It's safe to say that Los Angeles is now officially a "foodie town." We're no longer living in the culinary shadow of Northern California; we've got our own loud, colorful identity and it's finally being reflected in our restaurants, as well. From pop-up restaurants to fine dining establishments, chefs across the city are pulling out all the stops, showing off not just our region's incredible produce but their own capacity to innovate and entertain with food.
Dudley Market is a perfect example of the changing landscape in Los Angeles' food culture. It's a little food oasis, hiding in what feels like a back alley just steps from Venice Beach. It's the kind of place you'd happen upon after taking a wrong turn while looking for someplace else. But once you'd soaked in the welcoming exterior, the pretty gold logo etched on the massive windows, and the tempting menu by the door, it's also the type of place that would charm you into forgetting wherever it was you were supposed to go. And then, you'd taste the food, and you'd start to wonder if it was here that you were meant to be all along.
In the rustic, light-drenched space that was once a convenience store, Chef Wesley Barden is cooking up delicious, inventive cuisine that makes the most out of the bounty of produce he finds at local farmers markets. By day, Dudley Market feels welcoming and relaxed, serving home-baked pastries, comforting breakfast and lunch dishes, and grab-and-go snacks and drinks to locals as they wander off the beach. By night, it becomes a romantic, candlelit bistro, alive with conversation and laughter as diners savor elegant cuisine and thoughtfully selected wines.
The breakfast menu during the week is short but sweet; its six items somehow manage to cover all the bases. It would be hard to top the Smoked Salmon dish as a perfect, contained breakfast (unless, of course, you added an egg on the side... which I did). The homemade bagel is perfect, and the caraway kefir provides a light and tangy alternative to a basic cream cheese. The vegetable accompaniments make the dish feel special, providing freshness and sharp contrasts in both flavor and texture. But the star of the dish is, of course, the gorgeous and vibrant house-smoked salmon, delicately flavorful and tender.
During weekend brunch, the menu doubles in size, adding stick-to-your-ribs breakfast dishes and classic lunch fare, as well as bottomless mimosas. The Shrimp & Grits dish certainly falls under the stick-to-your-ribs category; it's hearty and comforting, but somehow doesn't feel heavy. The rustic cheese grits have a texture almost like buckwheat or oatmeal, and are thick, creamy, and oh-so-satisfying. On top, spicy shrimp, runny fried eggs, and a sweet onion marmalade create a harmonious flavor profile that elevates a simple country dish into something distinctive and memorable.
The Farro Bowl was an unexpected surprise, combining a kitchen sink's worth of different textures and flavors into something surprisingly harmonious. Perhaps the most unusual component is the sieved egg, which is impossibly fluffy and light and melts into a salty creaminess when it hits the tongue. The farro is as nutty and firm as you would hope it to be, tossed in a light vinaigrette that offers just a hint acidity, and the radish slices add a satisfying crunch to each bite. There are also chunks of tangy citrus, earthy roasted mushrooms, and flecks of fragrant rosemary. What brings this all together is the luscious smear of whipped goat's cheese on the side of the bowl; it's lemony and bright and yet still savory, and it's so light and fluffy that it's almost cloud-like. We both agreed that we'd be satisfied with a bowl of this cheese alone, or maybe with a nice slice of baguette. It's divine.
And because no good brunch goes without a bit of decadence, there are the Seany Cakes. This should probably be called simply Seany Cake, what with there being only a singular enormous cake, but the Seany Cakes are all about challenging your expectations. In fact, nothing about this dish is what you'd expect; the cake is thick and crispy on the outside, incredibly moist and steaming in the center, and sports a robust, yeasted flavor that barely approaches sweetness. On top, deliciously tart, syrupy blackberries and a mound of soft, sweet whipped cream that melts the moment it makes contact with the steaming hot cake. This is exactly the kind of dish that Sundays were made for.
As the Los Angeles food culture continues to explode, deciding where to brunch next can be overwhelming - but perhaps we needn't look much farther than our own backyard. Hidden gems like Dudley Market are out there, offering something special and unique (and downright delicious) to their communities. Taking the time to discover them can be an adventure in itself - and hey, if at the end of the adventure there are some bottomless mimosas, we certainly won't complain.
9 Dudley Ave
Venice, CA 90291