The successor of Venice Terrace blends fresh ideas with nods to the past to create a beach vibe all its own
By Christina Campodonico
The Pier House 7 Washington Blvd., Venice (310) 439-1770 pierhousevenice.com
For more than 70 years, The Venice Terrace stood a stone’s throw from the Venice Fishing Pier. The longtime locals’ haunt known for its white-and-yellow awnings shuttered back in February, but reemerged this summer as The Pier House.
The new concept wants you to feel as though the restaurant has been a part of Venice since Abbot Kinney opened his Coney Island on the Pacific more than a century ago. The interior is decorated with historic postcards of Venice displayed as treasured memorabilia, homages to The Doors and Steve Nicks (photographed for People magazine on the rooftop of her Venice condo), and even vintage fortune-teller cards in a nod to Venice’s colorful past.
“They spent a lot of time collecting these items and putting them together to give it that vintage vibe, like it’s been sitting here a long time,” says founder & CEO of Create Hospitality Lauren Koeppe, who consulted the Venice Restaurant Group (also behind The Venice Whaler) on bringing the “story” of Pier House to life as the restaurant’s creative director.
At the same time, key architectural elements from the old Terrace still remain.
“Those are the actual windows. These are the actual doors,” explains Koeppe, pointing to the classic mullions on the restaurant’s front doors. “These old panes of glass, you don’t see them on new homes anymore.”
The skylight over the bar is also original, but updated with tresses of dangling greenery. Other pieces, including the bar’s copper countertop, are intended to age with the restaurant.
“It’s never supposed to be this modern piece of art that won’t change,” Koeppe says.
Exterior shingles (chosen because they will gray in time), faux moss tucked into cracks and corners, and plenty of shiplap add to the thoughtfully distressed look of Pier House (designed by Jeffrey Kurt). Modern touches such as a “living” succulent wall and white marble countertops and a refreshed approach to dining by the beach breathe new life into Pier House’s charmingly creaky doors at the crossroads of Washington Boulevard and Ocean Front Walk.
A breezy covered patio allows diners to people-watch the parade of joggers, bicyclists and scooter riders while sinking their teeth into chef Terry Kim’s West Coast takes on East Coast classics, including a fresh and juicy lobster roll tucked into a deliciously buttery brioche bun.
But the Pacific Rim is well-represented, too. Pier House’s big eye tuna tartare exudes a Japanese influence with huge hunks of fish and avocado heaped onto a sesame-seed encrusted rice cake with nori and sweet soy glaze. The kanpachi (a Baja fish) with strawberry aguachile, jicama, tomato and cilantro is a nod to Mexico and its culinary influence on California, notes Koeppe.
For the cocktail menu, Pier House tapped cocktail menu consultants Barlingual to create what Koeppe calls an “approachable” lineup of “beach renditions of classic cocktails” — in other words, drinks “you want to have by the beach on a warm day” and that pair well with seafood.
The Baja Spritz adds tequila to Aperol and sparkling wine for an extra kick. The house skinny margarita is made with a butterfly pea flower tea that makes the blend of lime, agave and Reposado tequila turn purple. There’s also a throat-clearing Amoxicillin of mezcal, pineapple, ginger and spicy bitters that arrives with the restaurant’s name imprinted on a giant ice cube.
Pier House also channels tropical vibes with a frothy piña colada (aged rum, strawberry brandy, coconut, Cointreau, lime) served with a flower in a high-stemmed class. You can feel classy sipping on this one even if you’re just munching on potato chips, which Pier House makes in-house and serves with both its lobster roll and beef tartare.
Next door, sister grab-and-go café Cartolina (which means “Postcard” in Italian) offers quick bites just steps away from the pier. Sip coffee under a big red umbrella in the morning, split a pizza at lunch, or just grab a tea or tonic to go.
“People are on their bikes, they’re roller skating, they’re in movement in this neighborhood,” says Koeppe, “so to act as a neighborhood amenity is [the aim].”
With its balance of simple beach fare with elevated coastal chic, Pier House hopes to be a place where both locals and tourists can feel at home.
“You can sit at the bar and have a cocktail or happy hour, or you can come and have a beautiful bottle of wine and eat steak on a special occasion,” says Koeppe. “So it’s for locals and tourists, and can really fit any occasion.”