My Favorite Places to Visit in LA…So Far

Hello friend!

So, you’re in Los Angeles for 12 / 24 / 36 / 48 hours / a business trip / vacation / reunion / a week / month / sabbatical / whatever?

Welcome!

FYI: Every time I move around this sprawling city, I feel like I’m going on some kind of adventure. It must have something to do with the unusually unreasonable distance between Point A and B; the inevitably bizarre or unexpected scene I’ll encounter along the way; and the feeling that I’ve somehow “leveled up” in the game of living on the West Coast.

To keep track of my favorite go-to places, I’m compiling this list for you (also see them plotted on this Google Map.)

Criteria:

  • It’s within a 1-hour drive (or bus/metro/Lyft commute) from where I live
  • I have visited in person (not just researched online)
  • And here’s the kicker — I have gone at least three times in the past year (and I plan to go back) because it’s a reliable, regular, feel-good spot, not just a one-off thrill or isolated memory. (Keep in mind, I moved here in May 2017, so I’m still learning my way around.)

Enjoy!

(in no particular order)


Fishing With Dynamite — the perfect lunch date

Eating

Breakfast

  • [VENICE] Bellissimo Venice — a small bodega with fancy snacks that’s perfect for when you happen to be in the neighborhood on a Sunday morning and crave a hot breakfast panini (with egg and extra avocado) to slather with hot sauce and eat on the beach
  • [VENICE] Gjusta Bakery — the stupidly long “take-a-number” line and pretentiously beautiful people are obnoxious AF but I’m not gonna lie, the porchetta melt is delicious
  • [MAR VISTA] Superba Food + Bread— scrumptious baked goods, coffee; industrial-chic but sunny vibes

Brunch

  • [MANHATTAN BEACH] Manhattan Beach Post — the first meal I ever had in Los Angeles; get here as close to 10am as possible to snag a table and order David LeFevre’s bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits immediately
  • [VENICE] Scopa Italian Roots — old-school Italian food remixed; I like the soft eggs with a Bloody Mary

Lunch

  • [MANHATTAN BEACH] Fishing With Dynamite — close to my heart because I came here on my favorite first date; small, intimate, unpretentious, bursting with good energy and good light; order The SS Minnow shellfish tower with a cold michelada or Aperol Spritz to wash it down; finish with the most perfect Key Lime Pie
  • [CHINATOWN] Baohaus — chow down on Made-in-New-York-famous, open-faced bao in a tiny sit-on-stools establishment by the incomparable Eddie Huang (Taiwan, represent!)
  • [CULVER CITY] Loqui —casual in an upscale kind of way; I don’t know what they put in these hipster gourmet artisan craft tacos but they have the best flour tortillas ever
  • [MALIBU] Malibu Farm Pier Cafe — at the end of the Malibu Pier; cafeteria-style food that makes you feel healthy when you eat it; go for a stroll on the beach afterwards to digest
Maple bacon & huckleberry donuts at Sidecar — to die for

Snacks

  • [PLAYA DEL REY] Playa Provisions —a beachside bar, café and restaurant, with a dog-friendly patio, all rolled into one; great place to grab ice cream (and a clean toilet) while chilling on Playa del Rey (my favorite beach)
  • [DOWNTOWN] Grand Central Market — an overwhelmingly big and busy food market with any type of cuisine you could want
  • [VENICE] Erewhon — annoyingly expensive supermarket with things like $20 organic bone broth, CBD-infused pressed juices, and about 30 different types of milk alternatives…but a must-see cross-section of gentrified Venice
  • [VENICE] Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams — hands down my favorite ice cream shop (they deliver on Postmates, too!); dare I say, even better than Salt & Straw on Abbot Kinney
  • [SANTA MONICA] Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee — OMG get the huckleberry cake donut; you won’t be sorry
  • [LA BREA] The Original Farmers Market — a tourist trap and mallrat haven but still fun, kinda like you’re at a county fair with better ethnic food options
  • [BRENTWOOD] Brentwood Country Mart — the preppiest girl I know (she wears pearls and Kate Spade handbags) recommended this to me as a must-see destination; it’s a fancy and unaffordable “mart” (OJ Simpson once lived in Brentwood), with a high-end cafeteria and designer boutiques; I once spotted actress Laura Dern (from Jurassic Park!) in the courtyard
  • [KOREATOWN] Cassell’s Hamburgers — a retro-style diner with delicious burgers and pie, plus a full bar; a great place to come before or after you party at The Line Hotel around the corner
Plant life at Commissary in The LINE Hotel

Coffee

  • [SAWTELLE] Coffee Tomo — little spot in my neighborhood; get the Tomo Coffee and a jalapeño cheese pretzel
  • [SANTA MONICA] Goodboy Bob — a sinfully good coffee shop in the back alley behind my office building (be careful…they will take all your money!); I usually order an almond milk latté (homemade, infused with dates and other magic ingredients)
  • [SANTA MONICA] Philz Coffee — the iced mint mojito coffee is surprisingly amazing
  • [PICO-ROBERTSON] Paper or Plastik Cafe — steampunk industrial chic coffeehouse and wine bar attached to a dance studio
  • [DOWNTOWN] The NoMad Hotel — my go-to spot for drinking espresso and people-watching, while sitting in the lobby for hours to use super-fast, high-speed, wi-fi (for free!)
  • [WESTWOOD] Espresso Profeta — popular with UCLA students; free wi-fi; nice outdoor courtyard; down the street from the Hammer Museum
  • [CULVER CITY] Bar Nine — a coffee roastery with a big ass fan and hipsters from nearby production studios

