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The Lime x L.A. TACO Guide to Venice and Santa Monica

5:04 PM PST on November 15, 2019

Los Angeles is a city defined by neighborhoods you move through. But it’s hard not to feel isolated and stuck in your bubble. We created this guide, in partnership with Lime, to spotlight the tried-and-true spots that tie locals together.

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he shifting populations of L.A.’s most recognized beach cities mirror the constant ebb and flow of the sea. Businesses crest and crash like waves, fresh concepts forming on their horizon. Sun-weathered locals, pallid tech world transplants and jumpy visitors, much like the tides, materialize and recede in an uninterrupted coil of commotion.

We speak, of course, about Santa Monica and Venice.

In the ’30s and ’40s, Santa Monica was a hazardous, high-stakes city that noir novelist Raymond Chandler loosely fictionalized as “Bay City," a place where mob-owned gambling boats were buoyed by the Pacific and gallons of Prohibition liquor.

The lawless bohemia of ’60s Venice that attracted artists and musicians like The Doors is no more. At least not the bohemia part.

Neighborhoods in both Santa Monica and Venice irrevocably shaped the legendary Zephyr skateboarding team (the Z-Boys) in the late ’70s and early ’80s, before skyrocketing into the tourist-trod corner of high rises and South Beach-style facades you’ll see today.

Yet the essence of Santa Monica and Venice, like the views of their shared bay and sunsets, is immutable. They are cities of perennial promise, inspiration, and community. The Santa Monica Pier is forever the goalpost of a cross-country journey on Route 66, a destination that can still strike the heart dumb with its isolated charm if you ever manage to beat the multitudes.

A more assured jaw-dropper can be found among the canals designed by Venice’s visionary architect, Abbot Kinney, where you’re certain to find solitary souls strolling, photographing, and sketching their way to the boutique heaven knows as Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Even among that street’s big brand flagships or the popular stretch known as Third Street Promenade, you can still find businesses preserving the history and spirit of these ever-changing cities.

Rip City Skates, a small white store with sticker-covered windows, stands less than a mile west of Record Surplus. Opened in 1978, it’s the only skate shop in Santa Monica with ties to the Z-Boys, the Dogtown-based (Santa Monica and Venice) skaters who redefined the now-Olympic sport with their alternately laid-back and aggressive, surf-inspired moves.

Record Surplus, just a few feet beyond Santa Monica’s eastern border, has provided the soundtrack for the city since 1985. A haven for music obsessives, it is one of the Westside’s last vinyl stores, with roughly 50,000 new and used records beneath its high, wide ceiling. Entering is akin to finding your neighbor’s garage is actually a meticulously organized, easily navigable warehouse of vinyl, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs. Browsing feels intimate but never cramped in the large space.

In addition to the varied, sometimes rare, stock and large, welcoming space, there’s a friendly, knowledgeable staff that debunks the disgruntled record store employee stereotype. Owner Neil Canter is a surf rock encyclopedia, the best living guide to the sound that scored surfing-safaris and bonfires up and down PCH in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Longtime staffers like DJ/record label owner House Shoes (Michael Buchanan) and rapper Koreatown Oddity (Dominique Purdy) have helped curate a deep reserve of contemporary hip-hop from L.A. and elsewhere.

Rip City Skates, a small white store with sticker-covered windows, stands less than a mile west of Record Surplus. Opened in 1978, it’s the only skate shop in Santa Monica with ties to the Z-Boys, the Dogtown-based (Santa Monica and Venice) skaters who redefined the now-Olympic sport with their alternately laid-back and aggressive, surf-inspired moves. Rip City is equal parts museum and retail space. Skateboards of every decade-defining shape and color adorn the walls and ceiling, most of them autographed by the legendary skaters who rode them.

Come taco-time, you’ll find yourself super stoked to see a beachside location of Teddy’s Red Tacos, which single-handedly infected L.A. with an all-consuming fever for Tijuana-style tacos dorados filled with juicy birria de res.

New boards from national companies sit next to those from locals like Santa Monica Airlines (founded by Zephyr co-founder Skip Engblom). Owners Jim McDowell and Bill Poncher are behind the counter. Acting as historians, instructors and deadpan comics, the pair assists skaters of all abilities who drop by the shop. While the Z-Boys redefined skateboarding, McDowell and Poncher were also catering to the flocks of roller skaters gliding and dancing along the trail of sand-dusted concrete that runs across the beaches of Dogtown. That tradition continues, as skate-dancers of all levels groove in Venice’s skate dance plaza nearly every weekend. If you’d rather spin to oldies on eight wheels than carve the concrete of the pro-frequented Venice Skate Park, Rip City still carries roller skates.

