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.
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.
So…. where should I go?
‘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.
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.
222 South Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Saturday & Sunday: 11:00am – 2:30pm
Tuesday – Friday: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Tuesday – Sunday: 2:30pm – 5:30pm
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.
So…. where should I go?
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.
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.
This time we were a group of three so we decided to share five nibble plates. They also had a very tempting cocktail menu.
Mon to Thurs: 5:30pm – 10pm
Fri: 5:30pm – 11pm
Sat: 5pm – 11pm
Sun: 5pm – 10pm
Sat & Sun: 10am to 2:30pm
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5621 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90042
Before I conclude, I want to give a little shoutout to the great coffee spots I found 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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