How to have the perfect food day in eclectic Venice.
When it was first constructed by an eccentric tobacco millionaire in the early 1900s, the canal-streaked hamlet of Venice, California, was billed as a beachfront resort town. More than a century later, Venice has somehow stayed true to those quirky roots. Powered by a blend of shaggy surfer grit and beachside chic, the once sleepy neighborhood has emerged as L.A.'s most exciting place to dine and drink. And you can experience it all on foot.
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Venice gets up surprisingly early, so greet the sunrise with an off-menu espresso-and-tonic from Menotti's Coffee Stop, where cheery head barista Christopher "Nicely" Abel Alameda pulls stellar shots steps from the beach. Then head toward Gjusta, chef Travis Lett's expansive bakery and delicatessen, where you'll be tempted by baklava croissants and rye bagels draped with pastrami gravlax.
Around lunch, take a break from Abbot Kinney's trendy boutiques and swing by Rose Café, a revitalized Venice institution serving global-minded fare like tempura-crab sandwiches. Afterward, pop into Portland import Salt & Straw for a refreshing scoop of avocado-strawberry sherbet.
By now you're probably slightly sunburned and ready for a drink. It's hard to beat a beer at Hinano Café, a nautical-themed dive that was reputedly Jim Morrison's favorite haunt, but a flight of California's finest on the porch of Venice Beach Wines isn't a bad idea, either. Then it's on to one of Venice's spectacular dinner options—wood-roasted vegetables at Gjelina, mindblowing hand-rolled pasta at Felix, or smoky, dry-aged steaks at Charcoal. And if you're lucky enough to snag a reservation, slink over to Old Lighting, a cozy throwback den pouring vintage spirits and stunning classic cocktails. Not bad for a part of town once dubbed "the Coney Island of the Pacific."
Garrett Snyder is the food editor at Los Angeles magazine.