The Mar Vista / by Amy Cherie

This week we’re highlighting The Mar Vista, the newest addition to our gem of a town. Until their soft opening in mid-December, the restaurant was hidden by a Jules Muck mural that stared out at us while we tried in vein to get a peek at what was going on inside. Now, the restaurant is consistently packed with locals and outsiders alike, welcoming new friends to our neighborhood who are quickly realizing that Mar Vista is a destination, and not just drive-by on the way to Abbot Kinney. Indeed, Chefs Jill Davie and D. Brandon Walker are fulfilling their promise for a community-first, sustainable dining experience that Mar Vistans will be proud to call their own.

The open-plan restaurant’s atmosphere is rustic and bright. Hanging plants drape from exposed rafters, soaking up sun through faceted skylights. A mural celebrating the history of Mar Vista and midcentury-style seating complete the look and make for a great photo opp, but you’ll likely be taking more pictures of your food than anything else.

Chef D. and Chef Davie use the freshest ingredients from L.A. farmer’s markets. Chef Davie recently told the Argonaut that forty percent of the nation’s produce goes to waste. She and Chef D. look for the “ugly” produce-- fruits and veggies that may not look so pretty, but taste amazing. Together with chef de cuisine Jorge Rivas, they turn these otherwise forgotten foods into beautifully plated salads and killer entrees.

The menu offers creatively off-kilter dishes inspired by every corner of the globe. For the L.A. Lau Lau, Chef D. swaps banana leaves used in the traditional Hawaiian dish with collared greens, and wraps them around halibut, oxtail, and beef cheeks. The vegan version is just as hearty, with shredded jackfruit offering an equally smoky flavor.

Before opening The Mar Vista, Chef D. was the executive chef at St. Joseph’s Bread and Roses Café in Venice, where he and his trainees served over 750 gourmet meals per week to the homeless. His philanthropy paired perfectly with Chef Davie’s passion for sustainable dining, and the duo has had huge success so far. Not surprising, as both have been featured on the Food Network. Chef D. was a winner on Chopped, and Chef Davie made an appearance on The Next Iron Chef.

The Mar Vista recently opened for brunch, serving up colorful, ‘gram-worthy dishes like sourdough french toast covered in citrus cream cheese, strawberries, and basil. Finish it off with fresh squeezed orange juice (in a mimosa, of course) and you’ll have set yourself up for the perfect Sunday. Local bluesman Runson Willis III and live painter Mitchelito Orquiola are slated to perform at future brunches, with a dash of live poetry and some smooth turntable work from local DJs. Live music brings in acts from around the city on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 pm until midnight

The music is curated to compliments the relaxed, welcoming tone of the surrounding and the staff. Lenore French, one of the founders of the Mar Vista Art Walk, says her favorite part of the dining experience is the accessibility of the chefs.

“The food there is great because the chefs take the time to step out of the kitchen and talk to guests to find out what works and what doesn’t,” says Lenore. “They’re so warm, especially Jill-- she’s Miss Sunshine!”

The Mar Vista is located just before the intersection of Centinela Ave. and Venice Boulevard, in Mar Vista’s hot spot of small businesses that include Timewarp Records, Vintage on Venice, and Soaptopia. You can stop by for dinner from 5:30 to 10 pm any day of the week, and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Brunch runs from 11 am to 3 pm on Sundays, when Mar Vista Farmer’s Market is in full swing just across the street from the restaurant.