Being the editor of a lifestyle publication has its perks; namely, that you get to visit all of the new places in town, and often atop a proverbial red carpet.
But it’s not often that I get to write about the spots I personally recommend: the ones I visit on my own time and dime, and keep in my back pocket when friends ask the inevitable, “Hey, where should I take this girl?” or “What should I do with my snobby in-laws this weekend?”
And they ask. They ask often. So after five years of reporting on men’s lifestyle in L.A., this is my last order of business: a list of my own personal LA favorites, be it where to get dope sneakers, a good haircut or even meet someone special.
If I’ve mentioned a place you already know about, I commend you on your good taste.
A wholehearted thank you for reading. Hope to see you out there.
Best place to get a timepiece: Craft and Tailored
Cameron Barr knows more about watches than anyone I’ve ever spoken to on the matter. He started in tech but his passion for Rolex and other vintage timepieces was so strong that he quit his lucrative job to become a successful broker, with finds ranging in the low thousands to the hundreds of thousands. His new downtown office is a hidden shrine to timeless quality.
Image from The Good Liver
Best place to blow your paycheck: The Good Liver
When I think of blowing my paycheck, it’s typically on things that are useful, but not needed. Good vintage tools. Exceptional writing implements. Tea sets. The Good Liver is a boutique downtown that specializes in this sort of heirloom level stuff. They also deal in fine Japanese tea, which, thanks to them, I’m now completely addicted to.
Best hidden secret that pains me to tell you about: Gjusta (at dinner time)
Okay, obviously everyone knows Gjusta. It’s delicious. It’s expensive. It’s a zoo. But it’s a zoo during the morning and lunch hours. People often sleep on it for dinner because it doesn’t serve booze. Here’s the secret: you can bring your own bottle of wine if you keep it in a bag. They’ll uncork it for free and give you glasses.
Image from Clae
Best place to get some sneakers: Clae
I’m not a sneaker aficionado and this isn’t a recommendation for folks who collect sneakers. But this is a recommendation for folks who wear sneakers to work and like something that looks and feels great; Clae is hands down the item I’ve received the most compliments on over the past five years. Done in supple leathers and interesting textiles like wool, they’re comfy, classy and won’t break the bank.
Best place to get a haircut and possibly party late into the night: The Cut By
I’ve been going to Shane Middleton’s The Cut By since it was a small barbershop hiding on the second floor of a small retail building on that stretch of Sunset where the rockers hang. He and his team are great. Now he has the Parlor downstairs, which, if you’re nice and Shane likes you, you’ll probably get invited to his late night soirees, which have been furtively happening over the past year. They kick ass.
Best place for meeting someone: Erewhon
What am I going to say here? Nice Guy? I dig that joint, but Hollywood trendsetters might not be your scene. Gold Line Bar? Love it, but you might not want to drive all the way to Highland Park. Fact is, the best place to meet someone exists only seconds after you’ve actually met someone. And that could be anywhere if you’re open minded. So f*ck it, why not try Erewhon? Everyone is beautiful, and they’re obviously taking care of themselves, which is important. Maybe stand by the carrots, pick one up and ask which way to Albuquerque.
Best place to get a cocktail: Old Lightning and Scopa
Scopa is the Italian restaurant in the front and Old Lightning is a quaint lounge hidden behind the bar. Both are run by the same team, but where Scopa is big and happening, Old Lightning has room for 40 people and they take your cell phone before you enter so you’re forced to focus on the moment and your company. Novel concept, huh? You’ll need a reservation for Old Lightning. Scopa you can just belly up to the bar.
Best dinner spot to seal the deal: Nozawa Bar
I prefer to handle business before eating, but we can’t always get what we want. My advice is to look for something that won’t weigh you down, and sushi fits the bill. Nozawa Bar is an omakase, but it’s light and delicious and will impress your date because of its intimacy, quality and price.
Best place to hike: Cooper Canyon Falls and Will Thrawl via Buckhorn
Technically Sandstone Peaks is my favorite hike, but it’s been closed due to the Woolsey Fire. The area around Buckhorn and Cooper Canyon Falls is easily my second favorite hiking destination. This is a full day trip, but being this deep in the Angeles National Forest is like being in another world, with its tall redolent pine and crisp air. It’s also a great place to camp. But, alas: National Forests are closed, too! It’s the hard-times lounge for us hippies. Temescal it is! The upshot is the waterfall is actually raging and there’s a mini-fjord happening. Wear GoreTex.
