LA in 48 hours means attacking this gorgeous fitness and food mecca from all sides as fast as possible. I’d say 5 restaurants, 2 ice cream spots, 2 bakeries, 1 6 mile trail run at Backbone in Malibu and 2 art museums is pretty killer. You can do anything you set your mind to, right?!
I grew up visiting family in LA every single summer which meant beach days and picking oranges from their backyard. After a major hiatus, I flew down there to hang with my crew, BUT Kismet, the new Middle Eastern restaurant run by Chef’s Sarah Kramer and Chef Sarah Hymanson, is what pushed me to revisit a city I know so well- def needed to try that broccoli toast with labneh (never thought I’d say that). I’ve written about Bestia (excuse the 2013 photos), been to Bay Cities, Sugar Fish, and Cafe Gratitude dragged my aunt to Sweet Rose Creamery for their Salted Caramel, and felt defeated at Cookie Good. I spent hours organizing the perfect reservations, calculating timing and distance on google maps, and making sure that everything was perfect because this city is so spread out!
See below for the Best Restaurant and Bakery rundown from my recent trip:
You know these guys. They started their empire with Animal, a restaurant known for its offal cuts. Jon & Vinny’s is their casual pizza and red sauce joint that has a dope wine room in the back called Helen’s where you can smush into while you wait. Haven’t you always wanted your own wine room? The best part of this place though is the hip hop music. Didn’t you always want to split a Chicken Parm with Biggie? Anyway, no this isn’t the best food I’ve ever had, but it sure is one of the most fun places I’ve ever been to even though they rushed us through our dinner in one hour. Get the Apple, Celery, Almond, Date Salad which tasted just like a recipe out of my favorite cookbook Six Seasons, A New Way With Vegetables. Trust me you want something green to start! Sometimes you just have to get a Margherita Pizza to judge the spot on their dough. Into it. Not too hard, not to flimsy. The White Lightening with Mozz, Ricotta, Jalapeño, gets ya, too! I love that they have a polenta section. Skip the Chicken Parm. Parm in NYC is more tender.
2. Kismet –
I put all my eggs in one basket with this place. Thank god it pulled through. Not too impressed by the extremely clean, wooded design, but the Broccoli Toast with labneh, pumpkin seed, and pomegranate which was the size of a small chihuahua, made my dreams come true! The crusty outside mixed with the soft inside was just the right bed for the roasted broccoli. It’s definitely a big meal, but I wish I didn’t share it with everyone else. My second favorite was the Flaky Bread with preserved lemon, honey, and labneh. Honey is the way to go. It was like a mix between a scallion pancake and a pita. No one told me LA was such a bread city, I thought it was all greens! The Sweet Potato with puffed wild rice, crispy lentils, and coconut vinaigrette had a nice Asian flare. Way to go gals!
3. Gjusta –
This takeaway deli/bakery by the Gjelinia folks gave me immediate anxiety. People, babies, kids, running around and not enough space for me to poke my head into the sandwich section. Serious issues right? I took a deep breath, threw my hands in the air, and made my native LA friend order for us. Bread again. SERIOUSLY WHY DOES LA HAVE THE BEST BREAD? I want cookies anyway! Ok the Roast Turkey Sandwich on the butteriest brioche roll with greens and pickled veggies was my favorite here. We got the smoked fish plate and loved the beet lox, a farro salad, and Soft Scramble with dill, parsley, toast, and you guessed it, more labneh. Great texture and cheese replacement. Skipped dessert here and skipped to Rose Cafe for a treat instead.
