Design Dish: The Waterfront

Taking over an institution can be a tricky proposition. Neighbors were understandably wary when they learned that On The Waterfront, the over two decade old cafe along Venice Beach's colorful boulevard which closed at the end of 2017, would be reopened under new management. But they needn't have worried. This is definitely an example of a great makeover. 

Credit a team that includes the folks behind Butcher's Daughter and Bondi Harvest, Dave Harper and his wife Sabrina; 9Mile Investments Jake Mathews, his wife, Heather Tierney of Wanderlust Design, and his partners Jon Bloomberg and Michael Baker. 

The space, which bills itself as a beach club without a membership fee, has a new look and a new menu but it's retained the things that made it a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. The beer and the soft pretzels remain. Subtle but significant improvements -- there are more bathrooms and they've been relocated, for one, eliminating the long line that used to snake through the beer garden -- put the focus on hanging out.

Alongside the full service restaurant, which includes an indoor cocktail lounge, a secluded open air patio and seating along the boardwalk, there's a coffee stand and an adjacent tacqueria, Boardwalk Tacos. Whitewashed wood, natural stone elements, baskets, plenty of plants channel a beach vibe. Surf and skate details nod to the area's culture, colorful striped bolsters and pillows acknowledge California's Mexican and Spanish roots. To complete the design, Sean Tully, founder of Innocent Gallery has brought in artists, including Maxwell McMaster and Sofia Enriquez -- to create site-specific murals. 

Billing itself as a beach club without the membership, this is an all day dining spot that encourages hanging out. Nurse a perfect flat white, order a lush Cobb Salad with Beeler's Bacon, beer-steamed mussels served with Bub & Grandma's sourdough bread, an Impossible cheeseburger or any other of the menu's tasty farm-to-table driven offerings to go along with your free wifi. There's a retail store selling Waterfront-branded product from local companies, including DL Skateboards and Crap Eyewear. 

Most importantly, The Waterfront's goal is to engage with the community: the homeless Venice Boardwalk Musicians that jam outside are paid for their work (one of them takes care of the restaurant's plants) and can be hired to play your party and GRLSWIRL, an all female skateboarding group, holds their weekly meet-ups here. Interested in a surf lesson? Meet your instructor here, catch some waves, then use the space's outdoor shower to wash off the sand before sitting down for a plate of perfect fish tacos and a beer. Life here is definitely a beach.

The Waterfront, 205 Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach, CA 90291, 424-309-5331

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