The name Venice Beach probably conjures up images of an overly-tan man, roller skating down a boardwalk with a Speedo two sizes too small. But today friends, I’m going to show you another part of Venice… The part where we take visiting friends and family members to show them some of the best shopping and tastiest food around... The part that is easily my favorite neighborhood in Los Angeles!
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is, in one word, magic. And in 10 words: hip, carefree, personality plus, a little crunchy, a shopper's haven, and a foodie's heaven. I’m not sure how many words that was, and I guess I could count them, but I would much rather dive-in and tell you about all of the things I love about this very cool Venice neighborhood.
Okay, so I mentioned personality because this neighborhood has SO much of it! Each house you pass has something to say - from shiny mosaic tiles and antique doors (making for one heck of an off-the-sidewalk entry), to a mailbox that looks like a pre-school art project. This neighborhood has an 'I am who I am' vibe like nowhere else, and that vibe is echoed through the restaurants, shops and, of course, the people who occupy this little slice of L.A.
So let's start with the shopping. OH the shopping. From high-end clothing boutiques, to simple and elegant jewelry sold on the sidewalks... a specialty store with goods imported from Japan and just down the way, a specialty store that sells only socks. There is truly something for everyone, no matter what you're looking for. We stopped in a store I typically shop online - Show Me Your Mumu. The kitschy name is enough to get you through the door, but the adorable clothes, accessories and endless photo-ops will make you want to stay a while.
Another favorite of mine in this stretch of shopping heaven is Burro - a stationary shop, and Burro Kids - quite possibly the cutest kids shop you've ever set foot in. Warning: I would not recommend setting foot in or around either of these shops unless you fully intend on draining your checking account... and possibly a portion of your savings. I'm kidding. But I'm also a little serious. Proceed with caution.
As amazing as the shopping is on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the food is even better. If you pay a visit to this neighborhood, you cannot, I repeat CANNOT leave without visiting Blue Star Donuts. My husband and I first experienced Blue Star on a vacation to Portland a couple years back, and were THRILLED to find out there was one just a freeway's drive from home!
If you are adventurous and you love bacon, then A) we should be friends and, B) you MUST try the Real Maple Bacon donut. Another favorite is the Cointreau Crème Brûlée - that comes with a little pipette filled with an orange liqueur - ready for you to squeeze into the center of your fried treat, right before biting in. Sound decadent? Well it is.
Another MUST-STOP for the coffee-lover is Blue Bottle Coffee. Strong and to-the-point - this simple cafe is for the serious coffee drinker. We also first tried this now-favorite shop on vacation, this time in the Bay Area. This is where the company first opened shop and first vowed to serve coffee within 48 hours of roasting, in order to serve it at its peak flavor. And like anything cool, unique and incredibly tasty, it has worked its way down to Southern California and found a spot on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
I highly recommend stopping here for a little coffee to go along with your Blue Star donut. Take it to go and stroll down the street to admire some of the awesome and unexpected street art. There are so many colorful murals in this area - keep your eyes peeled and don't feel too bashful to stop for an Insta-photo-opp (I promise that you won't be the only one)!
When it's time for dinner, you really can't go wrong. There are some rockstar restaurants along this strip, but if you're in the mood for sushi with an amazing ambiance, Wabi Venice is the place to go. The front wall of the restaurant is completely open to the outside, with tables lining the walk -- great for some people-watching while you enjoy your delicious rolls.
If you want something a little more serene, I highly suggest venturing back to the atrium - a little section in the middle of the restaurant with a giant skylight above and plants hanging everywhere you look. It's all punctuated with a fabulous chandelier hanging in the center of the room.
When eating at a 'fancy' sushi restaurant, one must try allll the fancy sushi (who needs spicy tuna when you can have caviar on top of your roll)? Two menu highlights for the adventurous eater, are the Ti Amo roll, with prosciutto, tempura shrimp, cream cheese, lemon aioli, spicy eel sauce and white truffle salt (YUM. I think this one was my favorite), and the PB & J Roll, with sous vide pork belly, blue crab, jalapeño, caviar, spicy eel sauce, avocado mousse and... wait for it... 24K edible gold. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the gold is for show more than it is for flavor, but I'll tell you what, it makes one hell of an entrance when it arrives at your table.
So, after eating such a fabulous dinner - there is only one way to round out your day on Abbot Kinney Boulevard (and if you've read my other neighborhood guides - you know what I'm going to say)... ice cream. Salt & Straw is yet another delicious establishment that has worked its way down from Portland (I think it's safe to say that all cool trends start in Oregon) with some of the best homemade cream I've ever tasted.
The line that consistently wraps around the building - no matter the time of day - speaks for itself. I had the Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and it did not disappoint!
We drove home stuffed, satisfied, wallets a little lighter and hearts a little fuller. If you ever find yourself in L.A., or maybe you live in Southern California but don't typically venture too far out of suburbia, (it happens to the best of us), I urge you to take a trip to Abbot Kinney. This street is a little shiny gemstone near the shore, that truly makes Venice sparkle.