Catherine reveals her top ten in the Los Angeles Westside
If you haven’t heard the news, I’m in transition moving from L.A. back to my hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area. In an ode to my home of nine years (I spent the first four in college), I wanted to share my City of Angels. Los Angeles is made up of over 80 neighborhoods, and mine is part of the beautiful Westside. One of the best things about this major U.S. city is its diversity and space for everyone to create their own version of the city. You can be a struggling actor (literally) or a multi-millionaire and find activities, food, and people that appeal to you; granted, it takes some work. I love that Los Angeles is something different to every single person that lives there. I love how much flack it gets from people who don’t truly understand the hidden nuances. I love how you can drive to a different neighborhood and feel like you’re somewhere new entirely. You never run out of places to explore. Each of those 80 neighborhoods has its own character, and I’m so excited to share some of the best things about the Westside.
Favorite Burger: Stout Burgers & Beers, Santa Monica
I recently took a poll of favorite single girls’ favorite California burgers, and mine would have to be the Goombah at Stout. Their burgers are ground in-house daily, and as far as gourmet cheeseburgers go, the Goombah is a cheese lover’s dream boasting two kinds of specialty cheese: Parmasiano flakes and smoked Mozzarella. Topped with crispy prosciutto and lemon basil aioli, the mix of flavors is anything but basic.
Best People Watching: Intelligentsia, Venice
The Silver Lake location is known to be a celebrity hangout, but I’ve seen my share of famous faces at the Abbot Kinney post as well. Regardless, the constant flow of people and the endlessly long line out the door makes for a flow of characters that offers hours of distraction and amusement. Intelligentsia makes their coffee to order, one cup at a time, and the bakery display case never disappoints. Be prepared for potential snobbery from the cast of baristas, but consider it part of your experience: anyone who takes coffee that seriously is just as amusing as the conversation you’re overhearing next to you.
Best “Halfway” Point to Meet Non-Westsiders: Father’s Office, Culver City
Featured extensively on Food Network, Father’s Office is home of the infamous burger. That’s right; every show that’s ever talked about the Father’s Office burger is talking about the same one and only burger on their menu. Moving right along, they have some other great small bites on their menu to help you balance your BAC… as well as some ice cream-based desserts if you’re into that sort of thing. They have an overwhelming amount of beers on tap and a limited but manageable amount of indoor and outdoor seating. If you’re rollin’ with a group of 5 or more, get there early or be prepared to wait; see it as an opportunity to make new friends! However, parking is the least of your worries because there’s a large private and free lot, so no matter what part of town you’re coming from your arrival is welcome and quickly met with a libation of your choice.
Experts in Bikini Up-keep: Queen Bee Salon & Spa, Culver City & Brentwood
I met owner Jodi Shays freshmen year for my very first wax. Since the days when Jodi was a one-woman show—booking appointments, acting as welcomer and hostess, and waxing from a cozy studio at her Culver City residence—she’s grown her business to two full-blown L.A. spas (a fabulous bungalow in Culver City and an airy salon in Brentwood) with a staff of the friendliest bees serving up an array of facials, mani/pedi’s, custom airbrush tanning, and their signature waxing. Highly professional yet delightfully personal, every visit to the Hive is an afternoon pick-me-up since they take the sting out of waxing. Expect good humor, a well-stocked spa shop to peruse and purchase as you wait, and an offer for water, tea or wine at the “appropriate” hour.
Neighborhood Hangout: TOMS Flagship, Venice
Who doesn’t love TOMS shoes? Their Abbot Kinney store and café is TOMS culture in shop form with inviting indoor and outdoor living room-like seating, scrumptious coffee and espresso drinks, yummy baked goods, a mini newsstand, and monthly events like coffee tastings, morning yoga, and group surfing. You can sit for hours on your laptop then take breaks by window shopping the latest shoes and glasses or chatting it up with a neighboring freelancer.
Best Reason to Leave the Westside: The Greek Theatre, Griffith Park, Los Angeles
The Hollywood Bowl is great and all, but I find any and every excuse to get myself to the Greek. It’s a bitch to get to Griffith unless you live less than 5 miles away, but the trek is well worth the effort. You’ll forget about the traffic and the stacked parking in the dirt when you’re in your seat and watching a favorite band in this intimate amphitheater. Musicians love to play it and, with the tall trees surrounding and the gradual change of lighting with the sunset, you feel like you’ve retreated to nature away from the bustle and smog of urban L.A.
