Los Angeles – I hate to love you so much…seeing that I’m from the East Coast 🙂
The weather is perfect. The traffic is a nightmare. The culture is laid back, yet trend-setting.
You are a global metropolis with an extraordinary history and a rich cultural heritage. You are the Entertainment Capital of the World and have miles of sunny coastline. Your multicultural neighborhoods are eclectic, progressive, trendy, laid back and retro. There is something for everyone.
I have made countless trips to LA and felt it was time to just consolidate my list of places to go and things to do since people ask me all the time. This city guide will definitely get updates as things are ever-changing.
I haven’t stayed here – just visited the neighborhood.
-Philippe the Original: This is where the French dip sandwich was invented a century ago. Cash only.
– Daikokuya: Best Ramen in Little Tokyo – they even have cold ramen (yum!).
– Cana Rum Bar: Feels like a speakeasy (in the back of a parking garage). Tiny and very chill – crafted cocktails where rum is the superstar.
– Disney Concert Hall
– Staples Center: Sporting events (Cana is across the street)
– Museum of Contemporary Art
I haven’t stayed here. Just visited for a lunch or dinner and walked around. Very bohemian.
– Cliff’s Edge: One of the most beautiful dining experiences. Food is out of this world – esp. if they have the tasting menu available (check in advance). The cocktails at this bar are top notch.
– Café Stella: Wine and jazz…pretty much a classic French bistro.
– 4100 Bar: Jukebox heavy and very unpretentious crowd.
– Thirsty Crow: Saloon style setting, tons of whiskey and a laid back atmosphere.
– Little Dom’s: Best kale salad, fried oyster po’ boy and Italian deli sandwiches.
– Griffith Park: Observatory and Hollywood Sign – they equate this to LA’s ‘Central Park’.
– Greek Theatre
West Hollywood / Hollywood / Beverly Hills
– The Standard: Great location – Sunset Strip – walking distance to adorable boutique stores.
– The Roosevelt: Great location and simply one of the coolest hotels in LA – across from Chinese Theater, Kodak Theater, Star Walk of Fame, great valet service, In and Out Burger is down the street…I stay here when I’m in Hollywood.
– Chateau Marmont: Where all the movie stars stay and do very bad things – hehe… If anything, have a drink at the Bar Marmont or lunch on the beautiful terrace. You feel like you’re in Europe.
– Spare Room (in Roosevelt): Game parlor/cocktail lounge. Has its own bowling alley.
– La Descarga: Sexy, awesome rum and cigar lounge bar. They even have spicy salsa act!
– Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles: The name says it all.
– Jitlada: Fantastic Thai food. Try the spicy papaya salad.
– Life Food Organic: Raw powered fast food!
– Writer’s Room: Hidden in an ally, this classic joint – Hemmingway and Fitzgerald mingled with starlets here – is a classic vintage-inspired cocktail bar.
– Coolhaus: Ice cream sandwiches that are bigger, bolder and more imaginative than you could imagine – think Whiskey-Lucky Charms, Pastrami and Fried Chicken and Waffles.
-A.O.C.: Simply excellent with a glorious courtyard, lovely wine list and a dark, roasted chicken that is unforgettable.
– The Bazaar by Jose Andres (SLS Hotel): Modernist ode to Spain. Go with an open mind and try everything. The Philly Cheesesteak is a standout.
-Rao’s: The famed NY stalwart made its way to the West Coast in 2013. All I can say is baked clams, oversized meatless and Sunday gravy. Absolutely classic.
– All About the Bread: The Godfather sandwich is a memorable experience. The bread is absolutely delicious.
– Pizzeria Mozza: The flour is King Arthur Sir Galahad and it’s baked for a minimum of 8 minutes at 600 degrees. It’s a one of a kind recipe that is life changing.
– Osteria Mozza: Red Sauce Dinner nights include a Sinatra soundtrack. The Puglian burrata purse, chickpea pop in the soffritto-laced parmigiana and the linguine with clams between the grilled octopus and the braised veal breast staccato are stand outs. To note – the kitchen will happily split an order into perfect small bites if you’re willing to share.
– Janes’ on 3rd: Amazing breakfast spot. Closer to mid-city area so a drive.
– Spago: Wolfgang Puck’s Classic – a seasonal menu in a stunning space with classic delicious dishes (smoked salmon pizza).
– Mel’s Diner: Anyone who has seen the 1973 film “American Graffiti” remembers the neon sign at the gang’s favorite hangout spot buzzing in the background. For late night grub, this is my go-to spot.
– Son of a Gun: Great seafood. Menu changes daily.
