Originally Posted by NEW YORK POST
Los Angeles is the future
By ANDY WANG and DAVID LANDSEL
Last Updated: 12:51 AM, September 25, 2012
Posted: 5:33 PM, September 24, 2012
It is difficult to pinpoint the precise moment when Los Angeles stopped giving a damn what you or we or anyone else had to say — it was a slow but important finding of self, taking place quietly over the past decade. A decade that saw the city grow in all sorts of exciting and impressive ways. A decade of building real transit. (For the first time in generations, you will soon be able to travel by rail between Downtown and the Santa Monica; soon after, expect a subway stop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.) Of creating truly walkable neighborhoods. The melting pot actually began melting, bubbling over messily and rather beautifully all over every aspect of city life. (Not coincidentally, suddenly here in the land of salad and iced tea, people truly learned how to eat. And to love eating.) Oh, and just for fun? A few more people squeezed into the city, now overall the most densely packed in the country. Los Angeles, quite simply, is ready to challenge anyone. New York, watch your back. Here are four LA places to get up to speed.
To see what we mean, you have to start Downtown. It’s a generic umbrella term for a wildly diverse group of neighborhoods that comprise the city’s core; in these pedestrian-friendly streets with their incredible Art Deco architecture and ample transit and tons of people-watching, you can spend a week experiencing a Los Angeles that many outsiders assumed didn’t even exist. Many locals didn’t either, until about 10 years ago, so don’t feel bad.
These days, the core is in overdrive trying to find its rightful place as the city center of a metropolitan region of nearly 18 million people. (That’s right – just four million fewer than in the Tri-State Area.) That’s how you end up having a thing like the glittering LA Live complex with the Staples Center (where the Lakers play), luxury hotels (JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton), destination restaurants (including a Kerry Simon eatery, of course), daily celebrity sightings, a Times Square-like entertainment district and more just a few blocks down from the Mercado Olympic, an unofficial Sunday street festival of the city’s dominant culture (Mexican, in case you forgot) in the wonderfully named Piñata District (named because of all the people who sell piñatas there, of course), where vendors who speak no English sell food that’s more Mexican than places we’ve been in Mexico. Squash blossom quesadillas, pleasantly chewy Guadalajara-style churros, Mexico City-style fried fish and other intensely good and inexpensive finds.
Then there is the Warehouse District, that vast swath of low-rise industrial complexes, where once barren streets are now punctuated by artist lofts and good restaurants and people biking to places like Handsome Coffee, a local roaster and café that has a pop-up farmers market and occasional taco nights. It’s one of many cafés across the Los Angeles Basin that is becoming a true community center in a city everyone said wasn’t interested in community.
Nearby is the Arts District, next to Little Tokyo — the two share a gleaming light-rail station on the Gold Line, which takes little old ladies from Pasadena into the bustling Union Station intermodal transit hub, or beyond into East Los Angeles for tacos, if they feel like it.
The heart of old Downtown, too, is booming — the Old Bank District with its cocktail bars and yoga studios and the incredible monthly Art Walk, a street party/night market that revolves loosely around the area’s galleries.
Over on Broadway, with its sea of intact theaters and their garish, old-school marquees that lend the whole faded strip a Times Square in the 1970s feel, there’s room for luxury lofts, for the giant Umamicatessen, a sort of hipster Eataly meatery affair from the Umami Burger folk.
And then, down on Seventh Street, which sews all of this together, from the bland glossiness of Figueroa Street on down to the appalling, otherworldly depths of Skid Row, you have one of Downtown’s most promising streets, the perfect spot to stroll on a sunny afternoon.
Hungry? Some of the city’s best restaurants are Downtown these days — anyone will tell you that. Here’s Ricardo Zarate repping Peru at his newly relocated Mo-Chica in the Seventh Street corridor, making diners flip out with his stellar lomo saltado and pan con tuna, serving up ceviches and tiradito that are all ocean and acid and heat and happiness. (What started as one tiny Mo-Chica stall in Southeast LA has turned into a growing Zarate empire that also includes West LA’s Picca, where Peru meets Japan for family-style madness.)
