Do LA like a local
Los Angeles is a city of contradictions – a place that feeds on innovation as much as it nurtures nostalgia. Shiny new cultural palaces bask in the glow of Art Deco splendor, the latest eatery is tucked into a dusty strip mall and sleek concept stores share the sidewalk with classic old Hollywood haunts. Silver Lake, Downtown and Fairfax are three lesser-known neighborhoods that all encapsulate such characteristics.
SILVER LAKE – HIPSTER HANGOUT
Silver Lake has long been a magnet for creative characters. It’s famous for many things: hipsters, funky bars, artisanal coffee shops, trendy boutiques and fun eateries. It’s also known for its splendid mid-century modern homes, some of which (famed architect Richard Neutra’s, among them) line the area’s namesake reservoir. This pond of sorts is ringed by a popular walking trail, for both humans and – after dusk – coyotes. If you’re looking for exercise, seek out the hidden stairs that run up and down Silver Lake’s steep hills – they can lead you on pleasantly unexpected hikes through the residential parts of the neighborhood. Whimsically covered in street art, the Micheltorena Stairs have become a tourist destination.
Coffee with a cause
It’s not hard to find a single-origin espresso or a frothy matcha latte along Sunset Boulevard, but they don’t come with Muddy Paw’s feel-good factor. Owners Darren and Natalia La Borie donate a portion of their proceeds to a rotating roster of local dog shelters. They also roast their own beans, which nobody else does around here. “Have a cup, save a pup”, as they like to say here. Try the “Salty Old Dog”, made with dark chocolate, caramel and sea salt. Muddy Paw is a tiny gem with a great vibe. There’s a patio, free Wi-Fi and an array of treats, including artisanal empanadas.
3320 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
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Drinks without the drunk
Sometimes LA feels like the epicenter of clean living, an endless stream of yoga studios and juice bars. Even more so now that the city’s first boutique for zero-proof drinks opened. Soft Spirits capitalizes on an internationally growing trend – cocktails with grown-up flavors, minus the alcohol – excellent for health reasons and a clever concept in a metropolis where “everyone” drives a car. The owner, Jillian Barkley, aims to attract people who enjoy the rituals of cocktail culture, whether they’re teetotalers or more seasoned drinkers. Her vibrant store is stocked with curiosity-spiking pseudo-spirits, wine and beer alternatives, non-alcoholic mixers, bitters and herbal concoctions. Look out for Optimist Botanicals, an LA producer that finds inspiration in the surrounding nature, from Venice Beach (a citrusy, sun-kissed vodka-esque tipple) to the High Desert (a smoky, warm tequila-type beverage).
3208 2/1 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
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Wicked, weird and wonderful
A corner building covered in colorful street art, with a business that defies categorization and a name that warrants an explanation, this particular block in Silver Lake is like nowhere you’ve ever visited before. Soap Plant was founded 50 years ago as a family business. Mom made soaps, dad handled the administrative side while their sons made ceramics and fashioned leather goods. Wacko came along as a pop culture toy store and La Luz de Jesus offers local artists a way to showcase their works. The result today is a kitsch-crazy gift emporium, a gallery and a marvel of wackiness with a well-curated book section. You’ve always wanted Day of the Dead paraphernalia, Funko Pop figurines, handmade jewelry and, of course, soaps, right?
Soap Plant/Wacko/La Luz de Jesus Gallery
4633 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
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Fall under a spell
Nestled in Virgil Village, a small enclave that spills out of Silver Lake, Voodoo Vin is one part wine store and one part bar. Here, Natalie Hekmat and her team offer natural wines in an unfussy, warm atmosphere, while Chef Travis Hayden serves up seasonal small plates and lighter fare. His house-cured meats and chicken liver tartine get extra bonus points. If you’re not familiar with natural wines, Voodoo Vin is an excellent place to explore these slightly wild wines that are full of personality and conjure pure terroir. They’re produced with minimal human intervention and are mostly unfiltered. Some are sulfite-free, others are allowed to macerate with the grape skins, rendering them deliciously amber-golden. Natural wines have hardcore fans, particularly in the gastronomy community, while on the opposing side, many consider them simply downright bizarre. If you’re part of the fan club, there are plenty of options to bring home.
