So Long Los Angeles, It’s Been Swell
The great thing about Los Angeles is that at the drop of a hat you can do just about anything. A thirty minute cruise through the city and you’re working on your tan and eating ice cream on Venice Beach. Or hop on the subway and head downtown for dim sum and red bean pastries in Chinatown. There’s a farmers market every day, where the freshest local, organic produce can be turned into a meal worth feeding the Gods. And on every corner you can find either a great cup of coffee, a bacon wrapped hotdog or a bakery sporting cupcakes. The culture in Los Angeles is so diverse, there is everything from Jewish delis selling the best Matzoa ball soup to dim sum in Chinatown to the classic Los Angeles staple, a hot dog at Pinks. Moving from this city is a hard thing to do; there is so much food to be missed.
On Wednesday morning, bright and early, a true foodie will head west to the Santa Monica farmers market(Arizona and 2nd Avenue). Nothing beats Californian produce, and this market is unparalleled, with helpful and attentive farmers always ready to share a story or a laugh. At Weiser Family Farms,smiling Alex Weiser helps you choose purple and yellow carrots and butterball potatoes. In the summer the farm has intricately flavored melons and delicious mulberries, if you can manage to track some down. For more berries, including bright yellow and orange raspberries and pungent blackberries, the ladies at Pudwill Farms won’t steer you wrong. And there is nothing better than a California strawberry, especially the ones from Harry’s Berries. At the end of the market, Monak Ranch is great in the summer for a rainbow array of heirloom tomatoes, and the stall next door, Sea Canyon, is the place in the winter for apples. And the peaches at Reiger Farms are dream worthy; bright, sweet and tart, they are a taste you won’t soon forget. While spring and summer offer a dreamers delight of fruit and vegetables, this market holds true even in the winter, with farmers bringing an abundance of wonderful citrus, root vegetables, and flowers. Grab a coffee and pastry from Rockenwagner Bakery, a Austrian style bakery located nearby, and stroll along, smelling, tasting, and learning about the bounty of California.
While you’re near the beach, check out the eclectic Venice Beach. Rent a bike from the Santa Monica Pier and ride it along the beach through the Venice boardwalk, stopping to check out the body builders on Muscle Beach and the rowdy street performers. Keep heading along the beach east towards the must-see the Venice Beach Canals. The houses that line the man made canals are breathtaking, the area breathes of peaceful calm. Nearby Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to a number of unique boutiques, shops and restaurants. Jin Patisserie is a wonderful place to take a break. The relaxing zen garden compliments the delicate cakes, macaroons and sweets of their tea service. Not far from Abbot Kinney, you can find the city’s best Italian store, Bay Cities. The meatball sandwich is worth the plane ticket alone.
Heading East, the drive through Beverly Hills into Hollywood is an adventure all its own. Take Wilshire Boulevard and you’ll pass numerous doughnut shops, a strange staple in a city full of health food fanatics. Beverly Hills is home to a few classic Los Angeles food stops, including Sprinkles cupcakes, which started the cupcake craze and a Pinkberry. Frozen yogurt in Los Angeles has become a dime a dozen; every shopping center seems to have a FrozenBerry, SnowBerry, or Yogurtland.(See MattBites) The original is still the best, and ask for mochi as a topping, this Japanese gummi bear makes the yogurt so much better. The area is also home to several upscale patisseries, including chocolate haven Madame Chocolate, Boule for bread and dainty cakes, and Paulette for beautiful, french style macarons.
A little more east and you’ll hit the start of Hollywood. Among the selection of Ethiopian restaurants of little Ethiopia, you’ll find Jewish deli Canter’s. With great matzoa ball soup and an open 24 hours policy, this is a popular late night hang out. For a grilled Reuben, however, Greenblatt’s deli has no competition. Half pastrami, half corned beef on rye with sauerkraut and extra thousand island is the way to go. Nearby, the best brunch spot is The Griddle. But be warned, there is always a line and the giant pancakes are topped with sugar, sugar and more sugar. Just a hint, you can order just one pancake and one is more than enough. The chili here is also phenomenal. Hollywood is also home to Runyun Canyon, one of the many hiking area’s Los Angeles offers. Burn off all those calories hiking up above the smog; you’ll get some great fews of the city and may even see a celebrity or two. For a cool treat after your hike, Mashti Malone’s is a Los Angeles favorite, well-known for their rosewater ice cream. A hidden gem slightly east of the area is Scoops, which offers fresh, inventful flavors, like black sesame, honey thyme, or brown bread ice cream.
Keep heading East along Sunset Boulevard and you’ll hit Sunset Junction. During the day, stroll into the boutiques and take a photo booth picture at Pull My Daisy, then grab a coffee at Casbah Cafe and people watch outside. For great Vietnamese noodle soup check out Pho Cafe, then walk to nearby Echo Park and sit near the lake. Try the fruit from a street cart, fresh melons, pineapple, mango and coconut diced up to order and topped with lime juice and chili powder.It’s very refreshing and very LA. For dinner, head slightly south to Los Angeles’s Koreatown, home to numerous karaoke bars, Korean spas, and barbecue. The place for Korean BBQ is Parks, which offers an impressive display of kimchi as well as the best pork belly in town. After dinner, a drive up the street will take you to Los Feliz. Have a cocktail circa 1980 at the Dresden and if you’re feeling confident, take a turn singing at the piano bar. If you’re possibly still hungry, almost everything on the menu at Fred 62 is great, and the Mac Daddy and Cheese Balls usually hit the late night hunger spot. Or in true Los Angeles style, venture onto Taco Zone(Alvarado and Montana), Los Angeles’s best taco truck. The steak tacos with lots of lime, onion, and cilantro can’t be beat.
Once you hit Downtown you’ve pretty much had the run of Los Angeles, although the area offers so much you could spend a good amount of time there. A interesting overview is Grand Central Market. It’s a little beat up, but there are numerous stalls of spices, produce and food to walk around and taste. A nice day trip downtown is wandering around Little Tokyo. The grocery store in the market area offers numerous Japanese staples, the boutiques show off new and old Japanese wares, and the bakeries offer light, sweet cakes for a snack for the road. For a break from all the food, see an exhibit at The Geffen, part of the Museum of Contemporary Art or visit the Japanese American National Museum. Another must do in downtown is Phillipe’s. Opened in 1908, this is the place the French Dip was born, and these sandwiches are sublime. Juicy meat on French bread dipped in a rich sauce, topped off with coleslaw. Nightlife in downtown is rejuvenated and the area offers anything from dive bars, to burlesques shows at The Edison, to drinks on the roof of The Standard hotel. There is never a dull moment in Los Angeles.
Of course, the list could go on and on. Pack it all into one day. Well, maybe a few. Los Angeles offers so much more, and everyday new places are sprouting up and old classics are being spotted. While the east coast boasts of melting pots cities and complains about west coast traffic, Los Angeles stands on its own two feet. You really can find pretty much anything in this city, and at the end of the day, the traffic isn’t all that bad. No different than waiting for a subway train anyway. For all its food, among other things, Los Angeles is certainly a city to miss. It’s great that a visit back is sure to fill the stomach and warm the heart.