Travel: Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles

I’ve had a love affair with Los Angeles since I was 9 years old.  I could probably write 16 blog posts and still not scratch the surface as to why I love it so much.  Or should I say, used to love it so much.  Lately, our relationship has turned into a Love/Hate one.

Travel Los Angeles

The first time I went to L.A. was on a road trip with my family in the early 80’s in our burgundy station wagon. We put the back seat down and my sisters and I laid there all day, while our dad drove us to the next destination. Not hindered by the restrictions of a seat belt, we played board games, drank pop from the cooler, and ate a bunch of junk food.  It was heaven.

We went to Zion, San Diego, and ya know, Riverside.  This may not be high up on your choice of places to stay in Southern California, but my dad loved cars, and there was a race in Riverside that coincided with our vacation, so we went.  Now that I’m an adult with hindsight, I can pretty much guarantee the whole trip was planned around that race.

Travel Los Angeles

We also went to Disneyland and Universal Studios.  Just look at that photo of Main Street.  Can you even imagine Disneyland without crowds?  Me either and I lived it.  It was a two-week road trip that has lived on as one of my favorites.  It wasn’t all joyous, however.  The car overheated several times and we stayed in some scary motel in 1980’s Vegas, where our parents left us alone while they went gambling.

Travel Los Angeles Disneyland 80's

Whenever we returned home from a trip, my dad would ask each of us, “Did you like it there and would you want to live there?”  It was the first time I answered yes {both my sisters said no}, and I knew that trip laid the foundation for the “one day” I would live there.

In 9thgrade, I went to Disneyland and L.A. again with a friend and her mom.  On that trip, I decided I was going to UCLA and I was moving to L.A. as soon as humanly possible.  I didn’t go to college there, but I did move there as soon as I graduated from the college I actually did go to, which was a short four hour drive away.

Before I actually lived there, I visited as much as possible.  The thing about L.A. is that no matter how many times I’ve been there, or how many neighborhoods I’ve lived in, there’s always something new to explore.

Here’s where the hate comes in:  Because of overcrowding, which causes unbearable traffic, which causes people to be assholes, which creates negative energy, which causes people move to Denver.  But hey, pot is now legal in California, so you really can move back because our state is full.  Totally kidding… Inside joke with the locals.

Here’s where the love comes in:  My love of L.A. started as an obsession with old Hollywood {40’s – 60’s}, and grew into an obsession of then-current Hollywood {80’s and 90’s.}  I knew all “the” places to be and I frequented most of them.  Thanks to progression and a lack of appreciation for history, a lot of the places are closed, or are closing faster than you can blink an eye.  Thankfully, there is currently a push to conserve some of this history.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite things to do in L.A.:

Where to Eat:

25 Degrees – It’s a hip burger bar in one of my favorite hotels, the Hollywood Roosevelt.  It’s also the first place I had a burger with an egg on it.  And they have a delicious kale salad.  Yum!

Alcove Bakery & Café – This little gem was down the street from where I lived in Los Feliz. Many a celebrity sighting, great food, and a beautiful patio for you to enjoy while you sit outside and spot said celebrities.  Shhhh, Grey’s Anatomy films nearby.  I used to pass some of them as I was driving to work, as they were driving to work.  Stars, really are like us!

El Compadre – A once secret hole in the wall Mexican joint with delicious burritos and super, super strong drinks that they deliver on fire.

El Coyote – The food is decent, but the margs are delicious.  And strong.  And thanks to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, El Coyote is having a heyday right now.

House of Pies – This is also located in Los Feliz.  I love a good old-fashioned diner and this is one of the best.

Joan’s on Third – Located in another one of my favorite neighborhoods, Joan’s on Third has yummy food and you may see a celeb or two here as well.

Jones – Reminiscent of a supper club, Jones has really good pizza.  And then you can walk across the street to the Formosa for drinks.

Little Izakya – Owned by the Katsu-ya group, this sushi bar is small, quaint and kind of hidden in a little strip in the Valley, unlike it’s flashy counterpart.

My friend dropped me off so she could park and I could get a table.  As I was walking through the parking lot, a yoga pants wearing wanna-be Kardashian came running up behind me, ran past me to get to the door first, flung it open in my face and raced through the restaurant to get to the hostess before me.

We then sat next to her and her friend in the super small, very intimate space where she glared at us all night.  Thankfully, the sushi was good, and so was the service.  Welcome to L.A.!

Where to Drink:

El Carmen – Another small, quaint bar in L.A., El Carmen also has delicious margaritas and food.

Formosa Cafe – Once the place to be for stars like Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, this Hollywood institution was almost destroyed by a bad renovation and expansion that happened in the late 90’s.  It recently sat vacant until someone came to rescue it.  A renovation to bring it back to its old glory was recently completed and the doors are open once again.

Public Kitchen and Bar – Also located in the Hollywood Roosevelt, they make a mean Moscow Mule.

Rainbow Bar & Grill – The place to be for aging hair band rock star sightings.  David Lee Roth used to hang out here, and maybe he still does.  They also have great pizza and it’s the first place I ever ate escargot.  Surprisingly, I liked it.

Skybar – Sip cocktails while enjoying sweeping views of L.A. at another of my favorite hotels, the Mondrian, which was built by former Studio 54 owner Ian Schrager.  Skybar was started by Cindy Crawford’s hubby, Rande Gerber.  It was the place to be in the late 90’s and it’s stood the test of time.

Tiki-Ti – Tiki-Ti is Tiki-Tiny.  It’s also one of the few remaining tiki bars left in Los Angeles.  It’s a gem.

The Snake Pit – One of my all-time favorite bars in L.A.  It’s a total hole in the wall with beer spilled all over the floor and the last time I was there, the bathroom was totally creepy.  I suggest you hold it as long as possible.

The Viper Room – You can’t be a true Generation X’er and not know about the Viper Room.  It’s where River Phoenix overdosed on the sidewalk in front of the club in 1993.  A sad, sad day.  Founded by Johnny Depp and as such, it’s small and dark.  I loved going there in my 20’s, but I would probably find it extremely claustrophobic today.  I still think you should check it out as it’s stood the test of time and it’s a great place to see live music.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg.  I wish I could tell you about all my other favorite places in L.A., but they’ve either been closed or destroyed.  Some of my closed favorites were: Dublin’s, Good Luck Bar, House of Blues, Lava Lounge, The Opium Den, The Room {this was in Hollywood when it was’t cool to be in Hollywood and in fact it wasn’t even very safe to be there.  You literally entered through an alley backdoor to a room the size of your mom’s closet.  It was the best!} The Roxbury, Three Clubs.  Memories…

Turns out, I do still love L.A!

For all the scoop on all things old L.A., read Alison Martino’s blog Vintage Los Angeles, she is a plethora of information.


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