713 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles
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An argument to chew over
Courage Bagels opened its doors just as the New York Times published an article about the superiority of LA bagels over its New York rivals. Instantaneously, the lines outside this hole-in-the-wall joint grew very long. Yes, we waited a good hour to purchase a take-away bagel sandwich. And yes, it was worth it. Well, almost, they’re not giving them away, at $15 for a classic, cream cheese and salmon-creation. But they’re stuffed with California sunshine and topped with enough seeds to feed a small family of parakeets. They’re also baked in a wood-fired oven, giving them extra crunch and flavor. Be prepared to wait – it’s worth it.
777 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles
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OLD MEETS NEW IN FAIRFAX
The Fairfax District, or Fairfax for short, is like the belly button of Hollywood – at the center of the famous neighborhood, yet south of the Walk of Fame madness. Named after the boulevard that runs north to south through the district’s middle, it was once home to mostly Orthodox Jews. These days it’s a smorgasbord of past and progressive. With its retro neon sign, Canter’s is the apex of that old stuff. The 24-hour deli can be quite entertaining late at night when people drop by to soak up their liquor with a pastrami sandwich. And while the Original Farmers Market is a landmark from the 1930s, it’s not that exciting and mostly overrun with hungry tourists. Fairfax Boulevard, between Melrose and Beverly Boulevards, is stacked with some great restaurants as well as streetwear shops and pop-ups that sneakerheads flock to.
The definitive movie palace
”Tinseltown” (LA’s slightly snarky moniker) has created shimmering celluloid dreams for over 100 years. It was about time the city got a museum dedicated to the art and secrets of filmmaking. Located next to LACMA, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures was founded by the “Oscars Academy” and designed by Renzo Piano. Naturally, the institution shines a spotlight on the actors, but it also illuminates what happens backstage and in post-production – how sound, moving images and visual effects are fused together to create eye candy for filmgoers. The building’s seven floors house two movie theaters and a restaurant, as well as mesmerizing video montages and spacious galleries stuffed with Oscars’ statuettes, costumes, annotated scripts, original animations and more. There’s nostalgia to be found in Dorothy’s red shoes from The Wizard of Oz, the actual E.T. and Disney sketches, as well as sci-fi gold in the form of Bladerunner props and futuristic prosthetics. This is not a museum you’ll want to speed through, so plan accordingly.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
6067 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
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A newcomer and LA institution
The Sunset Boulevard address is legendary – this is where Ye Coach & Horses, a favorite haunt for homesick British expats such as Alfred Hitchcock and Richard Burton used to be. Yesteryear lingers in the walls at Horses as the pub-cozy, lived-in ambiance has been left mercifully intact. Dark wainscoting wall panels, exposed beams and retro-red banquettes – everything’s still here, albeit with a lick of fresh paint and some updated flourishes. The prices, on the other hand, did get a slight rethink. But Horses makes up for that with exceptional staff, effortlessly sophisticated food and generous drinks. Order the vesper martini, made with delicately fig leaf-infused gin. Marvel at the boudin Basque and the reinvented Caesar salad. Try not to eat the mountain of fries that dwarfs the phenomenal burger. Maybe book a table in the semi-secret Yves Klein-blue back room, though we prefer the bar. Despite the price tag, this is a flawless restaurant.
7617 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
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Every Sunday, between 9am and 5pm, the grounds at Fairfax High School become a feast of secondhand finds. Whether you’re into collectibles, vinyl and vintage clothing, or crystals and artisanal crafts, the Fairfax Flea has got you covered. If you really want to blend in with the locals, you should pick up a pair of cut-off shorts and a threadbare concert T shirt. And if browsing around the countless vendors isn’t your thing, you can grab a snack from one of the food trucks, find a seat in the courtyard and enjoy some live music while indulging in prime people-watching. This place tends to get crowded in the afternoon, so your best bet is to arrive early.
