Chefs making connections

By Richard Foss

Ambitious artists have agendas – they want you to think in a different way about what you perceive. Chefs have an advantage over some other creators, in that they can have a continuing dialogue with those who experience their work.
A finished artwork can’t usually be changed, but chefs and musicians can alter their performance the next time.
To explore this notion, I contacted four high-profile chefs who recently opened restaurants on the Westside to ask a few questions about their experiences.

dining_guide_smMaster of classics on Olympic

Chef Resul Rasallat has an impressive resume – he has cooked at L’Orangerie, The George V in Paris and other celebrated establishments. His restaurant Tapenade in West Los Angeles is named after a rustic olive dip, but the menu includes dishes of baroque complexity.
Rasallat expected that some guests might prefer simple cooking, but not that one item would outsell everything else.
“The surprise was hen-of-the-wood mushrooms with polenta and truffle oil,” he said. “I thought I would sell a few orders a week, but sometimes I have sixty guests and they are on every table. It is soft with a creamy consistency, with the earthy mushrooms, and everybody who tries it wants it again.”
When asked whether he has changed his offerings to suit his clientele, Rasallat countered that he wants to educate his customers instead.
“I serve what I like, and people who come here are appreciating my best dishes. I give tastes of everything to my staff, and they interact with the customers and tell them what I have that fits their tastes.”
Asked what element Tapenade brings to the local dining community, Rasallat gave a surprising answer: making solo diners, especially those on a budget, feel welcome.
“If you are single, you can spend more money dining at home than here. Some restaurateurs don’t want somebody who would order an eight-dollar starter and a glass of wine, or just a dessert – they say, this is not a cafeteria. I want those people to feel as welcome as anybody who is spending the top dollar. They don’t have to spend $50 for us to think they are a great customer.”
Many chefs open with a simple operation and add events and special dinners later. Rasallat is no exception, and he has ambitious plans.
“I would like to invite three chefs here and cook with them, and serve like a family dinner, all the dishes out to share. It would be casual and fun – you’re not glued to your seat for five hours, you can walk around and meet people. Make it more comfortable, more approachable, so they enjoy the whole experience.”

The vegan gourmet
“The big surprise in Santa Monica was that the most adventurous items were the most popular,” mused Matthew Kenney of MAKE at Santa Monica Place. “I expected that people would go for the classic dishes that I had cooked in the past. We thought we’d sell a lot of heirloom tomato lasagna, but they embraced contemporary dishes like kimchi dumplings. It’s one of my favorite dishes, but I didn’t expect it to become a bestseller.”
When Kenney says “classic,” he doesn’t necessarily mean what other chefs would. He is arguably the world’s leading raw food chef and the author of several cookbooks, and received awards from the James Beard Foundation and Food & Wine Magazine. Kenney has years of experience making vegan food accessible, but understands that not everybody will understand.
“We’ve had people who don’t get it, but we don’t preach to them,” he said. “We don’t emphasize health or nutrition or calories even though those are advantages of this cuisine. We believe that the most healthful foods are also the most flavorful and the most beautiful, and our goal is to help people embrace gourmet cuisine that also makes them feel good.
Though he visited Santa Monica for extended periods before opening the restaurant, Kenney never lived here until recently. Still, he believes he has found the pulse of the community and has nothing but praise for his clientele.
“The Santa Monica dining crowd has been the nicest, most open-minded that I have ever come across. They demand interesting flavors and are open to getting them from a plant-based cuisine.”
When asked what he wants to be doing a year from now, Kenney gives an answer that hints at both his ambition and energy.
“We will expand on all of our focus areas – on this restaurant, which is running now and will be even stronger, on education through our cooking school, and we want to broaden our programs for the community. We want to add services, to include cleansing and takeaway foods, and we want to go outside the restaurant with pop-ups and other ways to reach out to people who haven’t experienced anything like this.”

Playa’s upscaler
Tower 42 in Playa del Rey is a departure for a neighborhood best known for beachy dives. Michael Thomas’ varied resume includes a stint at French classic Le Bel Age and at the relentlessly experimental Test Kitchen, and he is putting exotic ingredients in familiar dishes.
“I’ve been doing head-to-tail tacos, using heart for instance, and we’ve been selling quite a bit of it,” Thomas said. “One item I didn’t think would be as popular as it turned out to be is the wild game chili – it has antelope and venison from Broken Arrow ranch in Texas. We call it ‘shot and killed it chili.’”
Asked whether he thinks Tower 42 will lead a charge toward other area restaurants upscaling, Thomas rejected the notion.
“We’re not looking to change anything about the neighborhood – we want this to be a comfortable place for the locals. We still have simple dishes, a good filet and rainbow trout. We’ll offer specials and watch to see which move, and I’ll put some of them on the menu. We have a Serrano and maple brined pork belly, and we do a ‘breakfast for dinner’ – we ran it as a special, and people kept asking for it.”
Thomas admits that he hopes to broaden the horizons of locals, but says he isn’t trying to challenge their tastes.
“We want to give people what they want – but sometimes they don’t know until they see some option they haven’t considered before. It’s not an agenda, trying to force people to a certain set of ideas, it’s exposing them to ideas that are new but accessible.”
Asked what he wants to be doing differently a year from now, Thomas pondered before replying.
“We’re using a lot of fresh and seasonal ingredients, so I can’t say how much the menu six months or a year from now will resemble what we’re currently serving. I want to start hosting wine dinners, perhaps some beer dinners and a bourbon dinner. Craft beers are incredibly popular, and I’d like to get the makers here and experiment with pairings.”

