NFT Los Angeles Downtown

Downtown

Essentials
Downtown's revitalization has placed Skid Row residents on the doorsteps of yuppie loft dwellers -- a juxtaposition that is (amazingly) working. Head south to find portfolio-toting FIDM students and the Fashion District, or explore Little Tokyo and Chinatown's galleries and restaurants to the north. From Downtown's epicenter, visit Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall and the MOCA; stroll the Jewelry District for wholesale goodies; stock up on veggies at Grand Central Market and (for you early birds) don't miss the vibrant Flower District.

Sundries/Entertainment
Downtown is in a weird state of transition: its restaurants and bars are some of the city's best, but residents only relatively recently got their first grocery store. Unless you're celebrating a special occasion, skip the awesome but dress-coded See more.

>Edison and instead head to the friendly, good-beer-serving Golden Gopher. Daikokuya is your spot for the city's best ramen--just get there early to avoid the rush--and Wurstkuche stays at the delish forefront of the sausage-and-beer trend.

Philippe the Original serves its famous French dip sandwiches at long tables on a sawdust-covered dining room floor. During the inevitable exodus from a Staples Center event, don't pass up the Original Pantry Café, a 24-hour diner that claims to have never closed its doors. Lazy Ox offers scrumptious and hearty food from around the world, on plates both small and large. In Little Tokyo, Sushi-Gen can't be beat.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Downtown: The Only Town For Me

By Brian La Belle
Downtown: It's fresh, fun; filled to the brim with homeless vagabonds spouting nonsensical non sequiturs, rampant public urination, low, low rents and communal dog walks. Downtown: If you lived here, you'd be home!

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The New Yorker's Guide to Los Angeles

By Rin-rin Yu
What's a native New Yorker without his bagel and a shmear, long, dejected strolls, Trotskyitic Van Dyke, rumpled copy of the New York Times and incoherent ramblings? He may come to the City of Angels and become a supple, lissome blonde but the old, Eastern gloominess remains. Thankfully, Rin-rin Yu has located some pizza and bagel shops.

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Downtown LA Revisited

By Lori Kozlowski
When you're alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go... Downtown. When you've got worries, all the noise and hurry seems to help, I know... Downtown. Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city! Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty. How can you lose?! Things will be great when you're Downtown! You'll find a place for sure. Downtown!! Everything's waiting for you. Downtown!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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A Guide to Seeing the Stars (Off the Beaten Path)

By Ellen Flaherty
Los Angeles: Where celebrities come to live. You may meet them in a by-street, you may see them in the square but when a crime's discovered, celebrities aren't there. Know what I'm saying? Cue Ellen Flaherty as she fills you in on the hiding secrets and tactical escape methods of the famous and the frightened.

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Finding Lucha Libre in SoCal

By Jeremiah Hahn
Wrestling. It's not just for white people anymore. Luchadores do it too. What's a luchadore? Only Jeremiah Hahn  can really say. Read on, and don't look back.

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Metro Connects LA: Los Angeles by Rail

By Jessica Goeller
LA has a Metro and all of its lines are designated by color. That's sweet, and so are you for reading this article. Thanks.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Khurram Siddiqi
Photo:  Khurram Siddiqi

Walt Disney Concert Hall
My dad's an architect, and when I was leaving Pakistan for USC, he told me how this "Frank Gehry" person went to my school and had managed to defy traditional construction techniques by doing only what he thought had to be done. There's something temple-like about this place, not for the music venue and the crowd it attracts, but because of the indifference it spews towards the rest of the architecture around it. Let's face it, Downtown LA's architecture isn't as iconic as Chicago's or many other cities. With this building however, LA's been able to breathe easy again as far as just the downtown area is concerned. Every city needs to hit something out of the park. In my opinion, this is probably it for Los Angeles. West LA, the coastal towns--they can't save LA's reputation. They're outer portions of it. There's a LOT of otherwise classic, and beautiful architecture in downtown, but since most development seems to have taken place away from this part of town, the Walt Disney Hall does more for Downtown's rejuvenation than all the other recent modern architecture. Thanks Frank.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

