Seven of the restaurants are in the Los Angeles area and one, Plant Food + Wine is right here in Venice at 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., in the old Axe space.
Matthew Kenney is the founder of Plant Food + Wine. He also runs one of his 5 culinary schools in the upstairs space above the restaurant. With other schools in Thailand, online, and another set to open in Miami.
“We’re honored to be part of it but I’m even more excited to see Open Table put an emphasis on vegetarianism to begin with. The fact they took the time out to celebrate World Vegetarian Day. It was a great list. I saved it,” says Kenney.
Joey Recipé is the beverage director and manager at the restaurant. He says, “it’s so awesome to be part of a movement. I think more and more people are becoming aware of what they put in their bodies as a correlation to how they are feeling.”
According to OpenTable.com the list was decided “based on our restaurant experts’ recommendations and diner reviews,” and that all the restaurants “feature vegetables front and center, creatively presented with expert technique and serious attention to flavor.”
Diner Alice Fox, who is not a vegetarian, said while dipping a roasted fingerling potato into carrot ketchup “Oh my gosh, these potatoes are delicious. They taste like they’re cooked in chicken fat!”
Kenney explains that you can use different, non-animal, ingredients “like smoke and spice and salt in ways that satisfy those desires for comfort food.”
Plant Food + Wine may be local but Kenny has a vision that reaches further afield.
“We want to change the way people eat and change the way the world eats and show that plant based food is actually the most exciting and most beautiful food and the only way to do that is for there really to be a lot of amazing options around the world. That’s why we train students so they can go out there and do this, and share it,” says Kenney.
It would not be surprising if Venice cafe owner, Clabe Hartley, was to say he’s thinking of taking up criminal law. This summer he’s served an intense internship into assault related crimes.
In March, 31-year-old Jonathan Lemons pleaded not guilty to biting off Hartley’s fingertip after an altercation blew up between the two men outside Hartley’s Cow’s End cafe on Washington Blvd.
Cafe patrons had helped stop the attack. Venice local Kelly Ott, who used to work as Chuck Norris’ stunt man said, “He was clawing at Clabe’s eyes. I got him in a hold from behind and then everyone, the man, Clabe, and I fell to the ground” This is when Ott noticed blood all over his arms, he looked up to see “blood spurting out of Clabe’s finger,” which could not be reattached.
Hartley now sits on a high stool at a table that runs the length of the inside window of the cafe. He prefers the advantage this viewpoint provides. Sitting to the front left, his back to the wall, Hartley watches customers approach, on guard for anyone suspicious.
Just a week before, Hartley had been attacked for the second time this year by another transient. Mark Scanlan, 44, like Lemmons had been disturbing customers seated outside on Washington Blvd. He is currently in custody on three counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon. His bail set at $90,000.
Hartley sits with five staples in his head. Another scar is forming, a war-wound received in what is fast becoming a battle between the business owners of Venice and those that call her streets their home.
Speaking of his most recent attack, Hartley explained it began with Scanlan harassing customers and ended with the man rushing at him with a cafe chair.
“I think his attorneys, I don’t know the intricacies of it, are trying to get him out of it saying he’s not mentally well. It’s true – he’s not mentally well if he does something like that, but is it psychological or is it psychiatric?” Hartley said.
As with many of the more disruptive members of the unhoused community around Venice, mental heath is often a factor.
“It’s possible that this second guy [Scanlan] has, and I’m not an expert on this, but it’s possible that he may have real mental psychiatric problems because he’s talking to an imaginary figure. But again, not being an expert, I hear that some of these people they’re on things like meth or bath salts and they can get weird that way too,” Hartley said.
In fact, when Hartley had sprayed Scanlan with pepper spray, he found the man was not affected.
“Before he threw the chair I was out talking to him. I thought he was talking about someone else for a while, I don’t know, but he said, ‘He’s gotta die, he’s gotta die. I gotta kill him, I gotta kill him’ and then he came at me and said, ‘there’s the cancer killer, I gotta kill him.’ When he did that, I had my pepper spray in my hand, and I was feeling him, and he seemed to be really out there so I sprayed him. He got within two feet of my face before I sprayed him, and when I did he said ‘Is that all you got?’ This was strong stuff,” Hartley said.
Often in cases where someone is under the influence of a drug like meth, that person can display almost superhuman strength. One Yo! Venice source spoke of seeing six burley LAPD officers struggling to hold down a skinny man high on meth.
In July this year Jason Davis, 41, died in hospital after being gunned down by police on the patio of Groundwork Coffee Co., at 671 Rose Ave. The shooting occurred only after police had tried to subdue Davis with pepper spray and a Taser.
