I love Los Angeles.
But…I hate crowds. I hate looking for parking. I hate sitting in a bar and not being able to hear the person next to me. I hate hyped-up places (I know, ironic). I hate waiting in a line to get into a restaurant. Blech.
As of lately, I finally figured out some nifty tricks to navigate around the mainstream. Here are my secrets:
1) Find a hole-in-the-wall restaurant: The hole-in-the-walls are the places no one has written about. You can find these by typing in “hole in the wall” in the Yelp search bar [I’m serious] or by typing in specific dish names in very specific areas. For example, I’ve found great results from “naengmyeon” in Koreatown and “sashimi” in Manhattan Beach. I don’t like to reveal these places all that much, but here’s two: Hana Teriyaki in Paso Robles. Bibimbap to die for. And Nabeeya in the Fashion District (DTLA). Best value chirashi in the area.
2) Go during an off-time: Unfortunately, some favorites are crowded for a reason so I like to go during an off-time. Fishing With Dynamite is a personal favorite, so I make reservations for right when they open for dinner service. Clark and I like to hit up Lock and Key, a nice “speakeasy” in Koreatown during weekday nights, and Sushi Gen always has a seat ready at 9PM, half an hour before they close.
3) Park on yellow curbs: Did you know that you can park on these yellow curbs during certain times? These curbs become regular parking spots during non-restricted times! Including Sunday. (Restricted times are 7AM to 6PM, Monday through Saturday) [Source]
4) Food hop: Go on a walking tour of the Valley Blvd., the Arts District or Little Tokyo. Pick places where you can grab a pastry or order at a counter. Heck, or just spend a day at the Grand Central Market. Get a little bit to eat at each place and move on to the next destination. You’ll be entertained for hours and won’t have to deal with slow service. Sample itineraries: LIttle Tokyo Food Crawl and a SGV Food Tour
5) Drive-In Movie Theater: God, I can’t even begin to talk about how much I hate those outdoor movie screenings with food trucks. It’s so uncomfortable. Watch a movie in the comfort of your own car. Yes, these still exist. Forgo the hipster ones and check out the one in the City of Industry. (or see my piece on Drive-In Movie Theaters in SoCal)
6) Put down the smartphone and wander around: Wandering around during the weekend and stumbling across some free event is pretty easy in L.A. (and N.Y). You’ll find plenty to do in concentrated areas (parts of DTLA, Little Tokyo, Arts District, beach towns). No need for any research or pre-Googling on this one. Make a promise to stay away from the places with long lines and let things happen organically.
7) Retreat to nature: Take a night hike. Go to Echo Mountain in Altadena (or see my piece on Best Night Hikes in L.A.) and hike up to the summit on midnight. Bring a glass of wine and most definitely a jacket. Don’t forget your headlamp.
Throughout the months, I’ve made a conscious effort to do at least one trail each week. It’s not much but at least it keeps the blood pumping and the experience is far more interesting than running around in circles around my block or god forbid — on a treadmill in the gym like a hamster in a cage.
Over the weekend I completed the Placerita Canyon Firebreak Trail — a 6.9 loop that takes a sensible three hours to complete. It starts off with a series of fire roads — groan-inducing inclines that are shadeless, steep and seemingly never-ending.
An eventual cool breeze saved us from prematurely turning back, but I would not recommend doing this trail during the middle of the day. All the online guides for this hike had the same warning but we blatantly chose to ignore it.
But three hours, a deep tan and aching muscles later — we headed back to the city for my craving of choice — vegan food at Cafe Gratitude.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with macrobowls. They’re a medley of grain, dark green vegetables, pickled picks, seaweed and the occasional nut. The “I Am Whole” is a colorful toss of sea vegetables, kale, steamed quinoa (or brown rice), house-made kim chee, carrots, teriyaki almonds, and sprouts with a tahini-garlic sauce. Remarkably filling considering the size and it just felt 100% guilt-free.
Clark opted for the “I Am Hearty” — a vegan “pizza” with sun-dried tomato marinara, pesto, olive tapenade, Brazil nut parmesan and ricotta cheese on an onion-sunflower crust.
The meal was finished off with a vegan cashew/coconut ice cream sundae drizzled with chocolate sauce — a gem considering that I’m mildly lactose intolerant. (I’ll still eat dairy-based products, but my stomach is never too happy afterwards)
What a beautiful, vibrant meal to celebrate completing a gruesome summer trek in the mountains.
639 N Larchmont Blvd