DTLA: mocha mexicano, artisan goods, market madness, sushi + hidden jazz bar
Now that I live on the East Coast, I try to make it out to the West Coast at least a few times a year. I was pretty lucky this last year and got to spend a good chunk of time on the West Coast, including downtown Los Angeles.
DTLA is short for downtown Los Angeles. When I was in college at USC, I lived on Figueroa and Pico, or Fig and Pico. I never, ever used the train that came in from the South Bay, but did occasionally use the Dash to get to campus. I never knew where that train station by my house went, but in the past year I've used the blue line a few times to get to work (when I was staying in Belmont Shore). Now there are a lot more public transportation options downtown, especially with the new metro, and uber rides in the downtown area are pretty cheap. Of course, if you want to go out of downtown you definitely need a car...baby steps -- it's LA!
Downtown is no longer a ghost town like it used to be when I was in school. There have always been pockets of activity, but now there are long stretches of art galleries and restaurants. I used to go downtown for destinations like the Smell, Seven Grand or the Edison. Now I can literally just wander and stumble upon gems without a pre-determined destination. I prefer to stay in downtown when I'm in LA--it's close to my LA offices for work and a central place friends can meet me (or pick me up :).
Tierra Mia Coffee
A few years ago Tierra Mia Coffee opened up on Spring at 7th Street and has since expanded to Northern California. The Latin-inspired coffee shop features house-roasted beans, single-origin espresso and unique drinks like the horchata latte and mocha Mexicano. Ulysses Romero created the local chain with the Hispanic market in mind--and has been expanding ever since his original location in South Gate.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 38% of Californians are Hispanic and 51% of K12 students are Hispanic. There are more Hispanics in California than in any other US state or the District of Columbia, and most are Mexican. Why does this matter? Because Tierra Mia is trending and I suspect other Latino-themed or inspired experiences will be on the rise. Also, I'm Mexican! My great-grandparents got married on Olvera Street and it's awesome to see the Latino experience celebrated and accepted as normal instead of shunned or pushed out, as it was in previous decades (and still is in some areas).
If you're looking for a cafe, market restaurant or bar, check out Artisan House. It's a large industrial chic space with outdoor seating and a weekend buffet brunch. There's Monday night jazz and acoustic Sundays, as well as art up on the wall. Currently hanging is a photography series by Eric Cacioppo. #Buslife is a collection of photographs taken with a Samsung Galaxy s3 using the VSCOcam app from Cacioppo's daily bus trips to work.
Near Artisan House is a new artisan goods store that features independent and local designers. I spotted my friend's block printed toiletry bags! The shop feels like a showroom with a carefully curated selection of unique products--from indigo-dyed pouches to handmade jewelry to charcoal soap. This is the perfect place to pick up a gift for a friend or special piece for yourself. A much needed addition to this part of DTLA!
Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market has become much more...how do I say...bourgeois? Take a walk through the market and you'll see the diversity of LA and it's range of inhabitants. It's intense and it's raw and it's not like any other urban market because it really includes a little bit of everyone. You have the Ferry Building in SF, Chelsea Market in NY and Union Market here in DC, but those all cater to a really particular type of person - the kind that can shell out $7 for a slice of cheese. Grand Central Market is not that. You can shimmy up to a Chinese-diner and sit amongst first-generation Mexicans speaking Spanish in their local dialect. Or wait in line for 2 hours to try Egg Slut with uber-hip Korean teenagers. It's all there--whatever you want, whatever floats your boat. We had Thai street food from Sticky Rice and it was amazing. I also got a boba with red bean paste. YUM.
There are a ton of great sushi spots in DTLA, but my favorite is probably Komasa Sushi. I like that you can get seated pretty quickly if you are only two and you can sit at the bar and watch the chef prepare the sushi right in front of you. It's super fresh and melts in your mouth. They are also close to the mochi place. YUM x 2.
The Blue Whale
My friend has been telling me about this jazz bar in Little Tokyo so we had to go when I was in town. It's in the other part of Little Tokyo where that ramen place is. There's usually a cover (~$15) but you're guaranteed an amazing show. We happened to catch two sets by Rachel Flowers and other jazz musicians. Flowers put on one of the best performances I have ever seen. The space is super intimate and the sound just reverberates around you. Her voice is angelic without being cheesy and her command of melody via keyboard, piano or flute is just incredible. I was pretty blown away, and inspired. Oh, and she's blind.
So there you have it, some places to check out next time you are in #DTLA. And don't say I didn't warn you about apartments--buy them now. It won't be semi-affordable to live downtown for long.
dreaming of sun in snowy DC,