A word on Los Angeles: I thought I was going to hate it there. I have long held that Southern California is not a real place, and that the entire state is, in fact, a bold advertising campaign for In-N-Out Burger (see: Fig. A).
I spent five great days in the City of Angels a few weeks back, and I’ve got some suggestions for you for eating, drinking, shopping, and seeing. It’s by no means conclusive (how could it be?), but it’s representative and a little bit off the beaten path.
You could probably be in LA for six or seven years, eat at a different taco stand for lunch every day, and not repeat at all. The same is true for all the Korean BBQ places, the pretty places to take in pretty people, and odd, dusty corners of the city. As always, we skipped the hotels, but here’s some fun stuff to do. Unlike some of the other places I profile, you definitely need a car to get around. The public transit is unreliable and the city is vast. I skewed a little bit touristy on some of the stuff I did, and I’m just fine with that. I wouldn’t miss the Getty or whatever just to be hipper than thou.
Caveat: I was visiting relatives, so some of these places we visited out of nostalgia more than because they’re trendy or new. That said, I really genuinely enjoyed myself at all of them and sometimes the things you remember as being really good actually ARE really good.
- Tiki Ti. The original tiki lounge. Not to be missed.
- In-N-Out Burger. This is not original. You must do it anyway. That is the best $3 burger one can purchase with dollars. I want to apologize to anyone I doubted in the past.
- Hodori. According to my friends from LA, this is the ultimate in drunk food. We ate there for a very late lunch when I was getting a little hangry, but it was quick, delicious, inexpensive, and fun. They also have a wall of screenshots from every time someone has mentioned them on TV, which is hilarious to me for reasons I don’t understand completely.
- BobaLoca of Westwood. This is a chain, but a toothless one where all the franchisees own their own places and do what feels right. They have bubble tea like everyone else, but also some of the best espresso in all of LA, so you have to go to this exact one. I drank a lot of coffee. I’m positive. John, the owner, flies in the best beans every day, grinds every cup worth’s fresh, and takes a huge amount of pride in getting it exactly right.
- Villain’s Tavern. We ran out of time and didn’t make it here, but my girl Marianne says it’s her favorite. They do live bluegrass on the weekends, which was appealing to me, but not my traveling companions.
- Enzo’s Pizza. Allegedly, the guy who owns the place has some serious mob ties, but the pizza is cheap as hell and you can talk to the strange and wonderful Canadian Mike if you go there at night. He’s a Canadian diplomat who just wants to hang out with you. Please give him my regards.
- Great Seafood House. Dim Sum is my jam, and as we all know, the best places for that sort of thing are always in weird suburban strip malls. This is no exception and you can eat yourself stupid with four of your friends for maybe $50.
- Sprinkles Cupcakes. I don’t care if they now have like 10 locations or that the cupcake thing is dead. You can buy that ish from a refurbished ATM at the one in Beverly Hills and that is all that matters to me. I won’t say it was the best cupcake I ever ate (though it was great!), but it was the only one I have ever gotten from an ATM.
- Galco’s Soda Pop Shop. This is not fancy, but it IS amazing. They have probably 600 kinds of cokes in this repurposed corner store, and they sell both wholesale and retail. I grabbed a six pack that included a birch-flavored coke. They also sell old-fashioned candies, which I love.
- Trashy. I feel like I always include a lingerie store, so hey, why not. This is the granddaddy of lingerie e-stores, and their brick-and-mortar is also great. They have everything from dollar panties to thousand dollar corsets. Do what you must.
- Hennessey and Ingalls Books. All art books all the time. Everything from craftsman cabinet how-tos to David Bowie coffee table books. You can’t miss.
- Brandy Melville. Patient zero for any and all California trends. They’ve got very cool pieces that are all one size fits all, though they also have a lot of weird “don’t tread on me” and “John Galt” hyper-conservative propaganda stuff scattered about…so proceed with caution?
- Tesla. Obviously, I know that there are OTHER dealerships and also that you’re not going to actually buy a car, BUT…the one in LA is where they actually make the damned things, which are so cool. I’ve only seen them sold elsewhere, not made. In fact, from my vantage point in this coffeeshop, I am currently looking at a Tesla, so I know they may be purchased in Louisville, but I’m positive no one is making any near here.
- Window Shopping on Rodeo Drive. Unless you and I are very different, you should just go and look up and down and feel dazzled. It’s very fun. You can feel exactly like this the entire time, free of charge.
- I went in and out of many of these places and they were all excellent! If you’re into design, check it out.
- Silent Movie Theatre. This is one of the last surviving silent movie theatres in the world. They now play a small selection of interesting films.
- The Getty. Free, gorgeous, and digestable no matter how much time you have to spend. I got to see some great works by European masters, some cool, modern sculpture, and a lot of seminal surrealist works in just a few hours.
- Slimmons Studio. We’ve been over this. It is the best $12 a person can spend and is also HARD.
- Griffith Observatory. Whether you have time in the day or at night, this place is a must-see. Great views of the city, an abandoned zoo, and some good hiking during the day. Spectacular astronomy stuff and pretty views of the city at night. You can’t lose and you MUST go.
- The Wende Museum. Cold War artifacts and other weird things. It’s by appointment only, so we missed it, but still.
- Farmers Markets. I went to at least three while we were there (Huntington Beach, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood). You cannot throw a rock without hitting one, and they’re a great place to soak up the year-round bounty of Southern California.
- Third Street Promenade. Weird buskers and beach views? Okay, super.
- Santa Monica Pier. It’s touristy, yes. It is campy, yes. But it’s a great ocean view and there are carnival rides and I LOVE CARNIVAL RIDES. Fun fact: these are solar-powered carnival rides because California.
- Walking the hell around wherever. I walked around Westwood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, the UCLA campus, K-Town, Silverlake, Hollywood, Downtown LA, etc., etc., etc. It’s nice to just see all the things there are to do and all the people there are to look at. It will feel subversive because… Also, if you stand still, approximately $10 million worth of cars will just drive by you in a five minute window.
Okay, that’s what I managed to do in less than five days. I feel like I could spend a month. What are you into in LA? Tell me!