The thing I like about LA is that it’s big and sprawling size-wise, but still has really intimate restaurants, so it’s not like going to Disneyworld. I’ve been here for 20 years and there are still so many neighborhoods to explore and great drives to take. I now live in Hancock Park, though I’ve lived in the West Hollywood and Larchmont areas before. LA is just a perfect place to explore the history of California as well as the new and exciting restaurants, bars and stores.
Disclaimer: When I go to a place I usually get the whole menu—that’s the problem. I’ve tried to suggest a couple of dishes with every place I recommend, but when in doubt, order the whole menu.
The Redbury on Vine is where I usually put my guests up. The rooms are really big and funky, more like apartments—like the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles on steroids—and not at all cramped. It's well-located to explore the more urban side of LA close to the funkier Angeleno neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silverlake, Hancock Park, and Larchmont.
Start off the weekend by hitting Document Coffee Bar in Koreatown, a place that showcases the resurgence of Koreatown as the cool place to hang out. It's a Korean-owned coffee place, with handmade, artisanal, really well done coffee.
Once you're caffeinated, go to Sqirl for a breakfast bite. It's the original organic café with so much unique food and so many great people working there - just a great experience. They even make waiting in line fun! I usually get the classic Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl with preserved lemon in it.
Pollo A La Brasa Western is a grungy Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant - theoriginal wood-burning rotisserie chicken place. It’s a great spot to pick up provisions for a picnic in Griffith Park - the chicken, the Peruvian rice, and the hot sauce are fiery and delicious.
Next, I'd stroll around in Los Feliz Village, Sunset Junction, or Silverlake—those are all fun areas to just walk around and explore. There’s a great store called Wacko Soap Plant, "The 2nd Happiest Place on Earth," which is a delightfully weird place to get lost in for an hour. When they opened they were selling soap, but now they have an unusual collection of books, dolls, and more - it has become a pop culture shop, and it's an awesome representation of some of the mish-mash strangeness of LA.
You’re near Thai town, so after that you can go to Jitlada Restaurant, an LA-meets-Thailand type of place that is very Thai Town. It's probably the best Thai place in California, very spicy and authentic. When you get there, ask for the separate menu, a secret collection of extra-authentic dishes, and don't miss out on the famous Crispy Morning Glory Salad or the Crying Tiger Pork. The food is great with beer, and it's real spicy so you'll be drinking a lot. Come with a group to try a whole bunch of different dishes.
Another favorite option for dinner is chef Ludo Lefebvre's Petit Trois. I like that it’s just a casual place but with elevated food. Their omelette with a side of rose wine is my perfect meal. I prefer coming here for dinner or late night - it's got a cool after-hours vibe, plus good, convenient parking in a strip mall.
A third great spot for dinner I enjoy is Odys + Penelope. I think the design of this churrasco is really great, and the menu is very meat-and vegetable-driven and not super carb-heavy—just good, fresh stuff. They have a communal table so it’s great for solo diners. The last time I went, I really liked their smoked short ribs and their cauliflower purée. They have a good list of aged European wines, like an older 1999 Savennieres Chenin Blanc, priced in a way that's not going to gouge your wallet.
Let's do a coast-to-coast day today, starting with some oceanfront biking and then ending up in DTLA (Downtown LA).
Everyone’s always out on Sunday—it’s a better beach day, since Sundays are usually warmer than Saturdays. How do I know that? They just usually are. I've got 20 years of experience and I've seen a lot of Sundays!
So, we start at the beach. I usually rent bikes from one of the rental places on the Santa Monica Pier. Park (or get out of the Uber) there and then take a ride down Venice Beach to Marina Del Rey and back. All the exploration and riding will take up half a day before you head back east toward DTLA to relax and get cleaned up for a nice dinner out.
For dinner, I'd say Sushi Zo is the best sushi restaurant in LA, in terms of quality and variety. It’s an omakase-only nigiri place, a traditional trust-the-chef type of spot where everything is based on the market and changes every time you go. I always get a really good daiginjo sake to go with the meal - I love the elegance of a great, refined, drier sake.
P.S. I also love this underground sushi place called Yamakase, but it's invitation-only. Ask around - if you can find your way in, it's well worth it. The chef will feed you sushi until you're dead or asleep!
Photo credits: Flickr / Mark Luethi, Document Coffee Bar, Sqirl LA, LA Times, LA Weekly, Tasting Table, LA Times