Rose Café

Top choice californian in Venice, Marina Del Rey & Playa del Rey
Andy Bender/Lonely Planet

This sprawling Venice institution (established 1979) was recently given a major, very welcome makeover. If the new version is less funky (though you'll still find laptop-toting writers, tech geeks and beefcakes from nearby Gold’s Gym), it's also more fun and more sophisticated. Display cases show off lovely salads, prepared dishes and pastries, which you can take to a hedge-framed patio.

You can also grab a table where waitstaff will help you order from the eclectic, daily-changing menu, which shows off LA's diversity and agricultural bounty: charcuterie and cheese plates, grills such as pepper-crusted short ribs (with tamarind, baba ghanoush and grapes) and the cauliflower 'T-bone,' plus creations from farmers-market vegetables. Pizzas (the Killer Bee, with pepperoni, mozzarella, pickled chilies, oregano and honey, garners raves) and pastas (such as spaghetti cacio e pepe, with miso, pecorino toscano and cracked black pepper) also grab attention.

Another addition: a full bar (hooray!) and a coffee bar that can prepare just about any java permutation imaginable.