Dudley Markey Chef Wesley Barden was born in Venice.
by Melanie Camp.
Dudley Market is the best-kept secret in Venice. A little American Bistro off the beaten track. Hidden away in the space that used to be Henry’s Market, a dive of a corner convenience store at 9 Dudley Ave., is now a cozy local restaurant and market that serves locals breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch with bottomless mimosas.
It is not just the restaurant that evades the giant spotlight that shines on dining in Venice. Dudley Market Chef, Wesley Barden, also likes to keep on the lowdown. “No one wants to see this head. If they do, they can come in person and take a look,” he said laughing. For the record, Barden’s face is fine. He’s just camera shy.
Barden was born in Venice. “I used to skate her in the pavilion before it became an awesome skatepark,” he said. Being local, it’s important to him that Dudley Market remains a neighborhood friendly place. “I want people to come straight from the beach and feel comfortable.”
After a childhood in Venice, Barden experienced the kitchens of the world. Working in New York, San Francisco, and exploring food culture in Thailand. However, he said Los Angeles is where it’s at food-wise. The inspiration behind his dishes is simple. “The farmer’s markets out here are killer. What’s so great about Venice is that the best produce in America is here. I think it definitely gives San Francisco a run for its money,” said Barden.
Last Saturday, two tables asked to meet the Chef. One man from France said Barden’s Duck Confit was the best he’d ever eaten. Barden takes the freshest ingredients available and peppers his dishes with a European flair. “It’s all about the food here. It’s very nice ingredients, very good techniques, but done as simply as possible as far as what the plate is about and what the guest is experiencing. So simple, elegant, and approachable all wrapped into one. Which isn’t necessarily easy,” said Barden.
The food is delicious. Oysters are smoked in-house for the Smoked Oyster and Scallop Crudo and the house-made lamb chorizo sausage is amazing. While Barden has high hopes of changing the menu regularly, there might be trouble if he doesn’t keep the Seared Octopus Terrine. The appetizer is one of the most popular items on the menu. While the octopus is crunchy and tender all at once, the pièce de résistance is the sprinkling of crispy hominy on top.
If you take a Lyft or walk (both options preferable to driving and facing the battle that is finding a parking spot in Venice), you’ll find Dudley Market at the corner of Speedway and Dudley Avenue.
In fact, any option, other than driving, is best as the wine list, curated by General Manager Henri, is sensational. A unique “Henri selected’ wine pairing, while not on the menu, is something worth experiencing. And while all this might sound a little fancy, think of it more as visiting a friends house and having them treat you to the latest finds from their cellar.
The bar at Dudley Market always ends up a lively mix of locals. From, a writer taking a break from work on her second novel, to a scientist, to a couple who took a detour on their evening walk and stopped by for a bite. There always seems to be a spot for anyone hungry at Dudley Market. For now, that is.
Even after word gets out, Chef Barden hopes there will always be room for locals and that Dudley Market keeps it’s “neighborhood hangout” vibe.
“What we’re trying to do here is have really, really great experiences for locals and everyday people. Which is what I think Venice is about. We love that bohemian vibe, we love the artist community which is what we’re trying to have and celebrate here at Dudley Market,” he said.
Hidden away in the space that used to be Henry’s Market at 9 Dudley Ave., Venice. Photo Courtesy Dudley Market