Abbot Kinney Boulevard is the rarest of streets: a tourist strip that locals actually use. Yes, the wandering “foodies” from Finland are everywhere, and the recent opening of an Adidas store on this strip that was once full of smoke shops and mom & pop stores is probably a sign of the coming apocalypse, but this street in Venice is still a great place to hang. Which is good, because you will inevitably end up here - whether it’s because you have people in town who need to make a Gjelina pilgrimage, or to see those friends who just moved from NYC and refuse to go above Lincoln.
While some of the street’s older spots have closed in recent years (RIP Joe’s, Abbot’s Habit, and Roosterfish), some classics remain alongside the new places. And there’s a surprising amount of variety - Japanese, Mexican, seafood, and more than a few Italian restaurants. Not all of the Abbot Kinney restaurants are worth your time, but the ones on this list are.
There’s no harder reservation to get in LA right now than a Saturday night table at Felix, which has something to do with the fact that there aren’t many better bowls of pasta to be found in the city. The atmosphere here is grown-up but still fun, and you can watch your pasta being handmade in a climate-controlled room in the middle of the restaurant. Get the rigatoni all’Amatriciana and the pesto trofie, and as many orders of the sfincione (a.k.a. sex bread) as you deem acceptable. It should be at least two.
Gjelina is a very good restaurant, but it can also be a complete pain. When nothing will satisfy you except one of their pizzas, but you can’t deal with the wait (and the noise), head next door to GTA. You order at the counter and eat either standing up or on one of the benches out front, but it all happens much faster (and friendlier) than at the mothership. And while the pizzas are great, we like the sandwiches even more - especially the meatball (always on baguette, not brioche) and the blackened fish.
Salt & Straw is home to the best ice cream in LA and has the lines out the door to prove it. It moves pretty quickly though, even with your friend asking to sample every flavor before she makes a decision. The specials board can get weird (edible bugs for Halloween, buttered mashed potato for Thanksgiving), but is always worth investigating. Even if you do end up always going back to the salted, malted, chocolate chip cookie dough.
Abbot Kinney doesn’t end at Venice Blvd. - one of the best restaurants on the whole street is further up, in a strip mall on the corner of Washington. South End switches tourists taking staged food photos for locals eating excellent pizza and getting sloshed on the red wine they pour like water here. The delicious pizzas are pretty traditional Italian-style (get the Boardwalk), and the owners treat you like family. Family they’re trying to get really drunk.
Like most Blue Bottles, this location doesn’t really have any food, but unlike other Blue Bottles, this one has regular visits from two of our favorite food trucks. The Rooster is there most Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, when you can get their excellent tater tot-stuffed breakfast burrito. And on Sundays, Guerrilla Tacos is out front. Hopefully you already know what that means: some sort of fish tostada, followed up by the sweet potato tacos.
At their third (and newest) Abbot Kinney restaurant, the Gjelina crew is doing something different: Japanese food. Like all Gjelina-related spots, it can definitely be a scene - there’s regularly a line of people waiting for a seat before they even open - but sitting at the long kitchen counter and chatting with the friendly staff makes it feel less so. The food - which ranges from sashimi to gyoza to made-from-scratch ramen - is solid, if not revolutionary, and obviously comes at very Venice prices.
The Butcher’s Daughter might be from NYC, but it leans in to every Venice cliche. There are wellness lattes, an entire section of the menu devoted to avocado toast, many people wearing hats inside who “don’t do sugar anymore,” and so many indoor plants it’s basically a greenhouse. But even with all of this, they manage to put out health food that tastes pretty good.
If you’d like to pretend you can actually afford a beach bungalow in Venice, come to Neighbor. This spot has good food, but is really best used as a place to have some cocktails and snacks while you wait for your table at Felix. The highly attractive place feels kind of like a living room, with lots of spaces for you to take over, including a big bar up front to hang out with your surfer friends.
If you haven’t heard of Gjelina by now, we’re assuming you’re an alien in a host body and please enjoy your time here on Earth. Gjelina is the original big-time Venice restaurant, and an Abbot Kinney staple. While getting a reservation is near impossible and actually hearing your tablemate speak even more so, the food here is still fantastic: great pizzas, excellent meatballs, and some of the best vegetables you’ll ever eat. And if you don’t actually want any hassle, come here for a weekday breakfast and get the crispy eggs with prosciutto.
Just like Salt & Straw up the street, Blue Star is a Portland kid trying their hand at making it in Hollywood. And also like Salt & Straw, Blue Star proves it can play in the big leagues. The lines at this donut shop can be long, and the pace is gentle. Not to say Blue Star has bad service - it’s just that every single person at the counter is having an emotional breakdown trying to decide which donut they want. It takes time.
This is one of the most underrated pizza-by-the-slice places in the whole city. Venice locals know of Abbot’s Pizza, but how this place doesn’t get more attention from non-Venice-people is beyond us. If the Popeye’s Chicken Pizza is hot and ready when you walk in, grab as many pieces as you can and run.
Venice isn’t really known for its Mexican food, but a block behind Abbot Kinney you’ll find a location of the Santa Monica staple Tacos Por Favor. The gigantic, hard shell tacos here are delicious, and a lunch favorite of the phone app employees around here.
You might think of The Tasting Kitchen as the place you go to when you can’t get into Gjelina, but it’s a pretty great restaurant on its own. The space feels like an expensive second home (there are indoor olive trees), but the food is more casual - mostly Italian, but they also throw in a burger and wings. Grab a spot on the patio for a longer-than-you-planned-it-to-be weekend brunch.
Despite its proximity to the water, Abbot Kinney has an odd scarcity of solid seafood spots. Which is another reason we appreciate Salt Air, a casual seafood restaurant that has quickly become one of the few real neighborhood hangouts on the street. Go heavy on the raw bar and appetizers, and definitely save room for the monkey bread.
The Zinque in West Hollywood is a sh*tshow of actors attempting to be discovered and people who eat food only to become not-hungry. The Venice location on Abbot Kinney is way more low-key, perhaps because the tourists don’t want to bother crossing Venice Blvd. for it. It’s an all-day operation with a straightforward, well-priced breakfast menu, simple sandwiches and salads and lunch, and plenty of wine all the time.
When it comes to mediocre vegan spots, Venice is a tempeh safe haven. But Plant Food and Wine is far from mediocre. The modern interior is kind of personality-less, but that back patio is a magical land of string lights and greenery hidden from the street. And the food? Great. Their tomato sandwich tastes like a grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup, and we can’t figure out how they do it.