Where Everybody Knows my Name: ChocoVivo, Culver City
This hotspot moved to Washington Place just a couple years ago. ChocoVivo is a small batch bean-to-bar chocolate factory that feels and smells like a sophisticated Willa Wonka’s. They make several varieties of dark chocolate, ranging from almost pure cacao to flavors like the Mayan tradition (a personal favorite that features cinnamon and spices) and coffee & vanilla, which you can purchase as a 3- to 12- piece tasting. What attracted me was their unique iced hot chocolate—an iteration of the rich European hot chocolate mixed with your choice of milk and served on ice. Once they started their chocolate chip cookie tasting, though, my interest became a full-fledged addiction. They bake three varieties of cookies fresh when you order and serve it with a cold glass of milk (I highly suggest their house-made hazelnut milk—I order two cups).
The Chameleon: Zinque, Venice
A first date drink? A coffee catch-up with a friend? A lengthy work session? A post-work happy hour? All possible at Le Zinque. What drew me to try this place was its private parking lot (a complete luxury on famed Abbot Kinney). What kept me coming back were their delicious lattes, pleasing plates (haven’t had a bad dish yet, but my favorites are pan con tomate with prosciutto and the avocado-arugula-tomato-comte salad), broad wine selection, and huge industrial windows through which you can enjoy the best of west L.A.: palm trees, light traffic, and the start of the sunset.
First and Last Stop: KC’s Crepes, Westchester
If you’ve dropped me off or picked me up at LAX, we have made the pit stop here (unless it’s Monday, because that’s the one day it’s closed). This is the place that anyone who’s visited me in L.A. has been introduced to. After I moved into my dorm room freshmen year, my parents and I headed to this crepe place off campus that one of the upperclassmen recommended. The rest is history. Not only do they serve an extensive menu of both savory and sweet crepes, they have boba (and tea, coffee, espresso drinks). I am a boba addict, and anyone who knew me in college learned that firsthand. Friends very often ran into me there… many would call me to find out their hours (Yelp and Smartphones were not as prominent back then). Before I had a car on campus, I would bribe people into taking me to KC’s. KC’s converted me into a crepe lover, and trust me when I tell you… it will be very hard to accept anything less once you try them here. Helpful hint: It’s cash only.
Best Impromptu Fun: Scopa Italian Roots, Venice
Less than a year old, this now top spot restaurant and bar is one thing I will sorely miss. One of the first things people notice here is the decidedly Venice-cool surroundings and the amount of attractive individuals. Then the cocktail hits the table—I always go for the “Westside,” obviously—and your eyes widen with your first sip. (If you generally choose wine over cocktails at dinner, you may change your tune at Scopa where the cheapest glass of wine is the same price as a signature cocktail.) You think it’s not possible for the night to get better, but your food comes and you’re in shock about how a place this hip can actually have amazing dishes as well. (The calamari is surprisingly exceptional, the pork Pappardelle is my favorite, and both the Ricotta crostini and the Chitara are simple and fresh yet extremely flavorful). Then after all of this, you suddenly hear the music playing… and it’s right off your personal playlist: indie, electronic, throwback R&B. I head to Scopa for a casually fun happy hour at the communal bar table, a long group dinner at a booth, or a random late-night drink at the bar.
How did I make L.A. my “home”?
When I have girlfriends coming to visit, where do I take them?
It’s a tour of the city any time one of my friends dedicates a weekend to my L.A. I make a point of showing them at least a few neighborhoods. I’ll check the calendar for special events that appeal to me (concerts at the Greek, anything at the Santa Monica Pier or The Getty Center, or LA Galaxy games at the Home Depot Center) then build from there depending on their tastes. The visit typically revolves around food: brunch at Sunny Spot or A-Frame, dinner at Laurel Hardware, coffee at one of my top picks above, and a chill night out at a bar with friends in town. If there isn’t a fun event, I’ll take them on a stroll through the Venice Canals.
3 words I’d use to describe Los Angeles: Capricious, Fad-forward, Land-of-Transplants
The tourist spot I secretly love: 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica
I absolutely can’t resist eating: Kale simple salad from Tender Greens
You know you belong in Los Angeles when: you think about distance in time not miles, you crave pressed juice or kale, and you abbreviate all your words… except “kale” of course
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