14 Must-Know Gourmet And Specialty Food Shops On The Westside
When it comes to gourmet and international food shopping, Westsiders have quite the selection, whether they need fresh pasta for dinner, a hand-mixed spice blend for grilling, or want sausages smoked like in the old country. Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, and Culver City are chock-full of awesome specialty shops and these are some of the best in Los Angeles--east or westside. Peruse our list and let us know your favorite shops for gourmet treats.
It’s a bakery, it’s a smoked fish parlor, it’s a coffee and sandwich shop. Love the ultra hip Venice spot (and its milk crate seating) or hate it, it’s undeniable that everything owner Fran Camaj (Gjelina, GTA) and chef/ co-owner Travis Lett touch turns into pure edible gold, and this shop is no exception. The crusty fresh breads are out of this world. The smoked fish delicious and relatively hard to come by in L.A., and crazy sweets like a baklava croissant and chocolate chess pie are icing on an already pretty sweet cake. Grab a cortado and mix in with the locals at the marble bar or out in the parking lot/patio with a baguette tucked under your arm just because you can. (Pictured above: Gjusta interior and a bialy with everything to go.)
Gjusta // 320 Sunset Ave., Venice 90291
Even for the most seasoned foodie, there’s likely a new find on every aisle of this sizeable Japanese grocery store and food court in Mar Vista with a bakery and food court. It’s a full-service shop, which means fresh meats and veggies, dried noodles of all varieties, and lots of crazy dried fish snacks share space with frozen dumplings, mochi of all flavors, and so much imported candy. If you’re hungry, the food court stalls in the back—serving up everything from ramen to katsu to sushi--offer a tantalisingly inexpensive fix. There are seven Mitsuwa locations in California, including an even larger store in Torrance.
Mitsuwa // 3760 S. Centinela Ave., Mar Vista 90066
Tucked into a warehouse-heavy portion of Santa Monica and behind an imposing windowless door, Guidi Marcello does not appear to be a retail establishment at all. That’s because most of its business is wholesale to L.A. restaurants, but what lines the shelves of its retail arm is an Italianophile’s dream. Most of what’s for sale is imported direct from Italy. The small shop is packed floor-to-ceiling with goods—106-ounce cans of La Valle San Marzano tomatoes, dry pastas from La Fabbrica Della, a refrigerated case stuffed with cheeses, two walls of Italian wines, and liquors. There are also ready-to-eat items made in-house, such as frozen pastas, pizzas, and trays of lasagna. Best of all, the store has a straight-from-Tuscany family lineage. Guidi Marcello left Italy in 1945 to start the business and his son moved it to Santa Monica in 1981.
Guidi Marcello // 1649 10th St., Santa Monica 90404
Bay Cities Italian Deli
Santa Monica sure is a nice place for Italian cooking. Not far from Guidi Marcello is Bay Cities Italian Deli, best known for its monster deli sandwiches like the Godmother, which layers prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella, Genoa salami, and provolone cheese. There’s more to the shop than its sandwiches, though, and it’s tempting to pair your lunch with a haul of cold-pressed extra virgin Italian olive oil, spaghetti sauce, Italian cookies, cold salads … the list goes on and on. Bay Cities has been on the Westside since 1925, and it’s been making East Coast deli-loving transplants feel a little closer to home ever since.
Bay Cities Italian Deli // 1517 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica 90401
Belcampo Butcher Shop
A relative newcomer to Santa Monica, Belcampo is both butcher shop and restaurant, and the meat for both comes direct from Belcampo’s farm in Yreka, which is certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers and humane by Animal Welfare Approved. The street-facing butcher shop has just about every cut of the cow, pig, lamb, chicken, and more. You’ll also find the company’s own line of processed meats (sausages, hot dogs, bacon) in a grab-and-go section. Pasture-raised eggs are on offer, as is bone broth by the cup, and some premade lunch items.
Belcampo // 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica 90401
A Cut Above Butcher Shop
The self-taught master butcher Eddy Shin (Primitivo Bistro, Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse) has created a house of meat on a car dealer-heavy stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard. Lamb chops, chickens, dry-aged beef, giant hot dogs, kalbi, country pate, spicy sausages and many more meat iterations line the cases, but it’s the sandwiches that draw the lines at lunch. The lemongrass flank steak banh mi and philly pork are favorites.
