WATERFRONT WANDERINGS
STARTING AT THE SOUTH END OF SANTA MONICA’S MAIN STREET AND WINDING DOWN ONTO QUIRKY ABBOT KINNEY BOULEVARD IN VENICE, YOU’LL FIND A HOTBED OF DESIGN, FASHION AND CUISINE JUST BLOCKS FROM THE BEACH.

Byline: Marcy Medina

Gourmet Grub
Shoop’s Delicatessen, 2400 Main Street, (310) 452-1019.
For a quick breakfast or a sandwich to eat while strolling through the neighborhood, stop by European-style deli Shoop’s, which stocks German, Dutch and Scandinavian products in a nod to owners Matthew and Llonna Schuppel’s Continental roots. And forget Godiva — this is where you’ll find some of the best chocolates and candies in town.

Zen Palate
Axe, 1009 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, (310) 664-9787.
If your mood swings more toward zen minimalism, check out Axe, located a few doors away from Joe’s. The eatery specializes in organic ingredients, tasty salads and Asian-inspired fare, including red curry coconut lamb stew and noodle dishes. And once a month, there’s oyster night and a guest-chef-prepared dinner.

Fish Tales
Wabi-Sabi,1635 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, (310) 314-2229.
With its exposed brick walls and wooden beam ceilings, the arty atmosphere at Wabi-Sabi matches the magic worked by the sushi chefs behind the bar. If you’re in the mood for quiet table talk, the atrium and back room provide a more low-key, intimate dining experience. Make sure to come by Tuesday through Friday for happy hour, where hand rolls and hot appetizers are just $3.75 apiece.

A Fine Romance
Bountiful, 1355 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, (310) 450-3620.
Sue Balmforth, owner of Bountiful, has built a following among shabby-chic lovers who come to her for antique linens and wrought-iron and wicker furniture, as well as 19th-century French and Italian chandeliers, glassware and lamps. In case you’re inspired to redecorate an entire room or home, based on her ever-changing displays, don’t worry — she’ll ship the goods anywhere.

Tiny Treasures
Firefly, 1413 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, (310) 450-6288.
If you’re seeking a fun, pamper-me present, like a scented soy candle, a colorful enamel ring or perfumed bath salts, stop by this tiny store in one of the many Craftsman bungalows that line the boulevard. You’ll probably walk out with a coffee-table book or a beaded handbag that you didn’t even know you needed.

Art and Craft
Ashland and Hill, 2803 Main Street, (310) 399-7900.
Whether you’re looking for industrial, Moroccan, Asian or French furnishings, you can find them at Ashland and Hill, a cool home decor store. Owner Emily Kroll designs 70 percent of the furniture, which is all made to order, and the rest she scouts from craftspeople throughout California and Europe. Her pieces now reside in the homes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Whoopi Goldberg, Tim Burton, Carre Otis and Anne Heche.

Fast Fashion
Principessa, 1405 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, (310) 450-6696.
This whimsical, boudoir-style boutique is a one-stop shop for women seeking that chic-beach-babe look. You’ll find jeans by Fever and Paper, Denim & Cloth; blouses by Joie and Suki; handbags by Isabella Fiore and Francesco Biasia, and footwear by Dolores and Maxine.

Blonde Ambition
Blonde, 2430 Main Street, (310) 396-9113.
You might not expect the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Cher to venture out here to stock up on clothes, but Blonde’s coveted items, including Alvin Valley’s leather-trimmed trousers, reel in celebs. In fact, even superstar retailer Tracey Ross spotted the pants here first and then ordered them for her Sunset Plaza boutique. Among other must-haves in the 1,800-square-foot shop are Seven jeans, Development trousers, Catherine Malandrino blouses, Tema Dahan bags, Cosabella lingerie and Christian Dior sunglasses.

Mid-Century Madness
A.K. 11 14, 1114 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, (310) 399-1453.
Owner Ken Erwin started his collecting obsession as a student at UCLA, where he spent time between classes scouring flea markets for rare California pottery. Now, in what used to be a head shop in the Sixties (there are still bits of psychedelic paper on the walls), he runs his own business, specializing in post-war pieces by Eames, Russell White and George Nelson. Design aficionado Dennis Hopper is one of his regulars.

Beverage Service
The Brig, 1515 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, (310) 399-7537.
This watering hole, which has retained its original, 40-year-old sign and mural outside, is the perfect spot for a sunset cocktail, which will inevitably lead to late-night lounging. Owner David Reiss — responsible for the scrummy diner Red on Beverly Boulevard in L.A. and the smart dance club Sugar in Santa Monica — has decorated the place with groovy molded fiberglass barstools and orange globe lamps that give patrons a sexy glow. Four resident deejays spin everything from downbeat tempos to jazz to ambient house.

Comfort Cuisine
Joe’s Restaurant, 1023 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, (310) 399-5811.
For a decade, this cozy spot has been on Zagat’s top 10 list because of its homey dishes with a high-end twist, like white beans braised with truffles ($14) and roasted sirloin with creamy mashed potatoes, crispy artichokes and brown butter-balsamic vinaigrette ($21). What began as a 50-seat storefront is now a newly expanded and renovated space that seats double the number of patrons. Despite its growth, the eatery maintains an earthy, warm atmosphere, thanks to oak floors that were once the walls of an East Coast barn, as well as Shaker-inspired chandeliers.

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