When Russian immigrant women turn 40 they are apparently programmed to dye their hair bright orange and put on a sloppy pink slash of lipstick with war paint rouge. There are always a half dozen of these squat lovelies working at my favorite bakery, talking it up with the senior citizen customers, all of whom have yellow nicotine stains on their fingers and wear the cutest cardigan sweaters you’ve ever seen. But the greatest thing about a Russian bakery is that it explains the major ass whupping they got in Afghanistan: it’s all about the poppy seed. How can you dominate a country that so has your number? Poppy seed dessert rolls, poppy seed strudel, poppy seed cookies, and year-round hamentashen. They also do cream puffs, cookies, Turk cakes and the like. My perfect lunch consists of to-go sushi from Whole Foods capped with a poppy seed bear claw from those hot Russian ladies.
7875 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood
There needs to be two reviews for Runyon Canyon, the upper trail and the lower trail. The lower trail is a long incline U-shape that peaks at a spectacular view of Hollywood and Los Angeles sprawled out before you. After hiking your way up the steep steps or taking the long, lazy uphill ogling strippers and their beefcake personal trainers, you are rewarded with a breathtaking view all the way to the ocean (on a good day with low smog). The down side is a meat market, on a hot day the smell of dog shit is overpowering, and the flies make you think someone body-dumped Pigpen in a shallow grave. That’s why I recommend the upper trail. The upper trail can be accessed by a small trail just north of the western-most entrance to the park just after the metal gates. The upper trail is truly a workout and it bypasses most of the heavily made-up boob jobbed and pec-implant ninnies below. Your dog is still welcome off-leash in the upper trail, but you may be doing some carrying over the rocks and crevasses. It’s a longer trail, but infinitely more rewarding. It takes you onto a residential street briefly before spitting you back into the park near the overlook peak area. Challenge yourself by running loops around the upper and lower trails, and make a game of looking for dead bodies!
(323) 666-5046, 2000 N Fuller, Los Angeles
For those who have not yet ventured, Nanotokyo is the stretch of Sawtelle that runs between Olympic and Santa Monica blvd. It is a Japanese community that goes back to the turn of the 19th century. Many of the nurseries have been there for near eighty or ninety years now. Easier to get to than Little Tokyo downtown, for us 10-a-phobics. The area is littered with all things done Japanese style. There are Chinese restaurants, Korean BBQ (where they serve you beef you grill at your own table), curry joints (Japanese curry, mind you), noodle bars, and normal Tokyo-style Japanese restaurants. Everything a la carte, braised oddities, and a cuisine that caters to the long-settled area. A great field trip experience, especially the food market.
Sawtelle Blvd between Olympic and Santa Monica Blvd.
The Curiosity Cabinet is a phenomenon that predates the modern museum, gave rise to the science of taxonomy and cladism, and spawned the modern age of medicine and scientific wonder. A Curiosity Cabinet was usually a collection of odd bits gathered by a rich wackjob, or self-proclaimed scientist. They could be jars of aborted foetuses, conjoined twins, and other medical marvels. They could be mutations of trees found on hikes throughout the collector’s lifetime. These collections could be as small as a shoebox, or as large as a ballroom. Some still exist today, held in private, available only to the most determined of treasure hunters. The Museum of Jurassic Technology is built on the same level of awe that the original Curiosity Cabinets inspired. With today’s level of understanding, the only way to get to this wonder is to blur, sometimes completely obliterate truth in order to burst through to the other side of amazement. David Wilson, the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship for his work in creating the museum with his wife and family, has carefully constructed a place that has become a church for some, an living art piece for others, and for any who experience it, stimulating in wonderful ways. Exhibits draw on Wilson’s background in visual effects and the obsessive creation of dioramas to create installations that beg scrutiny and draw the viewer into their story. Once you’ve been, pick up a copy of Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler for a more complete biography of David Wilson and the history of the curiosity cabinet.
(310) 836-6131, 9341 Venice Blvd, Culver City
You know this is a French restaurant because there are beautiful skinny pregnant women drinking scotch at the bar and smoking cigarettes. So if you’re in the mood for fashionably low birth weight babies, you’ve come to the right place! The Little Door is one of L.A.’s most romantic date locations; if your idea of romance is dining inside the latest Anthropologie catalog. The food was exceptional, the lamb tender and full of savory flavor and the fish fresh and perfectly cooked. They would not take our reservation without a credit card and the stipulation that if we did not honor our reservation they would charge us $25 per person. The day I accept New York style audacity from a Los Angeles restaurant is the day I am run over by an MTA train, halved from the balls below, and am forced to dine exclusively at places that excuse my leaking colostomy bag because I pay them exorbitant sums derived from my insurance settlement.
8164 W Third St., Los Angeles
Langer’s is in, well, how should I say, a, um, shithole. It’s in one of the worst parts of Los Angeles for both gang violence, aggressive homeless begging and bad parking. But you have to go because it’s the best pastrami sandwich I’ve ever had. Due to environment, Langer’s closes at four pm. They don’t even try to stay open after dark. But go for an incredible lunch that will have you swooning in a beef coma for hours afterward. They have great desserts, too! And you’ll burn off the energy running back to your car to get the hell out. (My girlfriend just said I was so white for writing this review.) You can even call ahead, tell them what bill you’re paying with, and a waiter will meet you at the curb with your order and exact change. Huzzah!
