Venice has always been Los Angeles's funkiest seaside community, home to chain-saw jugglers and the infamous Muscle Beach. When Joe's Restaurant opened in 1991, it was considered a pioneer. Now the neighborhood has become a restaurant mecca, but it still retains its laid-back vibe. Brad A. Johnson
Axe Chef Joanna Moore offers only about a half-dozen dishes each day, but every one is a revelation: a thick, double-cut pork chop with braised Swiss chard; a sake-marinated beef tenderloin (1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; 310-664-9787).
Drake's Visionary land developer Abbot Kinney built the early-20th-century edifice that houses Drake's. Chef Christian Shaffer, formerly of Patina, makes a killer Gorgonzola and prosciutto pizza; a better dry-aged steak can't be found anywhere else this close to the sand (23 Windward Ave.; 310-450-7055).
Table Set in a 1920s Craftsman-style house, Table captures Venice's casual ambience, but chef David Wolfe's cooking is worth serious attention. The seafood (Manila clams in a chile-tamarind broth) is superb, but Wolfe also excels at meat dishes (796 Main St.; 310-392-2611).