Venice Beach has always marched to the beat of its own drum – one part hippy, one part hipster, and above all else: a way of life.
Back when the area was founded (c. 1905) it was known for fortune-tellers, street performers, and emerging artists, and a good dose of that vibe remains today. The small, beachside community embodies Southern California culture and is a total haven in the midst of the massive sprawl that is Los Angeles.
Next time you head this way, give yourself ample time to wander among the bungalow-lined streets and get in on the full experience with some of our top picks:
GRAB A BITE
Easily one of Venice’s best-kept secrets, AKOS is tucked back down an alley. A breakfast bar (quite literally, several feet wide, with some benches for seating) serving organic, locally sourced gluten-free goodies, paleo granola, and homemade almond milk, it’s Venice through and through. Also, you must try the latest drink that’s all the rage: their Buttery Brew (raw organic coconut oil, grass-fed ghee, and organic coffee).
It wouldn’t be a trip to Abbot Kinney without stopping by the ever-popular Gjelina and their bougainvillea-shaded outpost next door, GTA (Gjelina Take Away). Is it cliché to order the Tuscan kale salad? We say no when it’s served with shaved fennel, radish, lemon, Ricotta Salata, and breadcrumbs. And under no circumstances must you leave without ordering the notorious butterscotch pot.
Words like “organic” and “local” can be over-used in LA, but Kreation Kafe stays true with their tapas-like menu. You can walk in and order a cold-pressed juice, or sit down, post-shopping for tabouleh salads, chicken kabobs, and hummus.
Tucked rather mysteriously behind a fence (it’s not as sketchy as it sounds, promise), this petite, upscale sushi restaurant feels like a private residence and is easy to miss. But soft, natural light flows through the tall windows, allowing you to better enjoy the spicy lotus root salad and miso black cod in their unique setting.
GET A DRINK
Somewhere between shopping and dinnertime, slip into the airy space that is The Other Room for a spot-on selection of draft beer and wine. The windows open onto the street, good music is playing, and you can taste local and seasonal beers sourced from all over SoCal, including San Diego, Hermosa Beach, and even Pasadena.
There’s a tree growing through the middle of the restaurant, need we say more? As if that weren’t reason enough to stop by, you might prefer the setting for one of the best Bloody Marys you’ve ever tasted – we’re talking loaded with caperberries.
The suspender-bearing bartenders will meticulously shake (or stir) you the perfect cocktail with only the largest pieces of ice and the most recently pressed juices.
This third-wave coffee roaster is based in Oakland, but you’ll only find two of their café outposts in LA and Abbot Kinney can now claim one of those. It’s a slight space, backed with a pale blue, LED panel and serving caffeine, straight up – or in the form of their special, New Orleans Iced Coffee (read: roasted with chicory, sweetened with cane sugar, and served with whole milk).
Things you might not expect to find in the same place: people working quietly on computers; brainstorming “the next big thing”, sunglasses, magazines, coffee, and shoes. The famous “one for one” TOMS got its start in Venice, so it makes sense that the flagship store is here. And, it just so happens that you can also get a great cup of coffee and a charming place to sit on their sunny, backyard patio.
The Australians are at it again with this concept store that doubles as a quality café serving a delicious cup of joe. Deus pays homage to all things outdoors (custom-built motorcycles, surfboards, bicycles) and the open-aired, coffee-serving corner of their store is certainly no different.
We adore our westie-besties down under, so it makes sense that this Australian boutique is on our list. Their premium roster of clothing and accessories includes brands for both men and women; some of our favorites include Zimmerman, Camilla and Marc, Cameo, and Lover.
For a luxe, locally sourced wardrobe addition, don’t miss Burning Torch; an LA-based brand whose unique pieces are “up-cycled” from vintage fabrics. You’ll find a relevant, worldly selection of washed leathers, handcrafted accessories, and vintage sunglasses.
There’s a little something for everyone here, from women’s apparel, handbags, art books, and stationery. Oh, and don’t forget to check out their adorable children’s outlet next door.
As with most of the stores on Abbot Kinney, you’re just as likely to hang out here as you are to shop. Ilan Dei, a stylish home goods store that offers interior design services, is no exception. Peruse their space for design inspiration that includes everything from bkr water bottles to gold-plated fire pits.
Principessa captures the bohemian, modern-day flower child SoCal vibe you see on Instagram accounts during Coachella but way less cliche, with designers like Stone Cold Fox, Rory Beca, and Eugenia Kim.
You won’t forget to write home thanks to this quirky, local boutique. They offer smart, well-designed “just-because” cards, notebooks, calendars, and inventive party décor.
Dare to stray off Abbot Kinney, you’ll truly feel the Venetian way of life with these three noteworthy detours:
As much as we love Abbot Kinney, we also adore the quieter, more local Rose Avenue and one of our absolute must-sees on the street is Superba. They make addictive dishes like pimento burrata and, on a sunny day, it’s the kind of open-air dining that makes Los Angeles so dreamy.
Turn down Windward Avenue and head towards the infamous Windward Circle (cue: the VENICE sign) and you’ll really start to feel our true local vibe. Just before you hit the shore, stop at Menotti’s (because we just can’t get enough coffee). Serving SF’s Four Barrel Coffee, you’ll find the perfect Flat White or Cortada image for your Instagram, courtesy of their award-winning latte artist known as “Nicely”.
Last but not least, a sunset stroll through the canals is a “must.” It likely comes as no surprise that the “father of Venice”, Abbot Kinney, dreamed of creating the American version of Venice, Italy here in California and, as such, this historic district is comprised of a grid-like system of canals. It’s a beautiful way to end the day, with reflections of palm trees doubling over themselves in the water.
Map illustration by Charmagne Kringstein