Venice has no shortage of stereotypes: expensive, full of very cool people and less cool tourists, obsessed with healthy food, 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, it’s not too often a new restaurant opens on Abbot Kinney. Which means that the entire neighborhood was lined up in advance when Italian spot Felix opened up down the beach end of the street. And while this might be one of the most consistently packed and talked-about restaurants in Venice, Felix actually lives up to the hype. 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.
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 50-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 quesadilla and 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 pitchers are $30. Stay safe.
A lot of places to eat 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 Street, 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 set up (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.
There are plenty of cool barbecue spots in LA now. Baby Blues BBQ isn’t one of them, which is exactly why we like it. While the West Hollywood location has a strong Meat Disneyland vibe, the Venice original skips the over-the-top theme in favor of being a very neighborhood-y place to eat. We usually go for a combo plate of our own or platter to share (always involving pulled pork), but don’t forget to add an order of the smoked wings.
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 zucchini lasagna and wild mushroom sandwich. 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 Leche de Tigre versions to go, walk in the opposite direction of the crowds, and eat a solid lunch on the beach.
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, 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.
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 places 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.
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.
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.
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 Street. There’s substance here too: the classic (although expensive) Italian food is always great.
Charcoal serves lots of grilled things. It’s a steakhouse that doesn’t feel stuffy, and one that also does some pretty great things with vegetables. Its stretch of Washington Boulevard is admittedly kind of weird, but judging by the crowds, Charcoal seems to have settled in just fine. In an area like Venice where the service philosophy tends to be take it or leave it, the waitstaff here are also surprisingly lovely.
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.
People got pretty riled up when longtime Venice resident Rose Cafe was closed and taken over by the team behind Bestia. While the original Rose Cafe was great in its own right, it really had been a long time since the food was that good. But now, this all-day operation serves stellar baked goods, charcuterie, and pastas in a massive, overhauled indoor-outdoor space that works for almost any occasion, whether it’s dinner with your parents or date night on the patio.
Weirdly one of the few seafood-centric restaurants in Venice, Salt Air goes nautical on theme (but not too hard), and the pea toast is so much better than it has any right to be. The move here is to go heavy on the starters - their small plates and oysters are where it’s at. Always leave room for monkey bread, though.
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, so the scene has settled down slightly, but not completely. The bar still gets packed and brunch is definitely not casual, but 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.
A lot of our favorite OG Venice spots have closed recently, which makes us even more glad that Hinano is still around. This place is an actual dive - there’s sawdust on the floor, pool tables, and a rumour that Jim Morrison used to hang out here. If you’re not here to drink, you’re here for the burger, which is grilled behind the bar and a much more fun option than In-N-Out down the street.
You deserve a reward for making it all the way along Abbot Kinney in one piece. That reward should be a donut. You’ll like it if you like out-there flavors (like Blueberry Bourbon Basil), but we always go for the simple glazed OG and never regret it.
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.
Lots of people use The Tasting Kitchen as the forgot-to-make-a-reservation-at-Gjelina alternative. Which is unfair, because The Tasting Kitchen is pretty great in its own right. We think of it as an Italian restaurant - their pastas are always excellent - but they also have great wings and steak. Regardless, we’re never disappointed.
These guys have been on Abbot Kinney since way before the crowds arrived, and thank god 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.
Yet another healthy, almost-vegan place that on paper seems completely unnecessary (especially given the fact that there’s a Cafe Gratitude over on Rose). The surprise twist is that we do not hate this place. Some dishes are a little too committed to the dairy-replacement thing, but the breakfast burrito gives meat versions a run for their money.