A sister establishment of Marina del Rey mainstay Killer Shrimp, the recently inaugurated Killer Cafe grants its diners picturesque views of the sparkling harbor as they savor handcrafted dishes. Customers can sprawl inside an oversize booth in the dining room, perch on the outdoor patio, or tie up their boat along the dock for dock-and-dine service. Each spot affords glimpses of the aquatic surroundings, where they can sample bites of classic breakfasts such as traditional eggs benedict and buttermilk pancakes or opt to split a plate with nearby pelicans.
Upscale yet unpretentious, like a hood ornament in the shape of Morgan Freeman, Coast Restaurant offers landlubbers a comfort food menu that avails itself of Santa Barbara’s aquatic adjacency. Local farms and wharfs supply ingredients, and a raw bar stocks recently netted oysters, clams, crabs, and shrimp. Dip a toe into the local rock fish, pan-roasted with brussel sprouts and roasted onions ($25), or dive delicately into the crab cakes, with poquillo peppers, local citrus salad, and a smoked paprika vinaigrette ($14). Sea-shunners can shimmy toward the popular tortilla soup, with avocado, chicken, poblano chiles, and cheddar cheese ($9), letting Coast’s warm wooden furniture and soft lighting belly-dance captivatingly across pleasure receptors.
When Enterprise Fish Co. first opened in 1979, its founders set to work renovating the historic 1917 brick building to emulate a classic Pacific-coast seaside restaurant. Today, the original hardwood floors, trussed wood ceilings, and brick façade remain, though an exhibition kitchen and faux bois–printed leather booths lend a modern air. Seafood such as oysters and salmon in a Coca-Cola glaze headline the menu, accompanied by fish tacos, fresh lobster tails, and mesquite-grilled prawns. In addition to its ample fish and shellfish dishes, Enterprise also whips up filet mignon, candied-apple pecan salads, and the Enterprise burger, which is topped with a fried egg, to serve in the dining room or out on the patio beside the fire pit. Old photographs of Venice Beach dot the dining-room walls, along with snapshots from other notable seaside spots, such as the Iowa coast.
At Zagat-rated Seagrass, chef Robért Perez prepares coastal cuisine with seafood sustainably fished from the Pacific Ocean. Top-shelf ingredients get a creative twist in entrees such as jumbo diver scallops with apple-smoked bacon, wilted rainbow chard, and a vanilla-and-cardamom-infused sauce. At times, Perez creates a fresh culinary experience by fusing cooking methods. The Muscovy duck breast, for example, is both seared and smoked, and the black cod is sautéed before being poached in butter. An abundant wine list, representative of Santa Barbara's diverse wine country, keeps pairing from becoming a tiresome chore like washing the dishes or organizing all the kids’ sweaters by mouthfeel. Inside the dining room, the eponymous seagrass covers the walls, and vaulted ceilings soften conversational sounds.
Given its proximity to East Beach and Stearns Wharf, it’s no surprise that Santa Barbara FisHouse often serves up local, seasonal seafood. When its available, diners can order locally acquired crustaceans such as spiny lobster or Dungeness crab, or sample the imported flavor of certified Maine lobster. The regular menu touts fish transformed by inventive ingredients—macadamia nuts and creamy pineapple sauce envelop baked halibut, and sesame seeds and crispy wontons encrust a cut of Hawaiian mahi mahi. Patrons can choose to take their meals in the dining room or grab a table on the outdoor patio, which is warmed by an open fire pit and the hungry exhalations of jealous passersby.
It's a tradition at Arnoldi's Cafe to make things by hand, whether you're crafting meatballs or the building itself. Though the original venue was founded in 1937 by Giuseppe Arnoldi and his wife Ilda, the current location was erected in 1940. Giuseppe, known as Joe, quarried the stone himself. He made sure to include all the trappings of a rustic Italian getaway: a maple floor for dancing, a pair of bocce courts, and a mural of Lago di Como, where he was born. And, though he and Ilda ceased to run the restaurant in 1969, he appointed a bar manager who remains there to this day. His name is Bucky, and he's a tule elk who welcomes visitors from his spot on the wall.
Thankfully, guests can taste Joe's legacy as well as see it. The menu at Arnoldi's boasts homestyle Italian fare, from bruschetta drizzled in imported olive oil to veal sautéed in wine and a lemon caper sauce. Like the vases at an unscrupulous antique store, many of the pasta dishes here are made fresh from scratch. There's handmade gnocchi, homemade lasagna, and handmade ravioli. Diners enjoy their meals with wine in a romantic dining room or on a heated patio, while in the garden, teams compete in seasonal bocce tournaments.