“Davis stood up and began to aggressively approach the officers. One officer deployed a Taser, however it did not have an effect on Davis. Davis continued his advance on officers while still armed with the knife and an officer-involved shooting occurred,” police said.
Sources told Yo! Venice Davis had been high on meth.
“I don’t want to confuse people like this – do not confuse them with truly needy homeless people,” Hartley said. “It is our obligation as a civilized society to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. We have a responsibility to help those who want to help themselves.”
There has been an influx of homeless to Venice who call themselves “travellers.” They come, sometimes for only a couple of weeks. Drawn to a Hippie-like existence that most often involves drugs, alcohol, and camping on the grassed areas along Ocean Front Walk. These “travellers,” more transient than the core group of Venice homeless, do not appear invested in the Venice community. Instead they seem to be here to take what they can get.
Long-time homeless man known around Venice as “Buddah” said he prefers the term “housing challenged.” He spends his days on a grassed area in front of Ocean Front Walk at Horizon Ave.
“I have a Venice address my birth certificate,” Buddah said.
Buddah grew up with his mother and Japanese grandparents in a home on Brooks and 6th St. when the Silicon Beach wave was not even a ripple, and Los Angeles identified Venice by the less enticing label of “Slum by the Sea.” When Buddah’s grandparents had bought their house 6th Ave. was still a canal.
With age came medical problems for Buddah’s grandmother, and the family home was sold in the late ‘90s to pay for her care. With that, Buddah was out of the Venice housing market. However he hasn’t any regrets: “I’m living the dream. What are you kidding me? I ain’t got nothing to do but worry about when I’m going to go skate in the part with the kids,” he said.
Across the grassy knoll a young traveller girl starts to yell. It’s loud. She’s screaming into the face of a fellow traveler. It’s public outbursts like these that have not just the Venice residents and business owners but also the long-time local homeless uncomfortable.
“They confuse me with that dude ranting and raving outside that window at 3 in the morning. I’m not that. I’m the guy that comes and takes that guy, escorts him to the alley, and sees him on his way. I don’t want that to reflect back on me. That’s the respect of the neighborhood,” Buddah said.
Back outside Cows End a young traveller is panhandling. His name is Divin. He had been sitting with friends on the pavement to the west side of Cabo Cantina. Strumming a guitar and holding a sign asking for cash, he’d called out to a woman passing by, “Can I get a g-string?”
Divin asks customers outside Cows End for a dollar. He seems on edge, twitching as he walks. Glaring, he fixes his darting eyes a moment on anyone who tries to avoid his gaze.
“There’s one right now, just here,” Hartley said. “He’s really pressuring this guy right now. He wants money from him, you know? He wants money. He’s very in his face. That’s a perfect example of these aggressive ‘travellers’ – they get violent. Look at his whole body language. I don’t know what he’s on. He’s on something.”
As he heads north up Ocean Front Walk, away from Washington Blvd., Divin calls out to anyone who will listen: “I was on the news for being homeless” he said. No one looks comfortable enough to stop and hear his story. Tourists scurry past, heads down.
“I guess like down there they don’t like vagrant traveling kids,” he said motioning toward Washington Blvd. “We need money, we’re just having fun and kids just go and break windows and stuff for their s**** and giggles, but it’s ruining what we do. Like we just want to have fun and drink beer, and they’re like breaking stuff and making everyone hate us and it’s stupid.”
Divin is unaware his aggressive panhandling to get money for beer makes him part of the problem he talks about.
It’s a problem business owners along Washington Blvd. are keen to clean up. Around the time of the first attack on Hartley, the wheels had already been set in motion to form the Washington Square Business Improvement Group.
A consortium of business owners along Ocean Front Walk are also well into the planning stages of setting up a business improvement district along the Boardwalk from Navy St. to Venice Ave. They have so far raised a small amount of initial capital, but ultimately annual costs are estimated to be $2 million.
While it’s early days for the BIGs and BIDs of Venice, just like the flyers that are posted in the days leading up to a Friday morning sanitation sweep, business owners are putting up notice. They want to start cleaning the streets.
So, what then of the real homeless left in between? As tensions between the homeless and business owners in Venice rise, Hartley wants it made clear that he doesn’t “blame the homeless. Some need our help. This was the work of a psycho. This is what we need to deal with.”
Buddah had a suggestion in regards to the travellers.
“I think they need to go back to where they’re from and learn how to say, ‘Thank you. May I? Please.’ It helps a lot,” he said.
