Critic's Choice

Dining and coffee break ideas for Southern California holiday shoppers

Let @sirenevirbila help you strategize your holiday shopping with tips on where to dine or take a break

Holiday shopping is not for wimps. Given that it's among the most strenuous and exacting activities on the planet, you, the one staring with glazed eyes at a very long list, will need sustenance. Sometimes a quick bite is all that's needed. Other times you'll want to put those bags down beside your chair and have a luxurious lunch. We've got you covered, at least at this handful of shopping meccas.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard

A stroll down Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice offers myriad shopping opportunities, given all the unusual shops lining the stretch from Main Street to Venice Boulevard. For a quick bite, get in line at GTA (Gjelina Take Away) or get a pretzel burger at Hans Röckenwagner's 3 Square Cafe + Bakery. For a more leisurely lunch, head to Gjelina and try to get a table in the garden patio. Settle in with a glass of Prosecco and enjoy one of chef-owner Travis Lett's beautifully composed salads or a svelte pizza. For a pick-me-up afternoon coffee, pop into either Intelligentsia or Blue Bottle Cafe, both among the most serious practitioners of the barista art.

Gjelina, 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 450-1429, Salads, $13 to $15; pizzas, $12 to $15; sandwiches, $13 to $16. GTA (Gjelina Take Away), 1427 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 392-7575, Sandwiches, $12 to $14; pizzas, $13 to $15; salads, $9 to $13.

3 Square Cafe + Bakery, 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-6504, Pretzel burger or chicken schnitzel, $13.

Westfield Century City

Anchored by Bloomingdale's and Macy's, Westfield Century City has most of the usual suspects, along with a handful of independent stores. Its big appeal is that it's not enclosed. You can stroll from store to store in the great outdoors of Century City. The best place for a quick, delicious bite is Obicà Mozzarella Bar. And what do you want to get? Bufala mozzarella or burrata flown in fresh from Italy every day. Have it on its own or with a plate of salumi. And for that fancy city lunch, go to Craft, Tom Colicchio's American restaurant, a couple of blocks away, where you can settle into a sumptuous leather booth and enjoy oysters on the half shell followed by calamari salad with spinach and chorizo or flat iron steak with farro and beet greens.

Obicà, Westfield Century City, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 556-2452, Mozzarella bar, $8 to $24; salads, pizzas, pastas, $7 to $24.

Craft, 10100 Constellation Blvd., Century City, (310) 279-4180, Lunch first courses, $14 to $18; entrees, $20 to $36.

The Americana at Brand, Glendale Galleria

The two humongous shopping centers face each other in Glendale. Visit one and you can easily visit the other for a long day of nonstop shopping at all the usual stores, including Apple and the Japanese clothing store Uniqlo. At Americana, you'll have to endure the dancing fountains and Sinatra blasted over the entire property. No matter. You're headed to Din Tai Fung Dumpling House for tender steamed dumplings with a variety of fillings, and sautéed mustard cabbage with shredded ginger. Bourbon Steak by San Francisco-based chef Michael Mina doesn't open until 5:30, but the bar and lounge opens at 4 p.m., where you can have an iceberg wedge, a little of his famous black truffle mac and cheese or an artisan cheese plate and wine flight. After 5:30, dig into Mina's Maine lobster pie or a prime Angus steak.

Din Tai Fung Dumpling House, 177 Caruso Ave., Glendale, (818) 551-5561, Steamed dumplings, $8.50 to $22.50.

Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina, 237 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 839-4130, Lounge items, $9 to $19; dinner entrees, $27 to $69.

Westside Pavilion

Not the most exciting shopping mall in Los Angeles but convenient to West L.A. and much larger than it looks from the outside. If your list encompasses Forever 21, GapKids and Nordstrom, the Westside Pavilion could be your destination. And once there, where to eat? Well, who would grab a burger at McDonald's when the iconic Apple Pan (since 1947!) is just across the street, with its beloved hickory-smoked burger, straight-up egg salad sandwiches and, of course, wedges of cinnamon-scented apple pie. If something more substantial — and a craft beer or glass of California wine — is needed, then Westside Tavern is the place for Mediterranean-inspired flatbreads, a classic Caesar or butter-poached lobster on a brioche roll.

The Apple Pan, 10801 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 475-3585. Hickory burgers, $7.10; apple pie, $6.

Westside Tavern, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 470-1539, Appetizers, $5 to $13; sandwiches, $14 to $19; entrees, $17 to $25.

Original Farmers Market, the Grove

So much to do here at 3rd and Fairfax: shop for gourmet goodies at Monsieur Marcel, pick up meats and poultry for the holiday table from Marconda's or Huntington Meats, or buy the baking pan you need from Sur La Table. And put together a New Year's Eve outfit at Topshop Topman or something more discreet at Unionmade or Madewell. Need books? Check out Barnes & Noble. Where to eat? Pick up a classic butter croissant or brioche doughnut at Short Cake and an espresso. Or step over to the really quite grown up burger restaurant Short Order where you can have a cocktail upstairs with a burger based on Nancy Silverton's famous backyard burger recipe. (Psst! You can pick up the same beef blend at Huntington's Meats in the Farmers Market: Just ask for Silverton's burger blend.) And if you lean toward dogs, check out Neal Fraser's Fritzi Dog (Stall 742) for hot dogs made in small batches from meats raised without hormones. Check out his stadium-style beef and pork classic, the jalapeño chicken and the oddball sous-vide carrot dog. For dessert, a Sprinkles cupcake (at the Grove) or, even better, a slice of fruit tart from Short Cake.

The Original Farmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St. (at Fairfax Avenue), Los Angeles. Short Cake (Stall 316), (323) 761-7976, Sweets, $1.50 to $5.75. Short Order (Stall 110), (323) 761-7970. Burgers, $9 to $14. Fritzi Dog (Stall 742), (323) 936-9436, Dogs, $6.95.

South Coast Plaza

The Costa Mesa mega-mall draws shoppers from all over Southern California for its mix of high-end shops and quirky retailing. It's got a Nordstrom, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's but also chic boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Chanel, Cartier, Dior and the newer Diptyque and Anne Fontaine, along with outdoor specialist North Face and the barber spa at the Art of Shaving — 288 stores in all. Right at the center of the glamorous shops is Orange County's top French bistro, Marché Moderne. Florent Marneau's house-made charcuterie and composed salads are excuse enough to visit the mall at lunch time. Put down those bags and indulge in a glass of Champagne with oysters or chicken braised in Jura wine. The best deal is the three-course menu spontané at $25. Before trudging out to finish your shopping, be sure to order one of Amelia Florent's classic French desserts. For something less luxurious, drive over to Santouka Ramen at the nearby Mitsuwa Marketplace. Nothing like a big bowl of ramen in shio broth to restore your shopping spirit. Or you could stay in and drop by the new Din Tai Fung (same as at the Americana at Brand in Glendale).

South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (800) 782-8888, Marché Moderne, Level 3, Penthouse, (714) 434-7900, Lunch menu items, $7 to $44; three-course menu, $25.

Santouka Ramen at Mitsuwa Marketplace, 665 Paularino Ave., (714) 434-1101, Ramen less than $10.

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