Los Angeles Tour: Mid-Wilshire
This inviting and expansive commercial district is home to many a museum and name-brand boutique.
Wilshire Boulevard cuts a wide swath through the city, running from Downtown all the way to the Pacific Ocean. At its approximate midpoint (between Western Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard, aka the “Miracle Mile”), the boulevard was developed in the 1920’s as a grand commercial district that drew comparisons to Paris's Champs-Élysées. Today, this still-fashionable stretch is home to a multitude of museums (earning it the nickname Museum Row) and serves as the backbone for the collection of niche neighborhoods under the “Mid-Wilshire” umbrella. Posh interior design shops, label-conscious fashion boutiques, and refined restaurants line the adjacent roads of La Brea Avenue, Beverly Boulevard, and West 3rd Street, but the low-key residential vibe makes this a great place to connect with locals.
The Farmers Market has been a favorite gathering place in L.A.—hence the saying, “Meet me at Third & Fairfax”—since the Great Depression. The market, which includes more than 100 stalls selling everything from poblano chiles to homemade cashew butter and fresh oysters to organic produce, is big enough and fascinating enough to get lost in. In recent years, the throngs of fans have only increased with the opening of the alfresco Grove shopping center next door. The market also includes a culturally diverse selection of casual eateries, including the Gumbo Pot, French Crepe Company, and ¡Loteria Grill!—famous for Chilaquiles, Mole, and Yucatán-style pork tacos.
Tip: There’s no better time to enjoy the market than morning, when crowds are thin and you can hang out at Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts with the Times.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
With more than 128,000 pieces of art in their encyclopedic collection including David Hockney and Vincent Van Gogh, it can be a task navigating a day at LACMA. After stopping for obligatory selfies in front of Chris Burden’s iconic cast iron street lamps known as Urban Light, be sure to check out the artist’s lesser-known but equally impressive Metropolis II, where every hour, approximately 1,000 toy cars race through the dense network of buildings, giving you a playful simulation of what it’s like to deal with L.A. traffic on a daily basis.
Housed inside a 1929 Los Angeles building constructed by legendary Hollywood architect Roy Sheldon, famous for his opulent, Italian villa-inspired designs throughout Beverly Hills. Sheldon built the structure for film legend Charlie Chaplin, and the restaurant has accordingly named its two main dining rooms after Chaplin and his then wife, Lita Grey. Executive chef Mark Peel has created a menu of contemporary California cuisine, which changes often, depending on his farmers’ market finds. At any one time, it may include such items as a grilled pork chop with saffron orzo and ricotta, or summer squash ravioli.
New Beverly Cinema
This no-frills neighborhood theater is the last surviving revival movie house in Los Angeles—thanks in large part to its famous benefactor Quentin Tarantino, who stepped in to buy the property when the theater was on the brink of shutting down. The Pulp Fiction director, along with fellow filmmakers like Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, sometimes steps in to curate the programming, but the selections are always in line with what’s been screened here since 1978: double features of classic, independent, cult, and foreign films in 35mm. Don’t miss the midnight screenings of camp favorites.
American Rag Cie
For that chic L.A. jeans-and-a-T-shirt look, American Rag is the de facto headquarters. The “World Denim Bar” annex stocks designer jeans in every color and fit imaginable, while the main clothing section stocks crisp button downs for men and flirty dresses for women—along with those hip tees to pair with those hipper jeans. Hollywood “It” girls and stylists regularly materialize to troll the racks and knock back cappuccinos in the adjoining homewares store-cum-cafe, Maison Midi.
The shelves of this petite, independent book boutique are crammed to bursting with travel volumes covering every global destination imaginable, including an array of guidebooks along with travel literature from essay collections to poetry. Wanderlusters will also appreciate the nifty travel accessories, maps, and gift possibilities like vintage travel posters and globes—not to mention the helpful staff happy to offer seasoned advice on your desired itinerary.
Move over cupcakes: the “faux donuts” at this artisanal bakery are L.A.’s latest sweet novelty. Though they look and taste like traditional donuts, the treats—in flavors like strawberry buttermilk, chocolate/hazelnut, and maple/bacon—are baked and/or steamed, not fried, taking away some of the guilt but none of the deliciousness. Fonuts can fit pretty much any diet: gluten-free and vegan varieties are available, and for the sugar averse, there are savory flavors like rosemary/olive oil and chorizo/cheddar.
This stylish, buzzing neighborhood spot skips across continents with urban Latin cuisine from throughout the Spanish-speaking world. The emphasis is on warm and cool small plates to share paired with creative seasonal cocktails and Latin wines. One of the highlights: chef John Rivera Sedlar (of Downtown’s highly regarded Rivera) uses maize (corn) cakes as a canvas for culinary pluralism, with toppings ranging from the Indian-influenced pork belly confit with mango pickle and masala to the Mediterranean-kissed lamb meatballs with spiced yogurt and feta.