Birria + Ramen = Birriamen
Low-key Abbot Kinney eatery with internationally inspired fare
After a refresh earlier in 2019, the space that housed Salt Air for six years was reborn as this comfy neighborhood gem with Vartan Abgaryan (formerly of DTLA’s 71 Above) heading up the kitchen. He’s focusing heavily on shareable seafood and seasonal produce dishes laced with layers of international flavors like a bowl of coconut-poblano broth brimming with clams and mussels and a signature Nashville hot shrimp paired with Japanese milk bread. The eatery’s unicorn (i.e. unpretentious service on Abbot Kinney) make you want to stay a while.
Stylish new spot with seafood, cocktails, and sidewalk patio next to the pier
This seafood-centric bar-restaurant took over its coveted beachfront spot after 70-plus-year-old local haunt The Terrace shuttered earlier this year. The space got a complete overhaul inspired by vintage Venice, with a whitewashed dining room, copper bar, groovy light fixtures, and tiled sidewalk patio. It’s now home to some of the most innovative food on the block, with lots of global influences on the menu including a kanpachi-strawberry aguachile; a crunchy wax bean Thai salad heated up with bird’s eye chili; and a smattering of homemade pastas including a shellfish spaghetti pomodoro. The cocktail program’s also impressive (and at $12 a drink, actually a good bang for your buck here at the beach). Next door, the same crew is running Neapolitan-style pizzeria and cafe Cartolina.
Daytime casual cafe with bowls, breakfast, and coffee bar
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love this daytime cafe, with its bright-and-airy interior, casual vibe, and a breakfast and lunch menu that’s heavy on fresh veggies and seafood, all a freshly baked blueberry scone’s throw from the ocean. You can find current-day usual suspects like avocado toast and breakfast burritos along with bowls layered with smoked salmon and house-pickled onion or ancient grains and turmeric-roasted cauliflower as well as a solid espresso bar. The place also takes pride in playing curated music mixes designed for certain times of the day. The same team recently opened Med-inspired dinner-and-cocktails spot (get it?) Gran Blanco a few doors down.
Modern Mexican spot with mezcal cocktails and killer aguachile
This Cal-Mexican eatery and mezcal bar has clearly accomplished its mission of creating a Tulum-meets-Venice vibe, with its sidewalk patio and an open-air dining room with breeze-block bench seating, poppy yellow fabrics, pots of cactus and succulents, and straw-covered light fixtures. That goes double for the extra attractive crowd (with the requisite ratio of wide-brimmed felt hats). The food is equally beautiful with bowls of watermelon radish and hamachi aguachile and cauliflower fundido layered with colorful shishitos. Try a seasonal margarita, or the mezcal-based mole Old Fashioned, too.
Wine-and-seafood-focused neighborhood eatery near the beach
After closing up shop a couple years back, sommelier Conner Mitchell (who also has his own Baja wine label) has returned to the same space, just a few doors from the beach, bringing on former Akasha chef Danny Somoza to create a casual, seafood-and-small-plates-heavy menu that perfectly fits the locale with an oyster offering, small plates of smoked trout dip and tuna crudo, and bigger dishes like clam-pork toast and pan-seared octopus. The wine list is, unsurprisingly, both extensive and interesting, as well as especially affordable on Monday nights when DM offers most of its bottles at half off.
Bright, big, and buzzy all-day vegetarian restaurant
The self-proclaimed “vegetable slaughterhouse” (which got its start in NYC) is equal parts hotspot, brunch hangout, juice bar, and vegetarian eatery, all housed in a bright design-centric space with soaring ceilings, white-brick walls, distressed woods, copper accents, and that ultra-of-the-moment LA restaurant accessory: the hanging plant. Look for breakfast dishes of shakshuka and avocado toast benedict, a variety of sandwiches and bowls at lunch, and an evening menu of mezze platters, cheese boards, fried oyster “calamari,” and housemade pastas. Stone-oven pizzas (which can be made with gluten-free, cauliflower crusts) are available day and night.
The third installment of Kris Yenbamroong’s creative Thai street food group
Thai food-lacking Venice was the perfect place for chef-owner Kris Yenbamroong to open his third (but we’re betting not last) Night+Market outpost, showcasing more of his Thai street food custom creations like that ultra-fiery papaya salad, a mussel-and-oyster seafood pancake, and drunken noodles laced with Langer’s pastrami. The bar-less dining room, with its poppy pink walls that match the exterior and tables covered in floral vinyl tablecloths, is often slammed, and you’ll often spot diners-in-waiting sipping Singha or passing the time with rosé while wedged by the front door.
