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Downtown Life: A Week in DTLA

I love my neighborhood. And because I love my ‘hood, everyone always asks me for advice about where to go in downtown Los Angeles. People who live here, people who don’t. And my advice is the same for both: go where the locals go. So I thought I’d fill you in on what a week in my weird, wonderful little life looks like.

MONDAY


BOTTEGA LOUIE

Bottega Louie, 700 South Grand Avenue, LA 90017Bottega Louie Downtown Los Angeles Italian Restaurant - Dining Near Hotel Figueroa
I believe that what you do on Monday night after hours sets the tone for the entire week. So I make the effort to enjoy my little downtown corner of Los Angeles and have a proper catch up with a friend. And I’m such a sucker for Bottega Louie. Just walking through the door makes me feel sexy and European—the pure white marble, the soaring ceilings, that absolutely insidious case of mesmerizing macaron-sirens calling to you from the moment you enter to the very second you leave. (And just because I know you’re out there, since this is Los Angeles: yes, they’re shockingly gluten free.) I come for the lighter fare (pizza, pizza, pizza pie!), and sit in the bar area so I can people-watch with a glass of something pink, effervescent or both. Both is for Mondays when a little extra pretty makes all the difference. It’s a beautiful place to remind yourself that we should work to live, not the other way around. You know, like those crazy Europeans do. And need I remind you that, when in actual Rome, drinking, people-watching and pizza-ing are all on the menu—in case you needed an excuse.


TUESDAY


ANGEL CITY BREWERY

Angel City Brewery, 216 South Alameda Street, LA 90013Bar & Draft Beers at Angel City Brewery In Downtown LA
Tuesday is typically my night to chill. Sometimes I invite a friend to join, sometimes I go Hans Solo. One of my favorite routines is to hit Angel City Brewery in the Arts District and grab a growler to go (then head home to screen a classic film, because hi, I’m a huge cine-nerd). I love these guys because they get it. Their motto is: Creativity. Culture. Craft. Check, check, check. They also know where they come from. About 100 years after Los Angeles was founded in 1781 (we covered this last time, remember?), the first brewery was established. (It was called the Philadelphia Brew House Brewery, which makes me want to quote Austin Powers all of a sudden: Allow myself to introduce… myself.) That’s pre-prohibition, boozehounds. After the darkness, Los Angeles brewing came on strong—and Angel City’s current head brewer Dieter Foerstner’s great grandfather (aka “Pop”) actually started working in the biz in 1942, making $1.63 an hour. Many moons later in 1997, award-winning homebrew-god Michael Bowe founded Angel City. And this hophead is so glad he did. I fan girl so hard over the classic Angel City IPA, but winner of Coolest Moniker definitely goes to 9.9 Problems But a Stout Ain’t One (it’s 9.9% ABV). That name’s fitting, because when it comes to badass homegrown beer, these guys are basically my Bey.


WURSTKÜCHE

Wurstküche, 800 E. 3rd St, LA 90013Wurstkuche Restaurant Downtown Los Angeles
You know what goes great with hoppy beer? Homemade sausages. And the most exotic salumists in the biz are lurking just around the corner at Wurstküche. Coincidence? I think not. I’m more of a gourmet-style girl, but they’ve got a little something for everyone—including all the classics you can shake a perfectly grilled stick at. The Mango Jalapeño sausage with chicken and turkey always rocks my world, but every so often I switch it up with one of the exotics. Where else can you sample buffalo, rattlesnake, rabbit and even pheasant? After all, culinary adventurism feeds the creative mind, people! By the by, they also have wonderful and exotic veggie-ges too. And don’t skimp on the Belgian fries (with optional truffle oil glaze, drool)! Trust me, you’ll be wanting the larger-size groot so just go for it the first time around. Because groot remorse is real.


