You’ve drooled over the food Instagrams, tracked the celebrity chefs and concepts moving in, and witnessed flocks of Eastsiders making their way toward Abbot Kinney. Maybe you’ve even tasted some of the big hitters, mourned the loss of classics like the original Hal’s, and debated the merits of culinary gentrification in this previously grungy L.A. neighborhood.
But in Venice’s highly saturated culinary scene, it can be difficult to figure out which restaurants stand out. Think of this list as the best place to start. From a hip vegan eatery with an emphasis on house-made everything to a local watering hole that serves sushi with a side of surf videos, these are our 10 favorite restaurants in Venice.
Superba Food + Bread
Restaurateur Paul Hibler’s second restaurant in the Superba family (the first, on Rose Avenue, has since closed) is one of those places that embodies the personality and carefree style of Venice so perfectly, it became that city’s de facto living room — or maybe breakfast nook. A former auto body shop, the space was opened up and glassed in so that it feels as if the building is made of pure air and light — an accomplishment that's all the more impressive considering the jumbled urban streetscape of Lincoln Avenue is just outside its door. An all-day affair, Superba Food + Bread is not just a restaurant — it’s a cafe, a patisserie and a bread bakery, as well as a pretty great place to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are house-baked bread and pastries, and the kitchen turns out the kind of pseudo-healthy, ultra-fresh California cuisine that makes full use of grains and veggies. There are things on toast, small plates and (often Mediterranean-influenced) larger plates, wood-grilled vegetables and meats cooked on a rotisserie. Mainly, it’s just a laid-back place to hang out and sip a macchiato or glass of wine while basking in that oh-so-Venice vibe. —Besha Rodell
1900 Lincoln Blvd., Venice; (310) 907- 5075, superbafoodandbread.com.
To be fair, Tacos Por Favor doesn't belong solely to Venice. This mini-chain actually has three Westside locations. But the popular Mexican eatery has settled right into the neighborhood and has found its following with a loyal fan base of locals looking for some post-surf (or post-shopping) grub. The menu includes a variety of authentic soft and hard tacos, burritos, quesadillas, sopes, tortas, tostadas and nachos — pretty much covering all your beans, cheese, and rice needs. —Nile Cappello
826 Hampton Drive, Venice; (310) 392-6700, tacosporfavor.net.
There may be no restaurant as emblematic of the breezy, stylish Venice lifestyle as Travis Lett’s Gjelina, no place where the people are more beautiful, the vibe more Cali-chic, the food more true to our gourmet/carefree aspirations. The pizzas have crispy edges and are topped with ingredients such as burrata and wild nettles; the vegetable dishes might include roasted fennel with white wine, blood orange and fennel pollen; the rib-eye is from Niman Ranch; the wine list is long and engrossing. The magic trick of Gjelina is that food this serious (and it is seriously good) can be served in a room so effortlessly casual, the brick back patio all leafy and twinkly, the crowded dining room looking like a wood cabin met the beach and they fell in love. Walk past this restaurant and see the crowds of people waiting outside, and peek through the windows at diners snacking on charcuterie and bowls of house-made pasta, and you’ll find yourself thinking, “I want to be them. I want to be there.” You’re going to have to wait a long time for a table, but the good news is that you, too, can be part of the fantasy. —Besha Rodell
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 450-1429, gjelina.com.
One of the OG Venice restaurants, Hama Sushi has been serving up fresh sushi and Japanese-inspired bites from its Windward Circle location for almost 40 years. The eatery offers two experiences: a sushi bar, where patrons can order “whatever’s fresh today” and chat with the friendly chefs, and the patio, where surf videos play on an outdoor movie screen. The simple ingredients and fresh flavors balance between traditional and modern, and the extensive menu offers something for even the pickiest eaters. —Nile Cappello
213 Windward Ave., Venice; (310) 396-8783, hamasushi.com.
The Tasting Kitchen
The Tasting Kitchen is a bit of a fantasy, the type of impossibly trendy yet welcoming place that might appear in an expensively made romantic comedy, the type where a gaggle of good-looking offspring return to Diane Keaton’s breezy Venice house, wear a lot of cashmere and fall in love with various hunks who stare into their eyes over candlelight at a beautiful restaurant, just like this one. Casey Lane’s Abbot Kinney eatery is still a tough reservation in Venice, years after opening. The reasons are many: the room, which envelops you in its warm glow; the cocktails, which are seasonal and so carefully made; Lane’s cooking, which merges Italian inspiration with the best of California’s bounty. That means a wide selection of charcuterie, a full list of gorgeous pastas, and entrees such as porcini-crusted hangar steak or roasted duck and liver with apple marmaletta. Book early, don your most effortlessly beautiful cashmere and indulge in the fantasy. —Besha Rodell
1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 392-6644, thetastingkitchen.com.