– Terrine: It’s a playground of flavor at this French hot spot. Foie gras with sweet and sour prunes…frog legs?! The charcuterie plate does not disappoint.
– Maude: This restaurant pays homage to California farmers by selecting ingredients that typify California (think: avocado, fits, artichokes). Their menu is a creation of delicious, interesting plates of food. Each month the menu spotlights one ingredient either as the star of the dish or as an accoutrement. Prix fixe only.
– The Ivy: The quintessential alfresco lunch spot in L.A. It feels like a French country cottage with a yard. The Maine lobster ravioli is delicious.
– Madeo: Unassuming Italian with an off the menu black truffle pasta that is out of this world.
– Bouchon: Legendary chef Thomas Keller’s casual French brasserie serving classic long lunches. The seafood platters are a must and the burger with truffle fries is heavenly.
– Honorable mention *Victor’s Cafe*: Closed in 2015 but was a community clubhouse for those that just loved staple deli food. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Gotti a few years ago. His blintzes and bagels were NY worthy, and his matzo ball soup with chunks of carrots, celery and chicken was life-changing. He was born in the Bronx, raised in Brooklyn and the younger brother of the late Mafia boss John Gotti. His cafe will always remain in my heart.
– Kodak Theater (Oscars)
– Grauman’s Chinese Theater
– Walk of Fame
– Rodeo Drive J = Treat Yo Self!
– Mulholland Drive
– Hike up Runyon Canyon – 130 acres Public Park. Beautiful especially at sunset.
– Viceroy: Cool, hip, modern.
– The Huntley: Classic, beautiful and great location to everything (this is my favorite hotel to stay in – 1 block from Soul Cycle, the beach and the 3rd St Promenade).
– Rustic Tavern: Local organic producers and menu shifts with availability.
– Real Food Daily Santa Monica Location: New world vegan cooking (currently closed – with plans to re-open soon).
– Basement Tavern: Craftsman cocktails and live music.
– Tender Greens: Healthy food – counter service; sit and eat.
– Goji Juice + Vitamins: Great green juices and acai bowls.
– A Votre Sante: Light, natural, healthy fare. It’s no-guilt dining!
– Santa Monica Pier and Beach
– 3rd St. Promenade: carefree and car-free strolling and shopping
I would stay in Santa Monica – Venice is next door.
– Intelligentsia: BEST coffee ever!
– Joe’s: Cali-French.
– Abbot’s Pizza Co: Seriously good pizza – especially for the West Coast!
– Venice Beach Wines: Wine and charcuterie.
– Cafe Gratitude: Very healthy (We have a Café Grumpy in NY, haha).
– Dudley Market: Farm to table eatery. Low key vibe during the day, but transforms into an intimate 20 seat restaurant at night. The Orata fish with salsa verde is very good.
– Boardwalk/Muscle Beach: Such characters.
– Abbot Kinney Shopping District: AMAZING BOUTIQUE STORES and restaurants/bars.
Malibu Inn OR just drive up Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH) for a lovely afternoon and have a late lunch/early dinner.
– Café Habana: The NY dining scene hits Malibu with this retro-hip Havana styled eatery. The spacious patio is glorious on a beautiful day (ever day in Malibu). Chicken Tinga Tacos are unreal. The Cuban sandwich is a hit too. Habana hosts a Taco Tuesday and Karaoke Wednesday. Habana is also located in Malibu Lumberyard which has a ton of great shops!
– Paradise Cove: Classic Malibu establishment. Portions are HUGE. Sit outside. Take a stroll on the beach after and admire the Malibu cliffs.
– Nobu: Imagine the beauty of the NY restaurant on the Pacific – absolutely stunning. If anything, have a cocktail at the bar. Apps are terrific and the food is sumptuous.
Malibu Lumber Yard shopping.
– Rose Bowl in Pasadena: Classic landmark. Was lucky enough to see a USC – UCLA Game!
– Universal Studios in Burbank: Fun for a day trip.
– Mexican Food Trucks are AWESOME late night!
– LA is the worst for traffic. Prepare yourself.
– LA thinks it’s known for their burgers. Try for yourself – Unami and In and Out are the fast food leaders.
– Take a Rise Nation Fitness class. It specializes in a killer 30-minute full body cardio climb (rise-nation.com). Alternatively, you always have Tracy Anderson, Barry’s and Soul Cycle.
– Sip a classic Bellini at Beverly Hill’s Mr. C Hotel – owned by the Cipriani family. Every guest receives one upon arrival (kids get a virgin version). Naturally, check-in takes place at the lobby bar.