It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, and the boardwalk is teeming with wide-eyed tourists, skimpy-clad rollerblading girls, prophets of all denominations, artists, musicians, and families trying to meander around street performers. Our Venice Food Tour starts right at the beginning of the world’s craziest ocean strip – at venerable Venice Ale House. Our Tennessee born and raised guide, Sarah, collects us like a mother hen, and after a few introductory questions aimed to make us more comfortable, she leads us to the entrance of the restaurant and a table on the patio, overlooking the magnificent Pacific.

Our first appetizer is served promptly. As we take tentative bites out of Crab Cakes made with quinoa, onions, peppers, and celery, accompanied by chipotle and garlic aioli, we slowly get to know each other, the four strangers brought together by the love of food and desire to get more adventurous.

Crab cakes are fresh and delicious, the view of the ocean is stunning, and we are feeling pretty buoyed as we walk up the Rose Avenue to our next destination, The Rose Venice. I am expecting to be startled by the iconic Venice Tree Man, who scared the bejesus of me a few years ago, while I was walking down Rose with my daughters, but this time he took mercy on me.

Our second stop was The Rose Venice, a restaurant established back in 1979, which was recently renovated. Since he joined in 2014, Chef Jason Neroni has kept the roots of The Rose that the community knows and loves while introducing seasonal, globally influenced cuisine.

The menu focuses on local Southern California cuisine with an international influence from Chef Jason Neroni’s world travels. At the entrance to the space, guests are welcomed to a market counter and bakery case filled with American classics and original Rose bakery favorites reimagined.

We were served Killer Bee Pizza, made with Pepperoni, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Hot Honey, Oregano, and Fresno Chiles. The pizza was slightly charred as it was baked in the traditional stone oven and tasted as if it was made in Italy.

Ballerina Clown, the art piece by sculptor Jonathan Borofsky which greeted us as we walked down the Rose Avenue, represents the beauty and sadness of Venice, the artists, the homeless, the creatives, the sapphire-blue of the Pacific. It is an homage to the Venice’s eclectic spirit, its acceptance of the various ways of creative expression, the glitter and the dust that built the foundation of the city.

A couple of blocks up the Rose Avenue we came to the Berkeley export, the Cafe’ Gratitude. This eatery is a celebrity magnet, with its plant-based menu whose items are named by positive emotions. Our entree was called “Elated”, and it was a riff on the Southwestern-Style Enchilada, with jackfruit tinga, hatch chili sauce and creamy poblano sauce, avocado, pico de gallo, black beans, cashew queso fresco, and brown rice.

Our last spot was a Blue Star doughnut shop on Abbot Kinney Avenue. The idea originated in Portland, Oregon and each doughnut concoction is crafted after a cocktail, taking about eighteen hours to perfect. We tasted the Blueberry Basil Bourbon doughnut made with “fresh sweet blueberries, fresh fragrant basil, and a good local bourbon (added for a hint of caramel depth).”

The streets of Venice were busy, happy faces and big smiles surrounding us as we wrapped our food tour on Abbot Kinney, the quirky avenue named after an ambitious man and the founder of Venice, California, who was deeply in love with its European counterpart. We parted ways deeply sated, warmed by the glow of California’s sun, and enveloped in the afterglow of good food.

Thank you, Sarah and the Avital Tours for this amazing experience!