Plant-based fare on the patio from chef/restaurateur Matthew Kenny’s
Matthew Kenney’s now-international vegan empire is officially too large to keep track of, with venues in cities from Boston to Bogota, but this Abbot Kinney outpost still feels firmly Venice cool with its minimalist interior, sunny back patio, and upscale seasonal menu. Look for plates of summer stone fruit and squash laced with almond feta and a pistachio cream-topped smoked gnocchi, along with plant-based plays on classics including a kelp noodle cacio é pepe and kung pao cauliflower. The organic wine list is solid, and you can also opt for the six-course tasting menu if you really want to impress. Check out Kenney’s vegan wood-fired pizza place Double Zero over on Lincoln, which also boasts the “world’s first transparent frozen pizza production facility,” something we never knew the world was actually looking for.
Gjelina’s izakaya and ramen sibling down the street
Travis Lett and the Gjelina gang continue to conquer the world -- or at least Venice -- with his California-spin on izakaya and ramen inside a sleek Abbot Kinney space. And as usual with a Lett-created menu, it’s a long one with salads, hand rolls (which, depending on time of year, might be stuffed with Baja-sourced uni or wild local salmon), nearly a dozen vegetable plates, charcoal-grilled skewered duck, skirt steak, and toro, and a variety of big, brothy ramen bowls filled with everything from shitake and fresh bamboo to chicken meatballs and charred kale. It’s not the place you go for an economic bowl of ramen (with only one sub-$20). Those who want a glass of white wine, beer, sake, or a shochu cocktail are provided with lots of options, but red wine drinkers can take their pinot-loving business elsewhere.
Healthy deli food in a strip mall
A deli that isn’t a minefield of mayo-laden, nitrite-laced, stacked sandwiches isn’t always easy to find, but this one doles out healthy, sustainable fare with veggie-friendly versions of deli sandwiches including its fabled Reuben, along with quinoa bowls, killer vegan breakfast sandwiches served all day, probiotic smoothies, and coconut fro-yo. There’s omnivorous fare, too, but the place is happy to customize dishes and make them vegan-friendly -- hear that, every other restaurant in LA?
Unpretentious institution with a straightforward menu
This unassuming dive bar on the busy Washington strip is the type of place where, at 1am on a Monday night, you can play pool with a stranger, sip on ice-cold beer served from a frosty glass pitcher, and tear into a juicy, classic burger as unpretentious as the place itself. And if your surroundings look familiar, that’s because Hinano has appeared on shows like Dexter and NCIS: Los Angeles, as well as the movie S.W.A.T. -- yes, the one that teamed up Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell.
Long-standing pizzeria famous for its bagel crusts
The geniuses at Abbot’s hit the jackpot by fusing two of man’s favorite foods. For over a decade, this place has been serving delicious pizzas made with chewy, yet crisp, bagel crusts -- a starchy match made in heaven.
Sprawling open-kitchen restaurant serving all-day Californian fare
Under the helm of chef Jason Neroni, The Rose (which underwent a brilliant reinvention in 2015) has grown into a perpetually lively Rose Avenue hotspot, with reimagined favorites for breakfast and brunch like oat griddled pancakes and avocado toast with pickled Fresnos, and a fried eggs-and-broccolini plate. Dinner dishes range from creative house charcuterie offerings like pork and ramp terrine accompanied by nectarine kimchi, to al dente pastas (carbonara is a classic, but order the uni-topped wakame spaghetti for something especially unique). There’s plenty more; including killer pizzas in the bar and beer garden, ensuring Rose’s menu is vast enough to match its sprawling, stunning space.
Delicious organic, vegan eats that will satisfy even omnivores
Venice Beach’s hippie-dippie vibes are written all over Cafe Gratitude’s organic, plant-based menu. Dishes go by names like I Am Grateful (a kale-grain-black bean bowl drizzled with garlic tahini sauce) or I Am Glorious (a blackened tempeh wrap layered with cashew caesar dressing and coconut bacon), but each one is surprisingly satisfying and delicious. When your brain’s screaming, “I am hungry, but want to eat healthy,” go here.