WEDNESDAY


BASIC FLOWERS

Basic Flowers, Secret Downtown Location, LA near Hotel Figueroa Basic Flowers Downtown Los Angeles Venue Near Hotel Figueroa
Wednesdays are magical in LA. Some of my favorite, totally unexpected nights in this city have been Wednesdays. The key is you have to let them. Be fun, be adventurous, be open. Like the great anti-capitalist E. E. Cummings once said: “I imagine that yes is the only living thing.” But sometimes you can load the deck, and that’s why I love Basic Flowers. It’s cool, bold, unpredictable—and one of downtown’s biggest secrets. For real. When I asked my friend Nina Tarr—who founded the hybrid gallery/performance space with Max Baumgarten—if I could share it with you guys, she made me promise to tag it only as a “secret downtown location.” I can tell you that it’s a concealed, converted warehouse space where you might have to actually Indiana Jones your way under a metal roll up door just to get in. It’s the kind of space where literally anything can happen—and does. The whole place is its own permanent art installation, papered floor-to-ceiling with recycled and found materials like some kind of post-modern city-forest. And within the papered walls, Nina and Max host semi-weekly events, like the recent “junkyard opera” The Temptation of St. Anthony, a live talk show hosted by a writer on The Pete Holmes Show, absurdist stand-up showcase Frown Town and the Ariel Pink-hosted music show Non-Fiction Science! It’s the kind of place that welcomes artists and musicians, but never their promo materials. It’s shrouded in as much mystery as it is in paper. In fact, the only thing not mysterious about this place is how it got its name: up until 2013, it was literally a flower shop. That’s it. From flower shop to creative outlet for so many of LA’s wonderfully odd little flowers—these guys just get it. Plus, they got to keep the sign.

(As for where to go, you’ll have to do a little digging on your own. But I have faith in you.)


THURSDAY


THE BROAD

The Broad, 221 S. Grand Avenue, LA 90012The Broad Contemporary Art Museum Near Our Downtown LA Hotel
Some Thursday afternoons are reserved for The Broad. This time is sacred; it’s my time for inspiration and introspection. And you know what ruins that? Other people. So I prefer to go during off-hours—because weekends are for Instagrammers. Founded by Eli and Edythe Broad, this modern mecca is home to 2,000 works of art, among the most prominent postwar and contemporary art in the world. AND IT’S FREE. Free as a bird. Free-99. Freeeeee-dom. All you have to do is RSVP online in advance—or don’t. They really don’t seem to care either way, because they’re Digable-Planets cool like that. Word to the wise: they are fairly booked up through April, but luckily flake factor is an actual mathematical factor in LA so you can almost always find a way in. In addition to pretty and provocative things to look at, they also run pretty provocative art talks called The Un-Private Series with everyone from next-level artists to next-gen filmmakers. Some coincide with my Thursdays, while others sit squarely in Instagrammer time—but sometimes they’re still worth it. They’re that good.

PS… Something else to keep on your radar that DTLA is buzzing about: the soon-to-be-birthed Hauser, Worth & Schimmel in the Arts District, opening March 2016! If you just squealed a little, it’s okay. I did, too.


SEVEN GRAND

Seven Grand, 515 West 7th Street, LA 90014Grand Central Market in Downtown LA Near Hotel Figueroa
I love champagne as much as the next girly girl, but sometimes a wee dram of whiskey has a way of just clearing the soul. And for me, Seven Grand will always be a downtown staple. It’s comforting like a lodge, and inviting like a kilt. They serve up my favorite Old Fashioned on the planet, plus have a staggering list of whiskeys from ‘round the world. I personally recommend the Speyside single malts—the Glen Moray in particular, if you’d like try something I promise you’ve not had before. On the heels of the madness of Fringe Fest in Edinburgh one year, I spent time in the Highlands so this comes right from the still, so to speak. (There’s also a town up there called Dufftown that’s home to seven distilleries, and they’ve got a saying: Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown stands on seven stills. So you can’t go wrong, because that neck of the woods clearly knows what’s up.) Or if you want to go a little further east—like, way east—there’s a new speakeasy in the back called the Jackalope that features Japanese whiskies. You enter via a light switch (that triggers instructions, in English and Japanese) to find a proper tasting room experience—and a hot hand towel—waiting for you. As you do.


