The best Venice restaurants
If you’ve ever had a late-night breakfast craving or felt the urge to pour bourbon into the remnants of your cocoa pebbles—friend, Nighthawk Breakfast Bar is the answer to your sugar-laced prayers. Nighthawk serves the most important meal of the day well into the night, along with breakfast-inspired booze to bring out the delinquent child in you. With this concept, owner Jeremy Fall could have easily gone with kitschy diner decor, but instead, Nighthawk’s interior is dark, classic and sultry. Vintage globe chandeliers and tin ceilings mix with contemporary wallpaper to create a modern Victorian vibe, which is only enhanced by the presence of a DJ and the faint aroma of bacon in the air. It’s enough to make you wonder—why can’t breakfast always be this sexy?
Just minutes away from the shores of Venice Beach is Charcoal, a friendly neighborhood restaurant. Chef Josiah Citrin's menu centers around dishes that are all cooked over a live fire, making for a true home-style feel. Whether it is grilled chicken or smoked oysters, the family-sized portions will make you feel like you're eating in your own back yard.
Handmade pasta is the name of the game here, as brought to you by a chef who’s done time at Spago, Rustic Canyon, and Bucato. Chef Evan Funke’s mission to bring incredible Italian fare to Venice has been a smash hit so far, with diners raving about everything Felix has to offer. The oxtail ragu is mandatory and pairs nicely with a Haitian Divorce (mezcal and aged rum, cherry and Pedro Ximenez). Make a reservation before heading over—the place is a hotspot already.
Pack in with the beautiful people at this Abbot Kinney hot spot. There's always a wait—and a snooty hostess to boot—but the scene is buzzing and the food, excellent. Order plates to share—you can't go wrong with any of the seasonal vegetables and pizzas baked in the wood-burning oven. Snag a seat on the back patio for weekend brunch or get friendly with your dining mates at the communal table for dinner.
Next to the perpetually packed Gjelina is its take-out outpost GTA (Gjelina To Go). Expect the same seasonal, market-driven ingredients and wood oven-baked pizzas as next door, along with gussied-up classic sandwiches like tuna melt, turkey reuben and a killer B.L.T. There's limited standing room inside the tiny storefront, so take your grab-and-go and sit on one of the milk crates outside—it's casual, Venice-style dining.
You might miss Gjusta if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The Venice bakery operates out of a nondescript warehouse; step inside and you’ll find a long, narrow corridor with glass cases of sweet and savory treats on the left, a working bakery behind it. On the sweet side, slices of fruit are folded into sugar-glazed dough for a morning indulgence; a banana chocolate tart, while pricey, is worth a post-lunch splurge. On the savory side, sandwiches and salads make for an ideal lunch spot. Gjusta serves as a sort-of deli, too, where you can pick up cuts of meat and fish to go.
This bright and bohemian Abbot Kinney spot is a must-do brunch in Venice with oysters, champagne and everything else you want when you’re that close to the ocean. Salt Air’s pea tartine is a perfect dish, with the goat cheese, snap peas, smashed peas and lemon working harmoniously together. If you’re more the seafood brunch type, their lobster roll is one for the ages. It’s a place you need to be when crave an ocean breeze.
Cousins Tyler Wilson and Joseph Pitruzzelli have another hit on their hands with the Venice branch of Wurstküche, a contemporary "sausage kitchen." The cousins' crew will gladly grill sausages like Polish-style Kielbasa or more adventurous Rattlesnake & Rabbit to pair with a "groot" worth of skin-on frites. In case you didn't know, that amounts to a lot of fries. Wurstküche primarily pours Belgian and German beers from (surprisingly) brand-free tap handles. Try the notoriously tart Duchesse de Bourgogne or sweet Aventinus Eisbock that packs a punch.
Top Chef’s Nyesha Arrington has done something special at Leona. She’s created a menu that feels distinctly Californian, serving food that can best be called new American. Her lamb burger is superb, served simply with goat cheese, spinach and béarnaise aioli. Brunch is fierce as well, with options like a delicious fried chicken and waffles, smoked salmon pizza and brioche French toast.
Cafe Gratitude almost feels like a vegan Eden, full of a cheerful wait staff, diners with perfect postures and glowing skin, and dishes that are affirmations themselves, so that you will have to declare, "I Am Thriving," to order the soup of the day. When the server takes your order, they will ask you, “What are you grateful for today?" and you will feel compelled to answer. Just embrace it. If you’re feeling especially in tune with the world, you can order the I Am Grateful, the simple but delicious "community bowl" of kale, quinoa, black beans and garlic-tahini sauce.
Explore another beach city
When you've eaten your way through Venice, head north to explore Santa Monica.