Upscale restaurant with a market-driven menu
The Tasting Kitchen is about as fancy as Venice Beach gets -- meaning not very, although considering its unfussy attitude and spontaneous approach to food, that’s a plus. The menu is ever-changing but a few staples – including the salt-roasted branzino and some variation of a $20-ish cheeseburger – are usually on offer. If you’re feeling extra hungry, gun for the five-course chef’s choice tasting menu, which’ll set you back a not-so-terrible $95 per person.
Rustic, modern American food with charming decor
It’s hard to beat this Abbot Kinney standby for date night: The lighting’s dim, most of the food is meant to be shared, and the rustic-slash-romantic outdoor patio will charm your dining partner as much as the perfectly executed squash blossom pizza and crisp duck confit. That said, Gjelina’s brunch menu is equally excellent -- y’know, in case the date goes especially well.
Tasty grab-and-go tacos for cheap
Perched on the corner of Rose and 4th, this taco truck is a local gem. The fresh ceviche tostada, which maintains a satisfying crunch without ever getting soggy (how?!), is a must, though the meat-centric menu is killer, too. Easy-on-the-wallet prices also mean you won’t mind grabbing a seat curbside.
Cozy cafe with filling breakfast and lunch options
Nothing fixes a tequila-induced morning migraine like one of Flake’s stuffed-to-the-gills breakfast burritos, or its hearty Super-Crojo: a pile of warm scrambled eggs, crisped bacon, smoked Gouda, and special secret sauce tucked into a flaky, toasted croissant.
Perpetually busy artisanal bakery-meets-deli-meets-cafe
What Gjusta lacks in seating, it more than makes up for with dripping porchetta melts and baklava croissants. Mix and match from different stations -- one brimming with house-made pastries; the next filled with charcuterie, cured fish, and interesting spreads; still another displaying enormous pies and cakes -- and eat it all while perched at a communal table out on the patio.
Spacious sausage-focused restaurant ideal for big groups
You won’t find any weird mystery meat dogs here -- only succulent, flavor-packed, gourmet sausages served on freshly baked rolls. That said, there are still some exotic options, like mildly spicy rattlesnake or duck and bacon links. The food and venue are casual enough for a quick, post-work bite, but the vibe’s also fun and boisterous if you want to do a big group dinner or birthday celebration.
Unassuming made-to-order deli sandwiches by the ocean
Venice has plenty of exemplary dining options, but locals tend to avoid the overpriced, underwhelming eateries by the boardwalk. Bellissimo is an exception: the charming deli’s gourmet sandwiches are all you need pre-sun and -surf.
Authentic BBQ restaurant that encourages family-style dining
The restaurant’s got a Type A attitude about its meat, so all the prime cuts are tender, moist, and fall-off-the-bone delicious. That said, it’s the homemade barbeque sauces that really seal the deal. Pro tip: if you can handle the heat, smother your ribs in the fiery XXX blend.
Wood-fired eats in a sleek steakhouse setting
The brainchild of chef Josiah Citrin, Charcoal cooks almost everything (lamb chops, smoky chicken wings, bone-in short ribs) over a live fire. Even non-meat dishes -- like smoked mushroom and beet tartare or its cult-status cabbage wedges baked in the embers until charred -- get the same treatment and end up tasting like comfort food.
Iconic neighborhood restaurant offering classic Mexican and tequila
Find famous house-made flour tortillas (served with butter! what?), signature sauce-doused calamari steaks, a roving margarita cart creating cocktails tableside and nightly lounge lizard vocalists inside the nearly 40-year-old Mexican restaurant (named after a film set in Morocco, but no matter) that serves as an excellent antidote to one too-many hip dining experiences.
Buzzy restaurant serving a modern take on old-school Italian
Venice restaurants generally tend to be low-key affairs, which is why always-buzzing Scopa -- with its high ceilings, exposed brick, industrial vibe, and a groovy playlist – could pass for a newfangled hot spot in the Arts District. But there’s clearly a void that this cool Italian spot’s filling for Westsiders -- especially in our stomachs, which have thoroughly enjoyed Chef Antonia Lofaso’s rich ricotta crostini, fried rice balls, and beautifully prepared pastas for the past six years. Scopa’s top-notch beverage program also means it’s a great place to kick-start your night out.
