The shift to LA happened about a year back. I keep saying that change is a good thing, but this was no joke. Even I struggled significantly in the first few months. There is something extremely alien about unknown roads, foreign sights and sounds without the reassurance of a return ticket to home. To top it, I had left behind close ones and the charm of running back to the known and familiar was extremely high.
A year down, and I have found footing in the city. To a certain extent at least. It is true that LA can be pretentious. But that would be true for Delhi as well. Or a hundred other cities. You just need to find your space and figure out the stuff that works for you. For me, coffee, books, music and travel work. Ofcourse, there is always the friends aspect which I sorely miss. Making new friends in your thirties is a tricky one. Low on patience and high on sarcasm – a surefire recipe for a non-existent social life.
Anyway, this post isn’t about my social life or my move to LA. Penning down a few places which you should visit whenever you are here. I will write about the road trips separately since that requires much more space. This is just about where you should sip on coffee or beer.
When the weekends are free, I usually pick up a book and head out to a hole in the wall cafe. LA has a ton of them and they brew delish coffee.
Cafecito Organico (Malibu) – Love this place just for the drive. The way weaves through the Topanga Canyon and then goes along the Pacific till Point Dume. On wintery mornings, sipping on a hot mocha in the sun is quite blissful. Not a place where you can plug in and work. Perfect for reading. They have a bookshop at the back which has a perpetual sale 🙂 No food options though.
The Canyon Bistro – This one is bang in the middle of the Topanga Canyon. Brilliant coffee and shrimp picante. My go to place after a long day at work. They have live jazz few days in a week. Far from the madding crowd. 🙂
- Funnel Mill – This one is in the heart of Santa Monica. Biggest coffee/tea menu I have seen in a while. The way they serve is very fancy pants – kettle, filter et al. People tend to like the tea here more than the coffee. This place is perfect for plugging in for work. Sharing tables is common and people watching is a done thing. Closed on Sundays though, which is a bummer.
- Amara Cafe – This one is a gem. In Pasadena. Every visit to the boss’ place is followed by a laid-back stop here. Even boss is hooked to this place. Their spicy Amara latte is divine. Absolutely love it. 🙂
The Refinery – Just visited this cafe a few days back. Spacious place, good wifi and great coffee. Making a note of it, since I keep looking for a place to read in Santa Monica. Tried the Vietnamese iced latte and it was so good!
Beano Vino – There was another cafe in Thousand Oaks whose name I can’t recall. The windows to that cafe overlook a small garden with a tiny waterfall. 🙂 Very peaceful place. Whenever I manage to remember, will add to this list. Update – Remembered!
The Trails Cafe – Absolutely gorgeous! This is right in the middle of the Griffith Park and I love it! Open air sitting area, excellent guacamole sandwich, good coffee. What more could you possibly want in life? 🙂 Maybe a glass of beer. Beware of the queues though. Highly recommend the eggs in a basket.
The Lyric – Hyperion Theater and Cafe – Quaint hole of a place. Pretty good to read and sip on coffee. Excellent machhiato. Pretty cool decor too. And they have a wooden deck/patio. They have live music and open mic nights, but I am yet to check that out.
Republic of Pie – Quite the place for coffee, conversations and people watching in NoHo. Live music too. Heard one of the best versions of Hallelujah here. Also, the pies and quiches are super. Wifi is great, but way too many people to get any work done. Last I went, I spent half my time looking at this super adorable kid making googly faces at me. 🙂
- Bru Coffeebar – Because Tony makes the best macchiatos! Period. I have become a certified coffee snob and like my macchiatos in a particular manner. My day starts right when Tony hands that small cup. Love this place! 🙂
Also, there were other cafes which were recommended but didn’t quite strike a chord. Like the Urth Caffe. Very famous here but just so very crowded. Not worth the noise.
Putting these two together, as they usually are synonymous.
- Greek Theater, near Griffith Park – Went there for The Piano Guys. This one is an open amphitheater open in the summer months (June to October). Maybe because of the music we heard, the place seemed phenomenal. Their lineup is usually pretty solid.
- Hollywood Bowl – One of the most impressive concert venues I have been to. Absolutely huge open amphitheater with a view of the Hollywood sign at one end. This too opens up only in summer months. We went there for Death Cab for Cutie. I admit I didn’t know many of the songs played that night, but that didn’t take anything away from the experience. Do remember to carry a picnic basket with wine. Oh they do a sing along concert for Sound of Music. I couldn’t attend this one, but definitely on my list.