Here’s Bryant Ng at the Spice Table, repping Southeast Asia at his Little Tokyo joint, blanketing tables with satays, Hainanese chicken over rice, laksa and other first-class renditions of hawker-stand staples.
Here’s Josef Centeno at Baco Mercat in the Old Bank section, repping his baco “sandwich/taco/pizza hybrid,” a creation so multi-cultural and over-the-top that you should just describe it as American. And although Centeno might be best known for specialties like his oxtail-hash baco, you shouldn’t overlook his mastery of vegetables (Caesar brussel sprouts!) and fruit (sautéed peaches with goat cheese and honey!).
It all might be rough around the edges, and sometimes you have to dig to get to the greatness — that’s LA in a nutshell — but if you want to see and taste the diverse and unique world-class city that Los Angeles is becoming, Downtown is where you start.
If you’re one of those people who show up from New York complaining that all you want to really do is go to the beach, congratulations, you win. Outside of Downtown, LA’s most fascinating area these days is Venice, which has gone from being a funky and fun dead end to being front and center in the city’s complete revamp. (Sorry, anyone who was thinking of buying a ridiculously cheap place in its ever declining catalog of seedy side streets — those days are essentially over.) What Venice has become is, quite simply, one of the most inspiring urban settings in North America, a major leap from a few short years ago.
Beach? Check. Crazy people-watching? That’ll never change. Seedy boardwalk action? Oh yeah. Creepy muscle dudes, people trying to get you in for your free medical consult to get your pot card, street performers, sleaze, stroller moms, skaters — your head could explode.
But the real revolution is in the neighborhood’s back streets, which, like the iconic Canals section, can all be explored on foot or by bike. Start at formerly moribund Abbot Kinney Boulevard — with its boutique, farm-to-table pizza places, non-divey “dive bars,” indie-rock jukeboxes, food trucks and surf shops — which was recently knighted by one glossy magazine as the “coolest block in America” and we’re really not going to argue (pop in for coffee at Intelligentsia one morning, or any time, and see what it’s all about). Locals seem to be all about Rose Avenue these days; walk it from the beach on up to the Whole Foods (one of the most architecturally impressive in the country, and certainly one of the busiest) and you’ll see why; along the way, pop into the patio at Superba Snack Bar for charred figs, black kale salad, a dab of pheasant rillettes, perhaps, or maybe just the fried chicken.
But the best place to eat in the neighborhood, if you’re asking us, is Sunny Spot, over on Venice Boulevard. What is it? Oh, no big deal, just some really great Caribbean food from an Angeleno of the Korean persuasion, Roy Choi, who became famous for making some of the city’s raddest tacos and serving them from his Kogi food truck. How Los Angeles is that?
People who say that the Los Angeles sprawl cannot be tamed have obviously never been to London. Or maybe they have, and refuse to see the parallels between the two cities, both essentially a chain of villages that grew enough to bump into one another. All you have to do is knit the villages together with a proper transit system, and voila, everyone shuts up about sprawl.
It will take Los Angeles, oh, like, forever, to get all the way there, but in places like Mid-City West, a low-rise, vaguely suburban in-between spot, you can see it all coming together in what has become, rather by accident, one of the most vibrant parts of town.
Of course, it helped to have the historic farmers market at the corner of Third and Fairfax, next to the CBS Television City studio (“Price Is Right” taping anyone?); over time, everything seems to have evolved around it — the revived Fairfax District to the north, the gigantic Grove shopping center, the booming Third Street corridor, Beverly running parallel. This nabe is where you’ll find some of the country’s best sneaker/street-wear shopping (holla, Undefeated, Flight Club, Sportie LA) and, at the southern end of things, behind the imposing Park La Brea residential development, is the cultural magnet and gathering place that is LACMA; the Purple Line subway extension, which will link Downtown, Koreatown, Mid-City West and Beverly Hills with Century City, Brentwood, Westwood and, hopefully someday, the beach in Santa Monica, will have a station right at the museum entrance, at Wilshire and Fairfax.
