For serious sushi eaters (and I apologize, I know this isn't Venice) take the five minute trip to Mori Sushi - Pico and Gateway. It's exceptional (guy grows his own rice).
A little trivia - 26 Beach? Haven't been in over two decades. I remember the original sushi chef (this was close to 25 years ago) - who was a de facto Olympic diver (Japanese team, 1952 Olympics in Helsinki). Has since passed away.
For low-brow dining I'd suggest Abbott's Pizza (unique bagel crust pizza) as well as the taco truck parked on west side of Lincoln just south of Rose (evenings only). The soft tacos are only about $1.50 each and are pretty darned tasty. You can get your standard carne asada, carnitas, and pollo as well as some other types of meats I need my Spanish dictionary for. What's a tongue taco? Why this truck doesn't attract more of a cult following is beyond me. Jonathan Gold recommends it.
I would say that Hal's is the spot. Joe's is great but more expensive. If that's not an issue, hit up Joe's. Sushi is a good option down here as Chaya is solid, but Hama Sushi at the windward circle is more of a venice neighborhood feel with outstanding food. Beachwood is good for drinks, food is eh. James Beach is the worst restuarnt in the history of restaurants, Primitivo is overpriced for the quality, and Axe is very good and on the healthier side of things cuisine.
I respectfully disagree with you about Hama. The food is shockingly bad. I enjoy sitting on the patio having a drink and nibbling on edamame but that's pretty much the only passable thing on the menu. Chaya and Shima have the only worthwhile sushi in the neighborhood, unfortunately.
Sorry, but IMO Baby Blues might be the worst BBQ I've ever had. But what do I know, I'm constantly astonished by the line out the door.
Everything taste the same. Do they actually use hardwoods in their cooking at all? I live right around the corner and have never smelled it emanating from the vents.
Depending of course on Night, No. Of Guests, Budget etc.
Joes - American
Axe - Eclectic
Hal's - American
Chaya Venice - Cal Asian
26 Beach - American
Jame's Beach - Cal Asian-ish
Beechwood - American
Primitivo - Tapas - Spanish-ish
Alejos - Down & Dirty & Cheap Strip Mall Italian
Tajrish - Persian
C & O - Huge Bowls Of So So Pasta and crappy wine
Agree w/ most of these, in addition to 3 square, jin, and chaya below listed.
i also like brunch or lunch at lilly's french cafe.
skip C&O; it's not a destination by any means - it has it's times when it fulfills a purpose but not worth it for an everyday meal.
closeby in Marina Del Rey, Cafe del Rey is a nice choice too
If you want to come up to Santa Monica, there's even more choices that I'd do w/ tourists like...
Monte Alban for Oaxacan
Bay Cities Deli for sammies
Josie or Melisse or Jiraffe if not Joe's
Musha for Japanese
Anisette for brunch
The Lobster for drinks, apps and view, or maybe dinner
The Penthouse at the Huntley for drinks and view only
to me, c&o is far superior to alejo's:
not great, just superior to alejo's awful stuff which is all doused in cheap oil that has had minced raw garlic soaking in it. they even serve the oil with the bread they deliver to the table. i guess if you like everything to taste of raw garlic (and to reek of it yourself and not be able to get the taste of it out of your mouth for days), you could do just as well by making the stuff at home and serving it over rubber bands.. . .
i agree with most of your reccomendations, but disagree re: tajrish.
since it's pretty easy to get really good persian food on the westside for much less money, i'd skip tajrish which serves food that imho is only passable (with lousy rice) at a much higher price:quality/quantity ratio than the others.
at 26 beach, virtually everyone who i've brought there that ordered either one of the burgers or any of the salads, left EXTREMELY satisfied. there was less unanimity among the folks that ordered the other entrees.
my favorite is the tuscan salad, but i've been happy with every salad i've ever ordered there.
at chaya venice, if you go on a sunday i'd recommend that you don't order the sushi. it's ok during the week, but on sunday's it's not as reliable.
for weekend brunch, i like cafe del rey (in marina del rey) which overlooks the boats in the marina and is a lovely, civilized place to take visitors. on sunday's they offer a prix fixe 3 course brunch for about $40 before tip