Nighthawk Breakfast Bar
Nighthawk Breakfast Bar opened in summer 2016 and quickly become a favorite among locals with its mission of serving all-day (and all-night) breakfast dishes and drinks. In his refusal to abide by standard breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, restaurateur Jeremy Fall is all about breaking rules for the sake of nostalgia. The Spiked Cereal Milk section of the cocktail menu is a throwback to the kitchen tables of your youth — the Honey Nut-Bourbon tastes exactly as if you'd poured a shot of bourbon into the leftover milk from a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. It’s served in a vintage glass milk bottle with a thick red straw. If you want dessert with your sweet drinks, order the Drunken French Toast. Challah bread is made crispy with a coating of Rice Krispies — like almost everything at Nighthawk, it’s a tribute to childhood. —Nile Cappello and Heather Platt
417 Washington Blvd, Venice; (323) 507-2301, nighthawkrestaurants.com.
In many ways, Top Chef alum Nyesha Arrington’s Leona embodies the modern Venice culinary scene in its globally inspired dishes, locally sourced ingredients and bright, lofty space. The stunning restaurant has a hint of vintage glamour in its design and a hefty dose of fresh flavors in its menu; travel around the world with the signature coctel mixto, bulgogi braised short rib and comforting “bacon and eggs.” But don’t let the sophisticated decor and high-end ingredients like bone marrow and duck eggs fool you — Leona is the type of place to bring the whole family, and even offers a kids menu. —Nile Cappello
123 W. Washington Blvd., Venice; (310) 822-5379, leonavenice.com.
Although it’s billed as Charcoal Venice, the sleek, blond-wood-and-concrete dining room vibes more with the upscale condos of Marina del Rey than it does with the boho Craftsman bungalows a few blocks away. At its core, this place is a steakhouse in the revivalist sense, one whose kitchen is equipped with a bathtub-sized Green Egg — the domed grill and smoker that’s something your dad might buy himself as a retirement gift. Where Charcoal shines most shouldn’t come as a surprise: damn good meat. A thin cut of lamb shoulder, gamy and crusted with char yet succulent underneath, was a surprise hit. And the skirt steak, a perfect specimen that arrives in the most primal state of beefage despite its status as a lower-tier cut, was lean and mineral-y with a hint of aged funk. There might be no better steak at this price on the Westside. —Garrett Snyder
425 Washington Blvd., Venice; (310) 751-6794, charcoalvenice.com.
Plant Food + Wine
If Cafe Gratitude is responsible for taking vegan food mainstream, then Plant Food + Wine can be credited with taking vegan food global — and refining the way the culinary industry approaches what was once seen as a niche market. The 65-seat restaurant has both indoor and outdoor spaces. Inside, the decor is built around the French oak floors, reclaimed stone and a fireplace. Outdoors, olive and fig trees provide a canopy for garden dining. And every inch of chef Matthew Kenney's concept reflects a desire to honor the origins of the ingredients, including the on-site garden, minimalistic design and in-house cheese production. —Nile Cappello
1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 450-1009, matthewkenneycuisine.com.
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SHOW ME HOW
Gjusta, which comes to us courtesy of Gjelina owners Fran Camaj and Travis Lett, is something between a food hall and a deli, a sprawling concept that assaults all your food-lust receptors at once. A glass case runs the length of the room, and behind it there’s a world of cooking and baking and activity, along with a small army of service folks who will take your order once your ticket comes up. As you walk down the expanse of the case, you’re first attracted to the cakes and pies and pastries, and then jars of deep pink pâté catch your eye, and then you get absorbed by the glistening hunks of smoked fish. Look up, and on the back counter sit slabs of roasted meats, ready to be shaved and stuffed into sandwiches. Wander a little farther down and you’ll come across puffy personal pies and platters of vibrant salads. You’ve yet to even really consider the lists of options on the menus above the counter — and you already have four or five lunches in mind. How to decide? I can’t help you there. Anything you order will be better than you imagined. —Besha Rodell
320 Sunset Ave., Venice; (310) 314-0320, gjusta.com.