Photo by Katrina Frederick Studio

The One Who Keeps the BookLos Angeles

How To Get Into Cobi’s, Santa Monica’s Southeast Asian Hotspot


When Cobi’s opened in Santa Monica in the fall of 2021, it was a welcome addition to the Santa Monica dining scene. Owner Cobi Marsh and her partners built a “capital-F” fun restaurant with floral wallpaper, mismatched wood chairs, and a lush patio where they serve a fiery, shareable cuisine inspired by Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Many locals became instant fans, and even some east-siders make the trek to visit, a true marker of success in traffic-ruled L.A. 

More than a year and a half in, reservations at Cobi’s are still quite sought-after, particularly those primetime tables. The good news is that unlike many restaurants in L.A., Cobi’s is open seven days a week, making it a little easier to get in. They also serve weekend brunch, with a few crossover dishes from the dinner menu, in addition to Haianan chicken rice congee, kaya french toast, and a BLT banh mi.

It’s only natural, however, to want to visit Cobi’s for dinner during its peak—from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m—when the dining room is packed, the patio is alive, and nasi gorengs are flying around and landing on almost every table. For our latest installment of The One Who Keeps the Books, our regular series dedicated to helping you land the toughest tables, we called up Kaila Fagan, Cobi’s GM since day one, to get the scoop.

Photos by Idlewild Photo Co

Resy: How many seats are there at Cobi’s?

Kaila Fagan: We can hold up to 91 guests at a given time. We have 27 tables, nine of which are four-tops (though, technically, we have 11 four-tops, but two of them can go between four and eight guests). Our covers range from 180 to 260, depending on the day. 

When do reservations drop on Resy?

KF: 30 days out. If you’re looking to dine at Cobi’s, it’s best to look at least a week ahead for a Friday or Saturday reservation, and two or three days ahead if you’re looking to come in on Sunday through Thursday.  

How quickly are primetime reservations snatched up?

KF: 30 days gives you plenty of time to plan in advance, and if you plan in advance, you can get a reservation. But especially if you have a larger party, those 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. reservations will get snatched up at midnight 30 days out.

Do you leave any seats open for walk-ins?

KF: We don’t have any walk-in tables since we are reservation-based. But we love to take people that are excited to be here! Coming in right at 5 o’clock will improve your chances of snagging a seat. Flexibility is important, too.

If someone was planning to walk in, what time and day of the week would they have the most luck?

KF: 5 o’clock on Sunday through Tuesday. Anytime before 6:30 p.m. or after 8:30 p.m. is best. 8:30 pm is still alive here, it’s still a great time, and the wait isn’t usually too long if you don’t have a reservation.

Grilled gai yang chicken. Photo by Katrina Frederick Studio
Grilled gai yang chicken. Photo by Katrina Frederick Studio

When are you busiest, and what is the average wait time during peak?

KF: Wednesday through Sunday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. A walk-in table isn’t always a possibility since we are reservation-based, but if someone hasn’t made a reservation or if someone misses their grace period (without a phone call), I will take walk-ins.

How long is your Notify list on Resy?

KF: It can go up to 100 people waiting, but it’s primarily calls and walk-ins that come in through the night that I’ll add to the waitlist. Those will be the people I’ll reach out to the most throughout the evening, the night of service. 

If someone were to set a Notify, is there a particular day or time they’d be more likely to get a reservation?

KF: It depends on the time of year and the weather. Everything fluctuates around here because Santa Monica, and Main Street in particular, is a tourist-populated area. It’s those early reservations that will pop up the most, though. You really need to get ahead of it and plan to secure those 7 p.m. slots.

Are there any other tricks or tips for getting a primetime table? 

KF: Be excited to be here. Be willing to try some wine in our bar. And stay close to me, so I know that you really want that table. A lot of people come in and then they leave, and I’ll reach out to them and give them a 10-minute grace period to respond, but that really affects the flow of the restaurant because when someone does cancel, we only have a limited amount of time to accommodate that walk-in. Also, if you come in and you book a reservation for, let’s say, 8:30 p.m., and you’re willing to wait 45 minutes, I might be able to get you in earlier, at 8 or 8:15 p.m. If you’re on our reservation list, you’re our top priority. 

Grilled prawns and nasi goreng. Photo by Katrina Frederick Studio
Nasi goreng Photo by Katrina Frederick Studio

What do you think is the best seat in the house?

KF: If you sit in the garden, you’re immersed in the outdoors and the plants. If you’re on the patio you get somewhat kissed by the sun, but it’s more of a bungalow feeling. And then if you’re in the dining room, it’s so cozy; it’s like you’re in your grandmother’s house. I, personally, love the dining room, I like being right by the window—we call those tables 10 and 6. They’re right in the corner, you can see the whole restaurant, and you get a view of the street.

Can guests request specific tables?

KF: Yes, you may request specific tables, and we do our best to accommodate requests, but we get many throughout the evening, so they are on a first come first serve basis. We’ll never say no to you, but it can require some patience if you’re really set on a specific table.

Does Cobi’s have a lot of regulars? What percentage of the dining room is filled with people you see over and over?

KF: We definitely have our fair share of Santa Monica locals. I would say maybe 20% of the dining room are regulars. A lot of our guests are newcomers, they’re new to the area, they’re visiting for the first time, or they’ve traveled across L.A. to be here.

It’s Friday night at Cobi’s, set the scene: what music are you playing, and what dish is on every table?

KF: Cobi’s is a little bit more elevated in the music sense where it’s loud but not blaring––it’s fun, it’s lively. We play mostly reggae and Afrobeats. Everyone is going to be having the nasi goreng and the butter chicken; those are the house favorites around here. 

When, in your opinion, is the best time to be at Cobi’s?

KF: I think right when we open. It’s really light and bright, and everyone has all of their energy still. It’s quieter in here, too, so it’s definitely a different experience [than coming later on].

If someone is visiting for the first time, what should they definitely order?

KF: You have to get the nasi goreng and the butter chicken, but do not sleep on the chicken larb, the grilled prawns, or the roti. I’m a huge fan, too, of the branzino. It’s absolutely delicious— soft white fish with delicious yellow curry, and it pairs well with the roti and the rice.

Does Cobi’s have any off-menu dishes? 

KF: From time to time, we have [chef] Gary Ly’s fried chicken on Saturdays and Sundays after brunch. So if you’re looking to snag some fried chicken during dinner, it would be on those days. Otherwise, it’s only served on our brunch menu. That’s one you cannot miss, so do ask for that. It has a perfect crispy texture and a wonderful balance of spicy and sweet, with hot honey served on the side.

Is there anything else about the Cobi’s experience that you think diners should know about?

KF: Know that you’re walking into the mind of Cobi’s and be ready to have a good time. Try things you’ve never heard of and open your mind to this style of cuisine. 

Emily Wilson is a Los Angeles-based food writer from New York. She has contributed to Bon Appétit, Eater, TASTE, The Los Angeles Times, Punch, Atlas Obscura, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Resy, too.