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Planning an autumn trip to Los Angeles? TPG Assistant Editor Melanie Wynne lives there, and shares her picks for the best new experiences in the City of Angels.
L.A.’s a generally laid-back city, but it can sometimes feel like it’s moving at the speed of light, with a constant flood of new restaurants, nightlife, cultural attractions and entertainment experiences to discover. Here’s a checklist for staying on the cutting edge of Los Angeles this fall.
1. Grand Central Market– Sprawling across the ground floor of downtown’s 1897 Homer Laughlin Building, this 97-year-old market is in the midst of an exciting resurgence. Recently named one of Bon Appetit’s top 10 best new dining destinations in the U.S., the GCM is known for featuring a wide variety of ethnic cuisines, as well as homegrown eateries, like the breakfast sandwich heaven of Eggslut. Several new counters have recently opened, including Santa Barbara’s McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream, Marin County’s Belcampo Meat Co. and L.A.’s own DTLA Cheese. While here, try to leave room for some handmade confections at Valerie, the global coffee menu at G & B, and tasty Thai cuisine at Sticky Rice.
2. Upstairs at the Ace Hotel– Set in the Ace’s glamorous re-do of the 1927 United Artists Theater, this breezy poolside spot is presently the hottest rooftop bar in the city with sweeping views of L.A., plush couches, wicker-and-canvas chairs, a small heated pool, a few dining tables and a cozy fireplace. Open to non-hotel guests, the calm afternoon scene is ideal for quiet business meetings, while evenings bring a stylish party scene of well-heeled 20-to-30-somethings. The Mediterranean small-bites menu comes courtesy of L.A. Chapter, the hotel’s lauded lobby restaurant, and artisanal cocktails (like the El Toro Verde, which combines thyme, tequila and a splash of absinthe) focus on fresh produce and strong pours. Especially stunning at sunset, a visit here might just make your summer last a little longer.
3. Pot at The Line Hotel– With a provocative name, a no-reservations policy, and a neo-Korean menu designed by local star chef Roy Choi, this is L.A.’s most sought-after table of the moment. Housed in a high-design Koreatown hotel, it’s recommended to put your name on the list and stroll across the lobby to stoke your taste buds at the large, dimly-lit bar, where tipples range from a curry-flavored soju to a house-made Pisco Sour. At the restaurant itself, you’ll find a big newspaper-print menu offering three different sizes’ worth of twists on Korean hot pots – complex, sizzling cauldrons of meats, seafood, veggies, herbs and spices that simmer on smooth white tables with built-in heaters. Bring your appetite and try the Boot Knocker, a heaving array of tofu, ramen noodles, Spam, sausage, rice cakes and chili in a pork and seafood broth. Worried you’ll splash some spicy sauce on your shirt? Ask to borrow a bright floral bib.
4. Playa Provisions– Just about everywhere in the U.S., beach season ends after Labor Day, but L.A.’s lingers all through the fall – and especially at chef Brooke Williamson’s beachside complex of a surf-and-turf eatery, two bars, a deli and an ice cream shop. Set a few steps from the sand of Dockweiler State Beach (the only stretch of L.A. County coastline where you can make a bonfire), this casual spot invites you to pick up picnic fixings, cool off with a frosty treat, enjoy a post-beach cocktail and dinner, or all of the above. If you choose not to load up on ciabatta sandwiches and Mexican Cokes and head to the sand, try to score a seat on the blonde-wood, open-air patio and be sure to try some fresh oysters, served on a bed of shaved ice draped with tendrils of seaweed.
