Water Grill’s iced shellfish platters make for a decadent night out


Best Place to Dine When You’re Paying: The Win-Dow
The burgers at The Win-Dow are so cheap, yet so delicious, that you feel like you’re getting away with something — not murder exactly, maybe more of a small-time heist. For $3.95, the cheeseburgers come hand-formed and grilled with onions. They are on the petite side of things, which I find a relief — just enough beef to satiate you without making you feel too slovenly. The compact presentation lets you taste a bit of pickle, cheese and house sauce all in one bite. Add a perfectly scrumptious and uniquely juicy kale Caesar and fresh lemonade for a meal that, while not exactly virtuous exactly, hedges your bets. (Angela Matano)
425 Rose Ave., Venice | (310) 412-0075 | americanbeauty.la

Best Place to Dine When Someone Else is Paying: Water Grill
Fish lovers marvel at the sheer variety of seafood at Water Grill. If you’re dining out on someone else’s dime, order an iced shellfish platter — The Grand ($47), The Deluxe ($88), or preferably The King ($165). The King’s tower of oysters (kumamoto, damariscotta, barcat), clams, scallops, mussels, jumbo shrimp, crab, sea urchin and an entire lobster dazzles the palette. Augmented with mignonette, fresh horseradish and habanero-lime relish, this supremely healthy meal deserves to be paired with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. Let someone spoil you! (Angela Matano)
1401 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica |
(310) 394-5669 | watergrill.com

Best House-Made Lasagna: Colapasta
Classic Italian and classic Italian-American cooking marries beautifully in Colapasta’s lasagna classica al ragu. Thin layers of tender homemade noodles alternate with fresh tomato sauce, beef and cheese to form beautifully attenuated strata, akin to a savory Napoleon. The piece is big enough to share, but I promise you won’t want to. Save up your carbs for the week and splurge. You only live once. (Angela Matano)
1241 5th St., Santa Monica |
(310) 310-8336 | colapasta.restaurant

Best Place to Fill a Chimney Cake: Turn Dough
Is it a sugar-dusted pretzel? A conical cinnamon bun? A brioche ice-cream cone? It’s hard to describe a Turn Dough, perhaps the most unique pastry this side of the 405. The base is technically a Czech trdelnik, or chimney cake, but what sets this confection apart from its Eastern European ancestry is the soft-serve ice cream inside it. Turn Dough owner David Isachanjan added that international twist after a Chinese tourist bought one of his sugar- and cinnamon-dusted chimney cakes in Prague and topped it with a scoop from a nearby ice-cream shop. In Venice you can get yours done up with fruit, pretzels, Matcha Kit Kat bars — even 24k edible gold leaf, Ferrero Rocher hazelnut crunch balls and a decadent hidden layer of Nutella. (Christina Campodonico)
1424 Ocean Front Walk, Venice | (424) 307-5005 | turndough.com


Best Local Instagram Account: @veniceheritage
The nonprofit Venice Heritage Museum Foundation is the steward of a beautiful idea: a public historical museum for Abbot Kinney’s “Venice of America,” housed in a refurbished Pacific Electric Railway Red Car. And what better way to get people excited about Venice’s vibrant cultural heritage than with dazzling vintage images? From early 1900s bathing beauties to hidden Rip Cronk murals, defunct oil wells on the beach and the latest outing of the revived Venice Neptune Parade, board member and Venice native Kristina von Hoffmann does a fantastic job of keeping our past relevant in an eight-second attention span world. (Joe Piasecki)

Best Event Photographers: Venice Paparazzi
Way back in 2003, muscular Alex and pint-sized powerhouse Edizen fell in love after a chance meeting on Venice Beach and opened an “instant” photo booth on the boardwalk with a Kodak camera, 13-inch TV screen and an HP photo printer powered by a deep-cycle marine battery. As technology evolved, so did Alex and Edizen, growing Venice Paparazzi into the area’s premiere event photography service. The secret to their success? They make taking photos fun! (Joe Piasecki)

Best Art Laboratory: ESMoA
From an exhibit of awkward family photos to a drag show extravaganza inspired by “The Wizard of Oz,” the El Segundo Museum of Art is more “art laboratory” than museum. In addition to curated “experiences” built around inventive themes —the intersection of food and art, for example, or imagining the city’s future urban landscape — ESMoA hosts an artist’s residency program, field trips for local schoolchildren, film festivals, drawing classes and free public programming that’s included everything from yoga to speed-dating. One time ESMoA even sponsored an Elvis impersonator contest!
(Christina Campodonico)
208 Main St., El Segundo | esmoa.org

Best Local Librarian: Winona Phillabaum
The Lloyd Taber – Marina del Rey Library not only features a splendid view of the harbor, it also has the best boating and nautical history section anywhere in Los Angeles County — thanks largely to veteran head librarian Winona Phillabaum, who in turn gives all the credit to her staff. The ever-courteous Phillabaum can often be found at the library’s center desk, answering questions about programming for seniors and kids or helping patrons research the collections. “We’re not just a book space anymore,” she says. “We’re a community space.”
(Gary Walker)
4533 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey | (310) 821-3415 | lacountylibrary.org

Best Local Rock Band: The Morning Yells
The Morning Yells’ shimmery, sun-dappled pop sounds like a native product of beach parties, sunset jams and carefree drives up PCH. But in fact, bandleader and Venice resident Phil Stancil and his sister Laura grew up in Michigan learning guitar from their dad, playing festivals with the family band, and absorbing invaluable lessons in harmony and melodic hooks from their dad’s Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac and Motown records. Now recording and touring with a full band, in May they released the Morning Yells’ third album, “On the Lash.” It’s a synth-shined dream whose ear-catching, reverbed highlights — “Behave,” “Oh My My,” the magnetic “Halfspeak” — recall 1960s-’70s Laurel Canyon pop. (Bliss Bowen)

Best Local Music Residency: Hot Club of Los Angeles at Cinema Bar
Mondays at the Cinema have taken a decidedly swellegant turn in the eight years since Hot Club of Los Angeles made the Culver City dive bar their weekly home. Drummer/bandleader Jim Doyle, accordionist Carl Byron, guitarists Jake Bluenote and Josh Workman, and bassist Paul Eckman play two spirited sets of gypsy jazz every Monday night, and the clarity and nuanced verve of their performances is refreshing to behold. Heavyweight session players and musician friends home from the road often sit in, and HCLA’s developed a loyal following that includes Jackson Browne, who recruited them to be his house band for a couple of benefit concerts. (Bliss Bowen)

Best Local Literary Series: Library Girl
Susan Hayden often pauses when asked to describe Library Girl, which she founded 10 years ago as a way of rebuilding her life and spirit after husband Christopher Allport’s tragic death. That personal mission has become a community-building point of connection for actors, essayists, memoirists, playwrights, poets, readers, screenwriters, songwriters and storytellers. Presented on the second Sunday of each month at Santa Monica’s intimate Ruskin Group Theatre (to which all proceeds are donated), LG nights are structured around a unifying theme — e.g., “library noir,” a song lyric or small press. Recent shows have celebrated Willie Nelson, late poet Holly Prado, and Charles Bukowski (the latter with a “Ham on Rye” lineup that included Dave Alvin, Iris Berry, S.A. Griffin, Chris Morris and Henry Blake Mortensen, among others). The 10th anniversary soiree planned for Oct. 13 will honor venerable language artist Michael C Ford with readings and musical performances. (Bliss Bowen)