We got up the next morning, rescued our car from the Radisson lot, and headed into downtown LA. It was still experiencing an unseasonable heat wave (though it was a little cold in the shade), and it was gorgeous outside.
Our destination was Grand Central Market, a giant building full of vendors and restaurants. I absolutely love places like that.
Our first stop, though, was the bathroom. I still wasn’t feeling 100%. (Shockingly, the bathrooms in the basement were very clean. Also, there’s a weird dollar store down there.)
There are a ton of produce shops there, and the prices actually made me angry. One dollar for a huge bag of avocados, or citrus, or tomatoes??? That’s unheard of. California is spoiled.
We wandered through the entire building to see what was there, and decided our first stop should be for some super-fancy coffee at G&B coffee. (They were delicious.) Also, the market was decorated for Christmas, complete with festive yarn-bombings. The knitter in me was proud.
From the back of the building, we could see the Angel’s Flight. It’s unfortunately not currently in operation, but I have faith that it will be back.
The BBQ place out back didn’t have anything vegetarian, sadly. We decided on sandwiches from DTLA Cheese instead. Mine was a mushroom grilled cheese, and it was possibly the most decadent grilled cheese I’ve ever had. We took them out front and found spots at a table with an umbrella, right next to a guy who was chatting up two girls he’d just met. We learned from their conversation that they were definitely employed in the entertainment business (models, photographers, and such), so I assume they also worked as servers.
After we were done, we crossed the street to see the Bradbury building. It’s famous for being in a bunch of films (such as D.O.A. and Blade Runner) because it’s so distinctive. We were excited to find the door unlocked, so we went in to take a look.
There was an architectural tour group in the lobby, so I assume that’s why it was open. They didn’t seem to mind us being there.
Bally made a friend in the lobby, too.
Our next stop was a museum over in Chinatown, and rather than drive the mile over there, we decided to flaunt all Los Angeles traditions once again and walk. It was really nice out!
City Hall was decorated for Christmas. I like the pink tree.
On the freeway overpass, we found this:
On the way there, we made note of the pueblo, which is right next to Chinatown. I’d been there once before to take photos, but there hadn’t been much going on. Today it appeared to be bustling, so we decided to stop and see it afterwards.
Our destination was the Velveteria, a museum dedicated to the art of velvet painting. It’s located in an easy-to-miss storefront on New High Street.
We went in and were greeted by one of the owners. She didn’t seem to mind that we were all sweaty from the walk in the unseasonable heat. When we entered I was a little dismayed at the $10 entrance fee to look around one small room of paintings (all of which I could see from where I was standing). I hadn’t realized that the curtain over the doorway led into the rest of the museum, which was substantial.
The owner was fantastic, and full of stories. She clearly knew everything there was to know about the history of velvet painting, and told us about how they collected them. For instance, I had no idea people were still working in the medium, so they’re still adding to the collection.
The museum has a no-photography policy, but she said she was fine with us taking a few. They’re struggling to pay the rent, and needed help spreading the word. We were only happy to do so, because the place was fantastic.
It’s divided up thematically into areas and by artist. There’s a big collection of tiki-era work, and the obligatory crying Elvises. They have tons of celebrity paintings, a black-light room, and a room full of nudes. She told us to check out the bathroom, which has paintings of people on the toilet, including Anthony Bourdain. Hilarious.
We loved the place, and loved the stories she told even more. So if you’re in LA, please don’t miss this place. It’s amazing.
Then we were off to the pueblo, a couple blocks away in the direction of downtown. We checked out the mission church first.
(For a nonreligious person, I have a weird obsession with Spanish missions. I’ve been to many of them.)
Then we crossed the street to the plaza where there was a dance group performing, and a ton of carts selling arts and crafts. You know what I’m also obsessed with? Mexican crafts. Especially anything having to do with Dia de los Muertos. I was in heaven.
The oldest house in Los Angeles is there, and you can walk through it to see how they lived. I have to say that it’s actually quite spacious.
We walked through a bunch of shops, with me trying to restrain myself from buying everything. I did manage to find a purse shop with gorgeous hand-tooled leather purses from Mexico, so I decided I needed one even though it was $350. (It was a good decision – I love it.)
Matt found a t-shirt at a really awesome art shop, and we picked up a few other souvenirs. He also noted that a menu posted outside one of the many restaurants had an entire vegetarian/fake-meat section, so he suggested we go there for lunch.
Our meter was going to expire over in downtown, so we decided to go get the car, and drive back to the restaurant. The walk back was quite warm, and we drank a bunch of water along the way (provided by the nice lady at the Velveteria). When we got back to Grand Central Market, we decided to stop at the Press Brothers juice bar. I got one called Rx Tonic that had celery, turmeric, garlic, ginger, lemon, and yam. All I know is that shortly after consuming it, I felt way better than I had for the last few days.
