If you were to ask for a recommendation to dine at a restaurant that resembled the energy of Venice Beach, Dudley Market would be it.
Located on Dudley Avenue in Venice, this unique, intimate, and minimal farmhouse-chic restaurant is just a few steps from the beach, making it the perfect spot for a sunset dinner; not only that, but Dudley Market is your ideal local neighborhood oyster bar that will not only serve you amazing food and natural wine, but it'll provide you with sustainable and quality seafood.
Los Angeles native Conner Mitchell has been in the restaurant business for 15 years; he established his restaurant Dudley Market in 2019 with a simple goal:
"I want to provide all of our guests with quality wine and food. Most of our delicious seafood is caught by our staff daily, and all pair nicely with a glass from our expansive wine selection. We're not about flash but rather quality service and ingredients. We strive to provide a neighborhood restaurant that is approachable, comfortable, and always sets the right mood."
After experiencing a severe injury, Mitchell decided to go to Big 5 and pick up the cheapest fishing rod he could find. He took his little boat out and was awestruck by the taste of the fish in our local Californian waters.
"This is weird; it feels like the biggest farmers market we have is steps away from the restaurant itself, and nobody is really using it," says Mitchell.
"It just didn't make any sense to me, putting fish in jets and wasting all of that fuel when we have just as good of fish right in our backyard. So the idea was, let this be the focus of what we do, and it's been an incredible journey experiencing what we have."
By coming to Dudleys, people get trust, transparency, and they know who their fishermen are.
"Our guests know everything; they know where their seafood is coming from, who caught it, what method was used. We went from being a really great restaurant to being a place that's local and sustainable and for the neighborhood."
One of the many unique aspects of Dudley Market is that it focuses on sustainable, fully traceable seafood, courtesy of Dudley Market's very own team of fishermen.
"We went from being salty surfers and divers to being fishermen who are of the salt and sea. Growing up spearfishing, our knowledge of rod and reel was novice at best; alternatively, our knowledge of boats and the sea has been imbedded by generations of seamen before us. It was only a matter of time before the bloodline, and the passion became part of the same breath."
Conner Mitchell and team obtained the permits they needed and have been following their passion and fulfilling their goals of providing impeccable food to guests, as well as ensuring everything they do is by the hand of sustainability.
"Nothing in fishing is more sustainable than hook and line rod and reel. We wanted to create a way for people to follow their fish from the hook to the table, from the pacific to the plate. What is more traceable than knowing your fisherman by name? Or watching your fish be plucked out of the ocean? We continue to fish for our community year-round, rain or shine, so you can always feel good about where your food came from."- Conner Mitchell.
My first time at Dudley's was one to remember. It was only a two-mile walk from my home in Santa Monica, and it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, so I figured a walk would do us good before and after dining; I was excited to try – well, everything, considering the place served fresh and local seafood and natural wines, I figured, what's not to like?
Dudley Market itself is beautiful inside. Nestled between The Cadillac hotel in a narrow alley, it has a distinctive charm that makes you feel like you're a Venice local. There are communal tables, vintage-wood furniture, a small patio, and a massive wall is filled head to toe with natural and biodynamic wines, along with incredible French wines, Californian ones, and much, much more.
Upon entering, we put our name on the waitlist as they don't take reservations, and then we ordered a few glasses of wine which we were allowed to take outside while we waited. We caught the sunset, and it was magical.
Because Dudley's is so similar to that of a fish market, you're never certain of what the menu will look like, but rest assured that whatever is on the menu was in the ocean within the last 24 hours, including one of their most popular menu items, a whole fried fish.
There are a few staples that stay on the menu daily, such as clam and pork toast, or The Dudley Burger, with juicy wagyu, dill aioli, crispy bacon, onion jam, arugula, and a soft bun.
Now, let's start at the beginning of our meal because at this point, I've been to Dudley's on a few occasions, and each one was better than the last.
Our waitress greeted us with water and asked our preference for wine. We asked for a wine recommendation and decided to try skin contact wine.
Skin contact wine is simply a white wine made like red wine, resulting in orange wine. Contrary to popular belief, orange wine doesn't have anything to do with actual oranges. It's simply a type of white wine because the grape juice stays in contact with the grape skins, giving it a more full-bodied, tannic character and ranging the color from pale gold to a deeper bronze.
The color also depends on how long the skin contact was intact for. While it's only becoming fashionable now, it's actually been around for thousands of years, and some people call it Georgian wine because Georgians are referred to as the original winemakers, and the country is considered the birthplace of skin contact wine.
This leads me to my next point; our waitress recommended a Georgian wine called Tsolikouri Melqo - Bazeleti. This particular bottle was crisp, elegant, and had hints of green apple and grapefruit flavors. It was ultimately the perfect pairing to our meal because it amplified the freshness of the food but complimented it with zest.
At Dudley's, because their kitchen is so tiny and the restaurant gets so busy, you're encouraged to order everything at once, so we opted for the best dishes of the night.
First up, Oysters. But not just any kind. Fresh, delicious, and smooth-sailing kind of oysters. They had Kumiai, El Chingon, and Pi Pi, all fairly small to medium-sized, which was perfect. A few drops of lemon juice, a sprinkle of fresh horseradish, and they went down as easy as cold water on a summer day.
Next came the yellowtail sashimi. Simple in all its glory and absolutely melt-in-your-mouth worthy. It came with a small side of wasabi and soy sauce. I noticed a couple nearby with a delicious-looking Crudo, and of course, our waitress recommended it immediately, saying the Cilantro Serrano Crudo is fantastic – and that it was.
Kampachi has a distinctly fresh but sweet flavor. It's light pink and firm in texture. It was drizzled with cilantro oil, olive oil and topped with Serrano peppers and lemon zest. This was probably my favorite appetizer.
A Stripe Bass Tostada appeared next, with chive labneh striped bass tossed in olive oil, togarashi, black sesame, and topped with shallots. Initially, I was skeptical about the idea of combining labneh with fresh fish, but it was an aroma of flavors like I've never had before.
Our last few items were the shrimp tacos which had a delicious smoky flavor to them from the Cajun spices; they also had cabbage, pickled onions, daddys salsa, creme fresh, and cotija cheese.
The Hiramasa Fish tacos were out of this world. The Hiramasa was beer battered; they were incredibly fresh and had a nice lime kick to them.
We ended our meal with the staple Dudley burger. Your first bite will have you wondering if you should order another one. It's the type of burger that is juicy and soft but doesn't fall apart in your hands. The meat was perfectly cooked and incredibly rich in flavor; as it's wagyu and the cattle are raised on a special diet and living in superior conditions, you can immediately tell the quality of the meat is fantastic.
If you're vegan, they do serve Beyond burgers and vegan potato tacos, so they have a little bit of everything for everyone.
Overall, it was an incredible experience with wholesome food and conversation. There's nothing better than knowing exactly where your food is coming from and how it's being prepared. It makes you feel, well, really damn good, if I'm being honest.
Dudley's is located on Dudley Avenue in Venice Beach; I'd highly recommend finding street parking or paying to park at the beach. They're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and are open from 5 till 11 pm on weekdays; weekends are two till 11.
If you ever find yourself in Venice, stop by and enjoy the incredible views, mouth-watering food, and delicious natural wines they offer.
While they don’t take reservations, you can rent the restaurant for an event, and if you come in a group or you’re simply treating yourself and are met with a long waiting list, don’t worry. Grab yourself a glass of wine, walk around the boardwalk and enjoy the views.
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