Venice Boulevard, one of L.A.'s main arteries, has never gotten a lot of love. Always the means, never a destination, Venice is like the perennial bridesmaid, never blessed with a trip to the altar.

But in the neighborhood of Mar Vista, on Venice centered between Inglewood Boulevard and Centinela Avenue, a bonafide neighborhood is springing up with some great eateries, a weekly farmers market on Sunday and some noteworthy businesses to call its own. Old standbys like Sam Johnson’s bookshop, Mitsuwa Marketplace, Council Thrift Shop and AMF Mar Vista Lanes bowling alley, joined by recent shops like Surfing Cowboys (mid-century furniture and more), Bikerowave and Vintage on Venice make this area pop.

All of these ingredients together make this micro-hood a good place to amble around, window shop and of course, eat and drink.

The newest kid on the block, Status Kuo, is a neighborhood purveyor of fine rotisserie meats and other delicacies. Chef David Kuo keeps it simple enough for families and takeout aficionados, with rotisserie chicken or pork while classing it up for those who want a night out with pastas, like Taiwanese Sunday Gravy – braised pork and pickled mustard greens.

apricot jam at Curious Palate

apricot jam at Curious Palate

Around the corner sits Earl’s Gourmet Grub, another cozy spot for locals, with an eye toward amping up everyday favorites. Chefs Matthew Walker and Daniel Williams revel in house-made basics, like ketchup. The café serves a mean breakfast with a groovy duck hash and hearty morning sandwich featuring eggs, bacon, pepper jack, mustard greens and Cajun aioli on a brioche bun.

The lunchtime fare at Earl’s skews sandwich, which is a good thing. There are a couple of vegetarian options that are well thought out and delicious in their own right: a Portobello mushroom and veggie meat loaf. Meat lovers can go for fish, chicken or beef, all with sauces that elevate the sandwiches above basic, and details, like fennel and daikon slaw, and pomegranate balsamic that enliven the dishes. Salads also hold their own, with plenty of options for protein.

Venice Grind Coffee, next door to Earl’s serves the usual hot-drink fare available to fuel your day and the spot makes for a good hang out. The two businesses share a patio which makes it easy to enjoy eats from either or both places.

plums from Arnett Farms; Credit: Angela Matano

plums from Arnett Farms; Credit: Angela Matano

Coming soon, and also sharing the patio with the Venice Grind and Earl’s to form a triumverate, is a brand spanking new ice cream shop called Sweet Lucie’s. Co-owner Geri Czako says, “Our neighbors are the perfect compliment to ice cream.” Sweet Lucie’s is planning on a late spring opening.

An organic, house-made flavorfest with an emphasis on family favorites, like their version of Rice Krispies treats, and numerous options for those with food allergies or intolerances, Sweet Lucie’s will please just about everyone with a sugar craving. Gluten-free, vegan and non-dairy options (coconut base) will all be made on the premises. Taking advantage of the close proximity to the Grand View Farmer’s Market, the ice cream parlor will scoop up seasonal options as well.

The Curious Palate, just a block east, is another great choice for lunch. A variety of quiches, double-pork chili (shoulder and bacon!) and soup du jour are joined by an extensive menu of salads and sandwiches. The shop also sells gourmet pantry items, like house-made jams, artisanal olive oil and local ciders.
Besides the Mar Vista Farmers Market on Sundays, two nearby permanent markets, Mitsuwa and Grand View Market have quirky and interesting foods for sale. The Grand View Market is drifting in a gourmet direction, with items like Sweet Lucie’s ice cream pints in their freezer and a wide selection of wine on their shelves. The Market also has a deli and an area to sit and watch the game or just gaze out the window at the passersby.

Mituswa’s broad range of foods available in the market includes unusual produce, like horned melon, dragon fruit and a wide array of mushrooms. There are dozens of tofu varieties and packages of exotic noodles, serving to inspire cooks of all stripes to up their game.

About a half dozen small eateries sit inside Mitsuwa’s walls, forming a food court. Ramen, sushi, tempura and other Japanese delights can be had on the cheap. Santouka dishes up a small but filling salmon bowl topped with salmon roe and an add-on of a soy sauce egg for about five bucks. The Hamada Ya Bread Bar & Coffee serves frozen yogurt sundaes, boba, donuts and sandwiches, like a shrimp-filled baguette for an incredible $2.50.

Foodies, locals and even tourists can easily find something to love in this emerging neighborhood spot in Mar Vista. Family-friendly and accessible, 90066 caters to all. Even parking is a breeze. For now.

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