Los Angeles, the home of mobile car washes, cupcake shops, dog hotel spas and Hollywood Pool Parties. Here are tips and favorite gems, from Costumers to Christmas Warehouses, only to be found in the City of Angels. I tried my best to limit restaurants here, as I mean to focus on experiencing the city vs. eating a good meal. 325 yelp reviews and 100 blog posts later, here it is…
2301 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90068
If you have not been to a concert at the Bowl then you have not fully experienced Los Angeles. There is something magical about sitting on a picnic bench in an amphitheater with friends listening to live music while sipping a glass of wine and enjoying a picnic, surrounded by the Hollywood Hills and a view of the Hollywood sign. It doesn’t get much better than this. Even WAY in the back where the seats are only $25-30.
110 E 9th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90079
First Friday shopping in this building is the hidden gem of LA that you never knew about.
In high school I bought every designer formal dress here and never paid more than $40 (sample sizing only). That’s the only part I’ll give away Happy hunting
8288 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
I can’t praise this place enough. Drag Queen Bingo on Sunday nights is entertaining, plus the money goes to a good cause each week. It’s traditional bar food, nothing too fancy but lots and lots of burgers to choose from. The margarita pizza was yumm.
It’s $20 to play bingo and some of the charities have great prizes. The bingo lasts a long time, plenty of games.
7001 Franklin Ave
Hollywood, CA 90028
There is something alluring so I’ve been told, to an invite-only club. It was a weekend evening and I received an invitation from a client, so I brought a friend who was dying to come along.
Yes, it is a castle, and a lot of heart was put into the actual building by it’s members. There is a lot of neat history here and we were welcomed and given a tour (even drinks) by one of the Castle board members. Such hospitality. The restaurant is traditional and on the expensive side, but it’s about coming here for the experience so you won’t mind it. There are magic show throughout the evening, both close up and stage. Visiting the Magic Castle is something you have to do once, to say that you did it.
6000 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Where should you go to do some real Hollywood people watching? This is the place. Plus you’ll get in a big screen movie outdoors with your picnic, wine and friends.
Some of the movies are odd and eclectic, but that’s when you will get in some really good people watching!
1000 Universal Studios Blvd
Universal City, CA 91602
If you want to show around out-of-towners, or you’re visiting our city be sure you go on the tram tour at Universal Studios. The tour takes you through the back lot where Desperate Housewives, Leno and many a flick have been filmed.
I have the fortune to work on the back lot here a few times a year, so I generally see the sites without a tram. But I’ve been on the tram tour and it’s really great. If you have my college buddy Joe D as your tram tour guide (at Christmas you will recognize his white beard) tell him I said hi, and give him a hard time.
120 S Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
There is something really special about this place. Imagine a warehouse full of Christmas tree vignettes, glittery decorations and a room of collectible village houses. Stats really gets you into the holiday spirit. As a small child I can remember coming to Stats at Christmas and being in awe as if it was Disneyland.
After Christmas the discounts are deep!
304 N Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91203
Apparently The Kardashians are regulars here which was almost enough to deter me from coming. Blechh, but I’m glad I gave it a try it was a fun experience, and the food just kept coming.
I came here for a holiday so the standard weekend dinner seating ($44) was $70 per person, though it did include a glass of champagne and I believe they added more food options to their traditional spread. I will say the entertainment was great and included belly dancers and live music. $60 would have been more reasonable I think.
I somehow managed an 8:00 reservation online. The seating is at 8:30 so we were lucky enough to be seated first and get started on the vast array of mezze which just kept coming.
There was the standard assortment of Plain Hummus, Olives, pickled turnips, carrots, falafel, sarma (very tasty dolmades) and tabbouleh. There were also some more eclectic and interesting varieties as I am not that well versed in Lebanese food. I have 5 “must try” dishes on my list, outlined below.
-Must try- The Labneh Khaleejhi was sort of a tatziki only better, like a cheesey yogurt dip.
-Must try- The Pink hummus (made with beets) was equally as surprising and scrumptious. What a treat.
-Must try- The Muhammara made of pomegranate, red pepper and walnuts was a little spicy and different from other middle eastern varieties I have tried. Really spectacular.
-Must try- Soujuk B’jeben (or it was the arayas, but pretty sure it was Soujuk) was very seasoned and served between toasted lavash bread. To die for, wish they had brought out more!!! My favorite dish.
-The simple cole slaw Armenian cabbage salad with vinegar was surprisingly flavorful and balanced out the other foods.
-I really loved the Fatayer (Cheese Boreg) fried and stuffed with crumbled cheese. So good!!
-I’m not a huge eggplant fan but the Mutabbal (Babba Ganoush) was actually very well prepared. Fresh, not too much bite, moist, and well blended.
-I liked the Fattoush Salad, it was refreshing with the other dishes as an accompaniment. By itself a little bland, but great served along side so many other powerful flavors.