Pacific Avenue pioneer
“On Abbot Kinney (Boulevard) you can get fantastic food at high prices, and at the (Venice) Boardwalk you can get good everyday food at places like Fig and Hinano’s. We want to be a place that can be a special occasion for a blue collar worker. When I came to this community I worked at all those nice restaurants, but I couldn’t afford to eat at them.”
Jesse Barber, whose resume includes training with Thomas Keller at French Laundry, left his position at Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney in Venice to open Barnyard in a cottage on Pacific Avenue. The previous tenant served simple breakfasts to a local crowd, and Barber wants to keep that audience, albeit with more interesting food. Still, he wasn’t prepared for the positive reaction to the most challenging item on his menu.
“We have a braised baby octopus dish with pickled chilies and fresh garbanzo beans. I really liked it but it’s quite spicy, and I didn’t expect it to sell. I have other things on the menu like ribs, fish, and pastas, and I figured those would move like crazy. Instead, the octopus took off – sometimes I sell 20 a night.”
Though his previous employer is less than half a mile away, Barber has found that his new clientele does not have the same tastes.
“Venice has a strange mix of people, many of them sophisticated but budget-conscious. I used to sell a lot of high-end wines while I was at Tasting Kitchen. Here on Pacific, we sell a ton of our mid-range wines – they’re good ones, but from less prestigious producers.”
Barber, who runs the restaurant with his wife, Celia, has already started an ambitious schedule of events.
“We have had wine dinners, and more are coming up, and I’m involved with local charity events. The only thing I want to be doing in a year that I’m not doing now is not working a hundred hours a week.”

Tapenade, 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles. Tapenade.la. (310) 312-6233

M.A.K.E., 395 Santa Monica Place, #333, Santa Monica. www.matthewkenneycuisine.com. (310) 394-7046

Tower 42, 119 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey. www.tower-42.com. (310) 823-6800

Barnyard, 1715 Pacific Ave., Venice. Barnyardvenice.com. (310) 581-1015

The city is asleep; Your stomach is awake

By Richard Foss
You know the story – the show was good, but you didn’t have dinner beforehand and spent some time hanging with friends afterward. You feel slightly hollow and look at the clock. It’s after 11, and you want something more flavorful than fast food, preferably in surroundings more congenial than your car.
Fear not, for The Argonaut is happy to present this guide to places where you can get a good meal in a pleasant setting when most people are already in bed. Here is a brief roundup of places where night owls dine in style:

Waterloo & City
Most gastropubs emphasize the pub side of the equation after around 10 p.m., but the kitchen at Waterloo & City in Del Rey stays open until midnight. You have a lot more than fish and chips or a burger to choose from, which is perfect for those nights when you crave a dozen oysters and a green chorizo pizza.
Manager Cicely Dyer confirmed that contrary to expectations, adventurous dishes move as it gets late.
“Some unusual items sell well late at night, including the chef’s specials – we’ve had fried pig’s ears, the PB&J, which is pork belly with jam, and wild boar. We sell a lot of fish and chips and a lot of burgers, but many people come here to try new things.”
When asked if Waterloo & City’s party atmosphere sometimes turns rowdy, Dyer said that since they close at midnight it’s rarely hectic. After a pause, she added, “The restaurant business can be a wild place to be, which is why most of us are in it.”

Santino’s Express
The crowd can also get lively at Santino’s Express in Venice, the tiny restaurant on Pacific Avenue that serves pizzas, paninis, and Argentine empanadas until 3 a.m.
It’s a boisterous place that sometimes gets crowded – we’d tell you more about what it’s like to work here, but we stopped by late at night when it was so busy that nobody had time to be interviewed. Even without any personal stories, we can tell you one thing – spinach empanadas taste great at 1:30 a.m.

Local 1205
The space is larger and the crowd is usually more laid back at Local 1205, the gourmet market and café in the middle of Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Though the menu options do shrink after 9 p.m., they still serve gourmet sandwiches, freshly made pizzas, and oysters on the half shell until 2:30 a.m.
There’s an added bonus to dining here – you can pick up some fresh bread, salads, or charcuterie for breakfast the next day, and it will taste great even if that breakfast is happening after the sun is high in the sky.

La Cabaña
But what if your late night craving is for something from south of the border? La Cabaña will be happy to oblige – the stylish Mexican restaurant is open until 3 a.m., and they’re serving much more than the usual tacos. You can get a crab and shrimp quesadilla, a carne adovada plate, or Veracruz style fish, and watch the tortillas for your meal being made on the griddle in the middle of the restaurant.
It’s a remarkably upscale experience for the wee hours, and as you depart you may wave at the fearsome-looking Aztec deity on their sign. We think it’s the god of insomnia, but we’re not sure.