The Fairfax Flea Market
7850 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
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There’s nothing new about the New Beverly Cinema. On the contrary, it dates back to the 1920s and is one of the region’s oldest revival houses – meaning a cinema that specializes in screening classics and older movies. It has an illustrious past, having been both a candy factory and a vaudeville house before it became a legit movie theater in 1978, showing nothing but 35mm films. Almost 40 years later, Quentin Tarantino bought the place, preserving every inch of it, but updating the projection system. The cult director of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Pulp Fiction now curates the program. Friday midnight screenings are reserved for Tarantino flicks. And yes, there’s popcorn and old-timey soda pop at the concession stand.
The New Beverly Cinema
7165 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles
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Downtown LA, or DTLA as the locals call it, is vast and diverse. Bunker Hill boasts dazzling contemporary architecture and highbrow culture in the form of the Disney Concert Hall, a dramatic steel sculpture, and The Broad, a sleek, almost gravity-defying art museum. They tower above the historic core where ornate theaters, Art Deco buildings and the lunch-friendly Grand Central Market line up along Broadway (take the quaint Angels Flight tramway to get down the hill). To the east is Little Tokyo, while beyond that is the Arts District, home to galleries, immersive art spaces and ambitious restaurants in converted warehouse buildings. To the north is Chinatown. Then there’s the Jewelry, the Flower, the Fashion and the Financial Districts, each with their own set of attractions.
A playground of video art
Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist creates psychedelic, immersive environments that she “paints” with moving images. Her fascinating video works hover over furniture and theatrical installations. Sometimes they blossom across the ceiling and appear in tiny vignettes on the floor. They’re colorful, dreamy and intimate, exploring ingrained behaviors, the body, the subconscious and taboos in poetic, playful ways. Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor is the title of her exhibition at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, an enormous warehouse that once housed police cars. Here, Rist has built a forest of fairy lights and a TV room for giants. She’s staged a mysterious living room and made a bed where the visitors are encouraged to recline and let an astral projection wash over them. Visiting this show is like diving into the artist’s brain on a sunny summer day when she might have dropped something mind-enhancing. The show runs until June 5, 2022.
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles
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Your new favorite bar
Everson Royce Bar is a badly kept secret hiding behind an anonymous façade. It’s plush yet unpretentious. It’s a date night place and a neighborhood hangout. The bar is a dimly lit, womb-like time warp – it could be 5pm or midnight in there. Out on the patio, however, it’s all happy hour sunshine. Everson Royce Bar is as much about beer and shots as it is about well-crafted cocktails. But it gets better because E.R.B also serves excellent food. And while the menu might be short, it’s a thoughtful selection of crowd-pleasing nibbles. In other words, come for the prickly pear margarita and stay for the hamachi tostada.
Everson Royce Bar
1936 E. 7th St, Los Angeles
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Design books for days
The largest art, architecture and design bookstore in the western US, Hennessey + Ingalls has been around since 1963 and is still family-owned. It sits right across the street from SCI-Arc, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, functioning more or less like an extended classroom for both students and faculty. The shop also caters to decorators, museums, collectors, art directors and anyone who finds joy in coffee table books, both new, used and out of print. It resembles a giant museum shop, with miles of monographs, books on every architectural style under the sun, a section on fashion, another on graphic design and everything in between. There’s also an ample selection of magazines, some of which are downright nerdy-wonderful.
Hennessey + Ingalls
300 S. Santa Fe Ave. M, Los Angeles
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Live like a local
It’s all there in the name – Downtown LA Proper – as in “real L.A.” This boutique hotel aims to exude the very spirit of the neighborhood it inhabits, incorporating evocative design elements to immerse the guests in the actual place. So, what exactly is properly DTLA? Renowned designer Kelly Wearstler decided it’s an organic mix of boho-chic materials, wood accents, handmade tiles, flea market finds and plenty of cacti. All with a vaguely Mexican air, a magnificently frescoed lobby, a couple of restaurants and a rooftop pool. There are also nods to the building’s history, once a private club whose swimming pool takes up most of the presidential suite’s living room. Perhaps the hotel’s most DTLA feature is the sweeping view from the verdant roof terrace – skyscrapers ahead, a carpet of urban grit below and snow-capped mountains on the horizon. It’s a spectacle of ever-changing light at sunset, best enjoyed with a cocktail from Cara Cara, the adjacent, al fresco dining room.
Downtown LA Proper Hotel
1100 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
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Published: March 3, 2022