FRIDAY


TERRONI

Terroni, 802 S. Spring St., LA 90014Terroni Restaurant in Downtown LA
Fridays are girls’ nights, when we all get together to stir up some trouble. I love Terroni because it’s stunning, the wine list is a thing of beauty and all the pastas are made totally in house—but the real coup is the private dining room upstairs. Accented by beautiful arched windows, it feels like you’re seeing your city again for the first time. And it’s not the first time that downtowners have seen this space. It was originally a lavish bank building built in 1924, just as downtown was really coming into its own—and I think the spirit of that era lives on here. We always order an embarrassing amount of food and share it, family style. Our favorites are Cavatelli alla Norma, Pizza Veloce and as much burrata as the human stomach can comfortably hold. Because some things in this world are totally pure, like perfectly prepared burrata and Friday nights with friends.


CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA

Clifton’s Cafeteria, 648 S. Broadway, LA 90014Clifton's Cafeteria Historic Restaurant Near Our DTLA Hotel
Clifton’s is the new-old kid on the block. Eighty years ago, Clifford Clinton (yes that’s really his name) revolutionized dining with the mythical Clifton’s Brookdale, serving as many as 15,000 diners a day. The just-opened Clifton’s of today has a little extra whimsy, like a waterfall, a decorative 250-pound meteorite, a stuffed buffalo and a giant faux redwood tree anchoring the five-story space. Helmed by entrepreneur Andrew Meieran—of the always-fascinating and equally historical Edison bar—it’s all quite a spectacle to behold. But what we go for is the bars. And there are five of them, each with a distinct personality and lead bartender (though not all of them are open quite yet). So you can do a mini-pub crawl all under one roof—which is music to any girl’s stilettoed feet. There’s a little something for everyone, from the California-themed Monarch Bar and sci-fi-inspired Gothic Bar to the Art Nouveau Treetops Bar and Pacific Seas Tiki Bar. But I have a hunch that when it opens, our new favorite will be the industrial Shadowbox bar, with ice sculptures and old-school tableside cocktail service. And when you need some cheesy comestibles to soak up the booze, the namesake cafeteria will soon be open as late as the bars (and there are even rumors about a 24-hour situation in the not so distant future). The new Clifton’s is a magical cabinet of curiosities, just as billed—but the best discovery of all is that some things never change, in their world or yours.


SATURDAY


GRAND CENTRAL MARKET

Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, LA 90013Market Downtown Los Angeles Near Hotel Figueroa
Even though it’s pretty crowded on the weekends, Grand Central Market is one of my happy places. I love that I can wake up craving one thing (hellooo, Eggslut), but be swayed by something as simple as a smell and completely change my mind. It’s like the U.N. of food emporiums, showcasing California’s best ingredients and chefs dishing up cuisine from around the world. The market originally opened in 1917 and has been in continuous operation ever since, which means next year we’ll be celebrating 100 years. In the 1920s, when the Hotel Figueroa came onto the downtown scene, the space would have housed over 90 vendors, from green grocers and fishmongers to Jewish delis and butchers—plus smaller stalls for dry goods, baked goods, flowers, coffee, cheese and one stall gloriously devoted to just fresh eggs. (What!? I have a thing for eggs.) It’s just as eclectic today as it was a century ago. But if you’re one of those people who can never make a decision, this never-ending smorgasbord of options certainly ain’t gonna cure what’s ailin’ ya, honey.


ART WALK

Art Walk, Broadway between 4th and 5th, LA 90013Downtown Los Angeles Art walk Near Hotel Figueroa
I like to designate the occasional Saturday as small gallery Saturday, where I roam around some of the boutique art spaces peppered around downtown. Even better, I like when the Art Walk folk organize tours for me—as well as host performances, video presentations, and live art. There’s some variation of an Art Walk happening and they’re never the same twice—like Night on Broadway, which just happened this Saturday, and rolled out quite the show. (FYI, the main Art Walk event happens on the second Thursday of every month.) It’s a chance to discover something new, to breathe in creative potential and let it inspire me. It’s also a chance to feel disproportionately powerful while you strut down the street rocking out to Walking in L.A. and feeling like you’re breaking all the rulesbut only in your head.


