I’ll be the first person to say I’m not very West Coast; no one would ever describe me as “chill”. But when I had a business trip in LA, my husband and I decided to take some time off and make a week out of it.
The goal was to experience LA like a local with a week off work. If we wanted to take a nap, we did. If we wanted to order take out and watch the Winter Olympics, we did.
I did weeks of research (once again, not chill) and developed an itinerary that would show us as much of the city as possible: Little Tokyo, Downtown, Silver Lake, Disneyland, Fairfax, and everything in between.
Mikado Little Tokyo
I expensed my $60 cab ride from LAX to the Mikado Little Tokyo, where I’d made reservations after my boss told me to “find something cheaper” than the hotel where we had a group rate. The Mikado is a building of micro-suites-- tiny little shoe boxes, each with a kitchenette, a fold-out couch, and a private bathroom. It’s very small, but clean and secure. Rooms can be booked through Airbnb.
By 8:30 am there was a long line, but it went quickly. I ordered a cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice and the signature dish, The Slut: potato puree and a coddled egg topped with chives. It was delightful. I found a recipe for it online, and now it’s one of my go-to meals at home.
When I saw The Artist, all I could think was, Was that building in 500 Days of Summer? It wasn’t until an episode of 99 Percent Invisible a few years later that I put a name to the building, which has been used for many other movies, including Blade Runner.
It’s directly across the street from Grand Central Market, so I popped in after breakfast. The lobby is open to visitors every day.
Japanese American National Museum
JANM is the biggest museum dedicated to the Japanese American story. I spent three full days at JANM for meetings, but I didn’t see any of the exhibits; my last meeting ended ten minutes before the museum closed.
My husband flew in while I was in meetings, and our first dinner together was at Grand Central Market. I grabbed an absolutely gigantic cup of horchata to drink as we browsed.
Sarita’s was recommended. I didn’t know what pupusas are, but I was happy to discover that they’re gluten-free! They were good-- a little bland, but in a good way.
I’m always drawn to Thai food, to the point where I have to actively tell myself to try something new. But when I heard great things about Sticky Rice, I was all too happy to test it out.
We tried the green curry, which was incredible. I always thought I didn’t like green curry, but it must have just been one bad batch.
I’d heard of Angel’s Flight. I think it was closed for awhile and recently reopened? I think it was featured in La La Land? What I do know is that I love funiculars, and there was no way I wasn’t going on this bright orange one.
Silver Lake Airbnb
We booked this place after our first host cancelled on us at the last minute, and we were so happy with it. Our host, Laura, was an absolute angel, and provided us with Netflix and a bunch of very clear instructions. The bed was super cozy, the bathroom was adorable, and we had a really nice couple of nights there.
I saw Dinosaur somewhere on a list of good coffee places in Silver Lake, and we decided to drive there on a whim before brunch. It was good, but I’m not really a coffee connoisseur. My overwhelming impression was that I was probably surrounded by aspiring actors, and I became very aware for the first time on my trip that I wasn’t wearing makeup and hadn’t worked out in weeks.
Sqirl was on top of every list I saw about great, healthy food in LA. I knew there would be a line. I’m okay with a line! I’ve been to Little Serow twice! I’m hip! But what I’m not okay with is a line where you wait for over an hour as people behind you suddenly end up with food while you haven’t moved more than an inch. Every few minutes some impossibly laid-back, effortlessly cool person would appear-- fresh from their surfboard, I guess, because California-- and take a seat as though there weren’t a line stretching around the block. It took everything in my tightly-wound body not to scream. After such a long and frustrating wait, it would have taken a lot to blow me away, and I wasn’t getting that from my sorrel pesto rice bowl.
From what I’ve read, Trois Familia was the It Restaurant a couple years ago, with lines out the door. The hype must have set people up for disappointment, because the reviews were mixed.
