After we landed in Los Angeles last Saturday, we went straight to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. There were a few cool shops and restaurants there when we lived in LA, but it was nothing like it is now—Steven Alan, A+R, Jack Spade, Firefly, Linus… and a few dozen delicious places to eat and drink line the blocks.
We started with brunch upstairs at The Tasting Kitchen.
At first, when we walked in, I worried it was too cool a scene for our two little ones—leather-backed Eames Eiffel chairs filled with stylish-twenty-somethings as far as the eye could see. And maybe it was, but Venice tends to be a fairly laid-back place, so I got over it quickly. They actually had a clip-on seat that was just right for Skyler—which was awesome because it meant she was free to work on a celery stalk while we gave due attention to the most buttery, delicious cinnamon roll in memory. Everything on the menu looked amazing, but we decided on Cacio e Pepe scrambled eggs and French toast with an egg-in-the-hole. And I had a gin cocktail that I ended up asking the bartender how to replicate. We’re determined to return here for dinner sometime.
It was super hot walking around and we felt a little silly for not being at the beach, but it was fun to browse so many great boutiques. Good shopping options aren’t usually so plentiful. The Piece Collective and Firefly Kids were both favorites.
We had searched for an apartment rental on AirBnB and Kid & Coe, but came up empty and were so grateful when Aron’s parents treated us to two nights at the Hilton Doubletree, which was perfectly situated for sightseeing. After checking in, we walked past the Santa Monica Pier and down to the beach before having dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette on Ocean Boulevard. (I wrote all about that night’s dinner, here—it was SO good.)
The hotel gave Hudson a choice of sand toys when we checked in (so nice!), so we took it out with us. The beach at Santa Monica is incredibly wide, so we actually didn’t go put our feet in the water—but it was Skyler’s first time putting hers in sand!
There’s of course more to see and do in LA than eat, but meals were definitely a priority on this trip—so many good options! Huckleberry in Santa Monica had been recommend to us by so many friends (like Rebecca) that we felt we had to check it out. Luckily our kids get up early, so we were seated shortly after they opened and with plenty of time before the line grew to a mile long. (It was super popular! One of those spots where you’re not supposed to hold a table until after you’ve ordered.)
Knowing that we couldn’t possibly get back in line again, we probably overdid it, but I have no regrets. Aron thought my breakfast sandwich (fried egg, arugula, bacon, gruyere and ample aoili) was the best he’s tasted since New York when we used to order egg sandwiches at Frankie’s almost weekly.
(So many covet-worthy cool cars in LA. Have to say… folks love their cars in this town.)
Even though we were walking distance from the beach, the kids seemed so sleepy that we decided to let them nap in the car mid-morning while we drove up the coast to Malibu. My favorite beach up that way is probably El Matador—you pay by the honor system to park in a tiny lot (or look for parking along PCH) and hike down a huge, steep staircase to get to the sand. It’s very scenic, with tall rocky promontories on either side and feels very clean. The parking lot was full when we got there, however, so we drove back south a bit to get to a public access point around Paradise Cove. Zuma is one of the nicest public beaches in this area, but you can actually swim anywhere—even in front of homes—as long as you keep below the mean high water line. Beyond that is private property.
Around bus stop 534 there’s a nice little swath of public beach with homes to either side, so it’s not very crowded. There was a fellow renting paddle boards, and a few people were doing their dive certification training, but not many others. It was just right for our little crew.
The waves along the beaches can get fairly strong without notice, so you really do have to watch your little ones like a hawk and always have a hand on them. You’d never guess it from these photos, but Aron’s glasses came off in the surf and disappeared so fast.
We stopped at Duke’s on our way back South for lunch in the bar. (The restaurant has great views, but you have to eat at their breakfast buffet on weekends to sit by the windows.) A few favorite stops along this stretch of coast have been Reel Inn (a fish shack on the inland side of the road) and lunch at the Getty Villa (admission is free but timed; parking is $15).
