Los Angeles, once most famous for Hot Dog on a Stick and hemp milk, has come a long, long way from its less-than-culinary roots. Today, the city is awash with elevated options that would make even the snobbiest East Coast foodie admit defeat. Because L.A.’s proverbial cup runneth over, we’re sticking to those areas hugging the 10 freeway, a stone’s throw (or an Uber ride) from water. Because the only thing better than a succulent meal is being able to walk along the beach afterward. That’s the whole L.A. argument, isn’t it? Herewith, our guide to the Westside’s must-eats.
This Venice juice bar meets deli meets pizza joint meets coffee shop meets bakery meets meatery is a prime example of the fruits of L.A.’s years-long culinary makeover. Helmed by (the mightily attractive) Travis Lett, Gjusta is a one-stop shop for anyone looking for a slice of NYC on this side of the Mississippi. Lett himself has called Gjusta something like a Russ & Daughters slammed into Dean & DeLuca. Consider us sold.
320 Sunset Ave, Venice, CA 90291
The Tasting Kitchen
Bring your earplugs and your appetite. Things at The Tasting Kitchen are as loud as they are delicious. The Italian-inspired restaurant has been packed solid since its opening in 2009, with diners eagerly waiting for the goods at all hours. Chef Casey Lane’s menu errs on the side of organic and sustainable. They’ve been known for nose-to-tail cooking that minimizes waste and maximizes flavor. For these and many other reasons (the pasta being very high up on this list), the wait for a table can be long. If you get caught in the dinner hour crush, just saddle up to the bar and treat yourself to one of their very California-esque cocktails.
1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Scopa Italian Roots
Speaking of long wait times, Scopa Italian Roots is one of the hottest tickets in town, despite having opened all the way back in 2014. The look is elegant industrial, with subway tiles, brick walls, high ceilings, and concrete floors. The menu is, as what you have likely gathered from its name, Italian. Chef Antonia Lofaso, made famous for her stints on Top Chef and Cutthroat Kitchen, throws down Old World classics with a dose of California fresh. Yes, you’ll find everything from cold cuts to heros, linguini with clams to veal chop milanese. Those hankering lighter fare will be pleased with the few (but tasty) salad and crudo options.
2905 W Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292
Dudley Market used to be a SIXTY go-to for brunch, then it closed. Lucky for you, it’s has recently reopened and has been reimagined as a wine bar with a food menu that focuses on seafood. It’s by the beach, after all. The space is just as we left it: farmhouse chic with an enticing wall of wines from around the world.
9 Dudley Ave, Venice, CA 90291
With Cassia, chef Bryant Ng brings a whole host of influences to gorgeous fruition. There was his childhood spent observing the goings-on at his parents’ Chinese-American restaurant in the San Fernando Valley. There was his mentorship under Nancy Silverton. There was his rope-learning with Roland Passot in San Francisco and Daniel Boulud in New York City. And, of course, there was Spice Table, an Asian bistro that fell victim to some MTA eminent domain issues. His past is rife with inspiration. Cassia marries taste elements of Vietnam and Singapore with the uncompromising precision of French technique. Ng has certainly hit his mark. Pro tip: don’t leave here without trying the pot-au-feu.
1314 7th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401
El Primo Tacos
No good L.A. eats list would be complete without a reliable taco standby. El Primo Tacos holds court on Lincoln Avenue in Venice and the line is always long, but not too long. It’s a paper-plates, eat-standing-on-the-sidewalk kind of place and the price is right. One-dollar taco? We’re sold and then some.
845 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Photo courtesy of Jay Wennington