My first taste of the burgeoning culinary scene in Venice Beach was in 2010 when my brother took me Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Blvd. At the time I remember him also mentioning The Tasting Kitchen, which had just opened. It was difficult to get in to either place, but we decided to wait for a spot at one of Gjelina’s community tables. I’m sure glad we did because I had a delicious pizza and shared a lovely bottle of Saint Emilion wine.
Gjelina’s industrial-antique-modern decor is a work of art.
When planning a recent jaunt to Los Angeles to visit my brother and my husband’s family, we rented a bungalow in Venice Beach. Not only was I interested in the colorful boardwalk scene for photo taking, I wanted to see how much Abbot Kinney had grown. If I were to live in Los Angeles, I think this is the area I would choose (unless I could somehow afford to live on the beach in Malibu).
mural a block from the beach
The area around Abbot Kinney is filled with cute little houses, updated modern homes, people riding bikes, surfers headed to the beach, and fashionable young families. That’s simplifying it, of course, but it seems to have become a hip area where independent boutiques and restaurants are the norm. The closer you get to the beach, the more it starts to feel a bit sketchy. Originally, we wanted to rent a place closer to the beach, but I’m glad we didn’t. We slept with the windows open (hoping for a breeze) and I felt safe.
We had breakfast at Gjelina on a Sunday morning and if you go early enough, you don’t need a reservation. I think we were there soon after they opened. Otherwise, you must have reservations. Or you could be in for a hefty wait with no guarantees. I started to look for dinner reservations weeks before our travel dates and could only find a table on a Monday night at 5:30. I snagged it and we had a delightful meal. I ordered the same pizza I had two years prior and also a fresh grilled squid salad. I shared both plates with my husband, as well as a great bottle of Spanish red wine.
Gjelina politely declines changes and modifications to their dishes. At breakfast there was a dish I really wanted to try, but it had parmesan bread crumbs on top. I am highly allergic to dairy. I asked if they could leave those off, but I was told, politely, “we only do our dishes one way here”. Luckily, there were a couple of other options that were up my alley and I had a tasty brunch. Just keep this in mind, as The Tasting Kitchen is the same way.
We had our first meal of the trip at The Tasting Kitchen, a Saturday brunch. The space has an open-air concept and a really interesting layout. Both Gjelina and The Tasting Kitchen use sustainable locally sourced, organic foods. I wish I had taken a photo of my meal, but I was starving after our flight. They were a little more laid-back about my dairy allergy at The Tasting Kitchen, designing a plate of vegetables and eggs just for me, off the menu. It was delicious and I wish we’d had time to eat there again for dinner.
I did take a photo of the beer my husband had because I was so surprised that I actually liked it. I’m a red wine drinker, with an occasional Mojito, but beer is not my jam. This stout is from Lost Coast Brewery, an independent brewery in Eureka, California, created by two women!
May your journey be your muse,