Best little gem for dancing till you sweat through your shirt: Zebulon
They get top talent and great DJs. The outdoor patio is great for mingling and the vibe on the dance floor is always convivial. The drinks are great. I have no complaints about this spot.
Best place to have some Me Time: Tomoko
The Japanese have such calming rituals and designs. It starts with a tea and leche, and then they escort you to your own minimalistic private room, where you take a soothing bath. Then you sit on a pedestal while they scrub your feet. Then they massage you. Then you relax into a state of pure zen.
Best weekend trip: Cass House
It pains me to retire this spot, but as all my memories here are with my ex (reminder, ladies: I’ll be at Erewhon), I am more than happy to pass this on to you, dear reader. The Cass House is a small B&B in Cayucos, a hidden beach town just south of Hearst Castle. It’s quiet and very romantic. They have an open-air restaurant on the side, where they wood-grill everything from salmon to the veggies that they grow in their garden. You’re close to Montana De Oro State Park for day hikes, Hearst Castle for culture, and Paso Robles for wine tours. You’re also a short drive to the Madonna Inn for outlandish swing dancing and sugary cakes.
Best underrated music venue: Teragram Ballroom
The Teragram is almost downtown — but not quiet — and its calendar is stocked with emerging bands, all of whom play their hearts out in this mid-sized venue. The sound is great and the sloping floor provides good views throughout.
Best place to people watch: Grand Central Market
From the tourists to the foodies to the wide variety of office workers passing through, Grand Central Market is a cornucopia of oogle-worthy fodder, not to mention a literal cornucopia of exceptional food. You can hang around here for hours and never go hungry.
Best place to get denim and tee shirts: Schaeffer’s Garment Hotel
Jeans and a T-shirt is pretty much the uniform for the LA man, and Robert Schaeffer is man who puts incredible pride into his wears. He sources his denim from Japan and stitches in his Hollywood store. Each pair is sized to you, and comes with a lifetime warranty. I have two pairs, wear one or the other every day, and they’re even more amazing now than when I bought them three years ago. His T-shirts, which he sulfur dyes so they fade in unique ways, always elicit compliments. They’re damn comfy, too.
Best dinner for impressing a visiting foodie: Broken Spanish
Broken Spanish speaks more to our city’s culinary energy than any other restaurant, and it’s the spot that seems less likely to exist elsewhere (every city has a great Italian restaurant). It’s got its Hispanic influences as well as our region’s more produce-leaning aspects, which Chef Ray Garcia uses to excellent effect. It has a great bar that leans on tequila and mezcal, which are rocket fuel for a convivial night.
Image from Langer's
Best sandwich: Langer’s No. 19
Hands down the best pastrami sandwich in America. Happy to take the Pepsi Challenge with anything New York City has to offer. The thick rye bread with its firm crust and soft interior ... the coleslaw that isn’t over mayo’d … the meat that’s perfectly fatty and juicy. Oy vey.
Best place for hanging out with someone you really don’t want to hang out with: No Name
Also a great place for hanging out with people you like, but if you have to be with someone meh, you can’t go wrong with No Name: they host excellent live performances and the scene is hot. The bar serves a mean drink and the food doesn’t disappoint.
Best art gallery in town: Marciano Foundation
If you haven’t been to the Marciano Foundation, book tickets now. It’s the private collection of the family behind Guess. It opened last year in a stunning Masonic Lodge in Hancock Park. Where most of L.A.’s museums skew either overly modern or overly classical, the Marciano is more eclectic. Their current Ai Weiwei exhibit is up through March and not to be missed.
Best dive bar: Chez Jays
When my grandfather used to visit L.A., he’d eat almost all of his dinners at Chez Jays, which incidentally used to be owned by Dudley Moore. Anyway, I think this classic beach dive bar is perhaps the best thing Santa Monica has going for it booze-wise. Yes, I have a soft spot because I remember going with my granddaddy. But it warms the cockles to drink cheap beer in spot that’s changed little since 1959, whereas its neighborhood has become overly sanitized and commercialized. The scene is always buoyant.
Main image: Shaeffer's Garment Hotel via @therealkloiber