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A Quick Travel Guide to Los Angeles Neighborhoods

Insider Guides Food + Drink
by Naz Papen Apr 4, 2016

THE RESTAURANTS, nightlife, historic sites, and outdoor options in LA are all enough to make you forget the 45-minute drive it takes to reach them. Here’s a quick guide to the neighborhoods of the city:


Perfect blend of laid back and on the move. Start your morning at Dogtown Coffee and a walk through Palisades Park. If you’re looking for a workout, run the Santa Monica stairs. Afterwards you’ll want lunch and as a native I cannot stress this enough – Bay Cities is a religious experience for atheists and zealots alike. Order a large Godmother, turkey works or meatball sub with provolone and don’t look back. If you came to L.A. for the burritos, take a 5-minute drive to Main Street where you’ll find the best hole in the wall on the west side – Holy Guacamole. By now you’re walking distance from Santa Monica Beach; take full advantage of it.


Pacific Palisades is your destination for all things outdoors. Hike the Temescal Canyon trail or Los Liones Canyon before a swim at Will Rogers State Beach. Grab lunch at Café Vida or the Pacific Palisades Farmers Market. When you’ve had your fill, take a scenic drive down PCH to Lake Shrine Temple for some afternoon meditation or stop at the Getty Villa where you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the coast while absorbing 7,000 years of ancient art.


Malibu is a surfer’s paradise. When visiting, wake up early and beach hop from Paradise Cove to Point Dume to Zuma to El Matador. From there, bee line straight to Lily’s Café & Pastries for the burrito of a lifetime. In the afternoon you’re heading to Malibu Wines or Rosenthal Wines on the PCH for tastings. Honorable mentions include Geoffrey’s Malibu, Duke’s Malibu and Nobu Malibu if you’ve got deep pockets.


Venice Beach is a tourist’s rite of passage. Stop by the boardwalk for some unparalleled people watching and an overpriced henna tattoo. Afterwards, take a walk through the 100-year-old Venice Canal Historic District, which is arguably the last relaxing corner of Venice. Grab your afternoon pick-me-up at The Venice Grind before an early dinner at La Cabaña where the margaritas flow like wine. End your night at any of these local dives: The Venice Whaler, Danny’s Venice, James Beach, or my personal favorite, The Roosterfish (closing May 2016).


A short bus ride from Venice brings you to the ever-gentrifying Culver City. Inland from the beach yet not far enough east to feel east side, Culver City has become the place to be for dinner and a movie. Downtown Culver boasts an array of well-reviewed restaurants and bars. A few favorites include Akasha, The Wallace, and the Blind Barber. If you’d rather keep it old school, grab a bite at Tito’s Tacos, an L.A. institution since 1959.


Within walking distance of the intersection of Sawtelle and Olympic, you’ll find a stretch of the most delicious food per square foot in all of Los Angeles. Must-eats include Hurry Curry of Tokyo, Tsujita L.A., Tofu Ya, Volcano Tea House, Blockheads Shavery, and Nijiya Market for your flavored Pocky fix. Evening entertainment options include a karaoke crawl from the always-buzzing Karaoke Bleu to the private room-boasting Max Karaoke Studio. If you’re still standing and committed to the food coma, continue North on Sawtelle until you reach the best burger since In n Out at the original Plan Check.


There are parts of Los Angeles that we race through en route to our destinations and Westwood is one of them. This underrated neighborhood offers an eclectic mix of dining and entertainment options. Visit the Geffen Playhouse or Hammer Museum before indulging in the tongue or “zaboon” sandwich at the Persian sandwich shop, Atarri. For dessert, you’re making a pilgrimage to the UCLA staple Diddy Riese or, for the more adventurous eater, you’re opting out for the Persian ice cream establishment that’s been serving customers since the mid-’80s, Saffron & Rose.


Mid-Wilshire is a residential neighborhood in central L.A. You’re coming here for two reasons – to visit the LACMA and to eat dinner in Little Ethiopia. Seek out some post-dinner entertainment at The Mint, The El Rey or Molly Malone’s Irish Pub.


Beverly Grove is a small neighborhood abutting Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Spend half a day here for good shopping and better eats. Visit the Farmer’s Market at The Grove before walking along the strip of high-end designer shops between La Cienega and Fairfax. For lunch, you’re eating Mendocino Farms, and for desert, you’re getting Fonuts.


Welcome to the area code known for teacup poodles and designer handbags, 90210. This destination is worth the trip for people watching alone, but while you’re here, stop by The Ivy for an overpriced tea and the possibility of running into Julia Louis Dreyfus. Splurge on dinner at Sugarfish, Spago or Mastro’s for the full experience.