2nd Street Cigar Lounge & Gallery
Downtown Los Angeles is where weirdo Angelenos take refuge from LA stereotypes. Should you grow weary of health-conscious, self-pampering, forward-thinking mega-capitalists, check out this insulated fiefdom of Macanudos and cheesy pop art. The proprietors of 2nd Street Cigar Lounge & Gallery make no efforts to fit in--this place caters solely to the tastes of its ownership and subsists on a core clientele of stogie-puffing Scarface wannabes and curious passersby. If, say, Chicago is "a city of neighborhoods," Los Angeles is a city of self-contained worlds like this one, and 2nd Street does old-school manliness as well as Jefferson Park ever did.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Last Bookstore
So, no one in Los Angeles reads, eh? That hardly explains the many cool bookstores here, among which Downtown's Last Bookstore is one of the coolest. Downtown is the only part of LA that has the "look and feel," as the ad wizards say, of its East Coast cousins, with dozens of shops, diners, curiosities, museums, etc. within quick walking distance. Which makes Last Bookstore a perfect place to kill time when your friends are fashionably late for coffee or pizza. It's friendly and casual to a hippie-ish degree, and no one will look at you askance if you sit down and read for an hour. The selection is rich and unpredictable--do what I do and grab a dozen books, pick paragraphs at random, and try to make sense out of it. Along with running the shop, these people raise funds for various charities, including Friends of the Library, and help them sell their own used books online. And... AND they'll actually BUY YOUR USED BOOKS for money! (In some cases; they prefer non-fiction, particularly how-to, over your ex's novel.)



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Downtown Independent Theater
If you've been hurt, and you're looking for something to do with your spare time, and you're not already a cinephile, you can become one by showing up here whenever you've got a free evening. In the filthy heart of Downtown, free of Hollywood pretense, the DIT screens old stuff and new stuff, forgotten classics and urgent documentaries, Blade Runner, Bronson and beyond. It's got personality, and a bit more cynical bite than its westward contemporaries. This Valentine's Day, it screened David Lynch's sour pastiche Wild at Heart. It caters to film nerds with some experience resenting their fates. And a lot of them are quite attractive, and pretty chatty in the spacious, well-lit lobby. If that ain't the sweetest irony, you'll see it on the screen.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Welcome Hunters
Meet Robin. Robin is co-owner of the hep-to-what's-hap Chinatown fashion emporium Welcome Hunters, and the most attentive fashion consultant I've ever had. The minute I walked into the store, she started sizing me up like a claims adjuster surveying a crime scene. I have what can be charitably described as a grab-bag sense of style (wear an oversized Hawaiian shirt out once, and people keep giving you more), but I was not without hope. Her snobbery is merciless and exacting--she had no problem telling me when a menacing skull-decorated t-shirt, or anything remotely "psychedelic," made me look like a moron--but she's, at heart, a dreamer and an optimist. In the end, she fixed me up with a pair of mint-green pants that never fails to garner compliments. And I'm going back for one of the clever shirts. Maybe the one with the Mickey Mouse hand making a power fist. Insider tip: For some reason, Robin loathes the word "brunch."



Posted By:  Noah Albert
Photo:  Noah Albert

Shan Fabrics
I love this place because they carry Vlisco fabric, which is the high-end Dutch Wax print brand. The history of the Dutch Wax print is a real colonial mash-up. First, the Dutch industrialized the Indonesian batik process. Then African soldiers in the Dutch army started buying this fabric and over time the Dutch suppliers were shut out of the Indonesian market. By the beginning of the 20th century, the main market was West Africa. Now Dutch Wax design is oriented towards this consumer base; it's all about Africa now. And today there is wax resist cloth production in Africa, as well as Pakistan and China. The Vlisco brand continues to be made in Holland and they are the only ones who have somehow managed to get the registration between the colors aligned (the technique is a company secret). Their designs are really top-notch and colorful. There is something wonderful about the fact that this dying technique has remained about the same for about 100 years now. This stuff will cost you somewhere around $80 bucks for 6 yards, and they don't cut the real Dutch stuff into smaller sections.



Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Grand Central Market
Ode To The Pupusa

God, you are great
I know this because
There is nothing so fine
As a pork-and-cheese pupusa

And while it might be easy to find
In many places around the globe
There is a place
(Where no one knows my name)

In downtown LA
That we also thank you for
I'm talkin' Grand Central Market
Home of the fish taco
Home of the green mole
Home of chili pepper

And, most important of all
Home of a pupusa stall
A pupusa stall that will endure
In my memory of pupusas eaten
And pupusas yet to come.



Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

MOCA
Right after we sell NFT to Rupert Murdoch for 100 million, my next job will be one of two places: either the Clyfford Still room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, or the Mark Rothko room at MOCA in LA. Maybe I'll work at the Clyfford Still room May-October, and then go to LA for November-April and do both. I'll probably have to bump off at least a few guards at each location, but what the hell--they probably don't appreciate modern art as much as I do, right? Or does staring at these brilliant Rothko canvases all day actually get you to a place of appreciation that you can't even dream of unless you are able to have a job where you get to stare a brilliant Rothko canvases all day? I'm aiming to find out, someday. Till then, I'll just have to visit.



Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters
If you've never walked close up to Thom Mayne's massive Caltrans Headquarters building, park the car somewhere relatively close and do so. It's even more massive the closer you get to it. Unfortunately the only discernable public space inside is a small cafe, with a great little multimedia wall exhibit showcasing various Caltrans projects and locations (click through to see a pic of this). However, there are enough interesting outdoor views (including a square shaft of light as you walk into the cafe) that it's worth a stop during your downtown LA architectural tour. Someday we'll use our massive influence as an Internationally Reknowned Guidebook Series to muscle our way into the main building itself. Until then, we'll just have to dream what it would be like to work in a building that looks like it weighs as much as Lichtenstein or Andorra.



Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Walt Disney Concert Hall
If you've just driven by this hellishly overbuilt architectural masterpiece by Frank Gehry, or if you've just blazed in and out for a performance and didn't dawdle, you've missed out on perhaps the Disney's best-kept secret: its outdoor areas. Who knew, for instance, about the great fountain sculpture at the back of the hall on its top outdoor garden level? Or the fact that it's a destination for wedding photographers? Or that there are enough outdoor staircases to get wonderfully lost in, while you're staring at angled steel panels that don't seem to lead anywhere (yet do)? Essentially the Disney is another one of several reasons (along with the Caltrans HQ, Grand Central Market, the Bradbury Building, and Japantown) why you can actually get out and WALK around downtown LA and enjoy yourself. So grab some pupusas at the market and munch on them in one of the Disney's fab outdoor secret spaces--and please send an extra pupusa to our offices in NYC, 2 East Broadway, 4th Floor, NY NY 10038, c/o Rob. Thanks.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Woo.
Sraci Woo is that rare big-shit fashion designer that remembers her past. Just as most filmmakers camcorded their younger siblings and most musicians air-guitared to Toys in the Attic, I'm guessing most fashion designers went through their grandparents' closets and rummaged thrift stores before they created anything they could brand. Taking the next step on that limb, I'm guessing the cozy pseudo-dinginess and deep-discount sales at Woo's LA store are at least subconsciously inspired by the closets and cardboard boxes, and weird scents in her memory. It's a boutique that eats like a small-town resale shop. Whether or not you find anything, the clerks are damned friendly. Even if you're, like me, a screamingly heterosexual dude, you won't regret spending your off-hours around mod-ish women's clothing, if only to practice unhooking the bra straps. Everyone loves an autodidact.