KAZUNORI

KazuNori, 421 S. Main Street, LA 90013Kazunori Sushi Restaurant Near Hotel Figueroa Downtown LA
Confession: I’m obsessed with Sugarfish. If you don’t know it, the premise is that it’s a stripped-down sushi joint serving affordable omakase. There are no substitutions, ever. It’s essentially the Soup Nazi of sushi spots. And it’s amazing. At the end of the meal, they serve signature blue crab hand rolls. You have never had hand rolls like these before, so wipe that unimpressed look off your face. I get it, I’ve never been into hand rolls either, but these are the best damn hand rolls I’ve ever had—they’re equal parts warm, crispy, light and sticky. They’re the hand rolls that make you realize what hand rolls should have been all along. I would close my eyes and wish that one day they’d make a meal of just these hand rolls. And they freakin’ did. Enter KazuNori, what I affectionately refer to as garage sushi, because it’s in a parking garage. There are only a handful of stools around the bar, so bookending the dinner rush (on the early side or the late end) is probably your best bet. The menu offers a selection of three, four or five hand rolls. And thank god all three of them come with Kazunori Nozawa’s famous blue crab hand roll, which is a crispy sheet of nori (seaweed) wrapped around warm sushi rice and sinfully tasty blue crab. Sing with me: Hand rolls, now that I’ve found you, I can’t let you go, build my world around you. Hey, don’t judge. You’ll soon be singing their praises, too.


SUNDAY


THE PALM

The Palm, 1100 S. Flower St., LA 90015The Palm Restaurant Downtown Los Angeles
The Palm and the Figueroa—they’re like paisans. From the old world. The Palm was opened by Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi in New York City in 1926, the very same year that our own New York ladies cut the ribbon on the Hotel Figueroa.

(Side bar: The Palm didn’t open in Los Angeles until the 1970s, which makes no sense based on the palm-tree logo. But as the story goes, the boys originally tried to name it after their hometown of Parma, Italy… and were thwarted by a city clerk who had no ear for off-the-boat accents and instead issued the license for “The Palm.”)

From day one the restaurant was like a second home to people, where they could get an epic meal and share good times with friends, old and new. But what they couldn’t get was a good steak, because it wasn’t on the menu. Let me repeat that: the thing they’re most beloved for wasn’t on the menu. In the early days when guests asked for it, John popped ‘round the corner to the butcher on Second Ave, then cooked it to order. Eventually the vox populi won, so they added it to the menu—and for that, I am one very plateful carnivore.

We’re creatively simpatico too, The Palm and The Figueroa. Their walls are famously lined with those cheeky celeb caricatures, which originally caught on because they were spitting distance from New York’s cartoon syndicate offices. But the spirit of the thing—that’s what I’m most in ‘toon with. The tradition started when artists, instead of singing for their supper, settled their tab by adding an original portrait to the wall. That was the unofficial deal. Art for Alfredo. And you can’t beat that, in this era or the last.

But here’s what I go for in this era—the Sunday Supper. Because my great grandparents were Luigi and Annunziata, and I’m still a good Sicilian girl who believes in the sanctity of the capital-S Supper. But also because I’m on an artist’s budget—and they’re no longer in the market for wall art. So for $59, you get a three-course prix fixe which, unlike in ‘26, includes a melt-in-your-mouth 9 oz filet. In any city, a good steak can make any day better. In our city of veggies, vegans and kale-holics, it makes you feel like you’re leading a delicious one-woman revolution. As for my crew, I try to assemble a mix of minds to keep the conversation clever. Plus, there’s no cozy quite like booth-cozy with humans you adore. In the lightly butchered words of my irreverent hero, Ferris Bueller: I highly recommend it. It is so choice.


Wow, crazy to think that’s just one week in my life. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. Happy downtown adventuring, Faithful!

‘Til next time,

Hilary