You Can Get Reservations for Free Dinner in Taco Bell's Insane Test Kitchen
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, Rose Cafe (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 griddle pancakes and a breakfast burrito served with peanut-poblano mole. Dinner dishes fall on the rich end of the spectrum -- ranging from charcuterie (whipped lardo and porchetta) to al dente pastas (carbonara is a classic, but order the yuzu- and uni butter-flavored wakame spaghetti for something unique). If none of the above floats your boat, there’s plenty more on the menu (which is vast enough to match Rose Cafe’s sprawling, stunning space).
Fun brunch or dinner spot with colorful, Caribbean flavors
Sunny Spot’s brunch scene is loud and celebratory -- sort of like its bold, Caribbean-inspired food. The savory-leaning menu (which until 2015 was overseen by Roy Choi) boasts pulled pork burritos, huevos rancheros, and your pick of bottomless mimosas, Bloody Marys, or rum punch (see: loud and celebratory).
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 quinoa/kale bowl drizzled with garlic tahini sauce) or I Am Warm-Hearted (grilled polenta served with braised summer squash), 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. Order the salt-roasted branzino and the pimento cheeseburger a la carte, or 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.
Food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar hawking Asian fusion tacos
Taco purists may say that no self-respecting taco would include a sunny-side-up egg, but they’ve clearly never tasted Komodo’s MP3: It's the perfect example of the restaurant’s Asian fusion mash-ups, it features chunks of sirloin steak, tater tots, and a fried quail egg. Meat, seafood, and accompanying dressings -- like Indonesian-inspired pork rendang braised in coconut milk or chicken tossed with crushed peanuts and hoisin -- can be made into a taco, burrito, or rice bowl, while sides like dumplings and kimchi nachos fill out the rest of the menu.
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 grilled squash with yuzu pumpkin vinaigrette or 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
Casablanca serves mouthwatering Mexican (the tortillas, rumored to be made with beef lard, are legendary) and margaritas. A bartender wheels a cart of top-shelf tequila around and prepares drinks tableside, making you 100 times more likely to call a Lyft after dinner.
Buzzy restaurant serving a modern take on old-school Italian
Venice restaurants generally tend to be low-key affairs, which is why Scopa -- with its high ceilings, exposed brick, industrial vibe, and a playlist that includes Sampha -- looks like it belongs more in the Arts District or West Hollywood. 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 few years. Scopa’s top-notch beverage program also means it’s a great place to kick-start your night out.
Relaxed atmosphere with beers on tap and Mexican fare
Expecting a classic Mexican joint? Not your place. If, however, you’re in the mood for chipotle beer shrimp and Mexican corn on the cob, Cerveteca hits the spot. It’s also known for craveable barbacoa and fish tacos, as well as a spicy, seafood-heavy hangover soup.
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.
Bright, airy, all-day restaurant with seafood-leaning menu
Salt Air doesn’t succumb to being your typical trendy Abbot Kinney hotspot, and that’s a good thing. This unassuming neighborhood spot nails its seafood dishes -- like trout on brioche toast with Thai basil or chili-glazed Scottish salmon -- with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and flavors that don’t overwhelm. Everything is fresh and light, which means you’ll never leave here with a bloated food coma, which also means you can pop by to nearby Jeni’s or Salt & Straw for dessert.
Recently revamped sports bar serving elevated comfort food
Surfside moved into the space previously occupied by local hangout Danny’s -- and it tried hard to preserve and display some of the former spot’s artifacts. But this sports bar/restaurant has a spotless, new look (although given its proximity to the boardwalk, we don’t expect that to last long). Most importantly, Surfside has a totally updated menu worth checking out: casual American comfort food with a few Asian-leaning flavors, like fries smothered in caramelized kimchi and sesame seeds, slow-roasted miso caramel pork belly, and a bulgogi burger. There’s lighter fare too (grain bowls and salads), but when you’re watching a football game with your fourth IPA in hand, all you’ll want is something heavy and preferably fried.
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 (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and burrata for starters; diver scallops, chicken, and steak for mains), but there are a few surprises to be had, like potato-ricotta gnocchi and buckwheat noodles served with black garlic and enoki mushrooms. 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.
Recently upgraded Japanese hangout with inventive dishes
The decor and menu at this long-time Japanese spot -- formerly known as Wabi Sabi -- got an upgrade recently that’s turned it into a hip hangout. Grab a table on the outdoor patio, where the walls and ceiling drip with lush hanging plants, and start with izakaya-style small plates. Then dive into the heart of the menu: signature Japanese-style seafood with a twist, like seared toro served with caviar, salmon sprinkled with ponzu and truffle oil, or amberjack with coconut chili lime. Rolls are innovative here as well; the Pablo Escobar includes fried leek and crawfish salad, while the PB&J is stuffed with sous vide pork belly, avocado mousse, and 24K gold (edible, of course).
Fresh and quick Mediterranean eats for the millennial
Dune is a Middle Eastern oasis in the sea of new American, Italian, and Mexican restaurants that make up the Venice dining scene. Few other spots on the Westside specialize in making falafel this good: a crisp exterior that gives way to a fluffy, tender interior, easily broken down for eating atop charred flatbread with pickled veggies, onions, and loads of creamy hummus. (If you’ve ever eaten at Paris’s L’As du Fallafel, Dune’s version of the balls is something like that.) There’s more to the menu -- a fried chicken “shawarma” sandwich, chicken souvlaki, and lamb -- but eating the falafel alone will leave you as happy as a clam.
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.