There are a lot of places to eat in Santa Monica, about 544 businesses serve food according to city tax data and a wave of new openings this year will expand the already large casual dining scene.

Del Taco, Fatburger/Buffalo’s Express, and Firehouse Subs all opened recently. Chick-Fil-A and Mel’s Drive-in both plan to open in the coming months.

As of last year, about 13 percent of the City’s eateries were considered fine dining. Fast-casual restaurants were 11 percent, casual dining was 33 percent and quick-service restaurants were 43 percent. Of the new openings, all would fall into the quick-service category except Mel’s. None are located in the Downtown where City Hall has previously tried to incentivize sit-down dining.

Del Taco has opened at 2425 Wilshire Blvd. replacing the former Jack-in-The-Box location near Douglass Park.

“Del Taco has built a tremendous following in Los Angeles over the years by offering an unbeatable combination of fresh food, served fast and at a tremendous value,” said Barry Westrum, Del Taco’s Chief Marketing Officer in a statement. “Whether guests are craving our Grilled Chicken Taco, a fan-favorite with quality ingredients like freshly grilled chicken and hand-grated cheddar cheese, or one of our Epic Burritos or even our famous Crinkle-Cut Fries, we enjoy offering the Los Angeles community an assortment of items sure to satisfy every craving.”

While the Mexican chain replaces a burger joint, the city has gained a new burger and fries restaurant with the Fatburger/Buffalo’s Express combination at the corner of Lincoln and Pico. It’s the 46th location in the Los Angeles area for the company.

“Opening in Santa Monica is a sort of homecoming for us. After years of restructuring, growing internationally and undergoing an IPO, it’s still a big deal to us to serve this community,” said FAT Brands CEO Andy Wiederhorn in a statement. “Aside from our fan-favorite burgers and shakes, we’re also excited to get our recently launched Impossible Burger and our sister brand Buffalo’s Express wings in the hands of Angelenos. Our menu is the perfect way to provide something for everyone in the family.”

Buffalo’s Express is a recent addition to the company’s portfolio, opening its first location in 2012. The menu includes chicken wings, proprietary wing sauces, fries, sides, wraps, salads and desserts.

Fatburger’s location is part of a group of stores that have been rehabilitated recently and it replaces a Hawaiian fast-food restaurant. It shares a parking lot with the newly opened Firehouse Subs.

Firehouse opened their first Santa Monica location this month under the ownership of husband and wife, Pete and Kamelia Abolverdi.

According to the company, the Santa Monica location is the first in a multi-unit franchise agreement with the owners that will cover seven restaurants in the area.

“We’re so thankful to be a part of the Firehouse Subs family, and look forward to carrying on the brand’s commitment and passion for hearty and flavorful food, heartfelt service and public safety,” said Pete who grew up in Florida where the company began. “We couldn’t ask for a better place than Santa Monica to open, or a more perfect brand to invest with and grow.”

Firehouse was founded by former firefighters and the company has a charity operation that supports firefighters. Each store includes a mural depicting a local fire company.

Chick-fil-A, Inc. and Mel’s Drive-in confirmed their Santa Monica restaurants are on track to open this year.

“We are excited to confirm Chick-fil-A will be coming to Santa Monica in Spring 2018 at the corner of Lincoln Blvd. and Pacific St.,” said a statement from Chick-fil-A, Inc. The Santa Monica location will replace a Taco Bell.

Mel’s said their restaurant at Lincoln and Olympic will open this summer.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...