The meaning of the Treat Collective, a virtual bake shop launched by three Los Angeles–based besties in December 2020, has layers. First, as in, “It is a total treat to work together!” says cofounder Ari Vena ’94, who was freshman roommates with Betsy Seder ’94, and in the band Sidemouse freshman year with Diana Hyman Winters ’94. Then there are the actual treats, like delicious and inventive shortbread, Seder’s specialty, and tender Japanese milk bread from Winters. . . .
Since opening the doors to its second location 10 years ago on Rose Avenue in Venice, Café Gratitude has been a consistent favorite for diners—and judging by its success, it’s not just vegans who enjoy the plant-based bites.
Among the highlights are the eye-catching names given to every dish, such as I Am Bountiful or I Am Humble for mains and bowls, and I Am Illuminated or I Am Infinite for smoothies. Another is the huge variety of organic dishes, from sandwiches and salads and starters to smoothies and sweets.
Fortunately, Café Gratitude pushed through the pandemic while plotting some impressive changes, the most recent being a new wine and beverage program courtesy of Los Angeles sommelier Taylor Grant, who is also the founder of Salutay Wine Club, leader of operations for TRESOMM Winery, and plays guitar in jam sessions with her friends, The Champagne Supernovas. …
One of the first things that diners will notice at Herbie Burger is that the vegan takeout joint’s picturesque burgers are made with mushrooms and black beans, a special recipe from founder Peter Williams.
“My wife [Erin Harnisch] and I noticed vegan menu items trending toward factory-produced meat replacements and away from house-made items,” said Williams of the inspiration to open his concept in a ghost kitchen in Culver City.
“While we have nothing against products like Impossible and Beyond, and we consume them from time to time, we found ourselves craving veggie burgers and plant-based ‘chicken’ products with fewer, less processed ingredients.”
Williams’ mini cooking space is at the very end of Selmaraine Drive, where a never-ending rotation of Grubhub, UberEats and DoorDash drivers saunter up to the window to grab their deliveries. Customers can also order at the window from a tablet, and Williams has seen his walk-up orders grow from one when he opened on Aug. 1 to 10 orders in recent days. …
Most nights, Platform in Culver City is packed with diners, shoppers and people watchers. The community shopping center on Washington Boulevard buzzes with the pulsing energy of a college campus or popular mall food court. After a three-month stint as Little Fiish in a pop-up space, Fiish has expanded and joined the swarm of eateries that makes Platform so appealing.
“We were also lucky that there is a lack of sushi restaurants in the area so it was a well-received concept,” said Chef Colin Whitbread, a professional-surfer-turned-chef who previously ran a catering business in Los Angeles and San Diego for more than 15 years.
“The local community has been so supportive of the new space,” Whitbread said. …
In 2017, N’ice Cream fell into Omid Torkian’s lap, metaphorically.
As his wife Elaheh (or Ellie as people call her) tells it, they had been looking to jump into the restaurant business. More specifically, Omid was looking for a business for her to nurture — and she just happened to be pregnant with their third child.
N’ice Cream’s previous owner was looking to sell the Playa Vista location, and the Torkians saw the perfect opportunity to “start small and get the ball rolling,” Ellie says.
After opening in February 2017, Ellie conducted what would be the first revamp of the shop. She upgraded the vibe to a bright and pastel interior, added a refrigerated section with fresh fruit, and put her skills as a former art teacher to work by designing their mascot, Mrs. N’ice Cream, who is painted on the wall and smiles at customers.
They also expanded the types of soft serve they offered beyond strictly gelato or frozen yogurt. …
Mark Meyuhas and Bruce Horwitz are quite deliberate when they pick a street on which to open a restaurant. In 2009, they launched The Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney, serving contemporary Italian with a focus on farm to table. And in Fall 2021 they opened Ghisallo, a wood-fired pizza kitchen on Santa Monica’s Ocean Park Boulevard.
But the two restaurateurs don’t just pick locations based on popularity. They both live on the Westside with their families, and they also consider community.
“We love Santa Monica,” Horwitz said. “It has been a welcoming community from day one. We wanted to open a restaurant that the community could make their own. There is a natural gravity to independent, small business in Santa Monica that doesn’t exist in all communities.” …
“We’ve been open for five weeks today,” said Duc Pham of his new Blossom Vietnamese restaurant on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
Pham just received the two heaters he ordered for the outside patio, which have arrived in time to warm outdoor diners for the coming windy weekend.
“We’re moving with the space,” he said. “It’s telling us what it needs daily.”
Venice is Pham’s fifth Blossom location – the original Downtown Los Angeles noodle shop launched on Main Street 17 years ago. Santa Monica’s Ocean Park Boulevard eatery opened five years ago. His Silver Lake spot, which opened in 2006, closed three years ago because of the building’s rapidly rising rent, and the Atwater Village restaurant popped up just over a year ago. …
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more than a few unexpected things. One much-needed pleasant surprise is the proliferation of pop-ups.
“In 2020, we were able to do a pop-up for De Buena Planta in a parking lot,” said Heather Tierney, founder of The Butcher’s Daughter, of the plant-based Mexican concept across Abbot Kinney that opened on Labor Day in 2020. “It was a way to get creative.”
Tierney is popping up once again with Only the Wild Ones, a natural wine bar on Abbot Kinney next door to The Butcher’s Daughter where The Other Room once operated. The landlord of the building, who also owns The Butcher’s Daughter and De Buena Planta’s properties, is in the process of converting it to retail space, but it’s a long process. Tierney has the go-ahead for her pop-up until the space is converted and a retail tenant moves in.
The pandemic and Abbot Kinney’s high rents have made Tierney a big proponent of pop-ups.
“Landlords on Abbot Kinney are holding out for ridiculous rents, so if anyone sees an empty storefront, it’s an opportunity to launch something,” she said. …
Just before Sachi Cunningham ’94.5 entered her sophomore year at Brown, she was given a bipolar 1 diagnosis and put in a rubber-walled room. It wouldn’t be her last time in a psychiatric hospital. When her mom died of ovarian cancer during her junior year, she fell into a deep depression and landed there again. But Cunningham, a competitive athlete who was on Brown’s varsity swim and water polo teams, went on to land at the top of the dangerous, male-dominated field of surf photography. She says that’s not a coincidence.
“Learning how to survive when a wave detonates on or in front of you has become an incredibly valuable practice of resilience and survival,” she says. “Every time I swim in the surf I am reinforcing how to feel comfortable in a situation that is entirely out of my control, and how to surrender to whatever comes my way and make the most of it.” The highs and lows of her bipolar disorder are as inevitable as the continued pounding of the waves, she says. “The lessons that this practice instills has helped to keep me functional.” . . .
When Edward Ackah-Miezah was in high school in Seattle, he got a job at Java Joe’s. It was one of his first jobs, and it played a major role in where he’s sitting today – at a table in front of his 4-year-old Playa Vista outdoor coffee cabana, Café Ruisseau.
“Joe was super cool,” shares Ackah-Miezah. “He was really popular. Everybody loved him, and I saw how magnetic he was and how magnetic coffee could be for a community. I fell in love with coffee and how it brings people together. Ever since, I’ve been in and around coffee.”
Tucked away next to Tocaya Organica and across the drive from Home State, Café Ruisseau has been thriving since 2016, when the Playa Vista Campus invited Ackah-Miezah to open a coffee shop to service the rapidly growing business community.
In mid-March, as with all aspects of life as we knew it, everything changed. …