Oh, hello! Welcome to SoCal.

Long lists of recommendations are never useful. This is a collection of my trusted favorites and wish list eateries in San Diego and Los Angeles. All places have to-go options. And the LA picks all have nice outdoor dining options and seem to have strong hygiene and safety measures in place.

San Diego

If there's one place you eat at from this list, it's this Mexican restaurant. There's no wrong order here, but there's definitely a right one: The Surfin' California Burrito (pictured) and the Champion Fries with Steak.

A Point Loma staple, this will be the best BBQ you'll find in the greater San Diego area. Enjoy the ribs, tri-tip, and all the sides. And have fun getting messy!

A local and tourist favorite, Extraordinary Desserts serves up an ever-changing menu of sweet treats. You can't go wrong with any order!

Venice: Restaurants


Partially outdoor, completely cozy chic, grab light bites and $15 cocktails at Neighbor on Abbot Kinney Blvd. [Review and details on EaterLA.]

Consider getting a good buzz here while you wait for your table at Gjelina, which is just down the street.

But if you don't have the patience for Gjelina, consider Gjelina Take Away (GTA), and swoop up a pizza, sandwich, or try the blackened fish.

For handmade pasta, make a reservation at Felix. The pizza is also said to have a fluffy yet crunchy crust.

Classic trendy Venice Beach eatery. I would probably order a Mezcal Margarita, order oysters, get another round of drinks... and then stumble to Hinano Cafe.

This beer and burger shack first opened in the 1960s and is right by the pier. Heads up: It's cash only, though not sure if that changed this year.

Patio dining right by the water. This is more of a seafood and wine restaurant, but some say the fried chicken is great.

Mar Vista / West Side: Coffee & Quick Lunch

Potentially your nearest specialty coffee shop. Large courtyard, WiFi, and nice espresso-based drinks. The Mayan seems to be a popular order.

I'm a black coffee drinker, but I'm a sucker for their Mint Mojito Iced Coffee. Already a known chain, but at this point it's a California essential. Just don't get their coffee black.

If vegan food's a mood, consider this casual spot which has a gorgeous patio. I'm told the tomato sandwich is the thing to order.

San Fernando Valley

The locally famous low-key celebrity jaunt. It might be the dim lighting indoors that attracts celebs, or it's just the killer margaritas. But amid Covid, they outfitted their parking lot for nice outdoor dining.

The Studio City location has ample parking in the lot and on the street, with patio dining. No judgment if you want to drink the chimichurri.

This outdoor spot opens at 3pm on the weekends for happy hour. Haven't been here yet, but it sounds like most of the food — burgers, flatbreads, light bites — is a hit.