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Displaying items by tag: FIDM

Sunday, 20 May 2012 21:03

Hidden Downtown Los Angeles

With the $2.5 billion L.A. LIVE entertainment complex continuing to re-establish a buzz east of the Harbor LA Downtown Skyline Summer Night SMALLDowntown LA Skyline on Summer Night. Freeway, thousands of people moving into center city's lofts, condos and apartments each year, and even a new football stadium on the way, there's been no shortage of press about the resurgence of Downtown Los Angeles. The good thing is that, as with any dynamic urban district, there are more than a few less-than-obvious, if not downright hidden, places to check out and feel in the know about Los Angeles.

It's Not Easy Being Green: Downtown's Gardens

Few Downtown buildings provide a bigger feast for the eyes than the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall atop Bunker Hill. Which makes the Concert Hall's Blue Ribbon Garden all the more a treasure. The Blue Ribbon Garden, which is reachable by four flights of stairs, sits atop one of the Concert Hall's roofs and provides 3,500 square feet and almost four dozen trees of serenity that's downright symphonic.

A little less hidden but also enchanting are the orchards and fountains adjacent to Bank of America Plaza on Hope Street near the Fourth Street overpass. There, three waterfalls spill into a willow-shaded pool, while tiered seating and lawns give people from nearby offices respite.

For a bit of quietude near a more traditional structure, there's Maguire Gardens, the 1.5-acre park next to the Los Angeles Central Library that was named for downtown office developer Robert Maguire III. The park includes a multi-level fountain, adjoining pools and great views of the Library, which was built in 1926 by noted architect Bertram Goodhue and renovated in 1993.

Finally, away from the high-rises and amid the pagodas of Little Tokyo, lies the James Irvine Japanese Garden, also known as "The Garden of the Clear Stream," at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. There, solitude seekers can meditate by a 170-foot-long stream or amid the dozens of blooming trees.

Mum's the Word: Downtown Speakeasys

Nothing screams "overlooked" like a bar that's in the basement of a building that contains not one, but two, high-profile food-and-drink establishments. Indeed, the classic building at 515 West Seventh Street houses Cedd Moses' whiskey haven Seven Grand on the second floor and Mas Malo, the sister restaurant to Silver Lake's innovative Mexican eatery Malo, at street level. But if you really value the "low" in "low key," check out Mas Malo's basement cantina, which combines a below-grade locale with a top-grade tequila collection.

Meanwhile, head to the corner of Sixth and Los Angeles Streets, and you can get two hidden gems for the price of one. Cole's shares the distinction with Philippe the Original of inventing, or at least claiming to invent, the French Dip sandwich in 1908. But while Philippe's reputation kept expanding, Cole's fell into the shadows, shutting down in early 2007. But the restaurant reopened almost two years later under the watch of Downtown bar impresario Cedd Moses (Seven Grand, Broadway Bar) and still features the legendary roast beef sandwich served au jus, as well as a full bar. And if you happen to be in the area in time for a nightcap, look for a plain door in back of Cole's, which leads to The Varnish, serving up well-crafted drinks with a throwback, speakeasy vibe.

In Step: Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) Museum

When people think Central Los Angeles and Museums, Exposition Park immediately comes to mind, making Downtown's Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum in South Park all the more of an offbeat destination. Since 1969, FIDM has attracted the best and brightest looking to get into the fashion industry, and its museum includes a collection of about 15,000 fashion artifacts dating back to the 1800s.

Even more hidden is the Annette Green Fragrance Archive, tucked away on FIDM's second floor. The Archive features iconic and whimsical perfume bottles and fragrances dating back more than 130 years.

Well-Trained Eye: Metro Rail Art

New York has the Met for local art lovers, and you need a museum ticket. Los Angeles goes one better with its own version of "the Met," which requires a train ticket. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) commissioned about 300 artists to create works of art throughout Metro Rail's network of stations, and many of these works are Downtown. The 7th Street/Metro Center station includes two tile murals depicting unfolding film strips as a tribute to the movies, while Pershing Square's station has a dozen neon sculptures as a nod to the fact that the country's first-ever neon sign was installed nearby in 1924.

Sneak a Snack: Downtown Restaurants

If bacon-wrapped matzo balls are a contradiction you're willing to embrace, The Gorbals is worth seeking out in Downtown's Historic Core. Known for a cuisine that defies convention, the Scottish/Jewish/Spanish/whatever restaurant features items ranging from Vietnamese bahn mi to Welsh rarebit to gribenes (chicken or goose skin cracklings with fried onions). This menu is beyond off the beaten path.

Nothing says "hidden" like a pop-up restaurant, and Downtown obliges in this particular trend. Specifically, Wolvesden, is an Arts District dinner party of sorts thrown every few weeks by Chef Craig Thornton, and the decadence is matched only by its exclusivity. Both the number of courses and number of guests tend to range in the low double-digit territory.

Little Tokyo deserves its own section when it comes to overlooked restaurants, as the district is chock full of noodle houses and ramen dens. Lots of the attention goes to Orochon Ramen, which has been featured on Travel Channel's Man vs. Food and has a "Wall of Bravery" for those deviant enough to try its super-spicey "Special 2" Ramen (it's three levels above "Hyper" and two levels beyond "Extreme"). That said, no less an expert than Pulitzer Prize winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold has tapped Daikokuya Ramen as LA's best. So, once you figure out how to pronounce the name, you may want to head over there.

Finally, with LA leading the nationwide food truck craze, it's worth pointing out that one of the more understated yet outstanding eateries in Downtown was birthed in 2012, when its proprietors decided to go from four wheels to four walls. Mexicali Taco & Co. features a menu with a handful of authentic, Baja-style tacos amid a cheery, familial setting located on a no-man's-land stretch of Figueroa north of Sunset Blvd. Be warned, though. The restaurant may be understated, but its legendary Vampiro — a quesadilla infused with garlic sauce — will ensure that your breath won't be.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Los Angeles can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


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