by Emily Virgil
Los Angeles's Venice Beach has assumed many lives in the past century. But its most recent incarnation is that of a hip, vibrant indie community where surfers mingle with producers and clandestine old bungalos share prime real estate with gleaming newly built lofts. Punctuated with cool local shops and beachy-chic eateries, Venice's main drag, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, supplies plenty of local color. Refinery29 drops in for a stroll.
• Salt, 1138 1/2 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, 310-452-1154
Named after the essential element, this streamlined boutique makes a flavorful addition to the street. Concrete floors and minimal wood furniture along the length of the slim shop house easy, simple pieces that transition seamlessly from sand to street. Lightweight cotton shirts, linen suits, delicate knit sweaters, and T-shirts from European lines like Kenzo and Hussein Chalayan comprise a best-of-the-basics collection that's both artful and ageless.
Abbot Kinney is home to several housewares stores, but none compare to Tortoise, the tiny two-story space that marries traditional craft with clean and functional designs. Named for the animal of both American and Japanese folklore, the tortoise is all about "slow design" and the craft of creating as opposed to fleeting trends. Husband and wife Taku and Keiko Shinomoto display exquisite objects from their native Japan with a gallerist's eye, and descriptive placards accompany every glass-blown vase, wood-printed tablecloth, bent-cedar vessel, and cast-iron paperweight. Look for portable ashtrays from Abitax, designed in Japan to curb cigarette butts on the street.
Specializing in out-of-print and collectible art and design titles, Equator is hardly your standard used-book haunt. Designed by architect Rania Alomar, the gorgeous "garage" houses an impressive selection of rare and beautiful volumes, cheekily curated in sections like "surf & skate," "prostitution & call girls," and "crimes & drugs." Check out original artworks showcased monthly on their "gallery wall," and discover new works from their own imprint, Equator Books Publishing.
Owner Alexandra Balahoutis's narrow, dimly lit perfumery exudes an air of mystery that seems to beautifully match her 17 provocative signature botanical scents. Each hydro-distilled perfume is created without chemicals, so it blends harmoniously with the wearer. Persica, inspired by Persian lilac, and Tour D'Ivorie, named after the French phrase for feminine allure, are especially unusual and among our faves. If you crave something even more unique, Balahoutis will tailor a bespoke potion designed just for you.
Surfing cowboys arrived on Abbot Kinney ten years ago and since haven't ceased to wow stylists and locals alike with their eclectic and always inspiring collection of surf-inspired memorabilia. Vintage surf and skateboards hang out alongside mid-century modern furniture in this 2,000-square-foot space. Here, every object has a story to tell and it all comes back to the cheerful, laid-back mood of the shop. Much like riding the waves, Surfing Cowboys are out for an adventure and a little bit of R&R.
Former fashion model Honor Fraser recently set up shop in a portion of the beach-cottage-come-art-gallery, Jaxon House. Fraser studied at USC and worked for the internationally acclaimed Gagosian Gallery before heading to Venice. Here, Fraser has works by Warhol, David Salle, and Claes Oldenburg among others. Currently on display are pieces by Roy Lichtenstein; a book release of Los Angeles artist Mark Lacari will take place in the fall.
As the name suggests, Hamilton Press Gallery functions as both a printing press and a small gallery. Since 1990, Tamarind Master Printer Ed Hamilton has single-handedly breathed life into prints by such greats as Ed Moses, Raymond Pettibone, and artist Ed Ruscha (who co-owns the Press). Hamilton blends an artist's vision with his own unparalleled understanding of the craft to create the finest art prints. Our favorites currently on display include Francessca Gabbiani's fire-on-water print, "Spectacle IV" and Mark Lacari's "Smooth Sailing." Note: Hamilton Press is open by appointment only.
• Abbot's Pizza Company, 1407 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, 310-396-7334
After spending the afternoon cruising the street or wandering the beach, drop in for lunch at one of the area's culinary institutions. Abbot's uses a dense, chewy poppy and sesame seed bagel dough crust as the starting point for their much-loved pies. We recommend signatures like Five Onion, Four Wild Mushrooms, or the irresistible Popeye's Chicken. The compact pizzeria offers just enough space to order and eat standing up, then get back by the waves in no time.
Jin Patisserie is a magical spot to steal away with some friends for a lazy afternoon sweets session. The impeccably manicured outdoor garden is abundant with shade and comfy places to sit. Inside, the converted beach cottage has cakes that are as delectable as they are beautiful, and come in innovative flavors such as lavender gateaux or ivory chocolate mousse with chrysanthemum jelly. The tea menu is arguably as impressive as the sweets menu, featuring over 20 select teas imported from France. Note: Be sure not to miss the lavender, rose, and lychee macaroons.
For the better part of the last two decades, Hal's has served Venice locals delicious provisions and spirited concoctions. The 40-foot high ceilings, spacious booths, and artworks by internationally known, Venice-based artists give Hal's an authentic neighborhood vibe. The seafood here is especially fresh and the famous bread pudding is positively dreamy. Hal's signature cocktails are another draw, including the popular (and refreshing) cantaloupe martini.
• Beechwood, 822 Washington Boulevard (at Abbot Kinney Boulevard), 310-448-8884; www.beechwoodrestaurant.com
The newly opened "American Retro" diner Beechwood has almost too much attitude for its own good, though the menu, changing seasonally and featuring the freshest inventions, does stand up to the stylized spot. Quick bar food offerings like calamari with basil aioli or sweet-potato fries are easy and satisfying. Rows of booths in the dining area play up the "modern American diner" concept while retro-colored cushioned benches line the lounge. An outdoor fire pit sets a cozy mood any month of the year.
Refinery29 heads west, where the beach meets the street.