Pacific Dining Car
The atmosphere is even more stylish at Pacific Dining Car, the elegant Wilshire Boulevard steakhouse in Santa Monica that will be happy to serve you scallops with lobster sauce or a Colorado rack of lamb at 4:30 a.m. The restaurant is decorated with Victorian luxury and is hands down the most elegant place in Los Angeles that is open 24 hours. When asked who is ordering eggs Sardou in the wee hours, a manager responded that they have a varied clientele.
“We have regular customers – some are coming off a shift at the hospital, others are musicians who have played until a venue closed, people who have come away from studio shoots,” the manager said. “Sometimes our customers are stopping by after seeing a movie, and don’t know that the people around them have just finished making one. We occasionally have Europeans or Asians who are still in a different time zone – if they come right from LAX we have a place to put their luggage.”

Swinger’s
The atmosphere is more casual at Swinger’s in Santa Monica, the hipster diner that is open until 3 a.m., but night manager, Lily, says the mix of professionals and partiers is much the same.
“We get a lot of people who work at other restaurants, a lot of bartenders who want a good meal. There are performers who just wrapped up a gig too – every once in a while we get someone who leaves the server a little starstruck, but it’s a very relaxed atmosphere in here. We’re friends with a lot of our late-night clients, or regulars, and it’s like family. We just keep the party going.”
Swinger’s covers the bases of traditional diner items like burgers and omelets, and they also serve a clientele that appreciates healthier options. Lily observed that as the night goes on, people’s orders change.
“As it gets later we serve a lot more stuffed grilled cheese, a lot more banana pancakes and shakes, because people want big, sweet flavors. There are people who come in late at night and get an ahi salad and a side of quinoa. I don’t know how they do it. If it was me, I’d get nachos.”

Waterloo & City, 12517 W. Washington Blvd., Del Rey. (310) 391-4222
Santino’s Express, 1611 Pacific Ave., Venice. (310) 450-5313
Local 1205, 1205 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 396-6663
La Cabaña, 738 Rose Ave., Venice. (310) 392-6161
Pacific Dining Car, 2700 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 453-4000
Swinger’s, 802 Broadway, Santa Monica. (310) 393-9793

 

Restaurant Listings

ALEJO’S PRESTO TRATTORIA
Alejo’s is a longtime neighborhood restaurant, operated by Claudia Castro and her family, and customers say eating here is like dining at home with family. The menu includes the famous paella, the signature bread and garlic, pizza, pasta, calzones, lasagna, linguini a la mare, chicken marsala, veal parmigiana, eggplant mama mia, ravioli, daily specials, beer and wine. Available for family parties, holiday and office celebrations. Open 7 days, 8343 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester, (310) 670-0799, www.AlejosRestaurant.com

BAJA CANTINA
Authentic tropical Mexican cuisine, local hang-out for over 30 years, and just blocks from Venice Beach, is a great place to hang out with friends or have dinner. Prime tequilas are served, a variety of margaritas, and the patio grill serves food until 1 a.m. daily. Feast on a Surfs Up Tostada, or macadamia-crusted chicken salad. Oaxacan salsas, sauces, specials during the week, Mon. through Fri. Happy Hour, 311 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, (310) 821-2252, www.bajacantina.com

BEACH EATS FOOD TRUCKS
Returning for its second season, Beach Eats gourmet food trucks offer variety cuisine with trucks and menus changing weekly, Thursdays, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Of all the food truck events in Los Angeles, the Mother’s Beach Marina del Rey location is among the most scenic. Grab your food and enjoy the sand, picnic tables, and picturesque harbor. Parking is in lot #10, 4101 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292 (25 cents for each 15-minute period). Information: 310-305-9545. http://marinadelrey.lacounty.gov.

BEACHSIDE RESTAURANT AND BAR
This extraordinary dining destination is located in the newly remodeled Jamaica Bay Inn, offering innovative chef’s creations to combine a distinctive menu with a casual, yet sophisticated ambiance. The open dining room and bar draw in the beach, garden and marina. Fresh seafood dishes along with a classic balance of upscale beach fare, open daily for brunch, dinner, Happy Hour daily, full bar, 14160 Palawan Way, in the Jamaica Bay Inn, Marina del Rey, (310) 439-3033, www.beachsidemarinadelrey.com

BENIHANA
At the heart of the Benihana experience lies the teppanyaki table where masterful chefs prepare entrees like filet mignon, colossal shrimp, hibachi salmon and spicy hibachi chicken with all the flair that has made them a legend in Japanese cuisine. Each Monday-Friday enjoy Express Lunch, in and out in half the time. Happy Hour each Monday-Thursday, 5-8 pm in the lounge. Kids menu available. 1447 4th St., Santa Monica, (310) 260-1423, www.benihana.com

BISTRO DU SOLEIL
Authentic, distinctive French bistro cuisine, serves brunch, including Eggs Benedict, made in the genuine French tradition. The late morning feast includes the savory Soleil Omelette, or stuffed French toast, or a waffle. Also serving light lunch, sandwiches such as the bistro brie burger, or the roasted lamb sandwich. Dinner includes fresh fish daily and crafted dishes. Sumptuous desserts and beverages. Beer, wine, cocktails, closed Mondays, 6805 Vista del Mar Lane, Playa del Rey, (310) 823-1530, www.bistrodusoleil.com

BOMBAY CAFÉ
The tandoori oven is our most common cooking method, where the fat cooks naturally for a healthy lifestyle and great food. All the meats are trimmed of visible fats and no hydrogenated oils are used. We have weekly wine tastings, 30-minute lunch specials, a full bar, parties and event hosting, catering, delivery and valet parking. 12021 W. Pico Blvd. Santa Monica 310.473-3388, www.bombaycafe-la.com.