Angel City Books & Records is the perfect (and perhaps the only) place to meet fellow bookworms on the Westside. Since 1998, owner Rocco Ingala has created a warm, cozy space that splits the difference between bookstore, art gallery and small record shop. Above all-but-overflowing shelves of fiction, poetry, philosophy, history and more, he’s hung many of his abstract expressionist paintings.

Next to the high-priced first and signed editions in a glass case behind the counter, there’s an enviable cache of Beat literature, including some from Venice’s own late 50’s scene. During that era, local poets like Lawrence Lipton (The Holy Barbarians) arranged readings at their homes and in beachside venues like Venice West Café.

Although Angel City doesn’t host readings, it sometimes carries the work of poets who read at Beyond Baroque, the Venice literary and arts center behind noted local poetry readings and workshops. While browsing, admiring the art and listening to music over a vintage stereo, you might even find someone special. According to Ingala, couples have met and later, returned to take their wedding photos here. These events attest to the singular magic quite palpable in this quaint space.

Come taco-time, you’ll find yourself super stoked to see a beachside location of Teddy’s Red Tacos, which single-handedly infected L.A. with an all-consuming fever for Tijuana-style tacos dorados filled with juicy birria de res. A more varied spread can be found on Lincoln Blvd. below Rose Ave., where a battalion of taco carts sets up on the street every evening. Just look for the giant glistening trompos of al pastor. A little east of Venice, in Mar Vista, you can get Oaxacan homecooking at Quiadaiyn, featuring faithful and excellent versions of specialties like tejate, memelas, tlayudas and mole negro.

Purportedly a favorite hideaway of Jim Morrison’s, Hinano serves beer, wine, and basic, rightfully lauded burgers. There’s sawdust on the floors, sports on the flat screens, and free popcorn behind the pool tables.

Townhouse is a short walk from the Venice Skate Park and graffiti-tested Public Art Walls. The oldest bar in Venice, it’s a meticulously rendered time warp back to the 1920s. With its long wood bar, stuffed leather booths and ornate Damask wallpaper, Townhouse feels like a regal saloon.

Cocktail enthusiasts can order standards like an Old Fashioned or select from a diverse menu of daring Prohibition-era drinks. Speaking of which, Townhouse was once home to a speakeasy, accessed via trap door, during the doomed national experiment. Today, that speakeasy is known as the Del Monte, a basement bar with a kicking dance floor that is accessed by stairs at the front and rear of the bar. Each week, Townhouse hosts new and recurring events on both floors, including tiki-friendly Mahalo Mondays, and free back-to-back stand-up comedy and burlesque shows on Wednesday nights. As befits Venice, the dress code is always casual, but the drinks, music, and entertainment are always elevated.

Santa Monica and Venice will inevitably continue to change with the arrival of new invaders. And the locals who love these cities for the history, creativity and laid-back spirit they share will inevitably continue to mourn the upheaval.

Townhouse caters to all comers, whether fresh and antique, but Hinano Cafe is one of the last surviving vestiges of the true Venice local. We’re talking Venice-High-School-OG-who-probably-knew-Mike-Muir-and-Jay-Adams-and-who-you-take-extreme-care-not-to-drop-in-on-at-Breakwater kinds of locals.

Purportedly a favorite hideaway of Jim Morrison’s, Hinano serves beer, wine, and basic, rightfully lauded burgers. There’s sawdust on the floors, sports on the flat screens, and free popcorn behind the pool tables. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, local bands play everything from blues and surf rock to covers of Fleetwood Mac. Even if your toes are caked in sand, you’re welcome to grab a pitcher and watch a game.

Santa Monica and Venice will inevitably continue to change with the arrival of new invaders. And the locals who love these cities for the history, creativity and laid-back spirit they share will inevitably continue to mourn the upheaval.

Both forces are testaments to a uniquely concentrated corner of west coast culture that can quickly capture the heart in a single beach stroll. Like waves, the most graspable core of these cities may be found in the churning itself, a perpetual movement unleashing bold new art, ideas, relationships, and movements into the city at large.


The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Silver Lake
The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Hollywood
The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Leimert Park
The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Downtown L.A.
The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Venice & Santa Monica
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