PASSPORT: ABBOT KINNEY
Just a short stroll from the Venice Beach boardwalk, palm-lined Abbot Kinney Boulevard has harnessed the funky neighborhood’s bohemian vibe to become one of L.A.’s coolest and most character-filled shopping precincts. The mile-long thoroughfare is pure entertainment with a colorful mix of independent fashion and design stores, vintage boutiques, art galleries, and sidewalk cafes. Ranging in style from the comfortably old school to the bracingly cutting edge, the one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants are infused with a grown-in-California ethos that you can’t find anywhere else.
The boulevard is named after a tobacco mogul, developer, and conservationist who, wanting to re-create the look and feel of Venice, Italy, built a lagoon and a system of canals in the marshlands south of Santa Monica. A century later, about a quarter of the original waterways is all that remains of Kinney’s romantic vision, but they still help define the neighborhood’s appealing quirkiness. And you can’t help feeling that Kinney, a sophisticated traveler who was fluent in six languages and had a strong interest in global art and culture, would approve of the diverse world-caliber businesses now lining his namesake street.
Shopping on Abbot Kinney is exceptional in one other way: It’s one of Los Angeles’s few walkable streets, so you can ditch your car and saunter down the boulevard on foot or, if you’re so inclined, on a longboard like one of the natives. The enclave’s residents cultivate originality as fiercely as its retailers do, so the people watching is as rewarding as browsing the stores. Whether it’s hand-carved bowls from Tortoise General Store, hand-sewn blue jeans from The Stronghold, or an insanely delicious and healthy sandwich from Gjelina, a day spent on Abbot Kinney will satisfy all your senses.
Proprietor Tina Wakino curates an expert mix of antique furniture, offbeat fashion pieces, and unusual accessories in this winning space, which has the nostalgic feel of a general store energized by a sharply honed modern eye. For example, customized vintage clothing and textiles from Mister Freedom designer, Christophe Loiron, are juxtaposed with imported craft items and Art Deco lighting.
Whatever brings you to this restaurant — the chic, rustic design or the flavorful California fare straight from the farmer’s market — you’ll leave happy and satisfied. Chef Travis Lett’s innovative menu includes lamb-sausage pizza and roaster artichokes with burrata. You can also stop by their take-away spin-off next door to pick up a freshly prepared salad, try the decadent date cake, or sample what may be the best tuna sandwich on the West Coast.
Tortoise General Store
The pale wood shelves in this serene atelier, owned by Keiko Shinomoto and her furniture-designer husband, Takuhiro, hold an amazing compilation of simple, striking Japanese housewares. Cast-iron pans, bone-china dishes, hand-dyed cloth, and blown-glass sake sets are mostly produced using traditional craft methods, yet they have the pared-down, timeless feel of the best modern design.
Named for its owners, Andy Griffith, a former film editor and self-avowed design junkie, and Rose Apodaca, a style journalist, this is a whimsical home-furnishings shop with a modern, pop-culture twist. Colorful, functional objects — glass, ceramics, and more — from around the world are displayed in a cheerful museum-meets-gift shop atmosphere that’s completely charming.
Everything is personally selected by owner Brian Lee in this very cool and inviting boutique, which presents a small, thoughtful mix of mens-wear and womens wear brands from around the world. With its thoroughly contemporary take on the American heritage look, you’ll definitely want to check out this small, quaint shop, which caters to the neighborhood’s creative and artistic residents.
Opened in 1895 as the first denim company in Los Angeles and revived in 2004 after a 55-year hiatus as a contemporary work wear brand, it continues to make products to the same standard and quality as the 19th-century originals. The Venice store sells both off-the- rack and made-to-measure jeans — using selvage denim only — along with an edited collection of other nostalgic brands, including Pendleton, Stetson, and Filson.
The Juicy Leaf
Named for the succulents that it artfully pots in sculptural arrangements, this elegant plant and floral design shop caters to the urban gardener who wants lush, low-maintenance greenery. Also known for its astonishing air plants, the store features do-it-yourself planting stations where customers can create their own arrangements or they can request the expert help of owner-designer Felix Navarro.
This store, with clothing for both men and women, is like a gallery in which exquisitely designed clothing is curated with the utmost care. It’s a bit like stepping into the closet of a fashion connoisseur with decidedly scholarly sensibilities. While these items are certainly not for the beach, they embody the free-spirited, modern elegance that characterizes Venice. Compiled by the shop’s owner, Christopher Rosen, the collection includes Rick Owens DRKSHDW, Ann Demeulemeester, Haider Ackermann, Martin Margiela, and Raif.
The Tasting Kitchen
Some of the most exciting cuisine in recent memory comes out of chef Casey Lane’s kitchen at this California-inflected trattoria, an ultracool, dual-level space with atmospheric low lighting. Handmade pastas and house-cured meats are delicious, but it’s the vegetables — fresh from the garden — that are the absolute standouts here. Presented in unaltered form, asparagus, broccoli, and artichokes, are dressed in sauces so delicious, you’ll forget they’re healthy, too.
The design and construction of this restaurant — renovated last year — is as organic as the California cuisine it serves. Air and space surround diners as they feast on delicious and healthy food full of grains, nuts, and vegetables. All dishes are artfully prepared and presented, none more so than the popular “bowls,” which include basics like brown rice and bean sprouts mixed with unconventional ingredients. Soak in the dappled sunlight in the tranquil back garden, and be sure to leave with a jar of the cereal-grain brittle candy that owner and chef Joanna Moore calls “granola.”
A. Kinney Court
Licensed optician Garrett Leight, co-owner of this sleek optical eyewear gallery, knows a thing or two about cool frames. Plus, he has insider access to an exclusive collection of vintage Oliver Peoples styles, since his dad is the iconic brand’s founder and creative director. So along with the boutique’s impressive array of eyeglasses, which includes Thierry Lasry, Paul Smith, and the house brand, GLCO, you’ll encounter classic Oliver Peoples designs that can’t be found elsewhere. The merchandise sits on molded plywood shelving with undulations that evoke the dunes and waves of the nearby beach.