Lively, critically acclaimed Italian trattoria with the best pasta in LA
If you somehow managed to secure a dinner reservation at Felix -- currently the Westside’s most hyped Italian restaurant -- make sure it’s on the early side. That’s because some of chef Evan Funke’s best dishes -- especially the mouth-watering sfincione (a rosemary-kissed focaccia with an olive oil-oozing crust and pillow-soft interior) and meaty pappardelle -- are actually worth the hype and tend to sell out before the late dinner crowd arrives. Have an 8pm seating? The rest of the food is still very good, with pizza dough mixed by hand and pastas made in an on-site, temperature-controlled room.
Mexican seafood gem slinging tostadas, tacos, and ceviche
After experiencing major success at Grand Central Market, this Mexican seafood spot just opened a second location on Abbot Kinney, bringing its Baja-influenced ceviche and tacos to the Westside. Most items are on the lighter side -- like the chilled white fish tostadas or gringos tacos (a mix of grilled shrimp and tender octopus loaded on a sturdy corn tortilla) -- but you can always order the shrimp and Oaxaca cheese Patrona burger for something more substantial. Bonus: Topo Chico’s also on the menu.
Restaurant/cafe/bakery beloved for freshly baked goods and brunch
Superba’s a neighborhood go-to, welcoming at any time of day. Seasonal pastries, like churro croissants or pear pistachio danishes, are available to grab and go. Breakfast or brunch calls for an order of the delicious cheesy eggs served over levain toast, and the lunch menu has a varied selection of burgers, omelets, and sandwiches (fried chicken is a favorite), but dinner’s where things get a touch more creative, including flavor combos like roasted carrots with fennel and pickled raisins or fries drizzled with rice wine vinegar.
Cool, New American date-night spot with artisanal cocktails
If you couldn’t snag a last-minute table at Felix and walked into nearby Neighbor for dinner, chances are you’d leave pretty happy -- as long as you’re OK forsaking pure Italian food for the night. This relative newcomer to Abbot Kinney sports a typical new American menu (Wagyu tartare and horseradish ice oysters for starters; strip steak and tandoori chicken for mains), but there are a few surprises to be had, like this summer’s whole dorade with long beans. And don’t leave without ordering a drink: fancy craft cocktails boast names like Venice Queen and Kimmy Gimlet, while the wine list is handpicked by James Endicott (formerly of New York’s Per Se). Oh, and those groovy tunes you hear? That’s DJ Morse Code, the restaurant’s Music Director who was hired to curate its auditory vibes.
Late-night joint serving grown-up breakfast for dinner
There’s a huge chunk of the general population who thinks breakfast (or brunch) food is the best food, which is where Nighthawk comes in -- but this breakfast-themed restaurant (formerly based in Hollywood) doesn’t just serve your standard morning fare. The soft, scrambled eggs come with foie gras and duck jus, French toast is saturated in pear brandy and topped with mascarpone mousse, bacon is candied (and amazing), and coffee drinks are made with alcohol. Perhaps most creative of all? Spiked cereal milk cocktails in pairings like Cinnamon Toast Crunch coupled with spiced rum or Cocoa Puffs and vanilla vodka.
Creamery hawking creative, crave-worthy flavors
Ohio-based Jeni’s has four fantastic LA shops, but the spacious Venice outpost might be best of all -- bright and quirky like the vibe of the street it’s on. Flavors can range from understated and delicious (like Savannah Buttermint, a simple, minty-buttery ice cream with white chocolate flecks) to utterly loaded and delicious (such as gooey butter cake or the sweet cream biscuits and peach jam combo). And if those imaginative flavors don’t keep you coming back again and again, the ice cream’s rich, luscious mouthfeel will.
Family-friendly Italian eatery with hearty portion sizes
This family-friendly Italian restaurant straddles the Venice/Marina del Rey border, but deserves to be on dining guides for both neighborhoods thanks to three little words: free garlic knots. These hot, doughy, chewy balls are absolutely smothered in garlic and olive oil and come in unlimited quantities; feel free to supplement with C&O’s pastas, which are excellent and generously portioned but hard to finish when you’ve polished off your weight in complimentary bread.
Modern Indonesian fusion spot perfect for date night
There aren’t a ton of Indonesian restaurants on the Westside, and there are even fewer that are housed in a beautiful space with modern architectural details. Combined with good Indo food (somewhat traditional, somewhat not), this makes Wallflower pretty special. Get the nasi goreng, bakwan (deep-fried corn fritters balanced by a vinegar-chili dip), and a legitimately spicy beef rendang that’s been simmered in kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal.