Marina has you covered,” said Janet Zaldua, CEO of the Marina del Rey CVB.

The culinary corridor of this waterfront locale gives groups the opportunity to dine at venues ranging from waterside terraces and lounges with outdoor fire pits to sleek restaurants overlooking the marina.

Cafe del Rey, Cast & Plow at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey, Whiskey Red’s and Beachside Restaurant and Bar are some of the best options for groups.

Beachside Restaurant & Bar at Jamaica Bay, Marina del Rey
Beachside Restaurant & Bar at Jamaica Bay, Marina del Rey

Cafe del Rey is a waterside restaurant specializing in creative modern cuisine inspired by the coast and complemented by locally sourced ingredients, from wild-caught seafood to prime cuts of meat to fresh salads.

Cast & Plow is a waterfront, farm-to-table restaurant that draws from the community that surrounds it. Committed to fresh, organic and locally grown and raised ingredients, the restaurant introduces diners to the sources behind each dish. Whiskey Red’s is a favorite for its expansive waterfront patio, fire pits, raw bar, fresh seafood dishes and handcrafted cocktails made from an extensive whiskey selection. The restaurant is especially popular for Sunday brunch and sunset dining in a vibrant social ambience.

Beachside Restaurant & Bar, featuring seasonally driven modern American cuisine, was fully renovated in fall 2017 and now features a California coastal color palette and attractive indoor-outdoor bar and lounge seating. The outdoor patio is located right on Marina Beach and is ideal for group events.

Dine by the Water in Redondo Beach

Waterfront dining is also an integral part of the experience in Redondo Beach. Rated one of the top 10 restaurants for waterside dining in L.A. by Zagat, Baleen Kitchen at The Portofino Hotel and Marina is a group favorite. The seafood-forward menu features eclectic modern American cuisine.

Long Beach Delivers on Ethnic Fare and Food Trucks

Over the past few years, Long Beach has become a hot culinary destination, with its large population of Cambodians delivering delicious ethnic fare, up-and-coming chefs specializing in market-driven cuisine and a thriving craft beer scene, not to mention a wealth of food truck entrepreneurs.

“Our culinary scene is a reflection of how incredible of a melting pot our city is,” said Loren Alexis Simpson, director of digital communications and resident foodie expert at the Long Beach CVB. “We have the largest population of Cambodians outside of Cambodia, plus other deeply rooted ethnicities such as Greek and Italian, so the food is very authentic.

“And then you have your adventurers,” she added, citing examples such as The Attic, with its inventive take on regional and international dishes—Mac & Cheetos creations, short rib poutine and blackened tuna banh mi to name a few.

The Cove, BO-Beau Kitchen and Roof Tap, Ballast Point Brewery and Sophy’s are among the best ways groups can indulge in Long Beach’s eclectic culinary offerings.

The Cove, Credit: Long Beach CVB
The Cove, Credit: Long Beach CVB

Some of Long Beach’s top food trucks come complete with the package when groups book an event at The Cove, one of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center’s latest turnkey meeting spaces. The Cove is a hip, industrial chic outdoor space set under an overpass just outside the center.

“The Cove is a prime location for experiencing our food truck scene and the innovative dishes of Savor Catering,” Simpson said.

She cited food truck examples such as:

  • The Grilled Cheese Truck, with unique combinations such as brie and apple;
  • Pie Bar, specializing in creative bite-size versions of classics such as Dutch apple pie and new combinations such as Nutella banana pie;
  • Olive Wood Pizza, crafting thin-crust favorites from a wood-burning oven;
  • and The Fresh Shave, a healthier alternative to Hawaii’s famous treat, utilizing all-natural and organic ingredients from local farms.

Meanwhile, BO-Beau Kitchen and Roof Tap is a popular group choice with creative French bistro fare on its first floor as well as a more casual rooftop deck with views of downtown Long Beach.

Creative comfort pub food and craft beer, including 60-plus tap selections, are the specialties at the waterfront Ballast Point Brewery, where groups dine and drink while enjoying expansive ocean views.

A taste of Southeast Asia awaits groups at Sophy’s, known as the best place in Long Beach to enjoy Cambodian cuisine, as well as Thai food.

Los Angeles Area CVB Contact Information

Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau

Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

Long Beach Area CVB

Marina del Rey CVB

Redondo Beach COC and Visitors Bureau

Santa Monica CVB

Visit West Hollywood

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About the author
Lori Tenny | Destinations Editor, Contributing Writer

Lori was formerly Director of Strategic Content at Meetings Today where she oversaw feature-related content for the brand, as well as custom publishing, content marketing initiatives and strategic digital projects.