Dinner

  • [SANTA MONICA] Vito’s Pizza — a hidden gem with legit pizza, cheap house wine, and good music, with all walks of life coming through the doors to sit at communal picnic tables or cozy up to the bar
  • [SAWTELLE] Marugame Udon — best $9 you’ll ever spend on a bowl of noodles; fresh, handmade, cafeteria-style; don’t forget to snag a couple pieces of shrimp tempura
  • [VENICE] Gjelina — where all the beautiful people go; if you don’t want to deal with the crowded restaurant, go next door to their takeaway counter and get a slice of pizza to go
  • [ECHO PARK] Ostrich Farm — “New American” cuisine; everything from the cocktail menu to the tableware is thoughtfully designed; sensuous; worth a splurge
The Blind Barber — behind that door is a “secret” bar

Drinking

  • [SAWTELLE] Max Karaoke — private room karaoke; “BYOB” (on the down-low); ratchet; a great time; the only place I’ve shut down at 4am since I moved out here
  • [VENICE] Hinano Café — beachfront; divey; greasy burgers; peanut shells on the floor; a Venice institution
  • [VENICE] Wabi Sabi — sushi and small plates; cocktails; lots of single people looking to get laid; hanging plants; typical Abbot Kinney nighttime vibes
  • [VENICE] Hotel Erwin — great rooftop view (watch the sunset!) over Venice
  • [PLAYA DEL REY] Bacari PDR — a cute wine bar blocks away from the beach; small plates; good service
  • [CULVER CITY] Father’s Office —craft burgers and beers with a big outdoor patio; always crowded and lively
  • [CULVER CITY] The Blind Barber — a barbershop on the outside; a craft cocktail speakeasy on the inside; great music and dancing if you come on the right night; delicious grilled cheese menu anytime
  • [DOWNTOWN] Upstairs Bar at the Ace Hotel — great view of the city; a “pool” for splashing around and looking cute
  • [DOWNTOWN] Clifton’s Republic— two words: “taxidermy bar”
  • [KOREATOWN] The LINE Hotel — I wore a green sequined jumpsuit for a New Year’s Eve party here; ‘nuff said
  • [KOREATOWN] The Normandie Club — a real bar with “mixologists”; sexy dark interior
Platform — come for the window-shopping; stay for the people-watching

Shopping

  • [CULVER CITY] PLATFORM — a shopping “mall” (mixed-use development created by award-winning architects) off the Expo Line; no need to buy anything for retail therapy…just looking at the stuff makes you feel good; Poketo is my fave store because it’s affordable and trendy
  • [SAWTELLE] BLACKMARKET — I browse this well-curated store on a weekly basis for men’s and women’s apparel, knick-knacks, fragrances, books; the perfect gift shop
  • [DOWNTOWN] ROW DTLA — up-and-coming residential and retail complex, catering to the creative class; looks better on Instagram than in real life; still worth a trek, especially for the weekly Smorgasburg LA pop-up food market
  • [DOWNTOWN] The Last Bookstore — multiple levels of books and vinyl records; go upstairs for small art galleries and shops; you can get lost in here
  • [LOS FELIZ] Skylight Books — great selection of books (and next door, there’s an “arts annex”); you’ll appreciate it, even if you don’t really read
  • [LOS FELIZ] Otherwild Goods & Services — feminist, sex-positive, queer; lots of boobie pillows; lube and perfume; “Gender is a Drag” baby onesies; “Homo Sweet Homo” welcome mats; I bought my “The Future is Female” sweatshirt here
  • [CHINATOWN] East West Shop — Cool ass thrift shop and vintage clothing store; I bought my favorite jacket I’ve ever owned here (repurposed military jacket with Asian flower embroidery) from designer Tay Trong
Under the Malibu Pier

Beaching

  • Venice Fishing Pier — feels like the end of the world
  • Playa del Rey Beach — like Venice Beach, but with less riff-raff; it’s 25 minutes away from my house and makes me feel like I’m on vacation
  • Manhattan Beach — my favorite thing to do is bike here from Venice Beach and eat at Fishing With Dynamite
  • Annenberg Community Beach House — beautiful facilities; feels like an exclusive club but it’s open to all!
  • Malibu Pier — quintessential Malibu; gorgeous rickety wood beams; walk under the pier for a good photo opp; collect rocks and seashells
  • Mother’s Beach — no waves; lots of babies; good for stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking

Hiking

Swan boat, anyone?

Culturing

  • [LOS FELIZ] Griffith Observatory — gorgeous view of the city on a clear day; cool astronomy and space stuff; pro tip: go to the basement and watch the 20-minute film with Leonard Nimoy to learn about the history of the observatory
  • [ECHO PARK] Echo Park Lake — rent pedal boats that look like swans; bring a picnic blanket, soft cheeses, flax seed crackers, artisanal pear cider; wear colorful prints; take Polaroid pictures
  • [ARTS DISTRICT] Hauser & Wirth — contemporary art galleries, connected by a beautiful outdoor courtyard (with a chicken coop!); grab a drink/bite at Manuela
  • [HOLLYWOOD HILLS] Hollywood Bowl — legendary amphitheater; the most perfect outdoor music venue
  • [DOWNTOWN] Walt Disney Concert Hall — breathtaking architecture
  • [DOWNTOWN] Pop-Up Magazine — a live stage performance of magazine-style narrative; my favorite cultural excursion I’ve ever experienced, playing at The Theater at the Ace Hotel on a quarterly basis