The Craftsman Bar and Kitchen – I usually don’t like extremely loud or trendy bars. These places just have well dressed folks schmoozing. Not very fun. So we were in Santa Monica looking for this bar called The Misfit. We were quite the misfits there, so ended up here. Great live music and excellent Moscow mules. Very fun place!
- The Daily Pint – Cannot write enough about their whiskey collection. For a person like me (or Sri), this is it. They also have a pool table and a shuffle board. Music is old school. People are old school too. 🙂
The Local Peasant – The place everyone goes to for a drink after work in Woodland Hills. And I really mean that. It is more crowded on week nights compared to weekends. Excellent basil pepper martini and collection of beer. And they never run out of space. And the crab cakes – so yum!
Jazz at LACMA – Had gone for a free jazz concert here during my first weekend in LA. The boss is full of good recommendations, and this was one of his. Carry your wine (or buy) and some food and this place ensures a great evening. Whether you appreciate jazz or not is irrelevant.
- Harvard & Stone – This place was recommended as one of the better places for live music. And then, we went on a Friday, and realized this place has excellent live music AND a burlesque show. Super fun and well recommended. No cover. No food.
- Piano Bar – Another excellent venue for great music. Fills up really quick. I think you can get a reservation online. Walking in a little early is your best bet. No food here. But quite a few food trucks around, and you can get the food in. So, win win.
- Mrs. Fish – One too many weekend nights have been spent here and how! No cover. Great live music Friday and Saturday nights. Quite spacious, yet runs packed on weekends. Go here for sure!
- Perch – The rooftop bar is excellent to sip on something while admiring the sunset in downtown. I never try going here on weekend nights. The queue is just obnoxiously long. So, if you want to go here on Friday or Saturday, just go early (5-6 pm). Food is pretty good too. Sunday brunch is a pretty fair idea here.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s – What a fun place! Highly highly recommended. I would suggest this place on a Thursday night, when the crowd is not spilling over. They have a live band on Friday and Saturday, but the queue is horribly long. Expect to wait for an hour or more if you turn up after 10. The music is 70s and a blast!
There are a whole lot of other places which we have been to, but these were the ones I would go back to.
For those of you who have known my schedule for the past one year, you know how crazy it has been. Free time was a luxury I could indulge in, only this July onwards. Before that, it was 18 hours of work every day. My point being that reading had taken a backseat. I plan to change that now. This list should grow significantly in the next few months.
- The Last Bookstore – Absolute must visit. This place spells true love for the bibliophiles.
Skylight Books – Very well lit quaint book shop with a tree and sitting space right in the middle. The collection isn’t too big. I prefer Indian bookstores any day, over the American ones. At least till now. Still like this place for quality reading time.
The other places on my list are the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Powell Library in UCLA. Will update soon.
Sun, Sand and Other Good Things
- Manhattan Beach – You would have heard of Santa Monica beach, Malibu and so on. But this one is by far the best in town. A bit of a drive but so very worth it. Pristine sand, barely any crowd, cafes all around and just easy on the eyes. 🙂 Go early morning and spend the day here. The 100 degree summers don’t feel so bad after all. 🙂
- Food Truck Day at Venice Beach – The first Friday of the month is street food/food truck day at the Abbott Kinney road near Venice beach. I am yet to go for this one but have heard rave reviews about it. More details when I do visit.
- Open Air Movie Screening – Come summer and the city starts hosting movie screening in some really cool locations. Again, the norm is to carry your picnic basket. Old school movies like Fight Club, Back to Future etc. are usually a part of the line up (to my utter joy :)). The one that is high up on my list is the movie screening in Hollywood Cemetery aka Cinespia. Just the thought of watching Psycho next to a celebrity grave sounds very fun. 🙂
- The Nerdmelt Showroom – Stand up comedy scene in LA is pretty neat. Definitely recommend this one, specially The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail on Wednesday evenings. It’s a laugh riot! $8 for the Wednesday show.
- Hollywood Improv – Another great venue for comic stand up shows. They have a regular room and a special room; latter reserved for the bigger names. Have been there thrice and had a very fun time all three times. In fact, once was to see the Indian stand up comedian Vir Das. Great way to spend a Friday or Saturday night.
Footnote – Walk of Fame is lame. Do not be that kind of a tourist. 😉