After all the sun and water, Aron and the kids headed back to the room for a break and I took the chance to walk over to the Third Street Promenade for some shopping. I texted Aron a photo of a Proenza Schouler purse from Barney’s CoOp (only about $1700), and he asked if it were a diaper bag. Third Street is closed to traffic and it’s basically a nice, outdoor mall. There’s a Madewell, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, etcetera. A little more unique is Kitson (and Kitson Kids) which started over in Beverly Hills and which carries a very curated selection of trendy fashion items and gifts. It’s a fun stop.
Actually, when we were in Los Angeles, I worked briefly at a local magazine and recall writing about it when it first opened: it was so popular that they put out a red rope to hold an entry line.
We had made reservations at Tavern, in Brentwood, for dinner so it seemed like a good excuse to swing by the Brentwood Country Mart beforehand.
The Brentwood Country Mart is sort of West LA’s version of the original Farmer’s Market (off Fairfax)—it was built back in 1948, and looks very much like it did when it opened, only with more posh boutiques (like Calypso and James Perse). Repeated sightings of Jennifer Garner there over the years in US Weekly had me almost expecting her to turn the corner when we walked in, but most of the shops were actually closing (or else I’m sure she would have been there, too).
When we lived in LA, the main restaurant space was actually occupied by a branch of New York’s City Bakery—which I didn’t adequately appreciate at the time and, it would seem, neither did most Angelenos. But now there’s a gorgeous restaurant and gourmet food store called Farm Shop, and I hear it’s delicious. (There’s a second location in Marin.) It actually reminded me a little of the spot we so loved in Sonoma: Shed.
Even though most of the shops were closed early Sunday evening, there was a fantastic toy shop called Toy Crazy that made for a perfect pre-dinner diversion for Hudson. A little train table time was an ideal lead-in to a long-ish dinner.
We’re huge fans of just about anything Suzanne Goin does. Her restaurants Lucques and A.O.C. were pretty much our default for any sort of celebratory meal—we went to the latter the evening of our engagement as well as the night after we got married. We’d heard raves about her Brentwood restaurant, Tavern, and saw they had a kids’ menu (a good one!), so we made reservations for Sunday night.
Isn’t it beautiful? Ours were pretty much the only kids there, but everyone was very friendly to them. The host teased Hudson that he was going to steal bites of his pasta and challenged him to eat enough to earn a cookie; I’ve rarely seen Hudson eat so much. When the time came for a cookie, Hudson asked for chocolate and was given the choice of chewy or crunchy. I can’t speak for the crunchy one, but the chewy one was amazing. Sidenote: Tavern has a take-out space—”the larder”—that will pack picnic boxes for evenings at the Hollywood Bowl and such.
Our flight on Monday wasn’t until the late afternoon, so we decided to spend the morning back in Venice. Naturally, we stopped in for some (of the LA-based brand) American Apparel.
Venice beach is always full of fun sights—even at 10am on a Monday. Aron and I were grateful for the delicious coffee being poured at Menotti’s, just down the block from the hanging (iconic) Venice sign. (Clearly, it gave Aron some hand-over-fist super powers.)
Just about everyone suggested we eat at Gjelina (on Abbot Kinney) while in town. It was by far the most recommended spot. When we first stopped in Venice on our way into town, the brunch line was out of control so we made sure to get there just as it opened on Monday for lunch—and it was a good thing! Verdict? Very cool, sceney spot with food that deserves all that praise.
Finally, I had to stop at the General Store before we left Venice. I’ve tried countless times to make it to the one in SF and it just never seems to happen; I was determined. We snapped a family photo before I quickly ushered Hudson away from all of those eye-level temptations.
It was awesome exploring the west side of the city—we definitely didn’t take ample advantage of living so close to the beach when we were in LA—and I can’t wait to go back. This quick visit just reminded me how much there is to see and do in Los Angeles; maybe next time we’ll focus entirely on downtown or the East side? Suggestions always welcome!
Update: Thanks for asking–the source for my swimsuit.