BUCA DI BEPPO ITALIAN RESTAURANT
A collection of neighborhood restaurants with a lively atmosphere and authentic Italian cuisine for all to enjoy. In the spirit of Italian culture, our dishes are meant to be shared and served family-style, perfect for passing around the table, and new menu items are created beyond the traditional style. Lunch, dinner, party pans, antipasti, fresh breads, pizza, entrées, for parties of 11 or more, please call, gift cards, banquet/groups, delivery, 1442 2nd St., Santa Monica, (310) 587-2782, www.bucadibeppo.com

C&O TRATTORIA  AND C&O CUCINA
Both restaurants, owned by the Singer family, have served unforgettable Italian cuisine for a number of years. Known for gargantuan portions, “killer garlic rolls, a nightly sing-a-long, and honor bars, C&O Trattoria, the original, opened in 1992 and is by the Venice Beach Pier, 31 Washington Blvd., (310) 823-9491. C&O Cucina, eight blocks east by Lincoln Boulevard, opened in 2003, and offers the same excellent cuisine, adding an enticing grill menu and a full bar, 3016 Washington Blvd., Venice, (310) 301-7278, www.cotrattoria.com & www.cocucina.com.

CALIFORNIA MONSTER SALAD
Create your own salad experience.  Fresh products, fresh ingredients, and generous portions. Features 13 signature dressings, over 60 tasty toppings, and freshly juiced drinks, such as our famous Kale Lemonade. The Monster Catering Salads are a great addition to corporate lunches or any dining event. We are a Santa Monica Certified Sustainable Green Business. 411 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica 310.587.2523, http://Californiamonstersalads.com.

CANALI CAFE
Owners Kat and Paolo Pasio offer fresh, healthy and delicious food, and a menu stocked with veggie alternatives, vegan soups, scrumptious salads, whole-wheat pasta dishes, home-made ravioli, thin-crusted pizza, gourmet panini. Italian classics include the osso buco and tagliata (New York steak). The brunch menu includes veggie pasta scramble and homemade granola. Canali serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Open 7 days. Free WiFi, free parking, a large patio, and art displays, 123 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, (310) 822-5379, www.canalicafe.com

CANTALINI’S EXPRESS
This take-out and delivery catering kitchen offers the best in traditional Italian cuisine to go.  Homemade pizzas, fresh pasta, sandwiches, calzones are available for all occasions. Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 11736 Washington Place (corner McLaughlin), Mar Vista, 310-572-9157, www.cantalinisexpress.com

CANTALINI’S SALERNO BEACH RESTAURANT
The best in traditional Italian cuisine, the restaurant has been a local landmark for almost 50 years. Each dish is carefully made to order to ensure the utmost in freshness. The menu includes the signature dish, homemade ravioli, perennial favorites, spaghetti with meatballs or sausage, NY-style pizza, daily chef specials, lunch Monday through Friday, dinner 7 days a week, live music Sunday, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m., catering, delivery,192 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey, (310) 821-0018, www.salernobeach.com

CASA LINDA
Al Pastor Mexican cuisine, a cozy and friendly place to grab some good Mexican food, and one customer said “I could eat here five nights a week.” Other customers rave about the chicken mole tostada, crispy shrimp tacos, organic flour tortillas, pork veggie, chicken enchiladas, carne asada, fresh guacamole, ceviche, delivery available, 1357 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 664-1177

CASA SANCHEZ
Traditional Mexican food in a family dining atmosphere. From tacos and combination dishes, to lamb shanks and steaks, tacos and appetizers, there is something for everybody. Appetizers, delicious salads, kids menu, fajitas, enchiladas de mole, cocktails and wine, 4500 S. Centinela Ave. Mar Vista/Del Rey 310.397.9999, www.casa-sanchez.com.

THE CHART HOUSE
Spectacular waterfront dining with Marina views, the menu includes cold and hot appetizers, soups, salads, steak, poultry, jumbo lumped crab cakes, signature fresh fish, filet and cold-water lobster tail, seafood, prime rib and lobster, steaks, wild mushroom merlot medallion and shrimp, poultry, signature side dishes like sizzling mushrooms, and the famous salad bar. Happy Hour daily, valet parking and dinghy dock, heated patio dining, 13950 Panay Way, Marina del Rey, (310) 822-4144, www.chart-house.com

CHAYA VENICE
Experience our American cuisine; everything from our fresh seafood plates or sushi bar, to lamb and angus meats, to tempeh dishes.  Lunch hours: Mon-Fri: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner hours, Mon-Thurs: 6 p.m. -10:30, Fri-Sat: 6 p.m.-11p.m., Sun: 6p.m.-10p.m.  Bar Service: Full Bar, extensive wine list, Mon-Thurs: 11:30 a.m. –midnight, Fri: 11:30.a.m.-12:30 a.m., Sat: 5 p.m.-12:30 p.m., Sun: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Happy Hour: All night, every night, Mon-Sun: 5 p.m. – Close.  110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291. Phone: 310-396-1179 or visit: www.thechaya.com/venice