Posted By:  Noah Albert
Photo:  Noah Albert

Berger Beads
Berger Beads has a really impressive collection of vintage beads. The run-of-the-mill stuff is on display in the showroom; for the really good stuff you need to get help from a staff person. Then you can start going through some of the thousands and thousands of long cardboard boxes that are stacked everywhere on shelves. This store has been around since 1941. There are some very competitive beads stores right up the street (Beads and More and Bohemian Crystal for example); but if you want excellent old stuff then come here.



Posted By:  Brian La Belle
Photo:  Brian La Belle

LAX Flyaway
I'm going to let you in on a little secret that you may or may not already know: Your friends and family hate it when you ask for a ride to or from LAX. We all know LA traffic sucks, and it's even worse over by the airport so why in the world would you put someone through the stress of being your chauffeur? LAX Flyaway is a super cheap and convenient transportation alternative. $4 will get you a one-way ticket on a coach bus, zipping through traffic in the carpool lane and dropping you off right at your terminal. Flyaway serves three locations: Union Station, Van Nuys and Westwood, with buses running 24/7, 365 (with the exception of Westwood; no service from 1-5 am). Leave yourself an hour for the one-way trip, although 30-40 minutes is the usual travel time. Pickup at LAX is under the green signs on the departure level of your terminal. Parking is available at Union Station and Van Nuys if you must but most riders arrive via Metro. There are few transportation services in Los Angeles that make much sense but this one is spot on.



Posted By:  Brian La Belle
Photo:  Brian La Belle

LA Live
Ever curious what $2.5 billion gets you these days? If you said a lot of drinks and a really good time in Mexico you're right, but it's not exactly what I was getting at. That kind of change gets you 5.6 million square feet of condos, concert venues, bars, restaurants and movie theaters in downtown Los Angeles. LA Live held its grand opening in early December, 2008 and will continue to roll out in phases over the next year. Already in use is the Nokia Theater, Club Nokia, the Grammy Museum, Lucky Strike and a few restaurants. Eventually patrons will have more than a dozen places to dine in addition to hotels, swanky residences, and the west coast headquarters for ESPN. A catalyst for the rebirth of downtown Los Angeles, LA Live is a destination for residents and visitors alike. One can only hope the new crown jewel of the city does not become overrun with private parties and corporate shindigs. If so then you're right, the money should have been spent on a good time in Mexico.



Posted By:  Noah Albert
Photo:  Noah Albert

Eastern Columbia Buildings
It's hard not to get all rhapsodic over the Eastern Columbia building in downtown LA. Just like the Wiltern, the Eastern Columbia is an Art Deco monument to turquoise and glazed terra cotta. The building was designed by Claud Beelman and opened in 1930 as a furniture and clothing shopping center. The funding for the the project came from Adolph Sieroty, a Polish immigrant who expanded his Eastern Clock company into the 29-store Eastern and Columbia Outfitters furniture and home goods businesses. After the department store closed in 1957, the Eastern Columbia building was used as office space until it was acquired in 2004 by the Kor Group for 20 million dollars. Their restoration and conversion into condos was completed in 2007. The ground floor retail space is still not occupied and the historic pedestrian retail arcade thru the building is presently closed to the public. The architects from Killefer Flammang Architects (the firm that did the conversion) reportedly spent a third of their time working on the roof units and the lovely-looking roof deck with a pool under the clock. Even if you can't get inside the building it is still a knock-out to see from the street.



Posted By:  Susan Milam
Photo:  Susan Milam

Bloom's General Store
You can't (or at least I couldn’t) get a banana in Bloom’s but if you're looking for picture postcards of naked ladies circa 1920, this is your place and they are a hoot (they are hooters?). Nice small selection of magazines and trendy newspapers; a shelf lined with an odd assortment of sundries (many times just one of each) sits to the right of the front door, an assortment of tired looking DVDs to the back left. Still, despite its slight and peculiar inventory, I would much rather while my time away here than in the much ballyhooed Urth Cafe a few blocks away. For my dollar Urth is just a slightly refreshed Starbucks. If you're hungry visit the Mexican restaurant next door, Ay Caramba. You don't even have to go back out to the street, there's an inside passage. Girly postcards, cheap, tasty Mexican food and Crazy Gideon's just down the block--an oddly satisfying late afternoon foray.



