J. has been traveling out to Los Angeles recently working with a new client. On his last trip, I tagged along at the end so we could spend a long weekend exploring and seeing the sights! We couldn’t have asked for a better trip – weather in the 80’s, clear blue skies, and, of course, lots of delicious food.
Los Angeles actually incorporate a lot of different areas and communities, not just Los Angeles proper. We tried to fit in as much as we could exploring Westwood, Downtown LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. Each community had its own hustle and bustle of people, restaurants, and attractions and thus its own unique personality. Here’s some of our favorite places, foods, and drinks we hit this weekend:
J. was staying here for work, so we only caught dessert here the night I arrived. But boy was it some dessert. Napa Valley Grille’s
We headed to downtown LA on Thursday. After exploring the Bradbury building and The Last Bookstore, we had lunch at the Grand Central Market. I think that this marketplace is just the coolest concept – this large open air (but covered) market runs between Broadway and Hill St. Around since 1917, “Grand Central Market’s mission is to celebrate the cuisines and cultures of Los Angeles. Our commitment is to preserve the legacy of a historic downtown landmark, to gather the city’s many communities around a shared table, and to nurture the next generation of local businesses.” It’s filled with tons of food and market vendors that switch out occasionally so there is always new cuisine to explore. We ate at Villa Moreliana, an authentic Mexican vendor specializing in every cut of pork you can imagine. J. and I got the pork butt tacos and they were phenomenal. The flavor they were able to create out of slow-cooking that pork is beyond compare (and they give you a very healthy portion too!).
After lunch we grabbed drinks at the other end of the market at Golden Road Brewing. J. and I were so excited to run across this place as we knew were weren’t going to be able to make it out to their actual brewery during our trip and really wanted to try some authentic California beers! J. got their 329 Lager and I tried their on-tap cider. Both were light and refreshing, perfect for that LA weather.
After lunch we went and explored The Broad art museum and then bar hopped our way across town stopping at Rock and Reilly’s, Casey’s Bar & Grille (great Irish pubs!) before catching the sunset at the rooftop bar at The Perch.
Friday was a super busy, but great day in Hollywood. We woke up early to get over to Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles that had been recommended to us by one of J.’s coworkers. The service staff was slow (especially since we were in a hurry) but the food came out quickly and was absolutely worth it. Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles is soul food restaurant chain that made it’s way out to Long Beach back in 1975. They have a variety of southern classics, but J. and I were there for one thing and one thing only – chicken and waffles. the perfect mix of sweet and salty. The waffle was thin yet still extremely soft with hints of cinnamon. The chicken thigh was fried to golden brown perfection and well seasoned with the crispiest skin. Yum!
After breakfast we rushed over for our tour at the TCL Chinese Theatre and Dolby Theatre. I felt like I was walking among the stars! After the tours, we headed over to Koreatown to get our fix from a Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives highlight – Beer Belly. This was the one place we were dying to get to during our trip and we were not disappointed. This place is just a small little shop with a small bar and handful of tables, but is foodie heaven.
I started with the Absofruitly Berliner Weisse, made with peach and nectarine. It was a great mix of sour and sweet without being too heavy. It paired well with what we were about to eat. J. and I split the Duck Fat Fries – fries tossed in duck fat with duck skin cracklins and raspberry mustard and the Beer Belly Grilled Cheese – a “quad deck 4×4” sandwich with cheddar, swiss, asiago, goat cheese, applewood smoke bacon, and topped with maple syrup. The fries were super salty, crisp perfection. And the grilled cheese – ah – mouthwatering. It was a melty, ooey, goey mess of a sandwich. The goat cheese added the bite of acidity you needed to cut all the fat, bacon added the crunch and salt, and the maple syrup added just the slightest touch of sweetness. It’s a sandwich I would order over and over and over again.
After literally rolling out from lunch, we walked it off at our tour at Paramount Studios before heading back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. For dinner, we hit up Calle Tacos, right off of Hollywood Blvd. This place actually reminded me a lot of Taco Bus back home due to it’s actual food truck kitchen parked inside of this small hole in the wall restaurant. The menu features a variety of burritos, tacos, and quesadillas that you can customize with meat, toppings and secret family recipe homemade salsa. J. went for variety with a carnitas, carne asada, and pollo taco. I grabbed the al pastor quesadilla loaded with adobo marinated pork and pineapple. They buy their meat fresh daily from local farmers and it’s a taste and quality that you just can’t beat.