CHINA BEACH VIETNAMESE BISTRO
Savory Central Vietnam specialties, authentic family recipes, only the freshest ingredients, and healthy, vegetarian-friendly dishes highlight the cuisine being offered. Family recipes for three generations include a secret, savory sauce, such as the Beef Pan Fried Noodles. The popular catering and party trays can be ordered two hours in advance, but some dishes require ordering a day in advance. Dine in, take-out, delivery, catering, closed Wednesdays, 2024 Pacific Ave., Venice, (310) 823-4646, www.chinabeachbistro.com

EL ABAJENO
Latin American, Mexican cuisine served is described fondly by satisfied customers who have eaten here for 25 years as a “mom and pop home cooking in the neighborhood restaurant,” and having “the best chilaquiles and menudo around.” El Abajeno serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, specialties, beer, burritos, carnitas, super tostadas, guacamole and chips, chilaquiles, seafood, open 7 days, opens at 8 a.m., take-out, catering, 4515 Inglewood Blvd. (at Culver Blvd.), Culver City, (310) 390-0755

EL RINCON CRIOLLO
“The Creole Corner,” presents authentic and always fresh, Cuban cuisine, known for roast chicken dishes and the leanest, firmest lechon (pork) dishes, served with rice, black beans, plantains, and lots of wonderfully seasoned onions. Eleven seafood dishes,  Generous portions at good prices in a warm, friendly atmosphere. The walls are covered with paintings imported from Cuba, and many are for sale. Cuban and Spanish catering, take-out, 4361 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, 9310) 391-4478, www.bestcubanfood.com.

HACIENDA PLAYA DEL REY
Great traditional Mexican food and margaritas, this restaurant joins the original restaurant, established in Westchester in 1973, and owned by the Hernandez family. The popular menu includes their famous homemade tortillas, tacos, combo dishes, seafood, nachos, guacamole. The full bar with ample seating. On Sundays at 9 p.m., a live Mariachi band performs at the Lincoln Blvd. location only, 8415 Pershing Drive, Playa del Rey, (310) 751-6135, and 8347 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester, (310) 670-8588

HAL’S BAR AND GRILL
Eclectic bar and grill is a renowned Venice locale, home to specialty cocktails, an extensive wine list, a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, and a diverse clientele. Distinctive American cuisine for lunch and dinner. Half-price for featured wines on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Live jazz every Sunday night from 8 to 11 p.m., Monday night from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., no cover charge. Hal’s upstairs hideaway is perfect for private parties/events,1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 396-3105, www.HalsbarandGrill.com

HINANO’S CAFE
A permanent fixture at Venice Beach, Hinano’s is a beer and wine bar legendary for its cool and unpretentious atmosphere, terrific burgers and ice-cold beer. Sawdust on the floor gives it that folksy flavor, and the popcorn machine and jukebox are favorites among locals and visitors alike. Three pool tables are continuously busy, and strangers get to know each other over a friendly game, 15 Washington Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-3902, www.facebook.com/hinanocafevenice

HUMBLE POTATO
The “Original Hambaga” combines American comfort with a Japanese kick. A neighborhood eatery, the menu includes burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, fries, sweet tooth, and beverages, Hours: Mon-Fri: 11:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m., Sat-Sun: noon – 10:00 p.m. 8321 Lincoln Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Phone: 323-989-2242 or visit: www.humblepotato.com

HURRY CURRY
Enjoy Indian and Pakistani cuisine at this friendly neighborhood restaurant. Local residents say this is the place to go for delicious, authentic food. Appetizers include  Samosa, a crispy pastry with mildly spiced potatoes and peas, and Chicken Chat, flour crisps with diced potatoes, garnished with yogurt, tamarind and chat masala. Tandoori dishes, cooked in an Indian clay oven, include marinated whole/half/quarter chickens, served with rice and salad, 12825 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista, (310) 398-2948, www.hurrycurryla.com

J. NICHOLS KITCHEN
Nichols Restaurant opened in 1974 as a casual neighborhood coffee shop and diner, served traditional comfort favorites and service with a smile. Still family-owned and operated, Nichols evolved to keep pace with dining habits, never losing sight of its roots as a diner, staying true to its humble beginnings. Food is still made from scratch daily, with fresh, whole ingredients. The menu showcases many original dishes, and includes a new, broad assortment, 4375 Glencoe Ave., Marina del Rey, (310) 823-2283, www.jnicholskitchen.com

JONI’S CAFE
This is the place to go for coffee roasted on the premises, brewed one cup at a time, great food, and meeting friendly people. Breakfast is served all day, 7 days a week, and lunch starts at 11 a.m. Owners Julie and Jim Jungwirth say they take great pride in Joni’s being a second home, the pulse of the neighborhood, and are dedicated to maintaining this feeling of community, 552 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, (310) 305-7147, menu online, www.JonisCoffee.com