We drove over, parked by the Pueblo, and walked to Las Anitas. The staff was super-friendly, and the food was great. I had a hard time choosing what to order, because they had so many vegetarian options. (That never happens.) I ended up getting a combination plate with a fake-meat taco that was amazing. Matt had carne asada fries and a Tecate, so you know he was having a good day
After our late lunch, Matt wanted to drive up into the Hollywood hills to find the Double Indemnity house. We’d recently watched a documentary about films made in LA, and the narrator mentioned the location. We looked it up on Google maps and headed that direction.
There were pretty great views of the sign on the way there, and most of the traffic on the street was people pulling over to take pictures of it.
I drove while Matt navigated. The further into the hills we got, the narrower the streets became, all blind corners and people parked haphazardly wherever their (very expensive) cars would fit. The houses were incredible, but it was seriously nervewracking driving up there.
But we found it!
Achievement unlocked: visiting Barbara Stanwyck's house from Double Indemnity. pic.twitter.com/FXLxgAwo4B
— Matt Konrad (@mattjkonrad) November 29, 2014
Then we decided to head up to Griffith Observatory, because Matt had never been up there (this continually shocked me, since it’s one of my favorite places in LA). The traffic near the park entrances had at that point become terrible, so we sat at stoplights a lot. Then we turned into the park, and headed up toward the Greek Theater. Suddenly we were sitting in completely stopped traffic, occasionally crawling up the hill. As we got closer to the theater, it became clear that the road to the observatory was closed at the bottom of the (insanely steep) hill, and they were directing people to park there and walk. There was no way we were doing that, especially since I was wearing a dress and had vertigo.
We made a u-turn with the rest of the traffic and exited the park. There’s another main entrance, so we decided to try that route instead. That one seemed to be open, so we headed up the mountain. It was nearing sunset, so the road was really backed up near the top as expected, but it wasn’t too terrible. We finally made it up to the overflow parking and found a spot just as the sun was setting.
I haven’t been up there in the evening before. It’s great.
The air was actually fairly clear, and you could see most of DTLA:
We went into the observatory (which was completely packed) and looked around. I discovered that there was an entire lower level with an exhibit about all the planets that I’d never even seen before. Bally made another pal there, too.
Up in one of the exhibits, Matt saw a sign about how anyone could visit the telescopes. We wanted to see it, so we looked around to try to figure out how to get there. We finally discovered that you have to go out the front of the building and climb the narrow steps up to the top of the building. There was a great view there, too:
I like that you can see all the way to the Pacific. There’s the airport and Santa Monica in the distance:
Once it’s fully dark, you get better insight into just how massive LA is, and why you spend so much damn time driving everywhere.
We walked back to the car and drove down the mountain, this time with no traffic. Since we had dinner reservations back in downtown, we headed that direction.
Since we had some time to kill, we decided to go to The Varnish. We’d attempted to go there on our previous visit, but it was closed because it was Easter. (We ended up at the place next door instead.) It’s in a back room at Cole’s, the famous restaurant that claims to have invented the French Dip sandwich.
We got there a few minutes before the opening, so we hung out in the lobby. Somehow, even though we were sitting there waiting, a couple people managed to get to the door ahead of us. It’s a very small room, and was full within 20 minutes. I’m glad we were there right away!
They had a super-nice, small cocktail menu, and I was glad that they were able to make fancy non-alcoholic drinks, too. We sat there for a couple rounds, and then got our check because it was time to head to dinner.
We drove over to a weird abandoned-looking area of downtown and parked around the corner from Alma. It didn’t look like there could possibly be what’s considered one of the best restaurants in the country in that spot, but it was indeed there. It’s just easy to miss.
We had 8:30 reservations, and were promptly seated. The place was small, modern, and very spare. They offer one ten-course tasting menu every night (with a vegetarian option, of course), and a wine-pairing option. Matt decided to try the wine pairing, even though he’s not normally a wine drinker.
It’s hard to describe how great our meal was. Here’s some of what we had, based on the notes Matt was surreptitiously keeping as we ate:
- Amuse bouche collection: oyster with radish ice, chickpea ‘brick’ with radish aoli, seaweed beignets, mini bagels with creme fraiche
- Dungeness crab with buckwheat and lemon foam
- Shaved salad with celery, pomegranate, and blue cheese
- Shiitakes with mustard greens
- Beef tartare with oyster mushrooms, dill and sunchoke
- Duck liver with smoked maple walnuts, apple, carrots (Matt said this tasted like a candy bar)
- Roasted, broken beets and green apple with hazelnuts (both of these dishes were roasted, and frozen with liquid nitrogen, then smashed into pieces before serving)
- Sunchoke soup with date jam and 64-1/2-degree egg
- Homemade rye bread and cultured butter
- Charred abalone with turnip and dandelion salsa verde
- Romanesco with the same
- Guinea hen with bouden blanc, chanterelles, carrots and hazelnuts
- Fingerling potatoes with fried potato skin, chive puree and creme fraiche (this was basically a super-fancy version of the potato skins you’d get at a chain restaurant
- Carrot sorbet with chamomile meringue
- Black sesame cake with black meringue and beet ice cream (This was plated to look like something had been murdered. The cake was dark grey. So great.)
So when you’re in LA, this is a place you need to go. They don’t even mind if you take blurry pictures of the food.
Then it was late, so we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.