Our week in Los Angeles was so full of wonderful things that could warrant a post in and of themselves; I had to break this travelogue into two parts (and really more, if you count the drive up and down the 101 and our visit to the Huntington Gardens). But at the same time, what was really special about this trip was—having been here so many times before (and having lived here for a time)—that I didn’t feel any of that pressure to “do it all.”
Here are some more highlights from what we did choose to do…
I’d read a ton about all the changes in Koreatown since we’d left—in particular the arrival of The Line hotel and its rooftop-cum-greenhouse restaurant, The Commissary (one of those lovely spaces that just screams “take my picture!”).
We shared some drinks (the Beet cocktail was pretty amazing) and then drove through downtown Los Angeles to get to Bestia. I think its best known for its meaty menu, offals and whatnot, but I loved a lighter dish of butter poached lobster (kabocha purée, pea tendrils, cocoa powder and all).
And then—fun sidenote—I was wondering when we’d have our first celebrity sighting when the “Blurred Lines”-girl, Emily Ratajkowski, walked in and sat behind Aron.
To get to Bestia, on the edge of the LA River, one drives through Skid Row—a 50-block area where many of the homeless (over 10,000 perhaps, the largest population in the country) are setting up tents and settling in for the night. It felt crazy to be so viscerally confronted with great disparity and then go and spend so much money to valet the car and eat at this scene-y spot—and though I’m not sure there’s much more to say about it here, that feeling probably shouldn’t be ignored.
It made me want to read more about the gentrification of Los Angeles and how the city is dealing with the revitalization of the downtown core.
Because perhaps my favorite day of the trip was one we spent walking around downtown Los Angeles. Every part of the city has changed a ton since we lived there, but none as dramatically as downtown. GQ published a great article on it last year with an illustrative map.
First stop, Grand Central Market across from the Bradbury Building: We tried Eggslut (despite some objections to the name) and decided that everything is better with an egg on it. And then we took a spin to see all of the new, interesting offerings…
…alongside the stalwart classics.
I was especially excited to stop in at Bottega Louie: set in the 100-year-old (beautiful) Brockman Building, the restaurant is a gourmet food hall of sorts, with a highly praised Italian restaurant, a patisserie, bar, and café.
Skyler fell asleep on the walk over and cat-napped just long enough for us to fill a box of macarons and sip iced coffees.
Warning: if you buy a large serving of macarons, you must be prepared to eat them almost immediately. The quality is the best just after you unwrap them. (Call me and I’ll help you.)
Cheers! My favorite was the Rose (just as I discovered it was, on this trip).
Hudson, in a gesture of true love, shared his macaron with Skyler when she woke up.
One bite and her eyes lit up!
The Ace hotel was our next stop. Its opening downtown in the gorgeous United Artists building in early 2014 is sometimes referenced as heralding downtown’s revitalization (but I remember them saying that when the Standard opened back in 2002, too). Whether or not it’s true, the Ace does seem to be at the center of this particular downtown moment (though maybe it’s being sold?)—with good reason. It’s gorgeous. The folks at Ace just don’t miss a beat (they even had bentwood high chairs!). From that article in GQ “Ace is one of those brands that both confirm and ensure the hipster credentials of a city or neighborhood. (The hard hat I was offered by general manager Jason Dibler when he took me on a tour of the construction had a Beastie Boys Check Your Head sticker on it.)”
There’s a beautiful, sun-drenched lobby and restaurant on the ground-level, and a pool bar on the roof. You can take an elevator at the back of the restaurant expressly to the roof and the pool is actually for public use, we were told. I regretted not having swim suits (though I didn’t get the impression anyone would have loved our two kids splashing in there—it’s quite intimately sized). During the day it’s kept at a pool temperature, and at night it becomes a hot tub.
We wrapped up the day with the kids over coffees and juices at Verve.
(Though later Aron and I said goodnight to these two and decided to come back to the Ace’s rooftop bar at sunset.)
A few cocktails and then we shifted to Bäco Mercat—where Josef Centeno makes his signature flatbread sandwiches (baco is a made-up word meaning “global taco,” if I’m understanding correctly). It was Aron’s favorite meal.
I took this photo of their housemade pineapple and cinnamon soda to remind myself of how good that flavor combination can be. Next time we make pineapple upside-down-cake, you can bet I’m adding cinnamon.
And so ended our downtown-themed day. I could have easily spent another full one—perhaps with a visit to MoCA and the Disney Concert Hall, or a history tour of all the great theaters. There’s a lot happening downtown and I’d love to know more about it.
Once more quoting that GQ article, I love the final paragraphs where the author writes: “that Downtown isn’t a bet on hipsterism, not on dumplings or cocktails or cool shops or food trucks. It’s a bet on urbanism itself, a conviction that the past fifty years of outward, sprawling cul-de-sac development was just that: a dead end. That this is how we want to live, amidst the spark and jangle of humans pressed up against humans. Even in L.A.” Sounds exciting!
We chose to spend our last day enjoying more leafy environments.
And after a slow start at Intelligentsia, we drove back into Griffith Park—this time toward the LA Zoo (which we briefly debated visiting). Sadly the Merry-Go-Round was still closed mid-week until summer, but we stopped at a playground to let the kids get out and stretch before lunch at our old favorite in Koreatown, Soot Bull Jeep. It remains our favorite spot for Korean Barbecue.
I wrote here in detail about the primary focus of our trip to the gardens—the desert collection—a week or so ago. We spent the majority of our time there, but also passed through the rose gardens (at peak bloom), the Japanese gardens, and the children’s garden (where Hudson could dip into the fountains and cool off on that hot, hot day).
I realized I hadn’t gotten to do nearly as much of the shop-browsing I would have liked, so we made one last detour around the Silverlake reservoir to get ice cream bars at Milk and browse in Lawson-Fenning (two stores that also sat near each other in our old neighborhood)—and covet everything there and in the kids’ section at Yolk—before dinner at an old favorite on Sunset: Algeria.
The next day we packed up our toys, bid farewell to “our LA home,” and hit the road!
Until next time, Los Angeles! There is still so much more to see!
What would you add?