The Waterfront Venice Boardwalk…Worth the Hype? An Angeleno Weighs In.

By Krystyn Lambert
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I lived with my father on the Venice Boardwalk in the early 2000s and witnessed what was arguably the final bastion of keeping Venice weird. I fear that The Waterfront represents a new wave of a more normalized Boardwalk.

On its current website, The Waterfront boasts being open since 1995, and certainly the vicinity was, but it was On the Waterfront, had other owners, and was generally very different. When it closed in 2017, the people behind The Butcher’s Daughter on Abbot Kinney (and in NYC) bought it with immediate plans to revive the establishment. And it wound up being pretty immediate, as it re-opened in late October of 2018.

My father went to the opening, and proclaimed, “So this is Venice.” It was a cryptic remark, but bears noting, as what is The Waterfront but pseudo-hip yuppies taking over a part of LA locals have been fighting so hard to keep weird? There are two sorts of people there: those who own My Cinema Lightboxes and have written, “FUCK,” in an attempt to be edgy, and those who own My Cinema Lightboxes and have written, “I CAN’T ADULT TODAY,” having seen it on Pinterest.

I know this, because I went on New Year’s Day having stayed a few buildings down from my childhood apartment the night before, and it was 1pm, and we were hungry… And curious about the wonders that would await us at this revamped place that “continues to remain anchored as a local destination with authentic California vibes,” (again, quote per their website).

There’s outdoor boardwalk seating where you can listen to the band on the sidewalk with all members donning Waterfront t-shirts and Waterfront stickers on their instruments (heaven forbid a real boardwalk band take up residence in front and ruin people’s otherwise groovy time there), bar seating for their heavily advertised cold beer (don’t think it’s like all of those other bars serving WARM beer), and a lounge area flanked by two patio options. One is more Gjusta-like with tile and potted plants, and one is more WeWork-like with ping-pong and communal tables.

Oh, lest I forget, the latter side also has “The Shed,” which is an over-priced boutique in a freight container complete with a meager selection of records and a $35 revolutionary notebook decked with corny phrases that allows you to write AND/OR doodle. Never before had I realized this was an option.

The place was packed, but we were able to be squeezed in the indoor lounge at a very small metal coffee table topped with a slice of a tree trunk I’m pretty sure I saw at World Market. The expensive coffee I was excited to receive was no different than Keurig’s Donut Shop, and it brought no more joy than overhearing conversations about various media projects in between Instagram outtakes from the people seated ever so close to us.

In the bathrooms, which are trailers perhaps offering you the feeling of being on set, there are candles, “made with love in California,” branded with The Waterfront’s yacht-rock logo called Boardwalk Breeze comprised of some mixture of cannabis, Palo Santo, and Pacific Ocean scents. I would love to have been there for that shrewd marketing meeting.

I ordered the Boardwalk Clasico Tacos (fried egg, fingerling potato, smashed avocado, crispy shallot served on Rita’s house made flour tortillas), and he ordered the Waterfront Burrito (filled with scrambled cage free eggs, aged cheddar, Beeler’s bacon, tater tots, avocado queso fresco, and tomatillo salsa). Ok, and both were exceptionally good. The ingredients are high quality and fresh.

Just don’t get too carried away enjoying your meal, though, because if you’re there when it’s busy, the minute you appear finished, you’ll be told, “Um, can I have you pay? We need this table now.” Whoever wrote their website’s copy claiming it’s a place “dedicated to… relaxed community hangs” clearly was given very different treatment.

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