KABUKI
Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theater that began performing during the 17th century, with performers traveling the land and sharing their stories. We hope that while you dine with us, you too can share stories with those around you.  The wide variety of the menu includes appetizers, salads, seafood, sushi and sashimi, specialty rolls, entrees, and signature dishes. A kid’s menu is available, Howard Hughes Center, 6081 Center Drive, #203, Westchester, (310) 641-5524, www.kabukirestaurants.com

KILLER SHRIMP
Serving our signature dish for 20 years, Killer shrimp, cooked to order in spicy, secret sauce. Enjoy the tasty Killer Mac and Cheese, fresh seafood, steak, salad and soup. Every seat boasts fabulous waterfront views, outdoor seating, special banquet room, Happy Hour daily. Full breakfast menu at Killer Cafe, including the Killer Bloody Mary. Use the dock-and-dine boat dock, bike in, free parking for cars and bikes. 4211 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, (310) 578-2293, www.Killershrimp.com

LE CELLIER WINE BAR & RESTAURANT
A neighborhood gastro pub and wine bar, perfect for business lunches and networking, dining or private events and functions. A convivial atmosphere with good food and conversation. Bernard, the general manager, is a wine connoisseur, with a strong background in importing. Serving lunch and dinner, fine wines and microbrewed beers, paired with contemporary French-Vietnamese cuisine. The menu includes starters, salads, charcuterie and cheese items, sandwiches, small bites, large bites, platters, 417 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, (424) 228-5491, www.le-cellier-winebar.com

LIBRARY ALE HOUSE
This pub offers a wide variety of microbrews, select imports on tap, and beers from around the world that are difficult to find, and a selection of white and red wines. This unique restaurant has a diverse and eclectic menu, with clever descriptions for food items, such as Light Reading (salads), The Stacks (burgers), and Endnotes (desserts). The menu includes fish and chips, taco sliders, pasta primavera, and more, 2911 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 314-4855, www.libraryalehouse.com

MACCHI’S BISTRO
This long-established Italian dining spot offers traditional fresh pasta dishes, such as ravioli, linguini al pesto and gnocchi. Popular seafood dishes include Linguine Pescatore. Locals and visitors say the atmosphere is warm and family-oriented, and say they can’t get enough of the fresh, warm bread with a garlic/olive oil dip. Tiramisu and Caesar salad are on the menu. Chicken and veal dishes include Pollo al Limon and Veal Marsala. 425 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, (310) 823-9838

MANCHEGO
Delectable cuisine from Spain. The diverse menu offers meat, Spanish cheeses, vegetarian, cured meat, desserts, beverages, and salads. 2510 Main St. Santa Monica 310.450.3900, www.manchegoonmain.com.

MARINA MARKET PLACE
The center offers a diversity of dining opportunities in one location. Baja Fresh, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, East Coast Bagel, Fatburger, Irori Japanese Restaurant, J. Nichols Restaurant, Jamba Juice, Le Pain Quotidien (opening Spring 2013), Panda Express, Panini Grill, Pizzarito, Quiznos Sub, Shershah Cuisine of India, Tender Greens (opening Spring 2013),Viktor Benés Bakery (inside Gelson’s Market), Yard House (opening Spring 2013), and Yogurtland (opening Spring 2013). Located at: 13450 Maxella Avenue, Marina del Rey, CA 90292. Phone: 310-827-1740. See Directory: www.villamarinamarketplace.com

MARLA’S CAFÉ
A professional caterer and party planner for over 20 years, Marla Barreira brings her fusion of American, Latin, Italian, Portuguese cuisines to her menu. The cozy dining spot offers a heated patio. The full menu offers both lunch and dinner, with daily specials. Small bites, sandwiches, wraps, salads, pizza, pastas, and various entrees, with choices of sides. Desserts include Marla’s famous cookies, brownies and pecan squares. Take-out, delivery, catering, 2300 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 827-1843, www.marlascafe.com

MELODY BAR AND GRILL
Start your busy day off with breakfast from our large menu in a fun and friendly atmosphere. Our chef ensures that all of our ingredients are top quality and completely fresh. Enjoy starters, salads and entrees, sandwiches and wraps. Serving dinner daily, weekend brunch, kitchen open nightly to 1:30 a.m. Happy Hour is 4 – 7 p.m. daily, live bands on Fridays and Saturdays. 9132 Sepulveda Blvd., Westchester, (310) 670-1994, www.melodylax.com

MERCEDES BAR/BIN 73
An ultra-cozy wine bar just steps from the iconic Venice Pier for a sophisticated, yet hip bar with casual prices. Complimentary wine tastings and great menu of small bites, cheeses and meats, platters, flatbreads and salads. Happy hour wine bar 4 – 7 p.m., brunch, open seven days for dinner, 3 to 11 p.m. 14 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey 310.827.6209.

