Santa Monica locals will tell you the restaurants on Santa Monica Pier are generally over-priced, unhealthy and unspectacular compared to Santa Monica's better restaurants, but tourists don't seem to mind. Tripadvisor users (travelers) rate the pier restaurants as better quality and better value than Yelp users (mostly locals). You're paying for the location and the view more than the food. Food prices can be more reasonable than drinks at some of the sit-down restaurants.
The newest restaurant on the pier is Ristorante al Mare, which is popular for its 3rd-floor rooftop dining and bar. They offer a mixed Italian menu of salads, pizzas, pasta, seafood, meat and poultry with moderately priced options.
The Albright is a rebranding of the former Santa Monica Seafood, with the next generation of the same family taking it up a notch in quality and service, which has paid off in popularity. It's still a seafood joint, so don't go for the burgers.
Of the other eating establishments on the pier itself, Pier Burger gets highest marks from both locals and travelers as being a tasty - if not particularly large - burger and fries for a reasonable price.
For a quick snack, the food court at Pacific Park Food Court includes brand names you'll recognize, like Taco Bell and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf as well as pizza, burgers and carnival favorites like funnel cake, churros, and Dippin Dots, to name a few.
Soda Jerks, inside the Carousel Building, has old-fashioned ice cream sodas, shakes, sundaes and other ice cream specialties.
Families with kids or frat boys who like to watch the staff run may enjoy the experience of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Rusty's Surf Ranch sometimes has live music and dancing for a cover charge, but the food is nothing spectacular.
Mariasol, all the way at the end of the pier, has a great sunset view.
Some of the best food at the pier is actually just above the pier on Ocean at The Lobster. The food is good and it's a great view over the pier, but the tables are too close together and it's quite costly, especially for the lobster. If the price isn't an issue, ordering a picnic from The Lobster to enjoy the sunset on the beach or the bluff can be a nice option.
Sit Down Restaurants
- The Albright (formerly Santa Monica Pier Seafood)
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Co
- The Lobster
- Mariasol Cocina Mexicana
- Pier Burger
- Ristorante al Mare
- Rusty's Surf Ranch
Pacific Park Food Court
The Food Court is inside the Pacific Park amusement park section of the pier, but there's no admission, so it's accessible to everyone.
- Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
- Beach Burger - Burgers, hot dogs, etc.
- Pacific Wheel Pizza Company - individual pan pizzas
- Taco Bell - tacos, burritos, quesadillas
- Scoops - ice cream, frozen yogurt, shakes
- Funnel Cake Factory