Restaurants, hotels, an ice cream shop and a theater in the City of Angels....
Los Angeles Never Sleeps
This guide can help you avoid tourist traps and discover the essence of a city that is always at the boiling point, whether it’s the late afternoon or late, late night.
Sunset in the City of Angels
I’m driving a Ford Taurus down 101, the highway into the heart of Los Angeles, accompanied by Rita, a GPS that tells me where I am and where I have to go in dulcet feminine tones. My mission for this trip: to find the hidden gems of Los Angeles nightlife and to avoid tourist traps at all cost. Rita’s sexy voice tells me I need to take the exit to Hollywood a few yards ahead. Even though I know L.A. like the back of my hand, it’s comforting to hear a friendly voice in this city of 20 million.
My first destination is Musso & Frank. An essential stop for meat lovers, it’s also the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, located in the heart of the city between Las Palmas and Cherokee.
The building dates back to 1919 and experienced its apogee during Hollywood’s Golden Years when Cla7rk Gable and the Marx Brothers dominated the movie industry. Today, Musso & Frank is known for having the best dry martinis in town, and its filet mignon is equally legendary. Hollywood writer Charles Bukowski used to drink here, always sitting in the same seat. Bukowski has been dead for 13 years, but the staff still protectively reserves his place.
After a sumptuous meal, I walk out the door to find myself in the middle of the Hollywood Walk of Fame with the stars of Jimi Hendrix and Harrison Ford underfoot. However, instead of heading toward the Chinese Theater, which features the handprints of many famous actors and musicians, I walk in the opposite direction, towards the Roosevelt Hotel.
At 80 years old, this hotel is another dinosaur that seems to be experiencing the best period of its life. Part of the Thompson Hotels chain – owners of the 60 Thompson in New York’s Soho district – the Roosevelt Hotel was completely renovated in 2005. Renowned designer Dodd Mitchell kept the hotel’s original Art Nouveau style, and now this spot features one of the area’s most stylish and cozy lobbies. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dalí and Marilyn Monroe were all regulars; today, the hotel has been repopulated by new generations who come to this swank old building to eat, drink and be merry on the dance floor.
A jazz band performs live in the elegant restaurant as a fetching hostess asks me if I have reservations. I tell her no, because I know that the real secret of the hotel lies downstairs – the poolside Tropicana bar, one of the most chic and sophisticated nightspots in Hollywood. None other than David Hockney painted the bottom of the pool, and enormous palms and small candlelit tables surround the mahogany bar, creating a warm and elegant atmosphere. Arrive elegantly dressed and before nightfall, or the bouncer won’t hesitate to deny you entry and you’ll have to make do with the lobby or the restaurant.
Continuing my tour of the forgotten classics of Hollywood, I head to the Griffith Park Observatory, located a few blocks away. After five years of being closed to the public, the old observatory recently reopened, with new renovations and attractions. But it’s the panoramic view of the city that makes this place a must for visitors. Also, much of the film Rebel Without a Cause was filmed here, making it a true landmark for film buffs. As the sun sets, I take in the magnitude of Los Angeles. In front of me, I see downtown L.A. and, further in the distance, the ocean, where you’ll find Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Malibu.
Burning the Midnight Oil
The Standard is a chain belonging to famous hotelier André Balazs, with locations in New York, Miami and Hollywood. A fourth hotel in downtown L.A. was inaugurated just a couple of years ago and has quickly become a hot spot among hipsters and globetrotters.
Originally the Superior Oil Company building, this 19-story edifice is now home to one of the city’s most exclusive bars, located on the rooftop terrace, along with a swimming pool. You ascend to the rooftop in an elevator lined with red velvet, and as the doors open, you’ll catch your breath as you emerge surrounded by enormous illuminated buildings. From here, you can peer over the helipads atop other buildings and enjoy a terrific view of the Aon Center and Library Tower, the tallest building in California.
The brilliant red lounge chairs and bar are ultra-modern. The L-shaped pool is surrounded by waterbeds (also red). All around, beautiful women sip martinis and Mai Tais, and the waitresses, dressed in miniskirts and white boots, walk to the rhythm of the house-tinged electronic music. A young lady approaches me to take my order, and I manage to ask for an apple martini (and keep them coming). As the dance floor starts to fill up, I wander around to get my bearings. Two Asian women with their feet in the water are making a toast. They’re guests of the hotel, and they tell me that they pay 200 dollars a night for their 380-square-foot room. Between gales of coquettish laughter, they describe their shower as a glass cube in the middle of the room and giggle that the rest of the bathroom has no walls.
