Many people that live in LA avoid Venice Beach for its tourist crowds and aggressive street vendors. But whenever visitors come to town, going to the boardwalk is usually their first request. Venice can still hold some charm, if you know where to go, and how to avoid the greasy, overpriced food places and giant cheesy t-shirt stores. (Although your guests will probably make you check those out, too.)
Breakfast: Flake Cafe
I actually look forward to early mornings in Venice, just so I can get a breakfast sandwich at Flake Cafe. My addiction is the Veggie Rad, an english muffin with egg whites, cheese, thick chunks of avocado, and a vegetarian breakfast sausage all smothered in their “secret sauce.” Even vegans can be satisfied with their selection, as they can try “The Happy Hippy” open-faced sandwich, and get their organic coffee with soy, rice, or almond milk.
And I can’t forget the reason that Flake carries its name. A frozen-yogurt style cereal bar gives this place a unique spin. You choose the cereal, the toppings (they have fruit, nuts and grains, and sweet treats like chocolate chips), and top it off with the milk (or milk substitute) of your choice. The decor of vintage cereal boxes adds even more personality to this spot.
|Photo by Heidi and Matt|
Just be sure to make it to breakfast or lunch, since Flake closes at 3:30pm every day.
Right down the street from Flake cafe on Rose Ave. is Groundwork, an organic coffee company. If you want to save your coffee craving for later, there is also a location just off the Venice boardwalk, a bit further south.
There isn’t much space to sit down, so it’s not a set-up-and-do-computer-work type of place. But the coffee is amazing, and the price is pretty good, too. They also offer a HUGE variety of milk-alternatives, my personal addiction is the help milk latte. They also offer baked goods, wraps, and breakfast food. (Try to the breakfast burrito.)
Hours: weekdays: 6:00 am – 7:00 pm
weekends: 6:30 am – 7:00 pm
Hours: 6am – 8pm Monday – Wednesday
7am – 11pm Saturday
7am – 8pm Sunday
Carroll Ct & Eastern Canal Ct, 90293
Dell Ave and Carrol Canal Ct.
Grand Canal and Court A
Check out an art gallery! Or go mural hunting.
Venice is known for its artiness, and there are lots of small galleries scattered in unexpected places. Some are in the back of clothing stores, some in hair salons, and others in back alleys. Since the galleries are often changing, check out this link for the location of some of the recent ones: http://www.venicebeach.com/article_gallery.php
Also be on the lookout for any openings, since that often means free wine, or at least the artist explaining their pieces.
Also, Venice is littered in many murals. Some are down ally ways, some up high, and some in obvious places. (Like the graffiti walls on the beach.) If you want to go mural hunting, here’s the location of some of Venice’s classic ones. Or, you can go trolling for the lesser known. The Venice Chamber of Commerce even provides a self “walking tour” of the Venice murals, just look for it on Google. (I couldn’t upload the PDF file here.)
Lunch and Dinner:
I have always been disappointed by the lack of good food in Venice Beach. Luckily, in the last few years a couple new restaurants have opened that I actually like. Not only do they have good food, both of my favorites are also organic and offer healthy options.
Venice Ale House:
I was originally scared away by the large boardwalk crowd, but once I ate here I was pleasantly surprised. Besides the good selection of beer, (all from the Western United States to reduce shipping fuel, plus they use brewers with sustainable practices,) their food is far more than pub food.
Everything served in the restaurant is Organic, even the ketchup. The meat is also free range, and one of the owners is vegetarian so their options for veggie and vegan entrees are decently plentiful. Their veggie grilled cheese is divine, and they don’t skimp on the sauteed dark greens stuffed in between organic cheese, all grilled to perfection on fresh sourdough. Since I avoid fried foods, I was blown away by their Sweet Potato rounds. They are baked, not fried, and…I almost went crazy with happiness…they are baked in Extra Virgin Coconut Oil! Their prices are decent for a beach restaurant, averaging between $9 to $14 for an entree, and less for their ale pairing snacks.
2 Rose Ave, Venice 90291
Phone: (310) 314-8253
Hours: Monday – Sunday 12:00pm – 10:00pm
This is actually a macrobiotic vegan restaurant. I know that may sound like an automatic turn off for some people, but part of the LA experience is trying one of the many different eating philosophies that are present here. Macrobiotics uses the 5-element theory, and also fresh, organic whole foods. What I really like here are their house-made “burgers.” They are made of rice, beans, and spices, grilled and placed on a fresh chewy roll. I like the Southwest Style, which adds chipotle sauce and guacamole. Add the sweet potato fries, or try one of their killer desserts. (I like the chocolate mouse, complete with real gold flakes!) It’s about $10 an entree, which is not a bad deal this close to the water. I can’t count how many greasy meals I’ve encountered on Venice Beach for the same price. Plus, if you bring someone to share it with, a side and a burger can easily fill two people.
Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Abbot Kinney Blvd. is an interesting part of Venice, since it doesn’t really have the “beachy hippy” vibe. It’s a bit more “upscale,” and a lot of places I would consider out of my price range for clothes and nick-knacks. But, it’s an interesting place to go window shopping, especially because of the constantly-changing shops. I’m not sure if it’s the high rent or the lack of shoppers, but the businesses in Abbot Kinney change constantly. So I’m not going to review too many specifics, since every time I walk down Abbot everything is new. But there’s always some interesting stores, (once I saw a Smart Car showroom!) and some things work checking out. (I really like the metaphysical book store.) But there are a few Venice staples that have been around forever, and they usually have the traditional Venice vibe. So if you’re ready to eat again, check out Abbot’s Pizza. I mostly get it by the slice, since there’s just enough sitting room for me to enjoy it. My absolute favorite is the Wild Mushroom…so many wonderful mushrooms…they even have a dairy-free slice, the Salad Pizza, which is inches thick of lettuce, slices of avocado, and other goodies. And if you haven’t gotten your fill of cafes, Abbot’s Habit next door is good place to people watch.
Also, for dessert, try Nice Cream across the street for a scoop of chocolate in a cone, or for a fancy dessert experience, try anything at Joe’s Restaurant. (How can you go wrong with Peanut Butter Mousse with Chocolate Ganache?)
Map: Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice used to be quite the sketchy area. Although it is cleaned up for the most part, it’s still got some residual sketchiness. So if you’re planning on going out in Venice, I would not suggest the boardwalk. Most things are closed anyway, but the area by the beach is not the best at night. I try to air on the side of caution and stay away once the sun goes down, since there’s great areas nearby. I would suggest going to the bars on Abbot Kinney or Main St. Santa Monica, since both will have more people, more lights, and more patrol. There’s countless bars on Main St. (which I will review in my Santa Monica entry), and there’s often new places to check out on Abbot Kinney. If you go “First Friday” (the first Friday of every month), there will also be food trucks galore, live music, and LOTS of people.
On Saturday and Sunday, going all day is the Venice drum circle. It is on the sand off the boardwalk, and it’s easy to spot. (It’s a large crowd of people dancing and playing different kinds of percussion.) The pinnacle seems to be at sunset, which makes sense. I can’t think of many better things than dancing on the sand and watching a beautiful California ocean sunset. You can come just to dance, or bring any kind of percussion-like instrument. (I’ve seen drum sets, bongos, tambourines, sticks and tin cans, you name it.) Most people aren’t professional musicians, so I can’t say that the tempo is always right. But it’s fun and casual, and really rounds out a Venice Beach experience.