You don’t have to wait until then to come here — Ray’s and the adjacent Stark Bar, facing the museum’s often busy plaza, are two of the most pleasant places to while away a warm Los Angeles evening. Not that you aren’t spoiled for choice around here. Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s Animal and Son of a Gun restaurants are located within walking distance of the farmers market, for example.
Then there’s Karen and Quinn Hatfield, the married chef duo behind the rightfully praised Hatfield’s in Hollywood. The Hatfields know their way around a seasonal menu and understand what it means to create a civilized, white-tablecloth dining environment. But with Sycamore Kitchen, their new order-at-the-counter bakery and cafe on stubbornly unlovely La Brea Avenue, they have a much more casual-cool but equally important goal: creating a ridiculously good salted caramel pecan babka roll. That gooey magic – part of a salted-caramel movement that’s sweeping sweets shops all over the country – is just one of dozens of different baked items (including wonderful chocolate-chip rye cookies and brown butter/date mini bundt cakes) at the new hot spot, but there are more than sweets to accompany your Stumptown coffee at Sycamore Kitchen. The lunch menu has refreshing salads and a crispy and braised pork belly double BLT, for starters. And if you can’t decide between savory and sweet, split the difference and order the toast with house-made ricotta, stewed citrus, fennel and hazelnut.
On Third Street, you’ll find Fonuts, a donut and ice-cream shop from Waylynn Lucas. She’s the former pastry chef at the Bazaar by Jose Andres and Patina, four-star restaurants both. Now she’s baking — yes, baking — donuts with standout flavors including maple bacon, blueberry earl grey and strawberry buttermilk. Lucas is also churning out great ice cream. And yes, the salted caramel soft-serve is habit-forming. Kind of like this part of town.
For the visiting New Yorker, Hollywood has long been low on the list of Los Angeles musts, unless you wanted a West Coast version of New York’s old-school 42nd Street filth. Slowly, awkwardly, a new kind of Hollywood is taking shape, where chic hotels and grand nightclubs (alongside horrible nightlife, admittedly) sit side by side next to beautiful historic theaters and new residential buildings. In the mix are great new restaurants and awesome old dive bars, a hugely popular farmers market and two very busy subway stations. Best of all? This is only the beginning. To the chagrin of homeowners in the hills, a recent rezoning looks to be upping the height restrictions on development in the area — expect Hollywood the neighborhood to be a major force in Los Angeles life over the next century.
But what of today? Check out Hollywood and Vine, with its hotels like the Redbury. The Redbury’s all about old-world, boho-chic cool mixed with modern-day glam. With its bordello-red rooms, purposefully faded carpet and sexy Library bar, and a location near many of Hollywood’s overflowing nightclubs, it’s a spot for discerning VIPs and a surprisingly pleasant and restful boutique hotel in spite of the partying crowds in and around the property.
It’s also just a couple blocks from the bountiful Sunday farmers’ market, one of the city’s best spots for an impromptu lunch. Yes, you can make a picnic with the finest meats, cheeses, bread and vegetables, but you’re on vacation, so let the locals cook for you: Salvadoran pupusas, Thai sticky-rice desserts, artisanal breakfast sausages served over mounds of French fries. The variety is worthy of Portland food-cart pods.
And Hollywood has mass transit that takes you right to, say, the W Hotel with its Drai’s nightclub up top. Further down the boulevard, there are local, down-and-dirty dining mainstays like Aziz Ansari and Jonathan Gold favorite Jitlada, which some argue is the best Thai restaurant in the country. There’s the Sayers Club, a fab nightspot for rock and hip-hop fans, accessed via a Papaya King. Yeah, Hollywood, the secret’s out. We like you.