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, 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.
Gjusta is everything that’s both terrible and wonderful about Venice. Even though there are so many cool people here that it should be annoying, 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, not-locals cross the city for the breakfast bialy sandwiches. It’s open all day, 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.
A relatively new spot, Charcoal serves (as you might guess) lots of grilled things. It’s a steakhouse that doesn’t feel stuffy, and one that also does some pretty amazing things with vegetables. Its stretch of Washington Boulevard is admittedly kind of weird, but Charcoal seems to have settled in ok judging by the crowds. Great service helps too, especially in Venice where the default is usually take it or leave it.
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 flavors to your heart’s content. 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.
People got pretty riled up when longtime Venice resident Rose Cafe was closed and taken over by the team behind Bestia and everywhere else hip in town. (While the original Rose Cafe was great in its own right, it 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 space.
Where Venice fine dining 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. Can’t be bothered with the whole thing? Go next door to GTA for a slice of pizza or the blackened fish sandwich.
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, 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 thing has settled down slightly, but not completely. The bar still gets packed and brunch is definitely not casual, but we’d eat their fried cauliflower all day every day if we could get away with it.
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 drinking, 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.
Leona does things that a lot of Venice restaurants do: "California cuisine," brunch, lunch and dinner, upscale food in a casual setting. But these things work in Venice for a reason, and Leona does a better than average job. Their front patio is made for summer nights, and the lamb belly wontons shouldn't be skipped.
You deserve a reward for making it along Abbot Kinney in one piece. That reward should be a donut. You'll like it if out-there flavors are your thing (Blueberry Bourbon Basil, anyone?), but we always go for the 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 spin off on Lincoln. It’s a massive space that caters equally 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 dependably solid and they’re open until 3am - 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 GQ decided it was cool, and thank god for that. They do decidedly uncool things to pizza, like give it a bagel crust and use salad as a topping, but that’s the entire reason why we love them.
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.
You are not coming to Hama for amazing sushi. You’re coming for the rolls, and the casual party time vibes. They put strawberries on top of one of their rolls, and they sing a loud birthday song multiple times a night. Never change, Hama.