All-in-One Eat/Play/Beach Stop: Gladstone’s PCH

by Jessica on January 13, 2012

Kid Hit Menu Items: Even though the Gladstone’s isn’t generally a bargain hunter’s paradise, the menu for kids under 12 is actually a terrific value. All items are $5 for substantial portions. And most of them come with fries. When compared to the regular full fish n’ chips priced at $24.95, the $5 child’s plate gives you reason to bring the kids along with you to Gladstone’s. Great! Just as long as the kitchen isn’t being sneaky and swapping out cod with a sketchy ocean protein. Chunky grilled cheese sandwich halves will be devoured, and the unavoidable chicken fingers and burgers will help get everyone through the meal portion of a family beach visit. Breakfast options include Gladstone’s “Sand Dollar” pancakes and an eggs/bacon/toast combo.

Adult Perks: Gladstone’s efficiently covers a lot of territory. Thanks to the new sand pit area there’s the family scene, and as always, you’ve got the singles/bar/young groups of friends mix, which seems to be ramped up a notch because of the relatively recent sbe ownership. As for the food, Gladstones’ overly mucked with lobster roll that’s trying to mask mediocre, bland meat won’t leap to the forefront of my mind when I crave that dish, but it’s hard to complain too much when you’re eating the sandwich along with house-made potato chips and gazing at the ocean.

Pros: Plant two trees with one seed/kill two seagulls with one stone for a streamlined meal and beach going experience. You can kind of treat it like your quasi-private beach club for the day — sort of a hybrid of the Annenberg Beach House and the Jonathan Club. Choose from the sand box or real actual beach, in a specific spot that’s close to the ocean and doesn’t require endless walking along the sand to reach the water like in other parts of Santa Monica and Malibu. The parking isn’t too expensive considering the location. The whole place is loud and unruly, as a huge beachfront restaurant should be.

Cons: Gladstone’s has never been known as the paragon of quality seafood, and I’m a bit nostalgic for the older authentic, 70s beach shack-y vibe. So pastas in the $30 range? NO thanks to those, and to other oversized portions that should just be smaller and cheaper. The touristy trap-factor is unavoidable, which also applies to locals who are playing tourist in their own town, too (ahem). And of course the hazard of any summer beach trip — PCH TRAFFIC! So consider going during winter months like the balmy January we’re experiencing this year.

Changing Station: Yes

High Chairs: Yes

Parking and Access: Reduced fee valet parking with validation, which is much easier than cruising along PCH and trying to nab a spot. Especially when you’re schlepping kids and gear.

Other Tidbits: Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote for L.A. Parent magazine’s On the Go Guide:

Gladstone’s has recently undergone a facelift since the sbe Group (of the infamous Hollywood nightclub empire) became involved with this beachfront institution. Usual hulking platters of seafood, salads, and sandwiches come with price tags that make it clear you’re occupying prime real estate, but kids’ menu items are $5. The outdoor sandpit gives children a taste of the beach experience if a complete excursion isn’t part of the plan, and valet parking is $6, which is fair when compared to the going rate for lots in the area. Call it one-stop-beach-day-shopping, especially given the proximity of the ocean to the restaurant. Gladstone’s also offers picnic style meals for truly oceanfront dining. And yes, the staff still packages leftovers in elaborate sea creature-inspired tinfoil sculptures.

New York-based Café Habana and truly authentic Italian Grom Gelato tempt Malibu denizens and visitors alike. Or go old school and check out the motorcycles that gather at Neptune’s Net further up the coast, or head to the fabulously funky Reel Inn, where fresh fish tacos still please hungry hordes looking to refuel after romping in the Pacific.

Also to keep in mind when considering other beach-adjacent options: there’s a Hungry Cat Santa Monica location.


17300 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades/Malibu
(310) 454-3474
Cuisine: Seafood/American
Price: $$$
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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