Del Rey is a diverse community west of Los Angeles, adjacent to Culver City and home to a number of schools, families, and notably, military veterans. Just north of Del Rey lies a portion of California's “Silicon Beach,” the Playa Vista neighborhood that has become a hub for new tech businesses, media, and entertainment. Previously the headquarters of Hughes Aircraft Company from the 1940s through 1985, the area did not begin to develop as a community until 2002. Despite its late bloomer status, however, the once quiet town has quickly developed into a haven for upscale residential, commercial, and retail properties such as Cinemark movie theater, Whole Foods market, and the home of Fred Segal. Farther west and closer to the water is Marina del Rey, an unincorporated seaside community with a Fisherman's Village, a manmade Marina full of sunbathing sea lions, and countless beach style homes overlooking the gorgeous seaside view. Located near the famous Abbot Kinney road, Marina del Rey fosters artists, techies, beach-lovers, and foodies alike. Who says you can't please them all? Without a doubt, the number one rule of real estate applies to good food as well as: location, location, location. These beachy communities are able to offer the freshest of seafood and just-picked produce. And of course, where there is diversity, there are always many iconic restaurants from which to choose.
Los Cocos Panaderia y Pupuseria
Nestled in a tiny shopping center on Centinela and Braddock, Cocos is like buried treasure for the most voracious of food pirates. A first time visitor might mistake tiny Cocos for a convenience store. Soda bottles line the tiny fridge to your left and the counter is replete with colorful yet inexplicable piles of lottery tickets, local magazines, and aloe vera products. But a handwritten daily menu behind the register will catch your eye and you'll know you've found your pirates' booty. For such a small space, Cocos is able to offer a wide variety of pupusas, made to order. Local suburbanites like to boast that Cocos' pupusas are the best in SoCal and it is hard to argue otherwise once you get a taste. The scent of pork laden chicharron y queso is enough to make you tear open your to-go box and grab a bite right there at one of Cocos' dusty tables. Shove aside the rumpled napkins and go for the spinach and queso pupusa next, a warm pocket of melted cheese and layers of sauteed spinach and cebolla onions. With a side of curtido, pickled cabbage salad, and some beans with plantains and cream, this is the kind of meal that won't wait until you get home. But don't leave before visiting the panaderia section. The flor dusted with powdered sugar, pastelitos de leche, and huge champurrada cookies beckon to you like precious gems. Whether it's the guava cake or sticky pineapple pastry you end up bringing home, it's certain you'll be fighting your shipmates for every last bite.
Cocos Panaderia y Pupuseria: 4804 1/2 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066, (310) 636-1043
Irori Japanese Restaurant
Irori is located in a huge shopping center called the Marina Marketplace. Neighbor to Radio Shack, AMC – 6 Theatres and Pavilions, Irori is a soft hum amidst the more boisterous voices of the big businesses surrounding it. Once your eyes adjust to the dim lighting inside, a new world greets you. Soothing bossa nova music fills an intimate dark wood interior. A daily special whiteboard tempts you with bluefin burrata and black miso pork belly. You remove your shoes so you can sit on the floor cushions in traditional Japanese style. Are we still in Marina del Rey? The sushi chefs nod in approval at your order: the rather pricey and popular blue crab salmon roll. Drizzled liberally with ponzu truffle oil, the roll is a generous helping of quality blue crab meat and avocado wrapped with a slice of salmon sashimi. The roll is so good, you feel compelled to announce this loudly to your server, who nods as if she's heard this many times before. If you're not in a fishy mood, the menu offers a wealth of other dishes like crispy tempura, chicken skewers, comforting clam-filled miso soup, and the oft-overlooked tamago "sashimi," a hint of rice sandwiched between thick slices of dashi rolled egg. After a couple hours of Irori's seductive ambiance, dreamlike music, and tender sashimi, you'll emerge feeling as if you had a spa day for your taste buds: refreshed and absolutely content. Just don't forget your shoes on the way out.
Irori Japanese Restaurant: 4371 Glencoe Ave, Ste B4, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, (310) 822-3700
Morfia's Ribs & Pies
Westsiders bemoaning the dearth of good barbecue in LA need look no further than Morfia's to satisfy their cravings. This exuberantly decorated mom and pop shop is filled to the brim with wood paneling, amusing farmhouse knicknacks, and of course the heartiest ribs and pies this side of the 10 freeway. The most popular order is a substantial rack of baby back ribs, smothered in the restaurant's signature BBQ sauce. Coupled with sweet, smoky baked beans and dense cornbread, this meal could very well fool you into thinking you're too full for dessert. That is, until you take a moment to scan the freshly baked pies on display, at which point you may suddenly develop a raging sweet tooth. I'd plump for the apple crumb pie first – a thick slice, with layers of firm yet tender apples, carefully sliced to keep the filling from sliding out of the pie. The crumb topping is not your average soggy afterthought. It is a feat all on its own: toasty, crisp, and fragrant with cinnamon. Hardcore dessert lovers will not regret trying the uber sweet baklava cheesecake, a honeyed mash-up of chopped nut pastry and cream cheese on graham cracker crust. No doubt you'll leave Morfia's completely sated but let's be honest: you'll be back for another fix in the very near future.
Morfia's Ribs & Pies: 4077 Lincoln Blvd, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, (310) 821-6939
Bonaventura Gelato Lounge
When it comes to ordering at Bonaventura, thou shalt follow the Five Commandments of quintessential gelato consumption: One, thou shalt have your own gelato; it is impossible to willingly share Italian style ice cream. Two, thou shalt sample Bonaventura's trademark stracciatella, the creamiest vanilla laced with melt-in-your-mouth shavings of dark chocolate. Three, thou shalt have dessert even if you're on a diet -- just choose the lowfat organic honey froyo, which tastes just as decadent as all the other options. For dairy-free chocolate lovers, there's the dark chocolate sorbet, a vegan and guilt-free chocolate bar in wondrous gelato form. And if you're not on a diet, consider the geladough, a donut or sweet bun filled with the gelato flavor of your choice. Four, thou shalt sample the seasonal flavors. Regular customers highly recommend the Girl Scout Cookie, an absolute must-order item. And five, thou shalt finish your ice cream, no ifs, ands, or butter pecans about it.
Bonaventura Gelato Lounge: 4724 Lincoln Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292, (310) 822-1404
Barbianca Hotel Kitchen
Locals know Barbianca for its happy hour specials, when you can sip on $5 beers and house wines at Hotel MDR's poolside bar. While hotel meals usually call to mind a spare “Continental” breakfast scenario, Barbianca's dinner menu is an oasis of fresh ingredients with Northern Italian flair. The roasted polenta cake garnished with foraged mushrooms and truffle sauce is a vegetarian's dream. Any of the salads are a good choice, most of which boast organic greens, heirloom tomatoes, seasonal vegetables, and fresh mozzarella or Sonoma goat cheese. Meat lovers recommend the osso bucco or the pasta bolognese. The star of the menu though is another vegetarian dish: the roasted vegetable lasagna. Rather than layers of pasta, meat, and cheese, Barbianca serves a creative equivalent of vegetables layered between blankets of mashed potatoes and toasty cheese. Finish off the meal with some panna cotta with berry compote and maybe another glass of wine. Hey, isn't it still happy hour?
Barbianca Hotel Kitchen: Located inside Hotel MDR at 13480 Maxella Ave, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, (310) 577-6039