Eric Simon's LA Favorites

1. Gjelina - "Open kitchen, wood beams,sweet tunes, beautiful patrons and throngs of people waiting for a table dominate this Venice eatery. In many ways, the restaurant encapsulates Central Casting's idea of Venice - waiters sport the hipster uniform of fedoras, suspenders, beards and long dreads (although not all on the same person). The menu emphasizes heat, olive oil and seasonal produce--quite Mediterranean, but not purely Italian. My recent meal included coal roasted baby leeks with meyer lemons & burratta; baby carrots with spiced yoghurt; seared sturgeon with fennel; and a lemon shaker cake. They make good pizzas and a to-go version next door sells slices and sandwiches to a motley crowd including skateboarders and tourists."
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

2. Shima - "Not the place for your California roll or 50 look alike rolls all named after different celebrities. Shima is too dignified and elegant for that. In a small modernist, glass enclosed space, Shima provides a quiet refuge from the energy and frenetic nature of Abbot Kinney Blvd. Inside, handmade and colorful ceramic plates provide color to the rather spare space. Extremely fresh sushi gets adorned atop brown rice. Shima excels beyond fish with excellent salads (radicchio, salmon skin, heirloom tomato), a few daily specials and an ethereal coconut custard dessert. Shima does little to self-promote, but that does not mean you won't cross paths with Tom Hanks one night. In contrast to other Abbot Kinney restaurants - which have attracted tourists or Angelenos flocking from other neighborhoods, Shima comes across as a strictly local place."
1432 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

3. Huckleberry - "An airy, white-washed space provides the right setting for highly seasonal and fresh food - whether it is breakfast, lunch or snacks. Breakfast might include homemade granola mixed with Straus Yogurt, fresh fruit and honey. Lunch revolves around an assortment of salads, rotisserie chicken and interesting sandwiches anchored by their homemade bread.  Seasonal fruit pastries, muffins and great cakes/pies - like their corn-meal and blueberry cake - make up the dessert selection.  The owners also run the restaurants Rustic Canyon and Cassia, a new venture highlighting Vietnamese and Singaporean cooking (which was reviewed this past fall in the NY Times)."
1014 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

4. Salt & Straw Ice Cream - "When I lived in L.A., it was hard to find good ice cream besides the non-fat frozen yogurt aimed at the anorexic crowd. After all, New England has the highest ice cream consumption per capita so maybe ice cream wasn't a priority for people in L.A. That has changed. Salt & Straw - an import from Portland, Oregon - brings the retro hipster vibe to Venice's Abbot Kinney. The decoration harks to the classic middle America ice cream parlor with its traditional red-and-white wallpaper and helpful staff. But, the flavors showcase far more complexity and sophistication than your average ice cream parlor. This month (they try to be seasonal) features rose, water, saffron & pistachio; coconut with salted caramel; coconut marionberry; and Cinnatopia. Standbys include black olive brittle & goat cheese; Stumptown Coffee; Roasted Strawberry and White Chocolate; and avocado and strawberry sorbet. Meanwhile, Jeni's on nearby Rose Blvd. provides an airy retail location for the ice cream sold at gourmet stores across the country - think meyer lemon frozen yogurt, pear & Riesling sorbet, and brambleberry."
 1357 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

5. Cora's Ocena Blvd. - "Ocean Blvd near the Rand Corporation HQ now boasts a bunch of cafes, but Cora remains a faithful stand-by.  Up the hill from Shutters-on-the-Beach, Cora's encapsulates much of what there is to like about Southern California living. There's the beach just a block away and the crisp salt air. There's the excellent fruit smoothie, great to quench one's thirst after a run along the beach. There's the organic ingredients and Mediterranean dishes.  Or maybe it's the casual setting with outdoor tables under a canopy of trees right next to the parking lot."
1802 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Priscilla Polley