Posted By:  Susan Milam
Photo:  Susan Milam

Wurstkuche
No matter how I pronounce the name of this restaurant my friend tells me it's wrong, so I just say meet me at the Sausage Kitchen. I could also say, "Meet me at the one place I know of where both you and I can eat a sausage sandwich." You see my friends is a connoisseur of all things sausage; I, on the other hand, would rather eat my hand than eat ground meat encased in an intestinal lining. Wurstkuche, however, offers delicious vegetarian sausages which they assure me are encased in something other than an intestinal lining and that's really all I wanted to know. Don't forget the Belgian fries (I can eat them, potatoes have eyes but they don't have faces) and go "groot"--that means two dipping sauces; ooh, Chipotle Ketchup and Buttermilk Ranch.  Great array of Belgian beers on tap and a nice selection of bottled as well. I recommend the Floris Apple Ale or the non-alcoholic Reed's Cherry Ginger Beer.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Crazy Gideon's
Do not feed the salespeople. They feed on hope. They're hungry. They're ready to negotiate. And they're a lot better at fucking you out of your green than you could possibly anticipate. This electronics clearing house is locally famous for its absurd commercials, but, in three dimensions, there's nothing silly about Crazy Gideon's. It's sucker quicksand. Nevertheless, some golden deals can be sealed here, if a few basic guidelines are followed. Don't engage with a CG salesperson until you've found something you want. If this happens, decide what you're willing to pay for it, which should be at least 33% less than the sticker. Do not shift your price. And, if everything works out, test it before you leave. (Returning defective merchandise here is a small but unforgettable nightmare.) If you can't remember all this, grab a few bargain-bin porn DVDs and haul ass.



Posted By:  Noah Albert
Photo:  Noah Albert

St Vincent Court
Walking down this alleyway in downtown Los Angeles is a journey somewhere else. First you notice that all the little cafes are decorated in a weird send-up of a European square, with outpourings of plastic flowers and Parisian psychedelia. Slowly you pick up on the spicy smell of tobacco that rises from the many cigars and pipes being smoked by the Persians in the outdoor seating. Everyone has tea in small skinny glasses and tiny coffee cups. The sound of backgammon dice and chatter in multiple languages is soothing. This odd alley is great place to grab a cup of coffee, sandwich or even omelette from one of the many cafes and delis. (There is a lot of Middle-Eastern food.) Most but not all of the establishments have predominantly open air seating.  And most of them are closed on Sunday, though the lady in the tea shop/deli at the very front said that she's there then. A former historical college site, in 1907 John G. Bullocks opened the first Bullocks department store here. The department store remained open until the mid-eighties. Now it's mostly jewelry businesses inside, and cafe goers and pigeons in the alley. When you have finished hanging-out in the alley, remember to check out Clifton's around the corner.



Posted By:  Susan Milam
Photo:  Susan Milam

Cole's French Dip
Cole's made its heralded returned to the LA casual bar dining scene as a competitor to Philippe's French Dip located in Chinatown--or at least so the LAT would have you believe. Cole's is nothing, nothing like Philippe's--both may claim to be have introduced the French dip sandwich to LA but unless you're writing a book, who really cares? Philippe's is great for a cheap breakfast or a cheap lunch, either of which can be served with beer or wine and eaten in an incredibly busy environment with sawdust on the floor. It's great and I highly recommend it. Cole's is also great but entirely different: very limited menu, four excellent draft beers, what they refer to as their historic cocktails and a wine menu I have yet to explore (I will though, trust me I will). It was very quiet patron wise on a recent Tuesday afternoon, although the overly loud piped in music more than made up for that; hey Cole guys, quiet is not a bad thing. The grilled cheese and tomato soup combo is a tummy filler for just eight bucks. I'll have to take a friend who eats cow before I can report on the dips which are half price between 3 pm and 7 pm.




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Nightlife (29)
Shopping (25)
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