This past week I headed down to Los Angeles for my friend Mira’s big 3-0. We’ve been friends since ’93, when we bonded over a mutual love of climbing trees in 3rd grade. Mira wanted to welcome in a new decade by bungee jumping off a bridge (but more on that craziness in the next post).
First, I want to share with you highlights from Santa Monica and Venice, where I spent the majority of my stay. Mira lives in an ideal location in Santa Monica, where it’s only a few blocks to Main Street, and the beach beyond that. Venice’s Rose Street is also a short (and beautiful) walk through residential neighborhoods, where lots of good food awaits.
On Mira’s actual birthday, we made a beeline for Bondi Harvest, a beach-themed café in an industrial neighborhood in Santa Monica. It felt like we had been transported straight to the famous Australian beach with a collection of actual surf boards in the corner and signs that read #but first surf #then coffee. This cozy cafe specialize in healthy eats, and my salmon tartine was almost too pretty to eat.
Afterward, we headed over to the Cliffs of Id, a rock climbing gym in Culver City, where we “bouldered” (climbed smaller rock walls without harnesses), and let me tell you it’s a lot harder than I imagined. My arms definitely let me know the next day.
Mira’s birthday dinner was at Gjelina in Venice, which is worth stopping by and braving the notoriously long wait. We got the mushroom toast, Swiss chard salad, gnocchi and pork belly and it was all delicious. If you don’t want to wait, the restaurant has a takeout counter next door, where there are salads, veggie sides, sandwiches and their addictive homemade pizza.
The next two days Mira worked, so I happily wandered around Santa Monica and Venice, in search of cafes to work at, and good food to eat (spoiler: it was not hard to find both).
Here’s some more of my favorite places to eat and drink in both Santa Monica and Venice.
Bagel Nosh Deli
If you cannot drink another green juice or eat another acai bowl, this is your place for a solid carb-centric breakfast. Their bagels are soft, dense and come in a variety of flavors and options for fillings. This place proves that there are good bagel shops in LA, you just need to know where to find them. There is plenty of seating in this diner and a full breakfast menu if you’re craving pancakes and eggs.
This place embodies the spirit of Venice with all its moon dusts, juices and milks. Mira is a regular here, and swears by the ginger shots that help keep pesky winter colds at bay. Though I have to admit the store itself is a bit too new agey for me, the juices are delicious with flavors like coconut, lime and ginger to jump start your system after a night of indulgent eating.
I’ve had this deli on my radar for a while, and was glad to finally be able to try it. It definitely lived up to the hype, and the lox was heavenly. The ordering process can seem overwhelming, but is worth the headache for the brisket sandwiches, lox plates and veggie sides. The same people who own Gjelina own Gjusta, and you can definitely see the similarities with the quality of the food. I’m not ashamed to say that I went back there three times in the course of the week, mostly for that lox.
Funny story: they used to have a branch up in San Francisco, with only raw food and I was not a fan. Fast forward to this uber hip version in Venice, where the vegan menu is not only cooked, but delicious and diverse as well. Craving a burrito? They have one complete with mushroom carnitas and cashew nacho cheese. Want pad thai? They have a version with kelp noodles (yes seaweed) and Thai almond sauce. Sounds a bit strange, but it’s surprisingly good. They also have bowls, and I got the macrobiotic bowl that was filling and good with braised butternut squash, kim chee, and garlic tahini sauce.
This neighborhood café has a heated outdoor area that is perfect for catching up over steaming pots of mint tea. I usually just go here for tea and dessert, but the sandwiches and salads are not too shabby either.
I’m not going to lie, this space was made for Instagram, with hanging plants and long wooden communal tables to work at. I found a single table off to the side and wrote for a couple of hours, wishing that I could somehow transport this place back home to Pleasant Hill.
I’m a sucker for a bratwurst in a bun and when Mira mentioned this place, I was more than game (also I was seriously craving protein at this point). The bratwurst was unbelievably good, the curry ketchup on my fries were on point, and the refreshing cherry ginger beer I washed it all down with had the perfect amount of zing, without being too overwhelming. The communal seating and tables covered in butcher paper with crayons for coloring just made me love this place more. We went to the downtown branch, but Mira said that the Venice one is quite similar, just a bit larger.
Satdha Plant-Based Thai Kitchen
This was one of the most of the most unexpected memorable meals that I had this trip. I cannot say I wasn’t a little skeptical when Mira said this Thai restaurant was vegetarian, but was quickly proven wrong after our appetizers came and the flavors made up for any lack of protein. Both our entrees: the pad thai and yellow curry over coconut rice were home runs.
Read more: 5 Days On The Pacific Coast highway