MORFIA’S RIBS AND PIES
Brick pit smoked BBQ, sliced BBQ meats include corn bread and sauce (beef brisket, pork, sausage, and chicken), dinner specials include combination plates as well, BBQ sandwiches on a French roll or on a hamburger bun. Known as the home of the “Baklava cheesecake,” desserts include homemade pies and cakes. Catering, parties/events and take-out only, Small party trays, large party trays and the Texas-size party tray, open 7 days, 4077 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey, (310) 821-6939, www.morfiasribsandpies.com

MO’S PLACE AT THE BEACH
“We feature the best Monday Night Football party in town,” carrying all college and pro games, prizes, raffles and fun, NASCAR, four pool tables, a dart board and Golden Tee Golf. Full breakfast menu served Sat./Sun. and holidays until 2 p.m., appetizers, salads, burgers, steaks, specialties, drinks, daily special featured on Mo’s Board, fresh Friday chowder in a bread bowl. Open 7 days a week, happy hour, Mon. – Fri. 4-7 p.m., 203 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey, (310) 822-6422, www.mosplacepdr.com

NAWAB OF INDIA
Authentic and exotic Indian dishes with a complement of vegetarian entrees, served in the ambiance and culture of India. Open seven days for lunch and dinner. Buffet Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Champagne Brunch. Parties, catering and delivery.  1621 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica 310.829.1106, www.NawabIndia.com

OSCAR’S CERVETECA
South American comfort foods, dine inside or on the patio, casual, friendly atmosphere. Serves brunch, lunch, dinner, salads, seafood, burgers, sandwiches, platos grandes, platos verdes. Enjoy shrimp cocktail Veracruz, Chipotle beer shrimp, Hoyos Peruvian sashimi, chicken queso empanadas, herb and garlic-basted game hen, Baja fish tacos, fried pickles, L.A. Street Dogg, brunch Sat./Sun. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., beer and wine, happy hour, 3 – 6 p.m. Open 7 days, 523 Rose Ave., Venice, (310) 310-8937, www.cervetecala.com

OUTLAW’S BAR & GRILL
Known as the “Grubbin’ and Guzzlin’ Establishment, Outlaws looks like an old-time Western saloon, and offers delicious steaks, seafood, burgers and barbecue rib. Lunch, dinner daily, breakfast weekends only. Try to finish our Desperado Burger by yourself, win an Outlaws T-shirt, and have your picture taken and posted. Try our Tex-Mex on Mondays and Tuesdays only. Sports fans can enjoy big screen TVs. Both indoor/outdoor seating. 230 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey, (310)822-4040, www.outlawsrestaurant.com

PIKNIC
Enjoy a crisp salad, artisan sandwich, or gourmet hamburger for lunch.  At dinner, experience a candle-lit ambiance and begin with our unique Mediterranean Platter, and choose from our Chilean Sea Bass or Delmonico steak and Alaskan Halibut.  We are available for Corporate Catering or private events at our 2 locations:  13020 Pacific Promenade, Playa Vista, CA 90094.  Phone: 310-496-3966 or 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 20, Century City, CA 90067. Phone: 310-277-2700. Visit: www.piknic.us

PIZZARITO
N.Y. PIZZA BY THE SLICE
This is the place to go if you‘re in search of authentic New York pizza by the slice.  Established in 1984 at the Marina Marketplace in Marina del Rey, Pizzarito offers New York thin crust or Sicilian deep dish pizzas with a wide variety of toppings. Enjoy calzones, sandwiches, lasagna,  manicotti, stromboli, pinwheels, garlic knots, tiramisu, N.Y. cheesecake, beer & wine. All sauces and dough made fresh daily. Dine inside or outside, take-out and delivery. Enjoy the sounds of authentic Italian music. 4371Glencoe Avenue, B7, Marina del Rey between Pavilions and CVS, 310.823.7333. www.pizzarito.com

PROMENADE  @ HOWARD HUGHES
The Promenade’s dining choices include Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Hummus Factory, Islands Fine Burgers and Drinks, Johnny Rockets, Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Souplantation, Starbucks, Star Chicken, Stefano’s, Subway, Wetzel’s Pretzel’s, Wild Thai Restaurant,  Open Mon-Sat: 10:00 a.m. -9 p.m., Sun: noon-6.p.m.  Located at: 6081 Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Visit us at: http://hhpromenade.com

SAPORI
Literally, the flavors of fine Italian cuisine, the subtle decor and scenic water views enhance the delicious flavors. Dine inside or on the waterside patio. The dinner menu includes Gamberoni al Verde, a jumbo prawn shrimp dish. The Carpaccio Scottato di Bue, a seared crusted herb and pepper beef dish, served with arugula salad, is a savory lunch dish. Free parking 2 hours with validation, 13723 Fiji Way, Fisherman’s Village, Marina del Rey, (310) 821-1740, www.sapori-mdr.com

SHANGHAI  RED’S
This Marina restaurant is a favorite for lunch, dinner and brunch, and weekend champagne brunches. Special Early Bird and Sunset Dinners are available. Indoor and patio dining at the waterfront add to the ambiance. The friendly and professional staff enhances the dining experience. Delicious fresh seafood, steaks, pasta, over 100 buffet items are available. Great location for special events and holiday parties. Happy Hour Monday through Friday, 13813 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey, (310) 823-4522, www.shanghairedsrestaurant.com

SOUPLANTATION
The rotating menu of more than 100 original, made-fresh daily recipes features signature salads, soups, bakery goods and hot pasta sauces at an all-you-care-to-eat price. All food is prepared without the use of artificial flavors, colors, additives or artificial trans-fats. A different food theme is featured each month. The most popular menu items are rotated every two weeks, and items are showcased on a 55-foot salad bar. Howard Hughes Center, 6081 Center Drive, Ste. 102, Westchester, (310) 665-1144, www.souplantation.com

