City Escapes Food & Drink U.S.A

I Visited Three Hotspots in LA For You – Thank You, You’re Welcome

Standing inside Cafe Birdie, facing the bar

It’s not every day that I land in a city and gulp. Los Angeles is one of those cities that intimidates you from the air and does so equally on land. Its urban sprawl is certain to widen your eyes upon first inspection. It was everything I knew it would be – pop culture and celebrity fascination is everywhere. I even stood next to Gordon Ramsay at LAX while we were waiting for our bags.

If you don’t know a local in LA who can show you around, you may not find what you’re looking for. Perhaps this is where LA gets it love/hate reputation? I had a wonderful time but only because I stayed with my all time friends Donny and Bobby who have lived in LA for many years now. Without them and I would’ve been a lost Kaptain, without a ship to sail.

Beautiful LA mountain range in the distance, blue sky and lots of houses in a valley.

A view of Highland Park, LA from my friends’ balcony.

 

With them, I had guaranteed entry into the best hotspots LA has to offer. Over the course of our three days together, we went to many bars, restaurants and cafes and we got it right each time. Would I have found these spots without them? Nope. So today I’m passing this knowledge to you.

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So…. where should I go?

Standing inside Otium's beautiful bar.

Otium – Downtown LA

Otium:

‘Otium is a contemporary restaurant that draws from the rich culinary heritage of Chef Timothy Hollingsworth’ 

I arrived on a Friday afternoon and the boys wanted to take me to one of their favourite restaurants. The minute you walk into Otium, you’ll feel the buzz. It’s exactly like one of those modern loft-style restaurants you see in movies. A tall and beautiful host greeted us and took us to our table, where we were introduced to our wine sommelier and were then passed on to our waiter. He was rather good at selling his food – we ordered 8 different meals to share between a group of six.

A beautiful plate of colourful food at Otium LA.

Dining at Otium – an LA hotspot downtown.

A plate of food at Otium LA

Dining at Otium in LA – a downtown hotspot

A stylish bowl of food with fish and tomatoes.

Dining at Otium in LA – a downtown hotspot

A gourmet place of pasta with ham and tomato sprinkled with parmesan

Dining at Otium in LA – a downtown hotspot

Dining at Otium - downtown LA

Dining at Otium – downtown LA

 

Two bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne later and we were stuffed. What a taste sensation! We ordered everything from pasta to chicken to fish and it was all presented beautifully and cooked with style and taste in mind. It’s no wonder this place is a real LA favourite.

The concept is all designed for sharing. Everyone in our group ordered at least one dish he/she wanted and that way, we got to try a lot of different plates.

http://otiumla.com/

A green cocktail on a white marble desk with mint leaves.

Cocktails at Otium in LA – a downtown hotspot

Cocktails at Otium - downtown LA

Cocktails at Otium – downtown LA

Cocktails at Otium - downtown LA

Cocktails at Otium – downtown LA

Address

222 South Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-935-8500
info@otiumla.com

The outside of Otium - downtown LA

The outside of Otium – downtown LA

**Closed Mondays**

Brunch

Saturday & Sunday: 11:00am – 2:30pm

Lunch

Tuesday – Friday: 11:30am – 2:30pm

Snacks

Tuesday – Sunday: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

Dinner

Sunday – Thursday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Friday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 11:00pm

 

Highland Park – LA’s Newest Cool Kid

Interestingly, out of the ten or so places we visited, only a couple were in downtown LA (Otium and the Grand Central Market to name a couple).

The others were in Highland Park: an area in the north-east of LA which in the 90’s could’ve had you shot for going there. These days it’s more of a gentrified mix of Hispanic influence, dilapidated buildings and über hip bars and restaurants. There’s so much going on in Highland Park right now – word on the street is that it’s LA’s newest cool kid.

A metal food cart selling fruit with a Spanish sign.

Wandering around Figueroa St Highland Park, LA

So…. where should I go?

Cafe Birdie:

http://www.cafebirdiela.com/

I had a wonderful dinner experience at Cafe Birdie on the Saturday night while in LA. My friends Donny and Bobby live about a 5 minute Uber ride from here and they had promised me a night of modern cuisine and then 1920’s bowling in their area.

Standing inside Cafe Birdie, facing the bar

Cafe Birdie Interior – photo: Tessa Neustadt

I was beyond impressed by Cafe Birdie. Their service was equally as attentive as the previous night’s AND I especially loved the interior here. I’m a real sucker for high ceilings, pale teal mixed with wooden furniture and marble tables. This place looked simply magical at night. Imagine candles, dark lighting and so much chatter from patrons – you knew it was one of the area’s best.

The inside of Cafe Birdie - Highland Park, LA

Cafe Birdie Interior – photo: Tessa Neustadt

This time we were a group of three so we decided to share five nibble plates. They also had a very tempting cocktail menu.

Three meals on the table. The front meal is in focus and the two at the back are blurry.

Dining at Cafe Birdie – Highland Park, LA

A big bowl of salad with avocado, grapefruit and nuts.

Dining at Cafe Birdie – Highland Park, LA

A delicious bowl of meatballs with chickpea puree and shaved parmesan cheese.

Meatballs with potato puree.

Dinner

Mon to Thurs: 5:30pm – 10pm

Fri: 5:30pm – 11pm

Sat: 5pm – 11pm

Sun: 5pm – 10pm

Brunch

Sat & Sun: 10am to 2:30pm

Dinner Menu   |   Wine List

Brunch Menu  |   Desserts

Cafe Birdie

5631 N Figueroa St.

Los Angeles, CA 90042

323-739-6928

Email: info@cafebirdiela.com

 

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What about this bowling then? 