The magazine hailed Travis Lett’s eatery at 320 Sunset Ave., as a “California dream come true,”
“It’s a juice bar-bakery-deli-pizzeria-coffee shop-smokehouse, you get the idea. Is there anything this ambitious, do-everything spot doesn’t do well?” the magazine raved.
Co- Owner Fran Camaj telling CBS News, “We’re certainly very excited and quite proud to make that list.”
It’s not the first time something in Venice has won approval from the outside world, in 2012 GQ Magazine announced Abbott Kinney was the coolest block in America. An honor that some believe directly triggered a wave of gentrification in Venice. A near Tsunami inundating the beachside neighborhood with a plethora of high-priced, hipster hangouts that serve coffee way more fancy than your average cup-o-joe.
Gjusta is one of these such restaurants and while Bon Appétit may have declared it the number 2 hottest new restaurant in America, locals are divided.
At a city planning hearing regarding the establishment’s patio, Actor Zach Galifianakis said the restaurant represented “…the soul-wrenching velvet-roping of Venice Beach.”
Many locals have been upset by the increase in traffic Gjusta has drawn to the area and believe the developers are in violation of certain codes, including not providing enough parking.
Others can’t get enough, taking a ticket and waiting hours for their weekend Biali.
“I waited half an hour and paid $12 for a loaf of bread,” says Venice resident Henry Hereford.
Even Jay-Z and Beyoncé have pulled up a pew in the courtyard and enjoyed lunch…and the coffee is really good. Way better than your average cup-o-joe.
However, regulars may have noticed that earlier this month a blemish adorned the Gjusta window, a recent B-grade from the Health Department.
It was a low B-Grade, a score of 82.
Reasons listed in the report obtained by Yo! Venice include, staff handling food with dirty fingernails and without gloves, food being stored at inadequate temperatures, flies on food, dishes being washed without sanitizer, and mould on an ice machine in the coffee preparation area.
The inspection took place on July 28th, the report showing the inspector entered the restaurant at 11:36am and left almost 3 hours later at 2:23pm.
A re-inspection date was not specified on the July 28th report, however Gjusta’s current A-rating suggests a more recent inspection has taken place and that the establishment has, quite literally, cleaned up their act.
This Sunday, Whole Foods will present “LA Grow” at the Wiltern theater. “LA Grow” is an event benefitting RootDown LA, a nonprofit that empowers South Central youth by encouraging them to cook and grow healthy food in their communities. The event is being promoted locally by Venice’s Community Healing Gardens.
The event lasts from 4:30pm into the night, and will serve food from restaurants across Los Angeles, including Venice’s own Gjelina. There will also be a five-course dinner by chef Jennie Cooks, as well as music and craft beer.
Attendees can use the code “MyLAGrow” for $10 off of their ticket purchase.
Venice, California, Thursday, June 11, 2015 – 12:01pm
Co-owners of much loved Venice favorite Hal’s Bar & Grill, Don and Linda Novack and Hal Frederick, have announced signing a lease with Lincoln Property Company this week. It’s a move that will see the award-winning restaurant re-open at Runway Playa Vista after closing the doors on it’s Abbot Kinney location on April 26th.
“We look forward to opening a new Hal’s in this thriving, new community, 3 miles and only a 10 minute drive from Abbot Kinney.” say the Novacks and Frederick in a joint statement.
“We’re taking 4,700 square feet of totally raw space and working with an architect and designer to create the same welcoming, relaxed feel as the original Hal’s on Abbot Kinney. It’ll be about the same size, maybe a touch roomier. We plan to preserve the elements people value most–Chef Manuel Mares’ beautifully prepared food, fine art and live music–and create a vibrant new space and experience that still feels familiar and authentically Hal’s.”
“As we have for 30 years on Abbot Kinney, we want to play a meaningful role in developing and supporting the greater Playa Vista community and making it feel like home.”
Targeting a December 1st opening date, design and construction are expected to take 5-6 months.
Lincoln Property Company’s Executive Vice President, David Binswanger said, “Runway is ecstatic to welcome Hal’s Bar & Grill as a tenant, helping us fulfill our vision of Runway as the place ‘Where Abbot Kinney Meets The Grove.’ Hal’s actively nurtured the welcoming, laid-back, creative, community- focused vibe that defined Abbot Kinney; we look forward to having them do the same at Playa Vista.”
Hal’s Playa Vista is the beginning of a new era for the restaurant which will also return to Abbot Kinney, though the question of when this happens and exactly where is as yet unconfirmed…watch this space.