Where Silicon Beach's Biggest Players Talk Tech and Eat
L.A.'s geniuses of user engagement share where they make their social engagements in Venice and Santa Monica.
While the entertainment world indulges in its ceremonial power lunches, the influx of Silicon Beach companies is helping spark a wave of new restaurants across Venice and Santa Monica. But instead of leather booths, think cocktails with ocean views, "killer lattes" and arguably the best homemade pasta in town. Or, in the case of Whisper CEO Michael Heyward, lunch in the privacy of his own office. "That's a very Hollywood question," says Heyward, when asked where he lunches. Recently, the exec signed a lease for his company on the Venice compound once owned by Anjelica Huston, and, as he notes, "We have a chef here." For those who don't have that perk, the list of hotspots seems to grow longer every day.
Silicon Beach starts off the day at a handful of places, including Venice's month-old Superba Food + Bread (1900 S. Lincoln Blvd.), which Shauna Miller of style blog Penny Chic likes for its free Wi-Fi and bike parking. "It's ideal for a power breakfast or a solo moment with your laptop and home-baked bread with eggs," she says. The once-desolate Lincoln Boulevard is further heating up with the opening of Locali deli (701 Lincoln Blvd.), a spot to grab gluten-free vegan baked goods. On Venice's Rose Avenue -- which has become one of the hottest dining stretches in the area thanks to spots like Cafe Gratitude (512 Rose Ave.) and Oscar's Cerveteca (523 Rose Ave.) -- Russell Reeder, president of web hosting service Media Temple, likes to take an outside seat at neighborhood institution Rose Cafe (220 Rose Ave.). Early-morning networkers also break bread at the Fairmont Hotel & Bungalows' Fig in Santa Monica (101 Wilshire Blvd.), where chef Ray Garcia serves up hazelnut waffles and breakfast burritos. For a quick hit of cold-pressed juice, head to the popular Kreation Kafe, opened last year in Venice (1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd.).
While Hollywood is striking midday deals at Soho House, the tech set heads to such Santa Monica spots as Dr. Andrew Weil's True Food Kitchen (395 Santa Monica Place) and "sushi Nazi" Kazunori Nozawa's outpost of Sugarfish (1345 Second St.). Fans of both include Sam Teller, co-founder of startup accelerator Launchpad LA, and Sudhin Shahani, executive chairman of members-only airline Surf Air. Some beachsiders like a deal: The $5 barstool-only lunch special (Mondays: crispy chicken sandwich with fennel apple slaw) at The Misfit (225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica) draws Tom Dare, CFO of startup incubator Science. "Every tech worker loves the idea of a $5 daily special with super-efficient service," he says.
When the sun goes down, the cocktail glasses go up at places like The Bungalow at the Fairmont Hotel, which draws locals and the Hollywood crowd with its ocean views. "Anywhere that reupholsters antique furniture with handmade Moroccan rugs is my new favorite place," says Allison Beal, founder of e-commerce site StyleSaint. Chef Roy Choi's casual Sunny Spot in Venice (822 Washington Blvd.) is popular as well; don't miss the rum punch. And High (1697 Pacific Ave.), the rooftop lounge at Hotel Erwin on the Venice boardwalk, woos fans with its sweeping vistas.
As renowned for its farm-to-table fare as it is for its wait times and arrogant staff, Venice's Gjelina (1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd.) still reigns supreme. Some, such as Rich Raddon, co-CEO of Zefr, feel that the prevailing attitude only adds to its appeal. "Gjelina serves the best food in town," says Raddon, who loves that the restaurant doesn't make changes to the menu. "It's 'take it or leave it,' " he says. Adds Dare, "The no-substitutions policy wonderfully smacks the foodies and tech prima ballerinas back to earth." Tumblr's West Coast director of sales, Jen Klawin, is always on the hunt for good homemade pasta and usually can be found hobnobbing at the new Scopa Italian Roots in Venice (2905 W. Washington Blvd.). At Scopa, Erin Falconer and Geri Hirsch, founders of how-to video site LEAF.tv, recommend the baked rosemary ricotta dip. "It is so good, we made a LEAF video inspired by it," says Hirsch. Other new hotspots on the Westside include year-old seafood meccas Salt Air in Venice (1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd.) and Water Grill (1401 Ocean Ave.) in Santa Monica.
Unexpected Meeting Places
It's the prime oceanfront real estate that lured the tech set in the first place, so it's no surprise that its players embrace their surroundings. Jonathan Skogmo, CEO of video site Jukin Media, likes taking walking meetings along the boardwalks. "It's the perfect way to take advantage of our unbelievable weather, particularly for out-of-towners," says Skogmo. By contrast, Steven Kydd, co-founder of online cooking network Tastemade, likes Venice's under-the-radar Deus Ex Machina (1001 Venice Blvd.), a motorcycle shop and cafe in one: "Inside this cool store is a little cafe that serves killer lattes. There are communal tables on a patio where you can talk while looking at vintage motorcycles. There is not a talent agent anywhere in sight -- and that's how they like it."
This story first appeared in the June 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.