Now that June Gloom is over, Venice Beach and all of its loonies are ready to welcome our swimsuit-clad, SPF-30-smothered bodies for long days in the sand and sun. But what happens when lunchtime rolls around and you're craving something slightly more substantial -- and slightly less artery-clogging -- than a whipped-cream-suffocated funnel cake or triple-fried French fries? Instead of giving up the parking spot you spent 20 minutes to find and $10 to keep, try one of these top Venice Beach boardwalk sit-down spots.
These three restaurants prove that, believe it or not, beach food and good food don't have to be mutually exclusive.
With easily the most mammoth menu on the boardwalk, the sheer variety of this popular indoor/outdoor joint is likely to satisfy any hungry beachgoer. Considering there are 20 sandwiches, 15 burgers, 11 salads, eight pastas and even more pizzas, appetizers, soups, breakfasts and south-of-the-border specialties, it's easy to satisfy any tummy with an affinity for classic American grub. A lengthy drink menu rivals that of any decent beach bar, and the bartenders pour their mixed drinks and beer pitchers with a much-appreciated heavy hand.
While the food isn't much better than your standard deli nosh, what any meal lacks in pizzazz will be quickly made up in entertainment. The smack-in-the-middle beach location leaves the area just outside the patio swarmed with the best in show of boardwalk performers. 1401 Ocean Front Walk, Venice; 310-399-5547.
Figtree's menu, laden with organic vegetable, seafood and white-meat dishes, makes the beachfront café a health food oasis, especially compared with the greasy spoons that line the boardwalk. The flavorful variations of what are usually fat-filled dishes -- like the Figtree quesadilla, which trades the usual refried beans and sour cream for a mountain of grilled vegetables -- will fill you up without making you feel like a beached whale when you return to your towel. Your grub options include a decent list of sandwiches, salads, pastas, all-day breakfasts and turkey burgers -- this is a strictly no-red-meat, no-fry zone -- along with an assortment of Figtree favorites that never seem to disappoint. But don't worry, the au naturale vibe doesn't affect the good stuff: The menu certainly doesn't skimp on the wine, Champagne, beer or cocktails. 429 Oceanfront Walk, Venice; 310-392-4937.
Not only is this the best watering hole on the boardwalk -- you can't beat 30-plus craft beers on tap and an ocean view -- it's also the best place to enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner. Situated just slightly north of where the real Venice shenanigans begin, this eatery is a little quieter, and certainly much tastier, than anything else you'll find on the boardwalk. The cuisine stays true to its on-the-beach location with a good part of the menu comprised of fresh fish and seafood entrées, as well as sandwiches and salads that feature the catch of the day. For those who don't care for sea treats, there are both meat and non-meat burgers and sandwiches, most of which you can customize to whatever you find most palatable with the copious available add-ons. The tasty plates exude a fresh aroma and flavor that can only be made better by the brew(s) you'll surely want to pair with your meal on the shore. 2 Rose Ave., Venice; 310-314-8253.