TONY P’S DOCKSIDE GRILL
Established in 1997 by friends Tony Palermo and Dan Ringwood, the restaurant is the culmination of their dream. With gorgeous views and friendly staff, the cuisine offers something for everyone. Serves lunch, dinner, breakfast on Sat./Sun., New York pizza, fresh fish, new kitchen items, like Tony’s meatloaf platter and Southern-style pork osso buco, salads, sandwiches, gluten-free menu, kid’s menu, desserts, weekday Tavern happy hour, 27 large screen TVs, catering, banquet room, 4445 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, (310) 823-4534, www.tonyps.com

TOWER PIZZA
Established in 1986, Tower Pizza is located under the iconic University Village Tower, centrally located in Westchester near Playa del Rey and Playa Vista. Fun atmosphere, friendly neighborhood vibe, with great drinks specials on beer and wine, high definition TVs for watching sports events, video games and pinball machines. The staff is friendly and the food is terrific, from home-made pizzas, pasta, burgers, fresh seafood, tacos and more. Open 7 days, 8351 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester, (310) 410-0986, www.towerpizza.com

USHUAIA
This Argentinean steakhouse offers a large variety of select steaks, with pasta and seafood as well. Serving both lunch and dinner, the menu reflects the culinary culture with appetizers of thin sliced raw beef tenderloin, Carpaccio de lomo, and Duo Patagonia, wild shrimp, scallops, and smoky-sweet Pimenton sauce. The Bife Ancho is a 14-ounce ribeye steak, served with three sauces. Open 7 days a week, 2628 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 315-5457, www.ushuaiasteakhouse.com

VENICE ALE HOUSE
Located on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, this lively restaurant is all about organic, wholesome, fun, food, and drink. Outdoor seating is part of the charming vibe, and the menu offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, beer and wine, and coffee. The burgers are grass-fed and finished California beef, served on an organic sesame whole-wheat bun. Sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts are some of the tasty offerings. Open 7 days, 2 Rose Ave., Venice, 9310) 314-8253, www.venicealehouse.com

VENICE BEACH WINES
The owners have an extensive wine collection, and feature small plates of farm-to-table cheeses, paninis, daily specials, enjoy goat and other cheeses served with chef’s accoutrement and a warm baguette, such as drunken goat, or the seven-year-old cheddar, old Quebec. Nibbles include white truffles and parmesan chips, charcuterie items such as prosciutto, galloni, and sweet stuff, chocolate brownie bites, draft beer is also served, open 7 days, see menus online, 529 Rose Ave., Venice, (310) 606-2529, www.venicebeachwines.com

THE WAREHOUSE   RESTAURANT
The last of the “original” Marina restaurants, The Warehouse is a one-of-a-kind South Pacific themed structure with bamboo, barrels, nets, decorating its large koi pond entrance. Fabulous views of the Marina harbor can be enjoyed from inside and from the large outdoor patio. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, sunset dinners, and champagne brunch, with live entertainment and happy hour five nights per week. The dinner menu offers items like the Split Cargo, an 8-ounce bacon-wrapped filet mignon and three Malaysian prawns. Banquet facilities are available. 4499 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, (310) 823-5451. www.mdrwarehouse.com

WACKY WOK
Serving “New York style Chinese cuisine,” Wacky Wok’s offers full service cooked-to-0rder Cantonese style Chinese cuisine from dim sum to noodles to a full array of a la carte servings of fresh vegetables, pork, seafood, beef, and poultry cooked to order. Both locations offer delivery and online ordering. Westchester: 8919 S Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045. (310) 670-0071. Venice: 2805 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice, CA 90291. (310) 822-7373

WATERSIDE MARINA DEL REY
The upscale shopping and dining destination in the heart of Marina del Rey offers both a variety of shopping venues and dining opportunities. Included in the eclectic center are the California Pizza Kitchen (pizzas, salads, pastas, soups, desserts), Chipotle Mexican Grill, Fresh Brothers (pizza), Mendocino Farms, Pinkberry, Rainbow Acres (natural foods and products), Ralphs Fresh Fare, See’s Candies, Starbucks Coffee, Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa (sushi), and The Counter (custom-built burgers), 4700 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, www.shopwaterside.com

Ye Olde King’s Head British Pub,
Restaurant, Gift Shoppe & Bakery, serves British cuisine and brew, Sunday Roast Dinner, Afternoon Tea (Mon – Sat), Happy Hour Mon – Fri 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Patio Dining, Wed Trivia, Sunday – Karaoke, Live Sports. Freshly Baked pies and cakes in our Bakery. Imported foods and great gift ideas in our shoppe. 116 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 451-1402.  www.yeoldekingshead.com

Westchester First Fridays
Join us every month for LA’s best neighborhood block party: Music, food trucks, great shops, beer garden and more. Westchester First Fridays takes the entire 6200 block of W. 87th Street (Los Angeles 90045). First Friday of every month, from 4 pm to 9 pm. Food truck line-up rotates monthly. Visit us at wherethesidewalkeats@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/WestchesterFirstFridays

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