I couldn’t believe we were just now to the main course, wow. Along with all the vegetarian stuff this is a very beef heavy traditional restaurant. So if you don’t like beef it may not be for you. It was a little much for me.
-Must try- The Chicken Kebob was juicy goodness with SO much flavor!
-The Khash-Khash Kebob (Lula kebob) was really yummy, beef and herbs ground into links like a koobideh.
-The Beef Shwarma (I think) was like filet kebob only a little dry and not that tender. The kabobs are served with a Bulgar pilaf and another grain, very hearty and moist.
Our cocktails were nice and strong and the bartender served me a complimentary hypnotiq cocktail. Thank you!! I was a little disappointed that they don’t have a cocktail menu. They do have a full bar and wine menu here.
For dessert, Osmanlieh (cream filling with phyllo hairs on top). And Halaweh B’Jheben (double cream roll) that is sort of like eating the best sweetened butter mixed with cheese. Holy!
Service was rather routine it seemed (not in a good way). When the place is fairly full wait staff serves food in waves and there were times that our waters sat empty. Not terrible service, it just didn’t seem to match our $200 bill, nor the dress code, nor my expectations. Dinner on Friday and Saturday men should plan to wear a suit jacket, and women semi-formal. Most women were in dresses which was refreshing in Los Angeles where people show up to 5 star restaurants regularly in jeans.
All and all my consensus: a special dining experience with live entertainment. A great way to delve into the experience of Lebanese/Armenian food and culture in Los Angeles.
11041 Vanowen St
North Hollywood, CA 91605
This is the authentic costume rental warehouse used by many wardrobe folks and movie studios. Massive selection. The staff helps you not only find a costume but fits you in it (of course you do literally pay them by the minute for their time) I have used them both for a couple of actors/model I’ve hired, as well as for myself.
For Halloween if you get an appointment they do a fantastic job putting together a jaw dropping costume that will be “meant for you”. At Halloween be aware though that the price will double the norm. I was a showgirl with all the trimmings for $500. Well worth it in the end if you’re going somewhere like a Playboy Mansion party, or somewhere with a costume contest. You just might win it!
20800 Victory Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
If you haven’t been to a corn maze around Halloween, you have to go! And bring a date, it’s a lot of fun. Go on a week night, because on weekends there will be a lot of people and part of the fun of a corn maze is feeling like you are out in the middle of nowhere. The maze is $13 for adults but if you buy activity tickets, chances are they’ll let you in for 5 of them (they are $20 for 12 tickets).
The only reason I didn’t give 5 stars is because they advertise the maze as “haunted”. If you’ve ever been to a haunted corn maze, that usually means there are people dressed in costumes that jump out at you (yes, as you may have guessed I’m not from So-Cal originally)! This one wasn’t haunted, just a corn maze.
108 W 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Late night on the weekend there is an acrobatic show. The decor and ambiance can’t be beat, very “speak easy” I believe the building used to be a power plant.
3 of us came for happy hour. The drinks were about $8-10 and really tasty. Try a Brass Furnace. After Happy Hour we ordered $12 glasses of Prosecco. The 3 of us probably spent $130-140 before we were asked to move from our table for the dinner seating crowd. This was expected, but did upset one member of our group who was here from NYC. I agree that if the minimum for a table is $50 per person on a Fri or Sat evening, they should proceed with caution.
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
Where is the place to be come June when you’re not at the beach? Poolside at a swanky Hollywood boutique hotel, of course.
Tropicana is the very nice pool (with nobody really in it) and a lovely looking crowd at the Historic Roosevelt Hotel. There’s a DJ on the weekend starting around 1. The pool attendant Jeff went to CVS to buy sunscreen for me. We managed to snag open tables and met some nice people and stayed for about 8 hours. If you’re not staying at the hotel try to get there by noon because they won’t let you in if it’s busy, particularly if you’re a dude.
The only cons, there was a little shortage with the towels which is supposedly rare. The pool loungers are all full unless you get there in the early a.m. Ask for something with Absolut and you may swing a cocktail for $11 otherwise you’ll end up paying more (mojitos $17). Oh, be sure to note that they add a “service fee” gratuity onto every bill. Two of the bartenders were really friendly, the third was more “Hollywood.” The food is pool food but you pay about double the normal price for it here. All in all, we had a blast and I’d come back again.
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
This is not a lounge, it’s an experience. Yes, that sounds cliche but it’s true. There is no lounge sign; to enter the lounge you must walk through hallway corridors to this little dark space. Greeted by your cocktail server you will be instructed that there is no cocktail list, but your drink will be custom made to your personal preferences. My preferences were that I like gin, champagne, cucumber and st germaine. I received a great concoction with strawberry, gin and topped with st germaine foam. Very cool. Do be specific though, one of the guys in our group said “enthusiastic” with vodka. He got a spicy cocktail that probably wasn’t what he had in mind. But if you don’t give much guidance you leave a lot to interpretation.
