Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 3), we'll be bringing you periodic lists of some of the best things we've found to eat and drink around town. Ice cream sandwiches and bowls of tsukemen, fish tacos and dan dan mien, cups of boba and glasses of booze. Read on.
Nothing compliments a day at the beach quite like a calorie-packed treat, and the snack shacks that line the Venice Beach boardwalk don't let anyone's greasy craving go un-fried. While years of McDonalds and In-N-Out may have left you somewhat jaded, believing that it's impossible to screw up a burger and fries on the fly, think again. Burgers can be burnt, fries can be soggy and not all pizza makes you want a second slice.
So before you zero-in on the closest storefront that advertises all-American nosh-to-go or seek out the longest line, trusting that popularity directly equates to tastiness, maybe look for one of these top five Venice Beach Boardwalk snack spots instead. (You're welcome.)
It seems Big Daddy was creative in the kitchen, and this snack shack's standing in the number five slot is more of a testament to its wacky eats than a recommendation that you actually eat ALL its wacky eats. With a menu full of classic fair food, this is no place to count calories. It is, however, the place to snack if you're interested in sampling a freak show smorgasbord of deep fried grub. You like Oreos? Why not deep-fry them? That's the approach that Big Daddy and his sons have taken. The result: deep-fried pickles, apple fries, deep-fried pizza and a seemingly unending array of other ooey, gooey, pulled-from-the-fryer delicacies. You won't leave hungry or without a totally deserved — but totally worth it — stomach ache. 1424 Ocean Front Walk, Venice; (310) 296-4112.
Finally, a beach snack that won't sit in your stomach for the rest of the day — or week. These Hawaiian style raw tuna salads are the perfect (read: only) lightweight snack option available on the boardwalk. While all bowls are made with little bites of ahi tuna, white and green onions and sesame seeds, you can still do your fair share of creative customizing. With the choice of four different spicy and mild poke bowl styles, you can mix and match vegetable add-ons and additional sauces to create your perfect tasty tuna snack. White and brown rice are both available — and suggested — to serve as a cushiony bed to sponge up all the saucy flavors. Though the fish may be a little tough, and the sauces just a pinch too salty, poke is poke. And poke is good. 1827 Ocean Front Walk, Venice; (424) 228-5121.
A refreshing zesty anomaly from the boardwalk's typical burgers and dogs, this Peruvian hole-in-the-wall allows you to add a little cultural pizzazz to your meal. Out of this teeny, tiny kitchen in the boardwalk's international food court comes big, flavorful and colorful dishes, served in a box to-go or a box to stay and eat on their very small countertop. The most popular dish, the lomo saltado, is a hearty meal of seasoned steak and grilled vegetables served next to rice and over french fries. Not only is the the meat soaked in flavor, but the fries are drenched in a swirl of spiced sauces that will quite literally leave you licking your fingers. Beware potentially tough meat: If you like your steak medium, ask for it medium-rare. 1301 Ocean Front Walk, Venice; (310) 452-1254.
When the heat has all but melted you into your towel, the best way to cool down is with a n'ice cone of gelato or sorbet. While most other boardwalk ice cream spots will offer you a cone of generic, nearly flavorless soft served or freezer burnt lumps of snooze-worthy flavors, this parlor offers a variety of 16 flavors that are made fresh daily in the store. What they lack in fancy flavors they make up in flavorful depth. Enjoy a soft scoop of pistachio that tastes uncannily like the actual nuts, or try the salted caramel: creamy, gentle flavors that will intrigue, but not overwhelm, your pallet. Even though their prices are slightly steeper than those of the average frozen treat boardwalk vendor — $4 for the first scoop and a dollar more for each additional — the improvement in quality makes it well worth the splurge. 619 Ocean Front Walk, Venice; (310) 581-0650.
With the customizing choice of 11 different seasonings — like the applewood smoked or sweet toasted onion — this snack shack is indisputably the premier spot on the boardwalk for french fries. There are dipping sauces a-plenty (organic or chipotle ketchup, malt or honey vinegar, classic or black truffle mayo) and various other mouth-watering condiments. The whole shebang is done in-house, from the frying to the sauce-making, an impressive feat for such a wee storefront. While still greasy boardwalk food, these fries are surprisingly terrific — especially with that ocean view. With the going price of $4 for a sizable regular and $5 for a monster large, they're also priced competitively, not to mention a million times more delicious than the overpriced crap you'll get from many of their neighbors. 1301 Ocean Front Walk, Suite 9, Venice; (310) 450-0077.
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