What kind of ground can you cover in downtown Los Angeles and what new places can you discover just randomly hopping around with an adventurous friend at your side? Apparently: lots.
Upon meeting up with my friend Dana in downtown, we immediately got into adventure mode.
Our first stop was at an upscale bakery, called Bottega Louie, located at the corner of 7th and Grand. The bakery is quite an experience, even just to visit.
Here, they serve a number of handcrafted, beautifully-made and delicious pastries. If you’re hungry, they also serve lunch dishes in the central dining area. On the other side of the bakery was a full service bar where groups of men and women in business attire sat and sipped cocktails during the lunch hour.
Dana could not resist the bakery offerings and bought a couple. To-go orders are placed in a fancy light blue box with the name of the bakery on it and placed in an equally attractive paper bag–such a presentation here. It definitely feels like a very special purchase. We shared the pastries and were not disappointed in the least.
A few blocks away, at the edges of the Jewelry and Fashion districts, is a curious cave of a video arcade on Broadway–Sassony Arcade. The place was a little sketchy, definitely dated and not the cleanest, but there was nostalgia to be found there. Lots of old video arcade machines line the walls, and in the back are a couple of pool tables. Childhood memories struck my friend and me, and we threw a few bucks into the change machine and got some tokens. Before we knew it, about 30 minutes had passed as we took turns trying to achieve a high score on a Puzzle Bobble arcade machine. Games cost 25 to 75 cents per credit. The place seems like a holdover from the glory days of arcades in the early ’80s. It doesn’t seem that much has changed here since then. The immersive time capsule that exists is what gives this place its charm. I recommend stopping by if given the chance.
Continuing on our foot tour of downtown, we stumbled upon a strip of shops and other small businesses nestled inside a quiet “mini-street,” off of 7th Street, between Broadway and Hill—St. Vincent Court. It is quite removed from the traffic and noise that is just outside of it.
This is a very interesting little street. It looks more like a small-city movie set. There is no through traffic on this street, and it dead-ends into a brick building. The sides of this small street are lined with businesses such as small shops (selling general merchandise), a café, a couple of small restaurants and a barber shop. People sit in the outside seating areas near each of the businesses enjoying lunch, coffee, a chilled drink, or simply a moment of sanctuary in the concrete jungle.
This “little street,” St. Vincent Court, is a historical landmark.
Now it was time for a quick drink.
“Hank’s” is a fairly small bar, but has a good vibe going for it. Drinks are simple, the bartender is friendly and the crowd is a mix of twenty-somethings and business folk. The bar is attached to the Stillwell Hotel off Grand Avenue, between 8th and 9th. The atmosphere is very laid back—nicely casual. There’s a digital juke box connected to the internet and you can request pretty much any song known to man. Definitely a chill, cozy and affordable place to grab a drink downtown.
Time for food. A quick ride on the Metro Blue Line brought us to the Staples Center. Here, we stopped into Rock’n Fish. They have daily happy hour specials which include some very filling appetizers. I would highly recommend stopping by this place if you’re in the area and looking for a quick and affordable bite to eat. The lemon-drop martinis aren’t bad either.
Making our way back through downtown, we explored the Figueroa Hotel. The interior decorations, consisting of greenery, chandeliers, and other mood lighting made you feel like you were someplace else—far away from city life. The website for the hotel describes the theme as Ancient Arabian. Through the lobby and out through the rear hallway is a bar situated in a corner of a patio. It is surrounded by chairs and a few cabanas that overlook a pool. It’s a small pool, but nice. If you look up, you’ll see the city towers all around you.
With food in our stomachs—a few cocktails too—and leftovers in hand, I suggested we check out a pub I had seen while walking around prior to meeting up. Casey’s Irish Pub was the place we went to next. Located at 613 S. Grand Ave., this pub offers beer drinkers another nice escape from the city above. The pub is located below street level. While walking down Grand, you’ll notice a sign for the pub and steps leading down. Simply walk down those steps and you’re transported into an Irish-style pub. Beer and Irish whiskey are the main drinks, but they do serve other alcohol. There’s a nice outdoor patio area that sits between the steps and the entrance with plenty of room and tables to accommodate patrons.
The rest of the evening was spent exploring the city and enjoying the scenery and other nightlife the city offered. It used to be said that “nobody goes downtown,” but it is currently alive and jumping–even on a weekday, as was the case on this particular visit. Ten years ago, I would have agreed with that. The area about a decade ago was virtually a ghost town after 6 at night, but with new residential opportunities opening up regularly and constant redevelopment taking place, downtown offers a cool adventure. So, grab a map and have at it. Central downtown LA has a lot of adventure to offer!