A Cut Above Butcher Shop // 2453 Santa Monica Blvd., 90404
J&T European Gourmet Food & Deli
There’s nothing sleek about this utilitarian Polish meat market and food shop founded by two Chicago transplants, and that is no deterrent for its Polish, German, and Russian fan base. The stars of the Santa Monica shop are the house-smoked Polish pork sausages, some with less familiar names like kabanos. For the uninitiated, the staff has samples (sometimes hot out of the smoker) at the ready. There’s also slicing meats like bauernschinken, a kind of country ham, and boczek wedozony, or smoked bacon. A frozen case holds a litany of perogies and dry goods run from Polish flour to jam to Polish Knorr soup packets. Show up first thing on Saturday for the Vegeta-spiked pork meatloaf.
J&T European Gourmet Food & Deli // 1128 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica 90401
French Market Café
A neighborhood favorite since 1993, French Market Café is a popular brunch spot on the quiet side of Abbot Kinney serving traditional fare from quiche and Nutella crepes to hot sandwiches and French onion soup. From the bakery there's warm croissants, pain au chocolat and sweet chausson aux pommes (apple turnovers). Once you've finished lunch on the patio, peruse the imported goods inside where you'll find delectable jams, truffle salts, olive oil, and much more.
French Market Cafe // 2321 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Wheel House Cheese Shop
It can’t be easy for a little cheese shop to compete with the big guys like Whole Foods, but Wheel House in Culver City reminds one of the joys of a shop dedicated to a single pursuit: that of delicious fromage. Ask for a sample of the Essex Street Comte or the Ossau-Iraty from France and you shall receive, along with a bit of history and flavor notes. There’s plenty of cheese-friendly crackers, charcuterie, and bread. The shop is open until 8 p.m., so come on the late side to enjoy a cheese or meat board on the back patio.
Wheel House Cheese Shop // 12954 West Washington Blvd., Culver City 90066
Surfas Restaurant Supply and Gourmet Food
Pots, utensils, ramekins, spices, oils, chocolate—if you need it for cooking, Surfas in Culver City has it. It’s easy to get lost in thought about the next great dish you’ll be making as you peruse aisle after aisle in the expansive shop. Sustenance can be had at the small cafe, which serves breakfast (chorizo and egg wrap) and lunch (roast beef panini, chicken cobb salad). There’s also a well-stocked cheese counter. To up your cooking game, classes of all culinary stripes are offered in the shop’s test kitchen on a regular basis.
Surfas Restaurant Supply // 8777 West Washington Blvd., Culver City 90232
Sinners and Saints Desserts
Whether you go for something on the Sinners side (butterscotch banana cream pie, anyone?) or opt for the Saints side of the menu (gluten free goat cheese and blackberry cheesecake does sound like heaven), you’ll feel like you’ve indulged at this darling Venice dessert shop with a long list of gluten-free items. If you don’t want a whole pie, there are plenty of hand-held tarts, cookies, and cupcakes from which to choose.
Sinners and Saints Desserts // 2547 Lincoln Blvd., Venice 90291
Grilling, baking, or looking for a spice blend? Penzeys in Santa Monica has you covered. The cute-as-a-button shop makes its own blends such as Chicago steak seasoning, Garam Masala, and the salt-free Mural of Flavor and offers standards such as chili powder and ground coriander. Most are available in sizes ranging from 1-ounce jars to 16-ounce bags and there’s usually a sample jar for a whiff. The shop has also mixed-up jars of make-your-own salad dressing spices, gift baskets, and a range of cocoa powders. A big bonus: The obliging staff is happy to help.
Penzeys Spices // 1347 4th St., Santa Monica 90401
Santa Monica Seafood
The Disneyland of fish shops? The shangrila of seafood? If it sounds like a stretch then you haven’t been to this airy Santa Monica seafood shop that appears to make good on its claim of stocking 600 different seafood and shellfish products daily from local, national and international suppliers. Gleaming glass cases display whole snapper, catfish filets, king crab legs, a riot of oysters—the list goes on and on. And if you’re the type that likes to eat seafood but not cook it, the shop’s market cafe is open for lunch and dinner and serves everything from oysters on the half shell to steamed clams to cioppino to lobster rolls. The shop was founded in 1939 by Naples immigrant John Deluca, and the business is still family-owned today.
Santa Monica Seafood // 1000 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica 90401
It’s a bodega for the discerning gourmand. The beer cooler is stocked with an array of choices from cheaper 12-packs to haul to a barbecue to more obscure craft beers from U.S. and international brewers. Wine, too, runs from everyday drinking to special occasion celebration. There are the snacks and sundries for sale--beef jerky, potato chips, nuts--that have been carefully chosen by co-owners Simon Mellor and Joshua Montoya to please the Venice consumer who wants more than a bag of Lays and a sixer of Bud.
Simon's Market // 511 Rose Ave., Venice 9029