Home to the Sunset Strip, WeHo is a city that rarely sleeps. Begin your day at Alfred Coffee {In The Alley} where there’s a good chance you’ll run into a celebrity – dress accordingly. If it’s Sunday, you’re eating a fried chicken sandwich from the Free Range stand at the Melrose Place Farmer’s Market. If not, I recommend Liquid for smoothies, Cofax for breakfast burritos or The Bagel Broker for the best bagel in L.A. Visit the vintage shops and designer stores that line Melrose on the walk to your lunch destination, Ink Sack. For dinner, get a table at Crossroads for vegan fare, Jon & Vinny’s for Italian or El Carmen for the best agave fueled margaritas in town. Afterwards stop by Harlowe Bar for a fancy drink, the Surly Goat for a rowdier drink, or The Abbey for the messiest drink.


Hollywood is that ex that dumped you, only to go on to work at the neighborhood fast food chain. It’s messy and loud, and you have to hide from your friends the fact that you still occasionally wake up there. Avoid the tourist trap that is Hollywood Boulevard at all costs. Instead, spend your day perusing Amoeba Records before grabbing lunch at the original Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles on Gower. If a concert is what you crave, check out anything at The Hollywood Bowl or The Henry Fonda Theater. For cheap and fast comedy, check out The Lyric Theater or UCB on Franklin. Afterwards, you’re stopping by Good Times at Davey Wayne’s for a 70s rock playlist to accompany your spiked snow cone. End with a nightcap at Musso & Frank Grill.


Silverlake is the place you go to take a filtered selfie in front of the Elliot Smith “Figure 8” mural. It’s also home to some of the tastiest eateries and greatest nightlife locations on the east side. Start your morning off with a drink from Dinosaur Coffee before visiting the famous Sunset Junction for the best bagels on the east side at Mornings Nights. Peruse the vintage stores and boutiques that line Sunset Boulevard before lunching at Sqirl. Stop by Silverlake Wines for an afternoon tasting before testing your palate with spice filled Thai fares at Night + Market Song. Afterwards catch a show at the famous Satellite or attend a dance party at Los Globos. End with a nightcap at The Thirsty Crow.


Located in the central region of L.A., Los Feliz remains effortlessly accessible and unabashedly relaxed. If you’re craving the outdoors, pack a picnic and begin your day with a hike through Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America. Wrap up around noon and head to The Griffith Observatory where you can enjoy your lunch on the lawn surrounded by spectacular views of Los Angeles. Make your way back down to Vermont Avenue–between Franklin and Hillhurst–where inviting sidewalk cafes and neighborhood boutiques welcome you at every turn. Steal a few hours at the vintage movie theater that’s been screening features since the 30s, the Los Feliz 3. End your night with a slice of chocolate cream pie from the staple Los Feliz diner, House of Pies.


Welcome to the neighborhood where transplants and natives meet for a craft beer, Echo Park. Don the coolest t-shirt you own and take a walk around the recently renovated Echo Park Lake where fruit vendors and pedal boats collide. Beef up your vinyl collection at Origami Vinyl or peruse new and used books at Stories. For lunch, head east on Sunset Boulevard towards the taqueria that challenges whoever said tacos aren’t a full meal, Guisados. If you’re visiting in the spring, don’t miss your opportunity to partake in garlic fries and Dodger Dogs at the famous Dodgers Stadium. For dinner, visit the 80s style barcade-restaurant hybrid, Button Mash. Catch a show at The Echo or Echoplex before heading out for a night of dancing at The Short Stop. Other honorable mentions include Little Joy, Prado, and the bar with a $5 PBR and shot of tequila house special, The Gold Room.


You’re visiting Long Beach for a few reasons. First and foremost, The Aquarium of the Pacific, because petting jellyfish and bamboo sharks really is good for the soul. If you’re looking for more of a hands-on experience, cruise an hour out from the Port of Long Beach for some snorkeling and kayaking around Catalina Island. Return in time for a cocktail aboard The Queen Mary.


The heart of L.A. can be found in the ever-expanding central business district, Downtown. Arrive early for breakfast inside of bustling Grand Central Market and chase it with a walk through the newly remodeled historic staple, Clifton’s Cafeteria. Explore the art installations MOCA has to offer or enjoy free entry at the newest addition to the L.A. art scene, The Broad. Continue working up your appetite for Josef Centeno’s trademarked baco sandwich at Baco Mercat with a trip to the historic Bradbury Building or the imaginative Last Bookstore. Catch a show at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall or attend an opera across the street at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion before dinner at the atmospheric Italian eatery, Bestia. Carbo-load to your heart’s content before throwing yourself at the behest of the custom cocktails mixed at The Varnish, a cozy speakeasy located behind Cole’s Bar. In the mood for a divier alternative? End the night with a drink at the bar that catered to the likes of Charles Bukowski, King Eddy Saloon.


Responsible for L.A.’s best karaoke bars and tastiest all you can eat Korean BBQ joints, Koreatown is a worthy destination on your tour of the city. Grab breakfast at the unassuming strip mall on Western Avenue, Ubatuba Acai. This spot is also known for their impressive spread of empanadas so double up for lunch. Walk off your back-to-back meals and surrender to your stationary addiction at the Japanese chain store, Daiso. For dinner, gather a large group of friends and push the limits of what it means to be full at Road to Seoul BBQ. Wrap up the evening with karaoke at the Egyptian themed Shrine.

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