My next stop is The Echo, in the neighborhood of Echo Park. I take the Alvarado exit off 101, following Rita’s directions, and arrive at this former Latin club which has been transformed into one of the busiest and most original spots in the neighborhood. People flock here to dance to the excellent music, played by guest DJs. Artists who have played here include ESG, Mouse on Mars, Hot Chip and Vetiver. The weekends are dominated by dancing. Tonight’s special is indie music, funk and electronica. Beers are five dollars apiece, and although I don’t expect to run into any Hollywood stars, the eclectic mix of rockers, artists and intellectuals provides something for all tastes.
At 1:45 a.m., the bartender announces last call before closing. For those who don’t know, the state of California prohibits the sale of alcohol after two in the morning, and most clubs simply close their doors. I take this as my cue to get back in the Ford Taurus and give Rita my new coordinates – Melrose and Gower. The Larchmont is one of the few places to dance until sunrise, surrounded by people drinking natural fruit juice until six a.m. After paying the 20-dollar entrance fee, I reach the enormous, multi-level dance floor, where statuesque go-go dancers remind me that there’s life in this city yet. I head for the second-floor bar, where another DJ, playing a different style of music, has his own fan club. I order a grapefruit juice on the rocks and observe the clientele, young people between 21 and 30, mostly college students looking for fun. The electronic music pounds in my ears, and I seek refuge on the roof, where there’s a smoking lounge. I look on with envy as a group of women feast on sushi.
Soon it’s four in the morning, I don’t have room for another California roll, and I feel grapefruit juice coming out my ears, so I decide to give the city one more shot. I drive down the freeway to the neighborhood of Los Feliz, specifically the restaurant Fred 62, one of the few places where you can eat in style 24 hours a day. It’s five a.m., but the place is packed. Luckily, I manage to get a table, and I relax comfortably in one of the leather seats, as a beautiful waitress covered in tattoos takes my order. I ask for a salad and mineral water, and gaze through the enormous windows at the sun rising over the Hollywood hills. I pay my check, get in my Ford Taurus and prepare to head home when my cell phone rings. It’s my wife: she’s worried because I’m not home yet.
“Who is that?” she asks, as Rita finishes giving me the coordinates.
“It’s Rita,” I tell her groggily.
“Rita? Who’s Rita? I don’t know any Rita? What are you doing with a woman at this hour? Do you realize that it’s six in the morning?”
“I’m working,” I tell her, but it’s too late, she has already hung up.
During the Day
• Fashion District
Reasonably priced clothing and accessories for all tastes, in the heart of the downtown area.
Santee Street, Maple Avenue, Olympic Boulevard & 12th Street
• Amoeba Music
The largest independent record store in the U.S.
6400 W Sunset Blvd & Cahuenga Boulevard
• Farmer’s Market
A fair with food, vegetables and folk art.
6333 W 3rd Street
• Chinatown Plaza
Great for dining and bargain hunting.
930 N Broadway & West College Street
• Santa Monica Pier
A famous pier near Venice Beach, the perfect spot for a romantic stroll at sunset.
200 Santa Monica Pier & Ocean Front Walk,
• Musso & Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Blvd
• Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd. & North Orange Drive
• Griffith Observatory
2800 E Observatory Rd
550 S Flower St & Sixth Street
• The Echo
1822 W Sunset Blvd & Lemoyne Street
• The Larchmont
5657 Melrose Ave, entre / between Gower & El Centro Avenue
• Fred 62
1850 N Vermont Ave
More Nightlife Essentials
Live music and dancing in the heart of Silver Lake.
1717 Silver Lake Blvd & Effie Street
• Star Shoes
DJs specializing in funk, hip-hop and disco.
6364 Hollywood Blvd & Ivar Avenue
A Hollywood bar/club that also features special Dark- and Gothic-themed nights.
1652 N Cherokee Ave & Selma Avenue
• Beauty Bar
Gorgeous women and weird hairstyles in this Hollywood rock bar.
1638 N Cahuenga Blvd & Hollywood Boulevard
A trendy bar on the small, but fantastic, Franklin Avenue strip.
5925 Franklin Ave & Bronson Avenue
LAN flights: To Los Angeles seven times a week from Santiago (Chile) and São Paulo.
Enjoy eco-conscious hotels, restaurants and attractions on the U.S. west coast....