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Venice Beach is the Best Place to Live... When You've Still Got Freedom

After spending a year in NYC when I was 29 years old, I found myself a little apprehensive about the the slim cultural experience and inspiration of LA in comparison to the city.
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The tic-tac-toe layout of the perplexingly jam-packed mostly gentrified with still a dash of old hippie Venice Beach covers a wide array of professions, cuisines, hidden gems, and attitude. Just like the overly protective nature of East Village patrons and citizens, the Venice Beach population adores the nature of mish-mosh and yearns to keep that vibe going. We aren't really fans of the "east side" of Los Angeles (Silverlake, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock) and definitely not of the Beverly Hills crowd.

The vertical lines of the dirty boardwalk parallels the high-end boutiques of Abbot Kinney and then goes to Lincoln Boulevard. Anywhere east of Lincoln is frowned down upon, even if you can live in double the space for the same amount of money. Horizontal, starting from the north we have Rose Ave, to Venice Boulevard, and ending at Washington Boulevard, creating more of a matrix than tic-tac-toe board.

When I first moved to LA in 2002, back when I was 19 years old, my Israeli friend Guy and I would just walk up and down the boardwalk, go to the Sunday evening drum circles, and lived mainly off frozen White Castle burgers. I guess you could say we fit in well with the boardwalk folks.

While the rest of LA can be grueling, Venice is a place where you only need a beach cruiser, preferably with a basket, and can check out from the stereotypical world of Hollywood. Hey, there's stereotypes for a reason, right? After spending a year in NYC when I was 29 years old, I found myself a little apprehensive about the the slim cultural experience and inspiration of LA in comparison to the city.

While the burbs of Pasadena and the South Bay are some of the best areas to live once you have a family, the eccentric energy of Venice Beach and those that you meet in neighborhood cafes, is the perfect place to live in your late twenties or early thirties. There's not many other places that are filled with professionals, who must have some sort of good income to live here, and don't mind seeing the homeless dotted around the city. They seem pretty happy to be living the beach life, that's for sure.

So where should you go if you come to visit?

Best Places to do Work:

  • Zinque:
This coffee/wine bar is the go-to place for meetings, working on your computer, meeting an online date, or getting together with local friends.
  • TOMS:
The flagship store of the shoe company has astroturf, loads of places to sit and plug in, and an overall sunny vibe. Not to mention, nearly every patron looks like a model -- hello eye candy!
  • Cow's End:
It's debatable if Washington Boulevard is really Marina Del Rey, or Venice Beach. I consider it MDR, but my friend argued that it's called the Venice Pier, so it looks like I lost that battle. This joint is open super late, and they don't seem to care if you work there all day. Score!

Best Hidden Gems:

  • Townhouse (downstairs):
Townhouse is one of the oldest bars in LA and has a really nice dive bar atmosphere during the day and at happy hour. You'll only find locals here during that time. Switch to late night weekends and you'd get the equivalent of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd, although dancing can be really fun here after enough vodka sodas. Downstairs however is their speakeasy bar featuring live entertainment nearly every night, from open mic comedy to bands, to burlesque.
  • Venice Art Crawl:
Okay now I actually haven't been to one of these
, but I do hear they're amazing from local friends. Local artists open their studios to the public once a month.

Hot Eats

  • Salt Air:
I had the best bouillabaisse here. It was rich, and delectable, with a slightly smokey almost curry like base, filled with fresh seafood. Everything that came out of that kitchen looked awesome, amazing, fresh, and original.

The Tasting Kitchen:
My first time here, I was like eh, it's okay. But then I went with girlfriends, and for $150 split 3 ways we had: cheese plate (3 kinds), raddichio salad, hanger steak with bone marrow, fresh pasta with shrimp, bread pudding, and a bottle of Rose. I may be jaded from big city prices, but that felt like a bargain at a fine dining restaurant like this. This is also a great place to have a date, get a date, go on a date with friends, or just sit at the bar and make friends with the bartender. Strong cocktails, good energy, and beautiful people.

Cheap Eats

  • Lemonade:
A lot of people don't like this expanding LA eatery, but I love it. You can get four portions of their market sides for about $9, and their salted caramel macaroons are simply divine. Chewy, fresh, and sweet, they melt in your mouth.
  • Cafe Gratitude:
You know what I missed about LA in NYC -- the vegan food! It's true, LA is really great for vegan, and the Westside digs of this restaurant, is predictably vegan (quinoa bowls, and that sort of thing), but the portions are large, the sauces tasty, and the price is great (about $10-$12).
  • Wurstküche:
Another Eastside eats come west. Any kind of sausage, plenty of beer, Belgium fries. Need I say more?


Venice Family Clinic isn't just in Venice, but their headquarters are. They have numerous events to support the clinics, including the renowned Venice Home and Garden Tour, which is worth checking out. You can volunteer as a docent and then get free admission.

Other Notable Places:

  • James Beach:
You know those fish tacos from I Love You, Man -- well, this is the place. Nice outdoor vibe, great for a low-key glass of wine at the bar.
  • Canal Club:
My go-to for happy hour. You can get an amazing (and strong!) ginger martini or margarita for $5. The sushi is pretty good too.
  • Gjelina:
I'm not that big of a fan. As I type this, I'm scared from the repercussions of the die-hard Gjelina fans who swear by their overly salted and roasted sides and pizza. It continues to be the hot spot though, so if you're all about being trendy, then this place may be for you.
  • 26 Beach:
Good brunch, good burgers, good bloody Mary's.
  • Windward Circle:
This roundabout (find me one bicyclist who doesn't have anxiety pedaling around this circle of doom) has everything from brunch eats (Danny's and Larry's across from each other) to one of the best thrift shops, Animal House, to at least 3 good tattoo joints.

Best View:

  • Hotel Erwin:
This used to be a Best Western back in the day, and now they serve expensive drinks on their rooftop with views that span from Hollywood to Malibu on a clear day. It is gorgeous, and if you're yearning for that Meatpacking feel, definitely watch a sunset from their rooftop deck.

Sure, I'm a little biased, seeing how I'm a Venice Beach baby, but what's not to love about people creating, living, working, and loving life. Nearly everyone here is doing something, which you won't necessarily find in other areas of LA. So while rent may be soaring higher and higher, the price of living an inspired life is worth cutting corners for in other areas. Take advantage of the years of freedom, and lead a life you'd like to live.

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