Welcome to the city of angels! After a great few days in Montreal, Ole Sib and I ventured out to the land of glitz and glam to begin our epic road trip around those old United States, starting with Los Angeles or, more specifically, Marina del Rey. Located just a tad south of Venice Beach, Marina del Rey is an affluent coastal neighbourhood with bars and restaurants a-plenty. We spent a few days perusing the area and strolling up the boardwalk to Venice before switching up locations to stay in West Hollywood and dive into the quintessential LA experience. A melting pot of cultures and people, LA is not for the faint of heart but, when done right, it can offer a taste of what wonderful California is all about. Behold our tasting sessions!
Whisky Red’s: Marina del Rey
If you’re staying in Marina del Rey, the chances are you’re going to want to actually see the marina and there is no better way than by sipping a cocktail in the waterfront restaurant, Whiskey Red’s. It has a beautiful little garden leading up to the entrance and a very chalet chic vibe inside, however you’re wasting your time if you don’t head to the outside terrace to dine. The terrace is spacious and offers a fantastic view of the water, not to mention cosy stone fire pits and fairy lights that are perfect for enjoying California evenings al fresco, as intended. As one might expect given its location, Whiskey Red’s specialises in great seafood and, yep, you guessed it: whiskey. While the menu is slightly on the pricey side, the food is presented beautifully and the ambience is excellent. Besides, Marina del Rey isn’t exactly the place to dine if you’re looking to tighten the purse strings, so you may as well go for the restaurant with the best fire pit instagram photo potential and enjoy a whiskey cocktail while you’re at it.
Pump: West Hollywood
If you’re familiar with the ladies of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (and why wouldn’t you be?) then the restaurants Pump and Sur will surely be on your list in LA. Owned by the infamous sharp-tongued Brit, Lisa van der Pump, these two restaurants are the epitome of glitz and glamour and even have their own reality shows documenting the enthralling drama of the lives of their staff. Ole Sib and I had the pleasure of dining at Sur last time we were in LA and so decided to head to Pump for comparison because we had heard that there was a beautiful courtyard dining area. We were right and it was very picturesque, however we were not important enough to be seated there. On we went to our table in the corner where we had a good, if a little underwhelming dining experience. The food was tasty but nothing to write home about considering the price (yet here I am, writing away). The reason Pump appears on this list (or Sur for that matter; the conclusion we came to is that they are essentially interchangeable unless you’re significant enough to be seated at the best table in the house) is that it is an observational experience unlike any other. Given its location in vibrant West Hollywood and its fame, the clientele is diverse and highly entertaining to watch. From gals out on the town dressed to the nines snapping photos with the waiters to actual celebrities (gasp, in Hollywood?!) the people watching element makes this restaurant a place that really should be experienced if only to get a taste of the strange and alluring idealised world of Hollywood.
Fat Sal’s: Hollywood
Fat Sal’s is a must for anyone seeking creative, borderline crazy, Insta-worthy sandwiches. Known for its giant sandwiches that essentially have an entire meal stuffed inside of them, this is an LA institution that is popular with locals and tourists alike and, when mozzarella sticks are featured inside many of the unique subs, it’s easy to see why it has been so successful. If you’re up for a challenge, try the Big Fat Fatty sandwich, which is stuffed to the brim with cheesesteak, cheeseburgers, pastrami, chicken fingers, bacon, mozzarella sticks, fried eggs, fries (because why would you want these outside your sandwich when inside is an option?), onion rings, chilli, marinara and the signature fat sauce. However, if a gastric bypass isn’t on your wish list then there are plenty of other mouth-watering options at Fat Sal’s to satiate all of your food cravings at once.
Gracias Madre: WeHo
Call me crazy, but after going vegan for one meal at Lola Rosa in Montreal I was willing to head down the plant-based route once more at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, a restaurant that has garnered attention from the stars since its inception and for good reason. While Ole Sib and I were not high profile enough to secure a seat on the dreamy looking patio (literally, only in my dreams would I be allowed to mingle with the important people out on this magical patio), we enjoyed a delicious culinary experience in this light and airy Mexican restaurant. If you have any reservations with regards to the vegan situation, enjoy a few margaritas while you peruse the options because they really are a treat and then dive into the experience. The nachos are excellent and it turns out cashew cheese (yes, I was sceptical also) is actually a surprisingly tasty substitution for arguably the largest food group in my diet. The menu changes with what is available seasonally and is appealing simply for the fact that it does not just replace traditional Mexican meat dishes with veggie options, but offers interesting creations that revolve around the plant-based ingredients. Besides being another hotspot for celebrity watching, Gracias Madre is a great destination in WeHo and, while you will inevitably still roll out of there, you will feel healthy and virtuous and entertain the idea of going vegan for real for at least 10 seconds until you vacate the premises.
The Nice Guy: WeHo
The Nice Guy is the worst kept celebrity secret in West Hollywood mainly for the fact that you are almost guaranteed a celebrity sighting here. I know, I know, I have raved about Pump and Gracias Madre as pop culture hotspots but The Nice Guy is FOR REAL. Ole Sib and I decided to check out this destination shrouded in mystery (photography is not allowed inside the restaurant owing to aforementioned famous folk) after seeing photos on Instagram of the likes of Kanye West and Justin Bieber strolling through The Nice Guy’s doors. We had no idea what happened inside that fancy entrance but we needed to find out for ourselves. We were ushered through a velvet curtain by the hostess and entered into a very dimly lit restaurant reminiscent of an old prohibition bar. It’s not a particularly big restaurant but it is laid out in a way that separates a lounge area from a bar area and the dining area. The menu is surprisingly extensive for such an exclusive spot and the craft cocktails are delectable. The food here is certainly of a high standard but the real charm to The Nice Guy is that it effortlessly exudes cool, and not in as much of a pretentious way as one might expect. Perhaps it’s the no photography rule or the fact that there are all sorts of nooks and crannies in which to hide one’s identity, but it seems finally there is a place to observe the rich and famous in their natural habitat while masquerading as one of them and enjoying a unique social experience.
Grand Central Market: DTLA
A downtown LA landmark, Grand Central Market is a great place to experience the multicultural flavours that this melting pot city has to offer. With over 38 different vendors ranging from Thai street food to oyster bars and juiceries, it is possible to spend an entire day here and barely scratch the surface (don’t worry, there’s a bar at which to take refuge in between meals). Furthermore, during the summer, Grand Central Market runs a Summer Nights entertainment program with outdoor movies, happy hours and trivia nights and stays open later for the occasion so there’s plenty of time to get your fill. Set up in a giant warehouse downtown, this is a great way to immerse yourself in the LA experience without having to go for a hike or pretend to enjoy kale and is definitely a must visit as a historical landmark and a culinary adventure (not to mention a great idea if committing to one restaurant is too challenging).
As always, comment below if you’ve enjoyed any of these experiences and prepare yourself for the next stop: the fabulous Las Vegas.