Venice Beach is a hipster heaven

Kathleen Jay/Special to The SF ExaminerVenice Beach's shopping district on Abbot Kinney Boulevard is where the locals shop and dine.

Kathleen Jay/Special to The SF ExaminerVenice Beach's shopping district on Abbot Kinney Boulevard is where the locals shop and dine.

Venice Beach, long-known as a hangout to hipsters, musicians, artists and beatniks, may be most famous for its beach and boardwalk, but its shopping district on Abbot Kinney Boulevard about a mile from the ocean is where the locals shop and dine.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard, named after the New Jersey-born developer and conservationist who founded this neighborhood, is made up of five blocks, between Main Street and Venice Boulevard. Located a mile from Venice Beach, Abbot Kinney is filled with boutiques, cafes, restaurants, books stores and a very large marijuana dispensary.

Eating on the Boulevard

For fine dining, look no further than Joe’s Restaurant (1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd.). Founded in 1991, this popular eatery offers a menu of California-French cuisine that is driven by ingredients available from farmers markets. Open daily, Joe’s also has a friendly bar, a scene-to-be-seen weekend brunch and a $19 lunch special that is hard for anyone to beat.

For trendy, try Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, a new pop-up dining experience run by neighborhood chefs Brian Dunsmoor, who previously worked at Axe, and Kris Tominaga, who was most recently the chef de cuisine at Joe’s.

Housed in the Capri Restaurant (1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd.), the restaurant opened in December for a three-month run. Offering an a la carte menu featuring rustic country cuisine (read: meat), the restaurant is open Tuesdays through Sundays for dinner. Apparently, the most popular item is the biscuit with apple butter, persimmon and pimento cheese ($6).

Popular among locals for years, Axe (1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd.) is now open again.

The restaurant — which closed in August 2010 after a fire caused considerable damage to its building, reopened in July for lunch, dinner and its very popular weekend brunch. The restaurant’s menu — including Berkeley’s Chez Panisse — is centered on local, sustainable ingredients and practices. Note: Axe is pronounced “ah-shay,” not “ax.”

For a quick bite, look no further than 3 Square Cafe + Bakery (1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd.). The all-natural, artisan German spot offers some of the best sweet and savory offerings — pretzel rolls, scones, Danishes, breads, cheese twists and cookies — in Los Angeles. The cafe offers sit-down meals, the bakery — which opens at 7 a.m. and serves great coffee — offers casual takeout.

Shopping with the hipsters

On just five blocks, I am always surprised how many eclectic shops can be found on Abbot Kinney. A few worth checking out include: Ten Women (1237 Abbot Kinney Blvd.), a gallery run by women that opened in 1994; Elvino (1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd.), a local wine shop and tasting bar; Mono (1219½ Abbot Kinney Blvd.), a shop that specializes in Japanese bags, mobile phone cases, stands and other tech-related accessories; Tales and Toys (1140 Abbot Kinney Blvd.), a toy store for Venice Beach’s younger hipsters; Venice Vintage Paradise (1144 Abbot Kinney Blvd.), for vintage home decor; Huset (1316½ Abbot Kinney Blvd.), a new home-design shop that specializes in modern Swedish, Danish and Norwegian design; and Bountiful (1335 Abbot Kinney Blvd.), a beautiful home-design store for those looking for “shabby chic” style.

Last, but not least, the Farmacy (1509 Abbot Kinney) is probably the largest medical marijuana dispensary I have ever seen. In addition to medical marijuana, the store also has a wide selection of herbal remedies and merchandise, such as yoga mats.

Staying near Abbot Kinney

 Abbot Kinney is a true neighborhood; hence, there are not hotels here. However, just a mile away is Hotel Erwin (1697 Pacific Ave.), a boutique venue expertly run by Bay Area hotel company Joie de Vivre. Located 2,300 feet from the sand, the hotel offers 119 Southern California beach-house-themed guest rooms and suites — all with private balconies — and one of the most popular venues on the boardwalk: High, a year-round rooftop bar and lounge. Note: make a reservation at High for sunset as this venue is always at its capacity, and it is the best place for cocktails overlooking the ocean. Room rates start at $239 per night.



Lunch at Joe’s on Abbot Kinney
Joe’s Restaurant on Abbot Kinney Boulevard offers a daily lunch special for $19; the prix fixe meal includes a started, an entree and dessert. Some of Joe’s classics include: California Sand dabs with avocado and cherry tomatoes; seared ono with quinoa; shrimp risotto-sofrito; and braised lamb shoulder with potato gnocchi. Lunch is served Tuesday to Friday from noon to 2:30 p.m. For more information, visit



A yoga-and-spinning class on Abbot Kinney
Founded in 2001 by health-and-fitness expert Kimberly Fowler, YAS Fitness Center (1101 Abbot Kinney) offers
one-hour classes that combine the cardio of indoor cycling and the strength and flexibility elements of yoga. Classes, which run throughout the day, fill up very quickly. For more information, visit


By the numbers

Year Venice Beach’s canals were built: 1905
Shops in Abbot Kinney district: 19
Blocks in main shopping district: 5

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