Somewhere on Sunset between Fountain and Hillhurst.

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Taking the Metro is my preferred method of travel for exploring Los Angeles. This post continues that trend. Escaping the heart of downtown LA via Metro bus line 2 or taking the Metro Red Line—underground and faster—brings you to an intersection of interesting landmarks that could be easily overlooked if one were driving through this particular area. There is nothing flashy or anything that particular stands out here, but there are indeed some hidden gems.

A few blocks west of Sunset Junction, on Sunset Boulevard between Hollywood Blvd and about a half-block south of Fountain, are a group of locations that are unique in many ways.

The spots this time around are  a bar, a chain restaurant, an alternative nightclub, and a landmark in the world of rock music—all within walking distance of one another.

If you blink, you’d miss it. This bar is a total hidden gem with a very unique interior and a quaint atmosphere unlike many other bars I’ve come across in the area.

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With nothing more than a small outdoor sign and a single entrance to a brick building, the Good Luck Bar at 1514 Hillhurst Avenue offers a unique experience. The interior in every way from floor to ceiling is visually appealing. Ceiling tiles, floor tiles, lamps, seating, wallpaper, and wood carvings are in every square inch of this place. The pictures here do not do it justice. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the bartender/owner is very easy to talk to and offers up some great stories about the area and showbiz, if you’re interested. They offer their own signature drinks. Most beer here is bottled, but I’m one to let that slide if their selection is decent–which it is. They have a simple website that shows you their signature drinks menu as well as providing you with a few interior photos to take a look at. I highly recommend stopping in here, if not for a drink, simply to check out the interior. It is quite fascinating!

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The Good Luck Bar’s interior decor.
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Typical chain restaurant outside; atypical fun-at-night, inside.

Directly across from The Good Luck bar is a pretty ordinary location of the Acapulco restaurant chain. The main draw here is their karaoke nights and the fact that they roll back prices on drinks for karaoke nights which fall on Thursdays. The large bar area fills up with people very eager to sing. The $2 margaritas (all night) help to bring out the singer in everyone. The crowd here on each visit has been very  mixed, casual, and friendly. I’ve been to karaoke nights at chain restaurants, but this location delivers with a much larger than average bar area and a place to dance and “work the room” as you sing. If you’re trying to keep it cheap and are looking to stay away from higher priced karaoke offerings in other places, this might be your best bet for some drinks and singing with some friends, should you happen to be in this area.

photo 1At the far end of this particular portion of Sunset brings us to the bar/nightclub, Akbar, located at the corner of Fountain and Sunset. I have been here many times on many occasions–usually as a random place I’ve ended up with various groups of friends as a conclusion to the evening or a place to stop by on our way someplace else. I can’t say the place is a top destination for me, but I can also say I’ve never been disappointed here either. Drinks are cheap and if you’re looking for a place to  mingle, drink, and dance with casual and open-minded care-free folk, this is your place. Events and daily specials are listed on their website.

Akbar is an LGBT bar, but regardless of your orientation– come in, chill out, and have a good time. Be sure to check out the wall of autographed celebrity photos while you’re in there.

Our furthest point southeast on this particular stretch of Sunset Boulevard, and just a couple of buildings down from Akbar, brings us to a mural with some meaning and emotion behind it–literally.

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Figure 8 album cover showing the wall in its original form.

Located at 4334 West Sunset Blvd. is a mural. It’s not your normal mural, though. It’s a simple tri-colored mural that was conceived by the owners of Solutions, a professional audio shop, simply as a means to attract customers. It is a white wall with red and dark blue lines that swirl and intertwine that lead up to the “Solutions” sign above the shop. The first thing that makes this wall unique stems from its appearance on the album cover for Figure 8 by the artist Elliott Smith.

There has been ongoing controversy over this wall. Following Smith’s untimely death in October of 2003, fans began writing messages on the wall. After several years, the wall had become filled with these tribute messages and had transformed the wall into a memorial. Despite fan intentions, it had also become quite littered with other postings, stickers, ads, and graffiti. Many fans sought to preserve the wall as it had become, but many local residents looked at it as an eyesore. Eventually, the owner of the business repainted the mural and cleaned up the wall. As of January 2013, the wall received its most recent clean-up. Stopping by the wall in early November revealed that there are already a number of new messages scrawled on the wall.

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The wall in its state prior to any repainting.
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A portion of the repainted wall as of November 2013.
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A recent message written on the wall shows the emotion behind the continuing memorializing of the artist.
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Another example message from the wall in its current form.

I personally feel that it is unfortunate that the original messages have been painted over, but the feeling of the memorial remains for me and many other fans. As a fan of Elliott Smith, anytime I find myself at this spot, I pause to look at the wall, touch it, and I get a little choked up. There are many others out there who must feel similarly as I had posted a recent photo to Instagram, tagged it, and received a number of responses from fellow Elliott Smith fans who recognized the distinctive red and blue lines.

The wall may disappear soon as the extra space that is no longer used by Solutions has gone up for lease. It is uncertain what the new lessees will do with the space and if they will retain the mural.

I have found myself in this area on multiple occasions and these particular places have become important to me and are memorable to me for many different reasons. On your next drive down Sunset between Fountain and Hillhurst, take a look around for these places and explore them. Maybe they’ll become memorable  places for you as well that you’ll also come to visit often in the near-future.

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