A dear friend was celebrating a BIG B’Day and we all flew into LA for the celebration.  The party was downtown, on Saturday, so we decided to add on a few days and explore this area.  Hadn’t been to downtown LA (DTLA) in over 20 years and to say it has changed is an understatement.  It was vibrant, an actual city in suburbia LA!  Everywhere you turned there were live concerts, great restaurants and bars, and interesting architecture.  Wasn’t enough time to experience everything so we will be returning in the near future to finish our explorations!

We booked two tours, one an Architecture and Food Tour, and the other a tour of the concert centers.  Both were memorable and I would highly recommend them both.

Sidewalk Food Tours of LAhttps://foodtoursoflosangeles.com/ a walking tour of DTLA, highlighting the interesting architecture while we nibbled at local haunts. DTLA was certainly the cultural melting pot that I love in a city,  add that to its colorful past and you have a city that adds spice and vivacity to the normal sprawling LA landscape.  It is a neighborhood on the edge of rebirth, still a bit edgy but with an urban epicenter!  Loved it.

  • MILLENNIUM BILTMORE HOTEL – 506 S Grand Ave- an interesting 1923 beaux arts-inspired hotel that was a favorite of the Old Hollywood elite and early home to the Academy Awards Ceremony.  Wouldn’t recommend staying there, as it looked like it was in need of a face-lift, but the lobby’s (old and new) and bar were grand!
  • PERSHING SQUARE – 532 S Olive St- Well known park and meeting place, which was recently renovated and is the home of regular free concerts.  A little history:  Dedicated for use by Mayor Aguilar in 1866, this park land was named “La Plaza Abaja.” During World War I, the Square was often the scene for militia receptions and provided a forum for public speakers. On November 8, 1918, the park was formally named Pershing Square in honor of the World War I general.  It is now a continuous surface with a large rolling lawn and a series of themed gardens. A massive canopy extends along the eastern edge of the park, providing shade during the day and lighting up in a multi-colored display at night.
  • BUNKER HILL – Popular film setting and former home of LA’s wealthy elite.  The picture below is a part of DTLA that no longer exists. Affectionately knick-named “the Castle”, this elegant Victorian house was one of many in this once prestigious neighborhood.  As roads were built in LA, and people could travel easily, they moved out of downtown, took the houses with them or tore them down. The area went into decline for years until recent renovations. 

Bunker Hill, Los Angeles – Late 1950s. This copyrighted photograph was taken by George Mann of the comedy dance team, Barto & Mann.

  • ANGEL’S FLIGHT – 351 S Hill St- Funicular railway once used by residents of Bunker Hill to travel into town and is still working.
  • MILLION DOLLAR THEATER – 307 S Broadway- First movie house built by entrepreneur Sid Grauman.
  • BRADBURY BUILDING – 304 S Broadway- National historic landmark and architectural gem commissioned by gold-mining millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury
  • THE LAST BOOKSTORE – 453 S Spring St- Eclectic maze of literary works in California’s largest used and new book and record store
  • SPRING STREET ARCADE BUILDING – 541 S Spring St- Three-level arcade featuring intricate architectural details and a skylight modeled after the Burlington Arcade in London
  • ST. VINCENT COURT – California historic landmark; retro, European style outdoor dining and shops
  • GRAND CENTRAL MARKET – 317 S Broadway- this great historic building / food market, is now home to dozens of LA’s best food vendors.  A good place to sample at lunchtime as it gets really busy as the day goes on.

  • PITCHOUN BAKERY – 545 S Olive St- Authentic French boulangerie where we sampled one of the best almond croissant I have had outside of Paris
  • HORSE THIEF BBQ GRAND CENTRAL MARKET – you can smell the succulent Texas-style barbecue way before you see the stand with it’s long benches and bar.  Chuck had wanted to try the BBQ from the moment we arrived and luckily it was one of the stops.  The Brisket melted in your mouth and the local beer was a great addition.
  • DTLA CHEESE GRAND CENTRAL MARKET – we got to sample a decadent grilled cheese sandwich that was oozing with cheese and butter and so crispy.
  • GUISADOS – 541 S Spring St- this father and son duo offers slow-cooked braised meat tacos (as well as many other varieties).  It is the best I have tasted, even in LA.  Extremely casual, reasonable and crowded, of course.
  • BOTTEGA LOUIE -700 S Grand St- enormous white cave of brick-oven pizza,  espresso, wine, cocktails, and great macaroons which we got to sample.

Music Center / Walt Disney Hall Tour – 111 S. Grand Avenue – these docent-lead tours take you through much of the interior space and throughout the gardens while presenting the highlights of the architecturally stunning building designed by Frank Gehry.  It is one of four music center halls and are all included in the free tour.

Restaurants

  • Spring – 257 S Spring St. – To get to Spring, you wander down from one downtown pay lot or another, past what looks like a line of darkened storefronts, until you spot a sign that points you toward an unassuming door on Third Street. You pass through a corridor that runs between the hostess stand and the bright open kitchen. And then you emerge into one of the loveliest restaurant spaces in Los Angeles: an old courtyard, dotted with pepper trees and high-end lawn furniture, a fountain and twinkling tiny lights, under a century-old canopy of cast iron and glass.  Chef Esnault worked under Alain Ducasse in France and New York City, as well as at many other impressive kitchens in both countries. But this new space and atmosphere is relaxed and warm…no stuffiness here.  And the food, wonderful, as he plays with dishes that look simple but the flavors are anything but.
  • Broken Spanish – 1050 S Flower St. – this restaurant takes food you’ve probably had before, like tamales and pork belly, and turns them into dishes you can only find at this restaurant. The tamale here is stuffed with lamb neck and king oyster mushrooms, and the pork belly is at least two inches tall and topped with something called elephant garlic mojo. Everything about this place works just as well as the food. The space itself is casual and sexy, and full of cool people and a contagious energy that makes you want to work harder in life. And the, it is just magic. Whether it’s the scallop crudo or the rabbit and liver stew dropped off at the table in a plastic bag, you realize something, food should always taste like this!
  • Otium – 222 S Hope St. – a new restaurant in the Broad museum complex downtown, where Chef Timothy Hollingsworth seems to be trying to do no less than to reinvent what an American restaurant might be. The original Spago pioneered the open kitchen, but at Otium there is not so much as a counter between the dining room and the stoves. But most of all, Hollingsworth is attempting to nudge American cooking into the conversation — not the idealized regional cuisines cataloged by people like Edna Lewis and James Beard, but American cooking as it is experienced by most of us in 2016 — falafel and shawarma, spaghetti and sushi, funnel cake and campfire-roasted s’mores.  My favorite restaurant of the trip.

  • Patina – 141 S Grand Ave – our first meal as we wondered around DTLA soon after arrival.  Lunch was perfect, out in the back garden, sipping a glass of Rose and eating a delicious salad (Chuck had the burger & fries and they looked yummy).  Perfect entry into the food scene downtown.

Museum

  • The Broad Museum – 221 S Grand Ave – the hottest museum downtown and worthy of the praise. This museum has been a monumental moment in recent LA history thanks to the museum’s free admission, distinctive design and big-ticket collection. It’s yet another landmark to prove to the world that DTLA is a rich with cultural institutions.  The contemporary art museum is the public home for Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of over 2,000 post-war works. Though only about 250 of those pieces of art will be on display at once, it’s still a lot to take in. Don’t for get to look inside the gift shop and stroll the area once you’re done exploring the museum.

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