Why you should care
Because the City of Angels is where dreams come true.
This is the sixth article in a multipart travel series. OZY tasks the rising stars of Instagram to share their favorite, little-known spots to eat, drink, shop and sightsee.
Rolling hills, beautiful beaches and celebrity sightings can give Los Angeles a surreal, gauzy quality, but La La Land is so much more than a movie set. A long-standing beacon for dreamers and hopefuls, it is also a hot mess of diverse cultures that leave their stamp on the area’s music, dining and arts scene. With mountains in one direction and a coastal basin in the other, L.A. is a city of contrasts that can be intimidating for the uninitiated. Thankfully, there’s a roving band of Instagrammers scaling the highs and scouring the lows to plot a route straight to the very best on offer in the City of Angels.
Born and raised in Hong Kong — another world capital with a dizzying cultural landscape — sisters Justine and Jocelyn Wong have used their ample appetites to thrilling effect in L.A. They balance full time jobs in finance and public relations with determined questing for fresh dining and drinking venues for their hugely popular blog and IG feed.
Where to eat: Playing on yakiniku (Japanese barbecue), YakiYan in Hacienda Heights is a carnivore’s paradise. “It never disappoints us,” says Jocelyn. “We especially enjoy the USDA prime filet mignon with bone marrow fried rice and also the innovative bone marrow shots.” A word of advice: Jocelyn tells visitors to clear a decent window in their schedule as YakiYan’s Omakase-style menu, selected by the chef, can occupy diners for well over two hours.
Where to drink: Koreatown is a clear example of L.A.’s split personality. On the one hand, there’s plenty of old-school Asian flavor at barbecue restaurants and traditional medicine shops. Wander into the other side to the hood, however, and you’ll find ultra-hip dining and drinking spots like Terra Cotta. “It has a great selection of wine and cocktails,” says Jocelyn, “and it is a preferred hangout spot for us and other bloggers like @lastname.ip who got this shot for us.”
Where to shop: Shopping and dining are two of Hangry Diary’s overriding passions. And these twin obsessions are easily indulged at The Grove, an outdoor complex in Fairfax with lashings of attractive kitsch in the shape of outdoor plazas, musical fountains and a trolley. “Their eatery options range from Ladurée to Sprinkles to Groundwork Coffee, all of which can wash away any weekday blues,” says Jocelyn.
Where to visit: L.A.’s newest contemporary art museum, The Broad has swiftly become one of the city’s cultural highlights. “It’s one of the best places in town to scratch an art itch,” says Jocelyn. “It is filled with post war and contemporary art, with a total of 2,000 artworks. What’s even better is that entry is free.”
Freelance photographer and former photo editor for the Los Angeles edition of listings bible Time Out, Jakob Layman has an unusually privileged window through which to view the visual manna on display in every corner of the city. Although his Instagram feed largely homes in on food and drink, he also trains his sights on the myriad music festivals and events that take place throughout the year.
Where to eat: Jakob has high praise for Howlin’ Ray’s hot chicken in Chinatown. “It’s literally the best fried chicken in L.A. … maybe the country,” he says. Streams of devotees of its Nashville-style chicken mean long lines are inevitable, but the food is well worth the wait in Jakob’s view: “It’s one of the only places where the food is always as good as you remember it.”
Where to drink: Big Bar in Loz Feliz has gained a formidable reputation for its cocktails and relaxed, homely vibe. “It’s my favorite go-to,” says Jakob. A bar team led by Cari Hah uses fine spirits, homemade syrups and fresh herbs to create a whimsical, ever-evolving drinks list. “It’s equal parts charming neighborhood bar and mixology hotspot,” adds Jakob.
Where to shop: Although Jakob’s thirst for L.A.’s best bars keeps him social, he also likes to savor a quality drink at home, which is why Bar Keeper in Silver Lake is one of his favorite shops. “It’s great for vintage barware,” he says. “Their extremely well-curated selection of liquors is also a blast to peruse.”
Where to visit: A star of various movies including Rebel Without a Cause and the more recent La La Land, Griffith Observatory is hardly a hidden gem. However, its art deco charms never fail to seduce. “The building is a masterpiece,” says Jakob. “Most nights of the week they set up telescopes on the lawn. It’s really cool.”
Los Angeles is so full of transcendent dining experiences the city has spawned a veritable army of food bloggers and Instagram stars. Among the most respected is Joshua Lurie who has been stoking the hunger of his fanatical followers for over a decade.
Where to eat: When Hatfields — the eponymous venture of husband-and-wife team Quinn and Karen Hatfield — closed, foodies in Los Angeles mourned. Thankfully the couple have returned with a bang with Odys + Penelope, a modern churrasco and grill. “The food is some of L.A’.s most crave-worthy,” says Joshua. “They feed three different woods to three different grills on a nightly basis, and also blaze up an apple wood smoker. Their bone-in short rib is a beast.”
Where to drink: Few cities in the U.S. have been immune to the craft beer boom of the last few years, and L.A. is no exception. For Joshua, Southland Beer in Koreatown is notable for its rotating taps and elevated bar snacks. “Few things in life are better than a great beer accompanied by Orchid’s ‘famous’ popcorn, drizzled with olive oil, cumin, cayenne and secrets,” he says.
Where to shop: A foodie to his bones, Joshua’s preferred brand of retail therapy is found at farmers markets in and around L.A. “I find shopping there a great way to learn which ingredients are in season, and to discover different types of produce,” he says. He particularly recommends Santa Monica Farmers Market. “Visit in spring to score Flora Bella Farm’s torpedo onions and radishes,” he says.
Where to visit: A counterbalance to its blood pressure-spiking traffic, L.A.’s beaches top the list of the city’s star attractions. For Joshua, “running by Manhattan Beach is a great way to unwind after writing all day.” As an added bonus, he says, that’s also where you’ll find three of his all-time favorite restaurants: Fishing with Dynamite, M.B. Post and Love & Salt.