There are 4 locations of this vegan spot that encompass this giant city: Larchmont, Arts District, Venice, Beverly Hills. I like that they don’t market themselves as vegan, vegetarian, or the dreadful word to describe food: “clean,” but they just say they support local produce, farmers, and organic ingredients. All the appetizer names are very similar mindset almost Buddhist like Connected, Eclectic, Free, Sharing, Bright. I DIG IT! The brussels sprouts are sweet and goody way to start. I loved the Humble Bowl aka Indian Curry. Went out on a limb here for the red lentil dal, spinach, roasted yams, coconut mint chutney, tomato jam, and brown rice. Seriously, this tasted more flavorful, healthful, and fresh than any damn salad or bowl place. My uncle got the Mole Enchiladas. After just eating at Pujol in Mexico City, I had my doubts. I was wrong!! It was grand and filled with blackened tempeh, beans, tomatillo sauce, avocado, slaw, escabeche.
I love a food cultural experience. Trying new things and teasing your tastebuds with new flavors is exciting and rewarding. This Thai street food restaurant opened a second location in West Hollywood next to 1 OAK (a club I actually used to work with in NYC which made me chuckle). They just launched a successful cookbook “Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun- Having Amongst Friends.” If that title won’t get you to buy the book, maybe the pad thai will. This place is bursting with colorful, floral table clothes, bright walls, posters, a neon pink sign that screams LARB KING, and those beaded doorway things. It’s perfect for groups, easy to get a reservation, and they have beer towers (100 oz) to make you feel like you are actually in Thailand. This place is all about authentic food, in a fun, casual environment. Get the Khao Soi Neua with Braised Hanger Steak – it falls off the bone like short rib-, Chicken Larb, Coconut Sticky Rice, Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, Salt- Crusted Whole Fish. Wait did we get fried rice? Sounds familiar… well, go big and then go home!
There are many reasons why I love my aunt. One being she drove me around everywhere these two days to my culinary destinations, she is a great impersonator, and she drives off course in her 1990 Jaguar spontaneously to grab a cup of ice cream before dinner. I think I rub off on people… Any who, she took me to Saffron & Rose which is a Persian ice cream shop. The flavors are wild! saffron, cucumber, pink rose, poppy seed, white rose, and then of course I got cookies ‘n cream and caramel. Good place!
While I was told to get the giant cinnamon roll that in fact looks like half a loaf of sourdough bread, I went for the miso, sea salt chocolate chip cookie because this was only an hour before my Kismet appearance. It’s the kind of everyday cookie you want. Nothing too indulgent, too raw, or too thick. Lodge Bread is all about the seasonal toasts. You’ll see seasonal jam and cultured butter, avocado, ricotta and raspberry. They also have pizzas, sandwiches, and other sweets.
8. Rose Cafe –
Grab a chocolate chunk bread pudding circular loaf that fits right in the palm of your hand and ever better in your mouth. Walk to the beach, look at the waves, and palm trees, and enjoy those swings.
9. Magpies Soft Serve –
I hyped up Magpies to myself too much. It was just soft serve which I love but they were a little too fluffy/foamy for me. However, the dairy free flavors were colder and lovely! Horchata and Peanut Butter. Flavors rotate.
We checked out the LACMA which is recognized by Chris Burden’s Urban Light sculpture with 202 restored cast iron antique street lamps, and his crazy Metropolis II hot wheel car exhibit that houses 1,100 miniature cars racing simultaneously on powered conveyor belts that never run into each other. It only runs on the weekends FYI at set hours. Also, the German Artists in the Ahmanson Building Level 2 are very intriguing, but the Matisse ceramic piece commissioned by a LACMA board member is one of the most incredible pieces I’ve ever seen. When you are an avid Picasso fan and studier, it’s always cool to see a Picasso you’ve never heard of like Sebastia Juñer Vidal.
This gorgeous center feels like a nice temple with an impressive plant game. It’s devoted to sustaining Jewish heritage and American democratic ideas. We really dug into a lot of Mexican art this trip as we saw some Frida Kahlo’s at the LACMA and the Anita Brenner Mexico exhibit here which shows the story of her life. She was born in Mexico and raised in San Antonio but friends with Frida, Diego, and several famous artists. She was a publisher for a magazine.
Ken Gonzales also has an awesome photograph selection examining the murals of LA from all over the city. See how many you can spot that you recognize. This center is so pretty, just driving in you feel like a king.