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So many high-end boutiques have settled here, it could be called Beverly Hills West. A sprinkling of independent shops and restaurants help retain a laid-back vibe at this hub, made up of the Malibu Country Mart, Malibu Village, and Malibu Lumberyard (converted in 2009). Crowds build slowly as the day-trippers arrive. Whether shopping for an $1,800 dress at Morgane Le Fay or a $6 crystal from Malibu Shaman, you’ll find happy staff and a restful mix of sea air and rustic hills.
1. Alice + Olivia
This is one of two West Coast boutiques devoted to New York designer Stacey Bendet. The hip-hugging dresses, skirts, and pants come in refreshing colors like scarlet and violet, while the black-and-white set will find pieces to satisfy their sensibilities. » 3939 Cross Creek Rd., Ste. B100, 310-775-8375 or aliceandolivia.com.
Now that Peruvian food is the rage, let’s not forget that Nobu Matsuhisa has long been serving tiraditos, anticuchos, and ceviches at his Malibu spot. There’s something poetic about eating sashimi within reach of the ocean. » 3835 Cross Creek Rd., Ste. 18A, 310-317-9140 or noburestaurants.com.
3. Room at the Beach
The same folks behind the late Room with a View on Montana Avenue have given their name and home accessories a seaside twist at the new Malibu location. Starfish dinnerware and shell-bedecked crosses join ceramics from Bulgaria and glassware from Scotland. » 3835 Cross Creek Rd., Ste. 23, 310-456-9777 or roomatthebeach.com.
4. Café Habana
The outdoor patio draws the crowds. Ocean breezes tickle diners’ feet as they feast on the Cubano sandwich of pulled pork or the grilled corn dusted with cotija cheese and chili powder. The mojitos are a testament to the charms of white rum. » 3939 Cross Creek Rd., Ste. D100, 310-317-0300 or cafehabana.com.
It’s hard to find gelato this good outside Rome. The fruits and nuts are grown on a biodynamic farm, and everything from the spoons to the waste bags are made of biodegradable materials or recycled paper products. » 3886 Cross Creek Rd., 310-456-9797 or grom.it.
6. Planet Blue
Opened in 1995, this store launched a retail trend that made the grown-up-bohemian look newly chic. The cro-chet and lace tops and clingy but comfy slacks and skirts work for mother and daughter. » 3835 Cross Creek Rd., Ste. 33, 310-317-9975 or shopplanetblue.com.
7. Tra di Noi
Whether serving lasagna with a rich bolognese sauce or risotto with tender fava beans, this local favorite hews to Italian stan-dards. Yellow umbrellas shelter diners on the terrace, where they are waited on attentively by the staff, and the take-out window does a brisk business. » 3835 Cross Creek Rd., Ste. 8A, 310-456-0169 or tradinoimalibu.com.
8. John’s Garden
The street’s oldest enterprise, this sandwich and snack shop goes back to 1975. Founder John Musante’s son, Jim, often mans the counter, which sends out such popular fare as the turkey and avocado Surfer/Princess on the freshest of breads. » 3835 Cross Creek Rd., Ste. 1, 310-456-8377 or johnsgardenmalibu.com.
9. Kitson Kids
The mart has several shops (98% Angel, M. Frederic, Toy Crazy) catering to children, but Kitson Kids stands out. It stocks shoes from Toms and attire from Venice-based Aviator Nation. The onesies bear such sayings as PREMATURELY PREDISPOSED TO SURFING. » 3939 Cross Creek Rd., Ste. D120, 310-317-1421 or shopkitson.com
10. Diesel, a Book Store
Local writers and interests are showcased in this airy space, getting prominent placement in sections devoted to movies, music, nature, and surf culture. In the back is a children’s alcove offering pillows and privacy. » 23410 Civic Center Way, Ste. A3, 310-456-9961 or dieselbookstore.com.
Owner, Encore boutique
“I’ve been in the Malibu Country Mart Courtyard for 23 years, which I owe to my loyal clientele. The shopping center has never looked better, with the sofas, lights, and flower beds. Every night I see the sunset outside my window, and it’s often an incredible one. The beach air is the best. I live in Calabasas, so my commute is through Malibu Canyon, which is gorgeous. This is one of the great places for families—the moms can go shopping while the children play, and the men have their own stores. It’s like a little village, and I’m part of it—a cornerstone.” »123410 Civic Center Way, Ste. D2, 310-456-7292
Illustration by Lisa Romerein