[Photo via Jim Newberry]
If you’re looking for an uncensored experience in Venice - LA’s eclectic social experiment turned gentrified surfer’s paradise – head for the Pacific and pray for parking on the first Friday of every month.
On these special weekend kick-offs, the quirky beachside town celebrates its melting pot personality along the main drag of Abbot Kinney with some good ol fashioned retail therapy. Boutiques, galleries, spiritual bookstores, concept vintage eyewear/sneaker shops and ice cream parlors all stay open late on the increasingly upscale shopping and dining corridor.
Many stores welcome revelers with the triumvirate of temptation: free music, tasty food, and good booze. But to really get the goods, it helps to know the local purveyors and have a game plan. Otherwise, you can get log-jammed on a sidewalk with the throng of inlanders who flock west to relish the street fair atmosphere. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up enjoying local folky fav HoneyHoney while sipping a syrah from Elvino with a taco in hand. Recent Friday fetes have also featured the melodic crooning of The Leftover Cuties at landscape design haven Knibb and authentic Chicago blues at The Stronghold Speakeasy, a purveyor of vintage denim (downstairs) and password-guarded events (upstairs). The real chaos of late has been around the crazy food truck scene. It’s in the long lines at The Grilled Cheese Truck, Dogtown Dogs or the venerable Kogi that the true charm of Venice endures as a wonderfully weird mix of high and low culture camps out for cheap eats. Don’t be surprised to find a hipster architect scarfing down a kimchi quesadilla, possible gang members enjoying gourmet hot dogs, and Paul Giamatti ordering The Slumdog dosa amongst the hungry hordes.
It can get rowdy – especially at popular bars like The Otheroom and The Brig – and the cops make a big show of keeping the crowds out of the road (can someone please explain to me why they don’t just shut the damn street down?!) but mostly it’s just superb people-watching. After all, where else can you see a homeless guy ride a bike in roller skates wearing a mink coat?