5. Barton G– Having made more than a decade-long splash in Miami, event coordinator/chef Barton G. Weiss opened this small, glitzy jewel box of a restaurant in L.A. in June, offering some of the most creative dining presentations in the city. The rose-pink Sabrinatini cocktail smokes with a nitrogen swizzle stick and features a dangling monkey made of dark chocolate, a deconstructed salad of crispy kale, heirloom tomatoes, sweet potato wedges and more is served in flower pots spiked with plant markers and a mix of fried shrimp and spicy popcorn comes in old-fashioned, striped-paper boxes–the kind you used to get in a movie theater. Dive into the lobster pop tarts and rice-cracker-crusted ahi with long beans and pomegranate miso, indulge in desserts like a cheesecake sampler platter or a plate of donuts meant to be rolled in different sauces…and try not to dwell too much on your newly-blown diet.
6. DBA– Part-nightclub, part-performance space, L.A.’s newest, hippest cultural institution changes every few months in a successful effort to keep the city’s nightlife scene on its toes. Its stage often hosts a theater series called “For the Record Live,” which features original productions inspired by pop culture, but you can also catch quirky musical acts such as actor Jeff Goldbloom’s small orchestra. On the first Wednesday of every month, a writer’s interview series is mediated by religious historian Reza Aslan, and on certain Friday nights, the venue becomes a nightclub with DJs, dancing and a bar, and the usual $30 cover is discounted to $5 for those who paint their faces with a cat nose and whiskers. This fall’s headlining production will be “Baz,” a musical based on the films of Australian director Baz Luhrman.
7. Nature Gardens & Nature Lab at the Natural History Museum– The three and a half-acre bird- and butterfly-friendly Nature Gardens and Nature Lab represent the latest additions to the largest natural history museum in the western U.S. Part of an ongoing, $100 million-plus renovation to this 1913 Beaux Arts building and its grounds, both the garden and lab are designed to interest kids and adults, focusing respectively on the unique flora and fauna of Southern California. Outdoors, wander along paths and over bridges amongst California natives that have had a few months to become lushly established, and indoors, engage in hands-on studies of urban biodiversity, tracking creatures that range from lizards and spiders to squirrels and rabbits. Adjacent to the University of Southern California (USC) campus and the California Science Center, parking at the museum is $8 and the Metro Expo Line stops just a block away.
8. Way Over Yonder Festival on Friday, Sept. 26 & Saturday, Sept. 27– In its second year, this West Coast extension of the famed Newport Folk Festival will feature mellow musical headliners like Jackson Browne and Lucinda Williams, as well as up-and-coming bands like L.A.’s own Local Natives. Held on the historic Santa Monica Pier, which features a neon-lit amusement park set above the Pacific Ocean, this two-day, two-stage ticketed event will have seating in VIP areas as well as on artificial sod brought in for the occasion. Bar areas will include tables and chairs, several food vendors will be present, and the Pier itself has several restaurants. Shows will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, September 26 and 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 27.
9. L.A.’s first Uniqlo boutique opens October 10– This fall, outposts of the wildly popular Japanese clothing retailer will open at several Southern California malls – Orange County’s South Coast Plaza, San Fernando Valley’s Glendale Galleria and Northridge Fashion Center, but when Uniqlo opens at the Beverly Center near Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, it will be L.A.’s most central location. With a focus on comfortable basics for men, women and kids, the line’s best sellers include broken-in denim, affordably priced cashmere sweaters, light down jackets, and graphic tees featuring vintage toys and cartoon characters.
10. Taste of Soul on Saturday, October 18– Though this will be its ninth year, this festival celebrating South Central L.A.’s African American culture and businesses is just now gaining popularity with the rest of the city. Free and family-friendly, this all-day event runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., attracts several thousand people, and features almost a mile’s worth of food and product kiosks, as well as several stages’ worth of music and theatrical performances. Park for free at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall, hop into a large-scale line dance of the Cupid Shuffle, clap along with South Central’s best gospel choirs and sip a peach iced tea while you explore a vibrant swath of Los Angeles that few tourists ever see.
If you’re L.A.-bound this fall, please let us know if you need more recommendations for what to do, see, eat and drink by leaving a comment below. Also, let us know what brings you to town during the season.
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