For a long time, downtown Los Angeles was just a place I passed by in my car. I thought it looked really pretty at night, all lit up, but I wasn’t dying to go there. When I finally did, I was surprised, as it’s much larger than it appears to be on the outside. Once inside, it looked and felt kind of like New York city, but without so many people. Even though downtown L.A. (or DTLA) is undergoing a big revival with lots of fancy new loft apartments and restaurants, there are still some strangely empty sections, as though everyone had to evacuate suddenly, but no one bothered to tell you to get out. In other areas you’ll find homeless people, and of course DTLA has it’s famous Skid Row, but we didn’t have any problems where we went.
I don’t claim to be an expert, as I have a lot more to explore, but I found a few gems.
On a recent trip, my son picked me up at Union Station and we took a short drive to Bread Lounge for lunch. He parked the car in sketchy but deserted area. He assured me it was safe to get out, and we walked about two blocks to Bread Lounge. Once there we found out that it has it’s own parking lot, so we could have pulled right in. Bread Lounge has fantastic salads, sandwiches, and artisanal breads and pastries made right there on the premises. Your mouth will start watering as soon as you walk in and get a whiff of all that crusty, yeasty dough. I had a deliciously fresh chicken and beet salad, and I got to taste my son’s amazing “On the Bird” sandwich with turkey, brie, and smoked paprika aioli. They also have excellent lattes and other espresso drinks. There are tables inside and an outdoor patio.
After dinner, we went downtown for a night out. There are parking lots where you can park until 2:00 a.m. for a reasonable rate, but if you’re drinking and/or don’t really know your way around, Lyft is super-easy. We started with drinks on the rooftop at Perch. There was a line to get in, but we were ushered to the front of the line right away. I’m not sure if it’s because we looked important or because we looked too old to stand in a line, but either way we were happy to bypass it and go right in. We took an elevator to the bar, which was packed. The bartenders were the busiest people I’ve ever seen, cocktail shakers flying and drinks pouring constantly. I was amazed at how they kept their cool and didn’t appear to get frazzled at all. We took our drinks outside to the roof, where we were treated to a beautiful bird’s-eye view of the city at night. It was a very nice atmosphere and we enjoyed it. Our son raves about the brunch here, so you should try it for food too.
After Perch, we decided to go to Seven Grand, a dark, cozy whiskey bar with a clubby, masculine feel with dark wood, pool tables, and animal heads on the wall. I’ve been here a few times, and they are solely responsible for my recent love of whiskey drinks, which I used to shun. If you’ve ever had a whiskey sour blended with nasty fake sour syrup, you are in for a treat here. Seven Grand has a huge selection of whiskey and whiskey-based cocktails. Sometimes they have live music. There’s a cigar-smoking area in the back, but you can’t smell the smoke in the bar; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to stand it. The whiskey sour is perfectly balanced and made with real lemon and topped with a good amount of frothy egg white and bitters. It smells great and tastes great. The Old Fashioned is also excellent here, and you can tell that the bartenders take a lot of pride and care in the making of drinks. We played pool with some of other customers, who turned out to be pretty friendly. (If you like whiskey bars and find yourself in San Diego, The Aero Club has the biggest selection of whiskey I’ve ever seen, although I did not like their whiskey sour as much as Seven Grand’s.)
We found ourselves out on the street and hungry, so we went to Little Tokyo for a late-night snack. This was my second trip to Little Tokyo, which is jam-packed with Japanese restaurants, but on this night we headed straight to Suehiro for hot, steaming bowls of Udon noodles. Even at 1:30 a.m., they were packed with a line out the door. The line moved fast enough, and it was definitely worth the wait. The menu here is huge, and includes sushi and other types of dishes, but we focused on Udon noodles. The four of us got different types, but it was unanimous that the tempura udon with shrimp had the tastiest broth. The noodles were big, fat, chewy udon perfection. Just thinking about it makes me want to go there right now.
That’s all I’ve got on downtown, but other DTLA places that I want to check out are the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Broad Museum, and the Grand Central Market. If you have a favorite spot, please let me know about it!