Leona's Nyesha Arrington knows Venice. A Southern California native, she embodies much of what's great about the Venice we all knew and loved before it became overrun with tech types, and her business there helps us have faith that a bit of the old Venice will always remain. An avid surfer and skateboarder, the chef describes her food as seasonally driven, ethically harvested and globally inspired progressive Californian cuisine. She also just opened a cookie window at Leona, serving a rotating roster of cookies and aguas frescos, made daily in-house.
Arrington has a bevy of favorite Venice and Santa Monica restaurants, many of which are open late to cater to a chef's eating hours. Here are seven of her picks.
"Hinterland has a great vibe and, despite being on Main Street, it feels like a familiar neighborhood restaurant. I love their pan-roasted half chicken served with heirloom potatoes." 2917 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 399-0805, hinterland.la.
6. Plant Food and Wine
"Matthew Kenney does amazing things with vegetables, whether you’re vegan or not. My favorite dish here is the ancient grains, but everything is super innovative, and their patio is a beautiful outdoor oasis that’s perfect for a date night." 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 450-1009, matthewkenneycuisine.com.
5. La Cabaña
"La Cabaña is definitely a Venice institution. They have a live mariachi band, make their tortillas in-house and your guacamole tableside. They’re also open until 3 a.m. seven days a week, so for a chef, that’s an obvious win." 738 Rose Ave., Venice, (310) 392-7973, lacabanavenice.com.
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4. Hinano Cafe
"Another Venice institution — is there anyone who hasn’t heard of the Hinano burger? If not, now you have and you should go get one immediately." 15 W. Washington Blvd., Venice. (310) 822-3902, hinanocafevenice.com.
3. Mao’s Kitchen
"Mao’s Kitchen is a Venice standard for Americanized Chinese food. Plus it’s BYOB and open until 3 a.m., which, again, definitely earns them chef bonus points." 1512 Pacific Ave., Venice. (310) 581-8305,
2. Mariscos La Playita
"La Playita is a tiny window off Lincoln in Santa Monica. They have great tacos and seafood, but the ceviche is killer!" 3306 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 452-0090.
1. Zelda Corner Deli
"Zelda is on the boardwalk in Venice and it’s my absolute favorite place for sandwiches. The owners frequent the local farmers markets for ingredients and they also fry up these mini cinnamon sugar donuts to order (and they deliver!)." 9 Westminster Ave., Venice. (310) 314-6458, zeldascorner.com.