Expect to pay about $17-18 for a pretty looking short cocktail with plenty of garnish and a very large ice cube. Library Bar is an awesome date spot if you want to impress. Go to Public Kitchen for dinner inside the hotel yummy food!
1301 Devlin Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90069
I had a wonderful experience with Sleepover Rover. I needed a dogsitter for the next day, knowing I’d be gone at work for about 16 hours. The service found me Laurie in Thousand Oaks which was convenient to where I was working. The home where Koi (the doggie) stayed for the day was beautiful with a huge fenced backyard and pool. She got lots of attention and had 5 sweet playmates that greeted us at the door, heaven for a playful lab!
Laurie was flexible with me and I was able to pick up Koi late at night when I was done with work. She is a friendly person that truly loves animals. Also, the price was very reasonable for this area. Sleepover Rover is a fantastic service, I would recommend them and use them again myself.
15. Hotel Bel-Air
701 Stone Canyon Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90077
It is back, re-opened after two years. I had the pleasure of touring part of the facilities with a client a week ago. It looks to be everything it was but with a sparkling new finish. The banquet staff was dressed in their best for training, very classy. The event space seats 180 and has a min. 45k food and beverage minimum+ service fee and sales tax. The perimeter of the ceiling features led color changing lights.
Hotel rooms start at about $675 per night. The lobby is an intimate boutique feel surrounding a fire hearth. Check in to the hotel on an ipad. This is a must visit property live swans and all, even if only for cocktails.
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Comfort 1 Star (the stools and benches are cute but very impractical and not a pleasant experience to sit for long periods)
Service 3 Stars. below par on the weekend for this caliber of an establishment. After dinner we waited for a table in the patisserie for a half hour. I’d requested the table 4 times in the month since I’d made the reservation.
Decor 5 stars amazing, the ambiance is worth the bill alone
Food 4.5 stars. The one dish I would have liked to try would have been the Hilly or the Philly. We passed because of the price tag but it is the Bazaar Signature from what I hear.
Jicama guacamole was a big hit great presentation and flavor
Apple fennel salad is inventive. Cheese and thin curls of apple, it’s light, fresh and different. Very refreshing
Croquetas De Pollo crispy outside with chicken and goodies inside. Reminiscent of pot pie. Great comfort food.
Papas Canarias was innovative. Not joking about salty, after about a half dozen I was seriously bloated but well worth it. Mini potatoes infused with salt and served with a light pesto. Sooo good.
Chicken and dates was another big hit with my group not quite as much for me. Good flavors but very rich. Caviar went well with the rich dark flavor of the chicken and other flavors. A bit too much mustard and I could go without the dates too overpowering. The chicken was cooked very nicely with a crispy touch, similar to the flavor of duck however.
Sautéed Couscous- AMAZING, I think I could live off of this stuff. It had pomegranate and the most amazing mix of sweet and tangy flavors. The best grain I have ever tasted hands down.
Rossejat Shrimp paella was different than expected. Not what you would think of as paella at all. It was more of a soy sauce base sauce with a crunchy noodle. Very good. A bit pricier than certain items but the portion size was larger too. And the shrimp are prawn size.
I’d pass on the Baby Beet Salad although my group absolutely adored it. Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of beet salads and this one was a bit plain for my taste. The golden beets mixed in were good but I’ve had better, and I make this better at home.
Also, pass on the mussel can, it was a let down. Our group had about 5 mussel fans and nobody cared much for this. They had decent consistency but were served cold and were forgettable. By now we were all stuffed but I asked my guests to hang in there for dessert so they appeased me.
For dessert we moved to the Patisserie where there is a cute counter where you can inspect all the fun sweets. Once we were finally seated I was pleasantly surprised that as the birthday girl, they set a huge fuzzy throne at the head of the table for me. Very chic and cute.
The nitro coconut floating island was great. Like coconut merange but better, filled with pineapple and banana atop fosters style caramel rum. There’s a touch of a coffee type goo in there they could skip on even as a coffee lover.
Heart shape chocolate was good, like a lava cake though not at all resembling a heart? The salty cream stuff that came with it was terrible, stay away.
Tres mousse was also nice, not too rich
Chocolate covered pop rocks were fun and inexpensive, great to pass around the table.
Mojitos were perfect try one
A group of 8 the bill totaled $900 but we also didn’t order the most expensive items on the menu or a lot of extras. Approximately 9 tapas orders per person.
1001 Rose Bowl Dr
Pasadena, CA 91103
Con- Parking sorta sucks, it’s the Rose Bowl so to be expected I suppose.
Plus- There are A LOT of merchants here you could spend the whole day. Plenty of food stands too. Bring cash!
Con- The entrance fee to get in seems pretty steep.
Plus- The merchants that sell vintage/second hand are on a separate side from those selling new stuff, so the layout of this huge Flea Market actually makes sense.