704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles
Lakeshore is my secret weapon. My wife and I are in a minority in that we’re in our thirties, we don’t have kids, and we most certainly do NOT anthropomorphize our dogs. This is not to say we are unfamiliar with children. Far from it. We’re regularly infested with kids. Relatives, friends, neighbors, all of them have expanded their carbon footprints by popping out one or two of these little “miracles”. I’m all for devaluing the term “miracle” by applying it towards the biological imperative of reproduction. If a sadomasochist twist like Mother Theresa can be seen to have performed miracles, then perhaps we can just move on without the promotion to sainthood. “Fine. It’s a miracle. Take a look at Calcutta – it’s filled with miracles. Now can we ease the suffering of the poor instead of seeing pain as a path to salvation in your sick, barbaric, warped religion? Thanks.” But now that we’ve moved past the parade of weddings we’ve graduated to the onslaught of children. (A childless friend of ours had the idea of having a birthday party for her dog and inviting only the parents of the kids that she had bought presents for over the years. Sure, we’d love to think there’s no such thing as quid pro quo in gift giving, but imagine decades of that shit. I’d throw a party for my hat at that point.) Gifts for kids are a trick sack – a toy is pointless, excessive, and the domain of grandparents. Donations to charities are a great idea, but sometimes you don’t want to be *that* much of a hippie. Thus, Lakeshore. Educational games, learning kits, craft supplies, and pretty much everything you could need for the K-12 experience. Laminated posters of human anatomy to fish species to multiplication tables, modeling clay, board games, sheets of felt, rolls of plastic, und so weite. If it’s designed to facilitate learning, Lakeshore has it. It’s arranged by grade and age so picking out an appropriate item is ridiculously easy. Their prices are outstanding and their clerks can offer pointed guidance about pretty much everything. They even know their state capitals. Teachers get a discount and can get one of those dangly keychain membership cards. They frequently have sales in the middle aisle to make space for all the new stuff they bring in. If you’re ever at a loss for what to give your breeder friends, Lakeshore is your place. You were expecting me to make a pedophile joke somewhere, weren’t you?
(310) 559-9630, 8888 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles
We have the fortune of living two blocks away from what is arguable one of Los Angeles’ few true French restaurants. French food was hijacked by gourmet chefs who tried to establish the sauce as the holy grail of culinary school. La Dijoniase proves that you can serve good French food in a cool neighborhood restaurant, without the astronomic price tag or the Food Network hovering near the souse chef station. Sandwiches, salads, pastas, and crepes, baby. They also serve one of the rare true Nicoise salads in town. There is a lunch menu with more sandwiches and lunch options. Beware, the one thing that is the most traditionally French here is the service. It tends to suck. The waiters are nice, but have trouble remembering you exist. Average price for two people is about twenty bucks before tip.
(310) 287-2770, 8703 Washington Blvd, Culver City
You always risk a disaster when you attempt fusion cuisine, but K-Zo succeeds deliciously. The quality of the fish is superb – which means anything built with fish that marvelous is going to be good. The live octopus carpaccio was spectacular. And though it didn’t twitch (not THAT live) you could tell it was fresh, prepared seconds before it hit our table. And that’s the second aspect of K-Zo that elavates it – their staff knows how to pace a meal. Sushi wasn’t just brought out in a buckshot. Salads and sashimi were presented first and the staff waited until they were eaten before bringing small portions of rolls and other dishes. This is a restaurant that knows that good fish must be eaten immediately after being prepared – the longer it waits on the table the weirder it gets. K-Zo is first class sushi dining and I can’t wait to go back. They also have an expansive sake list including a 3 flavor sampler for neophites. Alas, you’ll have to pay for the experience to the tune of forty bucks a head.
(310) 202-8890, 9240 Culver Blvd, Culver City
Jumbo’s is certainly one of the most surreal strip club experiences I’ve ever had. A friend of mine, recently returned from reporting on the Serb/Croatian war, came to visit me in L.A. wanting a rollicking good time to get his mind off the Serbian rape houses, mass graves, and torture chambers he had been reporting on for the last two years. I happily drove him on a bar crawl, along with another friend, a reporter for the UK Independent. (As a side note, if you ever have a chance to go on a drunk crawl with two foreign correspondents, I HIGHLY recommend it.) I saved the best for last. Our final destination was Jumbo’s Clown Room. Why Jumbo’s? Because you can see high class ass at The Grove these days. If you want to see GOOD plastic surgery, just walk about Beverly Hills, or run along the Santa Monica beaches. You’ve got to dig to find despair on display. You’ve got to turn off the light and wait for the floor to start moving. In Los Angeles, we hide our deformed cousin in the attic and stuff a rag in his mouth while the neighbors come and visit. Those scratching sounds you hear are the denizens of east Hollywood demanding to be saved. Jumbo’s did not disappoint. My friend recognized the accent of the bar wench and they began having a long conversation in German. A half eaten birthday cake sagged off the side of the stage, while the dancer slowly churned her torso under breasts that had been bolted on like a doctor had juiced two grapefruits on her chest and left them. The decor can only be described as your grandma’s living room circa 1962. I only wish there was more plastic on the furniture.
(323) 666-1187, 5153 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles