Venice gets a bad rap: It’s expensive, full of very-cool people and less-cool tourists, obsessed with healthy food, filled with Bird scooters, and kind of a pain in the ass.
But we’re here to tell you that Venice isn’t that bad. It’s a neighborhood that actually feels like a neighborhood - you can walk places, and all the locals seem to know each other. More importantly for our purposes, the food is great. It might not have everything (authentic Asian food for one, much Mexican for another), and yep, it’s mostly pretty expensive. But that still leaves lots of good food to be had. And tourists to make fun of.
For all its “coolest street in America” buzz, restaurants don’t open all that often on Abbot Kinney. So the entire neighborhood was lined up in advance when Italian spot Felix opened down at the beach-end of the street in 2017, and while it’s still consistently packed, Felix is also as good as ever. It’s essentially a temple of pasta, complete with a climate-controlled pasta-making space in the middle of the dining room, and a pesto pasta that shouldn’t be missed.
Gjusta is everything that’s both terrible and wonderful about Venice. Even though there are always multiple people pretending they’re living in a personal style blog (often while waiting to order), Gjusta is one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood. Locals pop in and pick up pastrami lox and baklava croissants for brunch at home, and not-locals cross the city for the breakfast bialy sandwiches. It’s open all day, and it does incredible things with bread and porchetta (both together and separately) - even the burger is excellent.
Dudley Market is a fun, crowded spot a block from the beach, and a meal here makes you feel like you’ve joined a secret club of sommelier surfers who also know a lot about rod-and-reel fishing. Most of the seafood they serve is caught on the restaurant-owned boat, so if it’s on the menu today, there’s a good chance it was swimming in the ocean this morning. The bluefin tataki, clam and pork toast, and whole-fried fish are all some of our favorites, but we also highly recommend the decidedly not-from-the-ocean hamburger with bacon-onion jam.
We selfishly thought about leaving this one off the list, but we couldn’t do that to you. The Neapolitan-style pizzas at South End are too good to keep to ourselves. And they’re only made better by the fact that you are guaranteed to be poured a glass of wine while you wait. Only Venice locals seem to know about this place - and now you do, too.
Venice certainly isn’t the first place you’d expect to find a great steakhouse, but that’s exactly what American Beauty is. This spot on Rose Ave. serves excellent steakhouse classics, like a killer dry-aged 32 oz. porterhouse and the requisite sides, like a big potato pancake stuffed with onion and sour cream, plus, a burger with Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. But they’re also branching out with some really good originals, like the minty scallop carpaccio and the whole-cooked orata with a creamy eggplant puree. Next time you’ve got a business dinner in the area, and know that Cafe Gratitude just won’t cut it, American Beauty should be at the top of your list.
The first Westside location of Teddy’s Red Tacos is just as good as the original in Boyle Heights (which made our list of The Best Tacos In LA). And while the atmosphere in a shop off the boardwalk in Venice doesn’t quite live up to the original truck parked on train tracks, the rich, spicy beef birria is exactly the same. It’s the only thing on the menu, and the way to order it is in deluxe platter form, which comes with a quesadilla, mulita, tostada, taco, and pozole. You’ll be extremely full - and happy.
It’s hard enough to find a restaurant by the boardwalk with decent food, let alone one with good food and a crowd you actually want to hang out with. But Gran Blanco has both. It’s from the same owners as Great White across the street, and here, they channel that spot’s low-key, Aussie beach energy into a cocktail bar. The drinks are good across the board - we like the Celery Southside, which includes gin and celery - but the reason we’re really here most often is the burger. It’s a juicy, crispy smashburger with melty American cheese, and it adds to Venice’s tradition of top-notch burgers.
Speaking of burgers - they don’t get any better that the ones at Hinano, a no-frills, sawdust-on-the-floor, pool-cue-in-your-ribs beach dive that’s been a local fave since the 1960s (back when those locals included Jim Morrison). The burgers are super-traditional, grilled right behind the bar, and come in a basket with a bag of chips on the side, so needless to say they’re best enjoyed with a cold beverage (or six) of your choosing. The chili’s also good, and they serve breakfast starting at 8am if you’re looking to start your day the Lizard King way.
If Gjusta is New Venice, James’ Beach is Old-ish Venice. Best known for being the fish taco place in I Love You, Man, it’s one of those spots that’s both a party and a restaurant. It’s an indoor/outdoor space, and if you’re sitting on the patio on a Friday night, your dinner will probably get taken over by bar-goers. Which is actually fine, because you’ll probably end up drinking with them anyway. The fish tacos are perfectly acceptable - don’t tell Jason Segel, but we prefer the chicken ones.
La Cabaña is one of a handful of remaining Venice classics, and also your only real weeknight late-night eating option in the area. This 55-year-old Mexican spot on Rose is open until 3am every single day, but is just as good for a casual dinner with work people you actually like or dinner with your tequila-loving grandmother. The back patio is the place to be any time of day, and the El Verde burrito is a monstrosity you want to tackle. Oh, and margarita carafes are $33. Stay safe.
On Lincoln right near that Whole Foods you swore you’d never visit again is a tiny Mexican seafood stand that’s been there forever. Mariscos Guillen is a great spot for a stand-up lunch away from the hoards on Abbot Kinney. The seafood cocktails are popular, but we’re partial to the fish or shrimp tacos. And if you’ve ended up here with someone who doesn’t eat anything that swims, the carnitas are a solid bet, too.
A lot of restaurants in Venice seem geared towards tourists rather than people who actually live in the area. But not Chez Tex. It’s a little family-owned wine bar and restaurant at the quiet end of Main St., and is the kind of spot you can easily imagine becoming a regular at. They’ll help you find something good to drink, bring you simple bistro-y food to eat, and remember you when you come back.
Wurstküche is the answer to any and all of your big-group eating needs in Venice. It’s a super-casual, order-at-the-counter spot (i.e. there will no fights over who had two beers, not three), and they serve excellent fancy sausages along with the best fries in the entire city. Once you’ve ordered in the tiny room up front, head to the huge back room, take over a table, and try and get through as much of the giant beer selection as you can.
You can smell the waffle cones from halfway down Abbot Kinney, and they’re leading you (and everyone else) to Salt & Straw. The line stretches out the door, but also moves quickly, even though the staff will let you sample a frankly obnoxious number of flavors. And you’ll want to sample - they have an insane flavor rundown, with everything from almond brittle with salted ganache to goat cheese with black olive brittle.
Kelp noodle cacio e pepe sounds like the kind of thing Sebastian from The Little Mermaid would have made, but the vegan crowd at Plant Food and Wine is all about it. The good news is, the food here is tasty - and not just for vegans. We especially like the tomato and pistachio lasagna and wild mushroom paté. But the back patio is worth the trip here alone - it’s the best in the neighborhood, and will make you feel like you’re eating in some kind of magic forest.
We don’t normally recommend going anywhere near the Boardwalk. But then your cousins come to town, it’s the only thing they want to do, and so here you are. Once Joe and Becky have had their fill of henna tattoos, street performers, and taking photos with the Green Doctors, head to El Huarique for a surprisingly authentic lunch. It might be inside an alley masquerading as a food court, but don’t be deterred - you’re here for the excellent Peruvian ceviche. Get the Venice Beach or Mixto versions to go, walk in the opposite direction of the crowds, and eat a solid lunch on the beach.
A good percentage of Barrique’s charm is the army of handsome Italians that make up the waitstaff. Plus the fact that it’s in a two-story yellow bungalow on an otherwise deserted part of Main St. There’s substance here, too - the classic (although expensive) Italian food is always great.
There are plenty of cool barbecue spots in LA now. Baby Blues BBQ isn’t one of them. Which is just how we like it. We usually go for a combo or platter to share (always with the pulled pork in there somewhere), but don’t forget to order some of the excellent smoked wings to share.
Where the Venice-as-food-destination thing all began. It’s loud, you usually have to wait, and don’t you dare ask for a substitution. But we still put up with all of this, mostly because they are the vegetable experts and they know how to make an excellent pizza. Can’t be bothered with the whole thing? Go next door to GTA for a slice of pizza or the blackened fish sandwich to-go, or to be eaten standing up at a counter overlooking the street.
You’ll go to Scopa for the pasta, but if you’re anything like us, you’ll get distracted by everything else. Scopa’s been open for a while, and is technically in Marina del Rey (don’t tell them that, though), but the bar still gets packed and brunch is definitely not casual - and sometimes, that’s just what you need. Their back bar, Old Lightning, is worth seeking out, too - it’s reservation-only and they won’t let you take your phone inside, but the very good cocktails make up for all the fuss.
It’s honestly hard to know why it took so long for an Australian cafe to open in Venice. On any given day half the people in the neighborhood are visiting from Sydney, and if any group of people know the importance of a flat white after a surf, it’s Australians. And Great White is a good example of the genre, with friendly table service, solid breakfast food, and extremely good coffee.
People got pretty riled up when longtime Venice resident Rose Cafe was closed and taken over by a big-deal restaurant group. While the original Rose Cafe was great in its own right, it really had been a long time since the food was good, and after a couple of years, the new version has settled in nicely. That massive indoor/outdoor space is at its best during the day for pastries and plates of eggs.
We still miss the original Superba Snack Bar on Rose, but will happily console ourselves with fried chicken sandwiches at this spinoff on Lincoln. It’s a massive space that caters just as well to the coffee-shop-as-office crowd as it does to families popping in for an early dinner. Brunch is a winner as well.
Venice is an Asian food desert, which makes Mao’s a little oasis. The Chinese food is dependable and they’re open until 3am on weekends - convenient if, for some reason, you’ve found yourself at Townhouse for the evening.
These guys have been on Abbot Kinney since way before the crowds arrived, and thank goodness for that (even if their sister spot, Abbot’s Habit, recently succumbed to rent hikes). They do things you’d think they shouldn’t to pizza, like give it a bagel crust and use salad as a topping, and we are all about it.