Los Angeles often gets a bad rep, especially by outsiders. We are known as superficial, dishonest, fast-paced and self-important nobodies who would not know culture if it hit us in the face. Most of these nay-sayers have never ventured past Hollywood Boulevard where the ratio of plastic bodies to intelligent people is 25 to 1. Now, this is not to say we don’t have our share of problems, but no more than any other metropolitan area. This guide is being given to steer you away from the doorsteps of the plastic surgery offices and into the always entertaining and sometimes seedy underbelly of Los Angeles.
Our first stop will be the Fairfax district within West Hollywood. When you first turn down this street that is rich in history, most notably the massive Jewish demonstrations that took place in the 1950s, you will be greeted with the anomaly known as Oki Dogs.
This little landmark is not for the faint hearted and once you get past the overwhelming decorations that line the walls, you must then order the monstrosity that the restaurant gets its namesake from.
The Oki Dog consists of two hotdogs, wrapped in pastrami, dipped in chili, layered with cheese and onions and all bundled up in a warm tortilla. If you have not thrown this paper down and burned it with gallons of gasoline yet, you are one of the few who can join the ranks of the Oki.
If you continue, you will come across the famous Canters Deli and the attached Kibitz room, known for their stiff drinks, rude servers and loud music. Keep on traveling down the road and you will eventually hit Little Ethiopia, where you can wander with your eyes closed and be happy wherever you end up.
Next we venture to Echo Park, a place I would not have recommended you go to five years ago unless armed with machete and a serious can-do attitude.
Over the past five years musicians, artists, social activists, entrepreneurs and professional rabble-rousers have all migrated to this little area, and helped turn it around from the gang-riddled region it once was into a thriving hub of culture.
If you are looking for art, this is the place to be. The Smell, Echo, Echoplex and The Satellite continue to put on the best and cheapest shows in Los Angeles. For the wax collectors out there, Vacation and Origami Vinyl have great selection of mostly new bands putting their stuff out on wax.
For our LGBT readers, I have heard that El Cid, which is right next to The Smell, is by far the best bar you could go to see a land of no inhibitions. For those more inclined towards the visual arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art is right on the edge of this district and street murals run rampant in a place where no piece of concrete goes left untouched.
For the travelers with us who have an affinity for the old and beautiful, the next stop in our journey we will pull over in downtown on Figueroa. We begin with the best steak dinner you have ever had from a place that has not closed its doors for almost 90 years now, The Pantry. The steak runneth over, and your taste buds will never enjoy any other food again.
As you walk to the intersection of Figueroa Street and 7th, you will gaze up and realize that beautiful architecture still exists. Intricate stone work adorns nearly all the buildings downtown, but none quite like the Biltmore Hotel. If you want a taste of Old Hollywood and see where the movers and the shakers like to have their $25 cocktails, you should poke your head in.
The Convention Center and Staple Center reside in the newly revamped downtown as well, and as a completely unbiased Lakers fan that love all NBA teams equally, I can honestly say it is the best arena around.
So there you have it, the tip of the iceberg. Los Angeles is such a deep city with hundreds of subcultures tailored to suit any one of you that I could not even begin to elaborate in a mere newspaper article. I suggest you go out and search for yourself, you may just find a city within a city that will welcome you with open arms. Oh, I almost forgot! Do not miss Freak City on Sunset Boulevard during your time here in Los Angeles. Mere words do not do Freak City justice but I can try; this smorgasbord of a thrift store, music venue, underground hangout and freak show looks like a schizophrenic mans mind on acid. Thank you for choosing Los Angeles, and enjoy your stay!
A simple car drive or train ride away, the vast urban hub that is Los Angeles lies only 20 miles away from Whittier. Although museums, festivals, concerts and movie houses are all great reasons to make the trip probably the best of them all is the diversity of food that L.A. has to offer. Self-proclaimed “foodies” think Anthony Bourdain meets stuffy art critic, flock to the streets of the City of Angels to find the next big thing. Join the leagues of good eaters and step into all that Los Angeles has to offer with this guide.
Sweet Lady Jane’s
Location: 8360 Melrose Ave
Price Range: $8-$10
For those with a true sweet tooth look no further than this small bakery located in the heart of West Hollywood. The vine-covered exterior enters into a small yet cozy bakery setting with a few marble tables to sit and enjoy your dessert. However, the real star of the show is the giant glass case of baked goods. From cake slices so high you will wonder how they fit them in there to incredible lemon meringue pies, this place is guaranteed to send you into a delightful sugar shock. Triple berry cake, oreo tiramisu and chocolate strawberry shortcake are the only three reasons you need for convincing.
Location: 130 E 6th St
Price Range: $8-$10
This place may be borrowed from New York but the big apple lent out a big treat in the form of this bakery. Vegan, Gluten free and allergy-ridden, rejoice! This unique bakery aims to create everything from cookies, breakfast goods, and cupcakes for the picky eater. The trip to downtown is definitely worth it for all who know the troubles of living a vegan lifestyle.
Location: 641 N Highland Ave
Price Range: $20-$25 per person
New York and Chicago are constantly battling it out for the title of best pizza, but the real winner secretly resides in our very own Los Angeles. The brainchild of celebrity Italian chef Mario Batali and La Brea Bakery owner Nancy Silverton, Mozza has all you need to revolutionize what you define as good pizza. This rustic, casual spot serves up thin crust pizza with the options of the highest quality ingredients from burrata cheese to prosciutto and arugula. The real secret of the pizza is the incredible, crispy dough and the 1200-degree brick fire oven used to cook it. Leonardo Da Vinci himself would have called this meal a masterpiece.