I remember when Rose Avenue in Venice, between Lincoln and Main Street, used to be a stretch of road you quickly drove through, and rarely would consider walking down. The street and those jutting off north and south used to be home to many RVs that had taken up permanent residence, so much so, that there are now signs on these streets prohibiting any large vehicle parking. A lot has changed in just a few short years.
Locals like myself can start by thanking Oscar Hermosillo for taking a gamble back in 2006 when he opened a tiny wine shop and wine bar on Rose called Venice Beach Wines. The great success of VBW (and no, not just by me, though I certainly did my part) led to nearly a half dozen other restaurants opening on the block, as well as high end apartments, clothing stores and there's even a yoga studio to make the full-on LA transition complete. No complaints here except now I don't drive down to Rose because there's too much traffic!
Here's a look at all the new Rose Avenue restaurants between 5th and 6th, and with several more currently in construction, look for this list to continue to expand.
Venice Beach Wines
Venice Beach Wines is the place that started the Rose revitalization, and it's definitely worth a stop to grab the glass du jour. A well stocked wine shop allows you to purchase to go, or open one of those bottles and sit on the airy deck with some bacon wrapped dates and Moroccan lamb meatballs. You'll sit cheek to cheek with your neighbor on communal, wrap around benches, and eat your food off turned over milk crates. It's fun and festive from happy hour right through to Sunday brunch.
Oscar's Cerveteca - CLOSED
The Oscar of Venice Beach Wines knew he was on to something with VBW so he astutely bought the property next door to open his namesake restaurant, Oscar's Cerveteca. Instead of wine and cheese, think beer and tacos. The space and the menu are both more extensive with large plates of baby back ribs, a range of salads and burgers, but don't miss something in a tortilla like the tacos de barbacoa. Sadly, it's now closed, but a new Aussie diner has gone into its place. Stay tuned for more!
Continuing west towards the beach, you'll hit Flake and post yoga locals eating bowls of cereals, breakfast sandwiches, wraps and salads. You order inside, grab a seat, and enjoy some people watching before and after your meal is delivered to you. Flake closes at 3:30 so be sure to plan an early visit.
If all that chewing seems like too much work, then stop into Moon Juice to drink your meal. They've got cold pressed juices, shots, milks and a cure for everything that ails you. You can also sign up for a whole liquid program to cleanse and revitalize your system.
The newest kid on the block is a great little take out, general store, Simon's Provisions. Grab the makings for your own picnic of wine, artisanal beer, cheese, crackers and interesting noshes. If you feel like there's something missing from your perfect meal, write on the communal butcher paper hanging from the wall and the Provision folks will see if they can get it for you, assuming you didn't ask for a puppy, but then again, I haven't tried.
Just across the street is the place locals are literally eating up, Cafe Gratitude. Now, I'm personally grateful for food in all its forms, including food that comes from well cared for and fed animals, but I feel like I could get kicked out of this place at any time for my beef breath. There may also be a roll of an eye, or two, when I have to say "I Am Serene" when placing my order with the oh so positive, uniquely named dishes, but Cafe Gratitude is serving up 100% organic vegan fare purchased from local farmers, so far that, I'm very grateful.
Pono Burger - CLOSED
If you're looking for something just a little meatier than vegan cuisine, walk a few doors down to Pono Burger. While they do serve a wide range of carnivorous fare, it's all well sourced, organic, and grass-fed. They do have quinoa and turkey burgers, as well as a lot of interesting combination on beef burgers. You can even get recommended beer selections with each. Full review here.
Pono has now closed and been replaced with new neighborhood gem, Makani.
Saving the best for last, at the west end of Rose Avenue, almost to Main Street, you'll find the newly updated Rose. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Chef Jason Neroni brings an all day hang to this restaurant with rotating seasonal salads, homemade pizza and pasta and great cocktails at night. The beautiful atmosphere might suck you in for more than one meal in a day. Full review.
If you're looking for more great restaurants in Santa Monica, you just need to go a few steps around the corner to Main Street for another solid collection. Here are my favorites on Main.