Given that the Los Angeles area caters to celebrities and the entertainment industry, many restaurants in the vicinity become famous due to the star power of their clientele. West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Sherman Oaks all boast this type of restaurant. If something goes over well with a celeb, others celebs follow as do the paparazzi, and soon afterwards tourists show up in droves to star gaze. And as they say in Hollywood – a star is born!
Some such establishments include Spago, The Ivy, Wolfgang Puck’s, Chateau Marmont, Dan Tanas and, if you’re in the Malibu area, Nobu. Malibu is also home to Moonshadows, Duke’s, and Taverna Tony, all of which are well-known upscale eateries. But what if you want a more relaxed and natural environment where you can bask in the beauty of the beach? What if you’re not in the mood to star gaze… or pay an arm and a leg for your meal?
It’s simple – head to Paradise Cove – a dining experience that has become a star in its own right. Though the restaurant is referred to a ‘beach café’, such a title sells it short because this eatery is so much more than just a café. But before we discuss the restaurant itself, let’s discuss the location.
To be honest, we stumbled upon this place while sightseeing in Malibu and driving north on Pacific Coast Highway. A modest sign caught our eye and we decided to check it out, especially as the roadway down the hillside and toward the beach was so scenic. At the bottom, we were greeted by pelicans, palm trees, and the Malibu pier, with people frolicking in the sand and a bevvy of old fashioned surfboards that spelt out the location. In some ways, the scene looked like a throwback to the 60s and the inspiration for any one of many Beach Boys songs.
Instantly intrigued, we parked the car and began to explore.
Sitting right on the sugary beach and close to the water’s edge, this restaurant proved to have it all – a dark wood and leather indoor dining room with an ocean view and vintage photos of Malibu lining the walls, a pretty little outdoor dining area littered with palm trees and sun umbrellas, perfect for lunching with your feet in the sand, and a take-out option for those wishing to eat on the beach while sunning themselves on the rentable lounge chairs and beds. It also provided for a great place to take a stroll with scenic views of rocks and cliffs to the right of the restaurant, the pier just to the left of the restaurant, and a long span of beach further to the left stretching right past a row of impressive Malibu beach houses.
Indeed, the restaurant was aptly named – it WAS Paradise and there was no way we were leaving without trying the food. Although we didn’t have reservations, the hostess happily seated us at a table near the window where we could watch all the action on the beach. Shortly afterwards, a member of the wait staff returned with menus in hand, whereupon we discovered that Paradise Cove serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and specializes in seafood and good ole American cuisine with a well-varied selection.
Lunch and dinner menus offer starters that include shrimp cocktails, spicy corn on the cob, shrimp quesadillas, and crispy calamari all averaging $18. Main entrees include several burger options and a wide range of sandwiches averaging $19. There are several shareable seafood platters for dinner that include paella, fisherman’s stew, a lobster and clam bake, and a Smokehouse BBQ Feast of ribs, chicken, sausages, corn on the cob and fries. The portion size of these is sure to send you and your dining companion home with a doggie bag. Dinner choices include more seafood, including signature dishes like parmesan-crusted halibut and fried macadamia coconut shrimp, as well as landlubber favourites like Kobe beef ribs, pasta, and Prime New York Steak, all of which come with a limited choice of sides. We opted for the Beach Burger ($19) with fries and cole slaw as side dishes, and the New York steak – a full 16 ounces at $40 a plate – with baked potatoes and steamed Sugar Snap Peas as sides. The burger was tasty, the steak was tender and juicy, and we were quite pleased all round, as were our dining companions who opted for seafood and sandwich selections.
The menu also features a wide selection of tropical drinks, some of which are served in pineapples or melons to enhance the beach ambience, and the dessert menu includes tangy Key Lime Pie and a house speciality – ‘Mile High’ chocolate cake boasting one dozen sinfully rich layers. We couldn’t resist trying it and shared it among our dinner companions because it was seriously too big for just one person. Absolutely delicious!
Despite that the restaurant quickly became packed on the evening of our visit, the kitchen and wait staff nicely kept up with the crowd. We were told that our early arrival had helped to get us seated quickly; had we been any later, chances are that we would have faced a somewhat lengthy wait. That was indeed true because we couldn’t help but notice the long line forming as we were exiting the restaurant.
The portions were quite large and everything was cooked just as we had requested it. Certainly, the food was good and we had no complaints, but we realized that the main appeal of this restaurant is the location and the undeniable atmosphere it provides. And while certain items on the menu do lean toward overpriced, it’s easy to overlook considering the idyllic environment.
Paradise Cove is a Malibu classic – a throwback to the kind of California culture that was once made popular on the big screen, with surfers and beach parties cast against the background of the Pacific Ocean. As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen ‘Gidget, Kahoona and Moondoggie’ run across the beach to greet us. If you’re too young to understand that reference, Google ‘1960’s beach movie series starring Sandra Dee as Gidget’. Or, better yet, pay a visit to Paradise Cove the next time you’re in Malibu and see for yourself!