After watching the sunset at the Griffith Observatory we hopped down Hollywood Blvd checking out the rooftop bar at Mama Shelter and the super fun 70’s retro bar at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. If you haven’t been to any of those places – stop what you’re doing immediately and go!
West Hollywood / Beverly Hills
Saturday we woke up and headed straight to brunch at Norah, an eclectic American style restaurant off of Santa Monica Blvd. I stumbled upon this restaurant while planning for the trip and was intrigued just by their website and photos I’d seen online. While we had a lot of great food on the trip, I was looking most forward to this brunch and was not disappointed.
The inside is open, clean, and modern with a large white marble bar across one side of the restaurant. It was the type of place where you just felt at home and could celebrate a myriad of different events. We started with mimosas, made with fresh squeezed orange juice, and homemade biscuits with pimiento cheese. You could see all of the flaky layers of the biscuit as soon as it was placed on the table and pimiento cheese was creamy and delicious. J. went for their breakfast sandwich with a fried egg, sausage, aged cheddar cheese and maple glaze. The fried egg was perfectly running when you took the first bite and the bun soaked up all those flavors. I got their jasmine rice congee with glazed pork belly, crispy shallots, soft poached egg, and kimchi. The rice congee was a soft grits/porridge type of consistency but with deep flavors like a ramen broth. The pork belly glaze had a good amount of heat to it, but paired with the egg tempered out well. It was a great mix of different flavors and textures that will make your mouth water.
After brunch J. and I strolled down Melrose Ave., window shopped through Beverly Hills, tried to stalk celebrities (with no success) at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and finally made our way down to the iconic sunset strip for dinner and drinks. We had reservations at State Social House, a really relaxed, chill gastro pub. The inside has almost sort of a saloon type feel with dark wood walls, tables, and wooden bar stools. It wasn’t crowded at all when we went so we got a table right by a large window overlooking the strip. J. and I shared a huge plate of chicken nachos and a burger. Pretty classic bar-type food, but it was all seasoned and cooked well, and exactly what we were looking for after exploring all day.
Our final day in sunny LA, J. and I headed down to Santa Monica. We walked down Ocean Ave., to our brunch reservations at The Penthouse on the top floor of The Huntley Hotel. A nice mix of classic and modern decor, this upscale spot is just breathtaking with its pale color scheme and sheer white curtained private tables. As soon as you stop off the elevator you are greeted by large windows offering up panoramic views of the city and beach below. We both started off with mimosas, of course. I ordered the chilaquiles – fresh tortilla chips, tomatillo sauce, queso fresco, and two eggs, topped with avocado, sour cream and cilantro. The tomatillo sauce was unlike any I’d ever had before. Very fresh and flavorful, but very light and not overly spicy. J. went for the bacon waffle stack – bacon waffle batter, topped with eggs (any style). I don’t think I’d ever had bacon IN a waffle before, but the combination is that sweet and salty goodness you’d hope for. The food + the view made The Penthouse a real winner.
After brunch, we rented bikes and road down from Santa Monica to Venice beach and back and walked around the infamous Santa Monica pier. We grabbed drinks and had a lazy afternoon at The Bungalow before heading to dinner at Enterprise Fish Co. When this place originally opened, they renovated the building resemble a wharfside eatery. This is exactly the feel you get as you enter, with hardwood floors and trussed ceilings. They act as a true wharfside eatery as well, bringing in fresh, whole fish daily, and doing everything from cleaning to cooking them in house. I started with a cup of Boston clam chowder, that definitely had a California spin on it with a broth base no where near as heavy as what you’d find in New England, yet all the classic flavors shown through. For my meal I ordered lobster rolls – the bread was nicely toasted and the lobster meat had a kick from a dash of cayenne pepper. I easily could have eaten another order of them. J. ordered their King Salmon that was cooked to perfection.
We ended our trip strolling back down Ocean Ave. to see the pier all lit up at night before heading back to our hotel.
The trip covered a small fraction of all there is to see out in Los Angeles, let alone in California and it was a whirlwind few days but we were so happy to fit in as much as we possibly could. I can’t wait to make my way back out to the West Coast to continue exploring and take in all of the culture, sights, and of course – food! If anyone has any recommendations for next time – hit me up!
Peace out, LA! I’ll miss you!