My friends promised me something special and pretty unusual. In a world of modern gadgets and electronic-everything, it was really nice to be swept back in time – all the way back to the world of 1927.

Highland Park Bowl

https://www.highlandparkbowl.com/

Highland Park Bowl, an LA hotspot - (Photo: Wonho Frank Lee)

Highland Park Bowl, an LA hotspot – (Photo: Wonho Frank Lee)

A cupboard full of liquors.

Highland Park Bowl – (Photo: Danielle Bernabe)

 

The hotspot bowling alley on Figueroa street actually dates all the way back to 1927 during the Prohibition era. Similarly, other establishments at the time were providing a means to underground partying. Over time, the building ultimately turned into ‘Mr. T’s Bowl’ and disregarded its own history altogether. That’s where the ‘1933 Group’ comes in.

A bowling alley with old school pins.

Highland Park Bowl, an LA hotspot – (Photo: Wonho Frank Lee)

Our History

A MASTERWORK OF RESTORATION

Established in 1927, Highland Park Bowl originated during the midst of prohibition, and the building housed numerous doctors’ offices on the second floor, a pharmacy, music store, and recreation space. 

The bar with bowling pins used as lights.

At this time, patrons obtained legal doctor’s notes for medicinal whiskey upstairs, then headed downstairs to fill the prescription at the pharmacy, which allowed permissible boozing and bowling. In 1933, the music store acquired a live music permit and fulfilled yet another spirited layer of culture into the destination.

The liquor shelf at the bowling alley.

In 1966, Joseph “Mr. T” Teresa, an Italian immigrant, purchased the building and renamed it Mr. T’s Bowl. With a complete overhaul, he concealed the original design with dropped ceilings, wall coverings and layers of paint. Throughout the decades, the bowling component diminished and it evolved into a beloved music venue hosting local artists of various genres. 

Bowling alley with beautifully dimmed lights.

After peeling away years of layers, 1933 Group exposed the original façade and interior, refurbished the lanes, and discovered a treasure trove of items, which were refurbished, repurposed, and put on display.

Standing inside Highland Park Bowl looking at the old bowling balls.

I pointed out that the only thing out of place inside are the computer screens on the roof displaying the bowling score of each lane. With a space this beautiful, it seems like you should keep track of your score yourself with pen and paper. Even the pin machines are old.

As you can see, this space is steeped in history but it’s also the vibe which will lure you in. It’s super dark inside and is virtually a hipster-haven. For a split second, you could be forgiven for thinking you have indeed stepped back in time.

Bowling balls and old chairs at the Highland Park Bowl.

Highland Park Bowl, an LA hotspot – (Photo: Wonho Frank Lee)

Highland Park Bowl, an LA hotspot. Bowling balls, polished floors and mahogany leather couches.

Highland Park Bowl, an LA hotspot – (Photo: Wonho Frank Lee)

A long view of the bowling alley with a beautiful polished wooden floor.

Highland Park Bowl, an LA hotspot – (Photo: Wonho Frank Lee)

A beautiful old bowling alley from the 1920's with polished wooden floors.

Highland Park Bowl, an LA hotspot – (Photo: Wonho Frank Lee)

 

It’s quite insane to think that alcohol was once such a taboo topic that this place was acting as a doctor’s office + pharmacy aka a liquor bar.

Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933. Wikipedia

For the record, this place also has a restaurant inside with a wood-fired oven which does beautiful looking pizzas. You don’t have to come here and bowl either. We came for a couple of drinks before moving on elsewhere for dinner.

A beautiful old bar with bowling pins used for lights.

Highland Park Bowl – An LA hotspot. (Photo: Danielle Bernabe)

PHONE

(323) 257-2695

LOCATION

5621 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90042

HOURS

M-F 5p–2a
Sa-Su 11a–2a

https://www.highlandparkbowl.com/

Before I conclude, I want to give a little shoutout to the great coffee spots I found in LA.

An LA cafe with a red door and wooden chairs out the front.

Standing out the front of Kindness and Mischief cafe in LA

 

Smith & Tait Coffee (West Hollywood) / http://www.smithandtait.com/

Cafe de Leche Coffee (Highland Park) / http://www.cafedeleche.net/

Kindness & Mischief (Highland Park) / http://www.kandmcoffee.com/

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A rainbow lifeguard's hut on Venice Beach, LA

A rainbow lifeguard’s hut on Venice Beach, LA

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    the_leiover
    October 6, 2017 at 6:22 am

    I’m glad to see the food at Otium is shareable because I wondered how you ate that Flintstones Brontosaurus leg all by yourself lol. The salad at Cafe Birdie looks omg amazing.

    • Reply
      kaptainkennytravel
      October 6, 2017 at 8:53 am

      Lol!!!! I know – well I was at dinner with 4 other guys but don’t let that fool you – I can eat a tonne. I always have a big appetite!

  • Reply
    Kristen
    October 7, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    Your food photos have me drooling al over myself! I’m up here in San Francisco thinking about how I can get down to LA ASAP! lol. And that restored bowling alley has to be one of the most charming, dreamy things I’ve ever seen. What a gem! I’m basically obsessed with everything you just shared. So, excellent post!!

    • Reply
      kaptainkennytravel
      October 7, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      Thank you so much Kristen! The funny thing is, it was my first time in LA. But luckily I was there visiting two local friends so they knew exactly where to go with me and we nailed it! That bowling alley is pretty much the the coolest thing I’ve seen… Trust me it’s worth a peek 🙂

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