Once-Happening Sunday Venice and Marina del Rey Bar An Empty Taco Shell of Its Former Self
I should be at Baja Cantina in Marina del Rey, CA, right now instead of writing this blog.
Having a margarita, chatting it up with friends and strangers. Loading up on the chips and salsa because I want the party to continue and don’t want to stop for dinner, but needing something to sustain the fun without killing the buzz.
But here I am, typing about where I should be rather than actually being there, and that leads me to say that, sadly, one of LA’s great bars is an empty taco shell of its former self.
There was a time when Baja Cantina – at the Venice/MDR border on Washington Blvd. – was the city’s Sunday hotspot. In a spaced out place with more diverse personalities than Metta World Peace, it was the one spot in Los Angeles where people from Hollywood would mingle with people from the beach or the Westside. It’s where Ronald Goldman was headed the night he was killed with Nicole Brown Simpson.
Always lively with locals, it was in its prime on Sunday afternoons, which always turned into Sunday evenings. The patio was SRO and it was impossible not to start a conversation with strangers because the place was so packed you found yourself seeking breathing space next to someone you didn’t know.
Ahh, the good ‘ol days.
Not anymore, though. Go there now on a Sunday afternoon and there are tables on the patio. Tables!? It used to be full of people with drinks in their hands. Now the only people you see are sitting down having dinner and the only drinks you see are waters and sodas, for what few people remain are families.
The inside bar, once the crowded hangout of locals while others took over their bar for a night, is nearly deserted. Only a few loyal die-hards remain. You can easily find a barstool; previously you could hardly find a small space to stand and your only hope of getting a drink was to go in on another night so the bartender would recognize your face.
But why even bother to pull up a barstood these days? The place is quieter than LAX at midnight.
There are certainly other places to play in the area. Venice Whaler at the end of Washington has a lively patio (and $3 16-ounce cans of Budweiser at the downstairs bar), and the culturally accommodating Hinano Cafe is the necessary dive of all beach towns. And I like the bar at Terrace Cafe.
So it’s not like the area has a void of fun bars. It’s just that Baja Cantina has been such a big part of the identity of the area it’s hard not to have it on your party radar.
And quite frankly, I want it back to the way it was when it was the prime party place in Venice and MDR. And on Sundays, all of Los Angeles.