We ended up at Trois Familia after two other restaurants on Sunset were too crowded (on a Monday, no less). Trois Familia, nestled in a nondescript strip mall, was practically empty, and we sat down right away. We were greeted and served by a waiter-- uncommon among trendy LA restaurants-- who was incredibly helpful and friendly. The service was excellent and speedy, and the food was fantastic. As I told the waiter, it was “holy-shit-good.”
The lines may be shorter than they used to be, but the food is still incredible.
According to Google Maps, the drive to Disneyland can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. I wanted to grab donuts for the drive, and I wanted a gluten-free option (which, surprisingly isn’t as common in donuts as you’d expect in LA). Kettle Glazed has all the classics (maple!) and two to three really good gluten free options each day. Plus, they open at 6 am; perfect for the early-morning drive to Disney.
I grew up at Disney World, and when my parents lived in California at different points in my childhood, my mom would take me to Disneyland, too. It’s very, very close to my heart, and my husband had never been. We spent two days there, staying at the Paradise Pier hotel. It feels silly to say, but we had a really magical time.
The Observatory was on Alan’s list because “it’s a famous site and they filmed The Terminator there, I think. Part of it. Also it’s popular for people to cycle up to.”
It’s beautiful and definitely worth a trip.
Originally we’d planned to grab a coffee and some sort of hipster breakfast sandwich across the street, but when we saw Canter’s, there was no other option. It’s so classic LA, so old-school, with a sprawling menu and fabulous bakery. Hello latkes!
My mom lived in LA for a couple of years when I was in college, and LACMA was where I’d go when I would visit. The $25 admission was a blow to my husband, who’s gotten very accustomed to the Smithsonian’s free entry, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Make sure to check out the temporary exhibits.
La Brea Tar Pits
I’d never been to the Tar Pits. We didn’t go inside, but for the first time I actually entered the grounds and walked around. We saw some pits of tar and read some plaques; that was enough for us.
Petersen Automotive Museum
Alan suggested we visit, since he likes cars. I’d never heard of it, and the striking remodel occured after my last visit, so it was completely new to me. I’m not interested in cars at all, but the top floor, which showcases the history of automobiles, was awesome. It was a very cool museum, and I’d highly recommend it.
Original Farmer’s Market
We passed through on foot and didn’t try anything, but Bob's looked cool.
We wandered over to Fonuts because I tired after a long day at the museums. When we went in the afternoon, it was picked clean, and I was left with a chocolate hazelnut fonut; they’re faux donuts because they’re baked (and there are some gluten free and vegan options). Doesn’t that make them just cakes, asked Alan? Yep! It’s basically a shop that sells tiny bundt cakes.
Baroo is another one of LA’s trendy foodie restaurants right now, and boy did it show. We walked in an hour before closing to a very crowded room, where every seat was taken and people were still waiting for a seat. There was a counter with what seemed to be a register, but there was no one manning it. We walked up, confused, and waited for a full ten minutes as the chef in the kitchen made eye contact with us on and off. It felt like we were disturbing them and it was uncomfortable. When the chef finally came to take our order, he didn’t say hello or apologize for the wait.
We eventually got seats at the bar next to piles of cookbooks, which we awkwardly flipped through as we waited slightly too long for our order. The food was incredible though, and we chalked the bad service up to an understaffed kitchen.
This was one of my mom’s favorites a few years ago, and I was happy to see it’s still up and running. This is the first place I ever tried speculoos! The waffles are speckled with course sugar, which plays so well with savory ham and cheese.
A couple blocks down from Shaky Alibi is Milk, one of best ice cream parlours in LA. I went in saying I would only order sorbet, but after I’d tasted the ice cream, there was no turning back. The sorbet was also really good, but mint ice cream without the chocolate chips?! That’s my dream flavor!
The Getty Museum
The Getty was a must-visit. With some of the best views and some of the best art, it’s one of the coolest places in LA. It’s also free (minus the cost of parking)!
Our last meal was in Venice. Gjelina’s sister restaurant, Gjusta, is really popular right now, so I thought Gjelina would be a good choice. In the end, we were pretty ambivalent; it was dark, try-hard, crowded, and our waiter wore a fedora. Why does everyone in LA wear hats?