The sprawling city of Los Angeles has a million places to eat, drink and hang out. So, we’ve divided our L.A. city guide into two parts: central and west. First up, we enlisted Erica Chidi Cohen, doula and co-founder of LOOM, to share her favorite spots in the central part of L.A. (including Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Echo Park, Atwater Village, Koreatown, Downtown and Hollywood), like where to find the best enchiladas and see the greatest view of the city…
Erica Chidi Cohen: I love L.A. The culture here is vibrant and eclectic, with undiscovered gems everywhere. You can really feel the history of the place. I love the Spanish-style, art deco and craftsman architecture, as well as the diversity of the people and families that live in the neighborhoods. It’s a beautiful thing.
WHERE TO EAT
For a tasty breakfast, brunch or late afternoon snack, try Sqirl in Silver Lake. They can have crazy lines (and they close at 4 p.m.), but it’s worth it. Pick up a jar of their seasonal jam, like Blueberry Rhubarb, and order the Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl, which comes with a poached egg and feta. Their menu always has a great twist on seasonal California fare.
For delicious Japanese drinks and small plates, dine at Kinjiro, tucked away in Little Tokyo. Everything on the menu is perfectly portioned and always hit the spot. I’d recommend the Uni Risotto (it’s rich and creamy with sea urchin) and the homemade Agedashi Tofu.
For awesome Tex-Mex food, stop by Bar Amá. This is my favorite restaurant downtown. Order their La Pina (a tart pineapple and mezcal cocktail) and Mom’s Green Enchiladas. They also have “Super Nacho Hour” throughout the week until 7 p.m. with specials on margaritas and their famous nachos — house-made corn tortilla chips layered with the best queso, salmorejo salsa and avocado salsa. It’s not to be missed.
If you’re going on a date, head to All’acqua, in Atwater Village. With wood-beamed ceilings and old-school Italian food, this spot always feels romantic. I love the spaghetti with Manila clams — it’s served in a white wine sauce with chili-garlic butter.
In Hollywood, go to brunch at Salt’s Cure. I’d recommend the oatmeal griddle pancakes. They come with this insane maple cinnamon butter that may or may not contain duck fat — trust me, they’re delicious.
The Los Angeles Flower Market
WHERE TO HANG
Olympic Spa in Koreatown is amazing. It’s a traditional, female-only Korean spa that uses all natural products. All the women guests (young and old) are naked in the pools, and it’s very relaxing. If you’re short on time, try a simple soak in the hot and cold tubs, followed by the Himalayan salt room (where the walls are made entirely out of salt bricks). If you have more time, get the Milk and Honey Body Smoothie, which includes a body shampoo with fresh warm milk, jojoba oil and honey, a full-body scrub, deep tissue massage and gentle hair washing. It’s the best.
The Underground Museum in Arlington Heights exhibits some the best contemporary art in Los Angeles. It just looks like a storefront, but inside is an incredible gallery. The current show Non Fiction, investigating the culture of violence perpetrated on black citizens, will be up through next year.
Grand Central Market (downtown) is a 99-year-old food court packed with some of California’s best vendors. It’s the greatest place to hang because you can wander and snack your way through the entire place. Try the bone broth at Belcampo Meat Co. and find a killer cup of cold brew at G&B Coffee. People also go crazy for the cardamom iced coffee and falafel at Madcapra, run by two female chefs.
The new contemporary art museum The Broad, also downtown, is fantastic. You need advanced tickets (like weeks in advance), but you can also try waiting in the standby line, especially if you’re going in the middle of the week. It’s worth all the trouble to get in. Right now, there’s a big Cindy Sherman exhibit.
WHERE TO SHOP
I love stores that curate clothing, beauty and home goods — and Individual Medley does just that. It carries California brands like First Rite, as well as vintage home accessories and hand-painted ceramics.
The Los Angeles Flower Market downtown is the largest wholesale floral district in the country. Get up early and grab a bundle of seasonal flowers, for a great deal. It’s a beautiful, magical place.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Covell, nestled in Los Feliz, is a charming five-room boutique hotel that’s close to tons of fun east side spots. Each suite feels like a stylish apartment, packed with amenities. They also have a delicious wine bar downstairs.
The Line is a design gem in the middle of Koreatown. (Ask for a room facing the hills!) You can have drinks upstairs at Commissary (their greenhouse set next to the pool — the drinking water is even served through a garden hose) and find your way to the karaoke suites tucked away in Break Room 86.
If you’d rather rent a house, book an Airbnb in Echo Park. You’ll feel like you’re part of the friendly neighborhood, but it’s enough of a quiet hideaway (with such pretty golden sunlight!) that you can totally unwind. Silver Lake and Los Feliz are also great neighborhoods for vacation rentals.
The L.A. River
Don’t forget to take advantage of the outdoors! Griffith Park, in Los Feliz, is huge and rambling. Grab a coffee at the sweet Trails Café, then hike up to the Griffith Observatory, for beautiful views of the city, especially at sunset. Also, stop by the L.A. River, if you’re visiting during the summer. From Memorial Day though Labor Day, you can sign up for a kayak expedition. You’ll paddle through the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve and the scenic Glendale Narrows. Be sure to bring a hat, especially on a hot day.
Thank you so much for the tips, Erica! Have you been to L.A. — or do you live there? What would you recommend on the east side?
(Top photo by Nicki Sebastian. City guide graphic design by Miss Moss. First photo of Erica by Morgan Pansing. Photo of Erica at the flower market and photo of Individual Medley by Lauren Moore. Bar Amá margita photo via Instagram. Bar Amá nacho photo by Dylan + Jeni for Bon Appétit. Photos of Hotel Covell by Bethany Nauert. Los Angeles River photo via Los Angeles District. Thanks to Stella Blackmon for editing this series.)