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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

A local’s guide to Los Angeles

Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
  • By Mia Nakaji Monnier
  • Photos by Lisa Corson

For all the airtime it gets, Los Angeles is often misunderstood, its diversity whitewashed or idealized, and its character flattened to a few adjectives better suited for a TV show’s intro sequence: sunny, glamorous, shallow.

The truth is both more complicated and more interesting. Ask any Angeleno to describe the city to you and they’ll do it in a different way. There’s beach city L.A., literary L.A., the L.A. of ethnic enclaves and public art and serious sports fans and amateur foodies.

In a city so sprawling, diverse, segregated and ever-changing, one decade of living here doesn’t make an expert, and a one-week stay won’t let you see everything. But embrace that. Spend a day wandering a neighborhood and soaking up its atmosphere. Spend an hour eating something new and soaking up its juices with bread. Then come back and do it again.

Meet Mia Nakaji Monnier

Mia was born in Pasadena and moved seven times across the country before finishing high school in L.A.’s South Bay. After going to college in Vermont, she came back to L.A. in 2010 and has lived here since. Before going freelance, she worked on staff at the Rafu Shimpo, the local Japanese American community newspaper, based in Little Tokyo.

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Silver Lake
Between Hollywood and downtown, Silver Lake is a convenient home base for an Eastside-focused trip to L.A. Although it doesn’t have many hotels, it does have plenty of Airbnb options. Depending on where you stay, you can go for walks around Silver Lake Reservoir, through the hills, or along Sunset Boulevard, where the farmers market runs on Saturday mornings and Tuesday nights. Find the neighborhood.
Glendale offers suburban comfort (like parking lots) and a high concentration of food from the Armenian diaspora, like Carousel (Lebanese Armenian) and Raffi’s Place (Persian Armenian). One of the local gems is ReflectSpace Gallery, housed inside Glendale Downtown Central Library. It partners with institutions like Self Help Graphics and Art (a community arts center in East L.A. that has supported Latinx artists since the Chicano art movement of the 1970s) to offer free art exhibits that focus on civil rights injustices and reflect the surrounding community. Find the neighborhood.

Explore more of Los Angeles


Tacos Villa Corona
The tiny storefront of this family-owned taco counter could be easy to miss if not for the crowd always gathered in front of it during business hours. Tacos Villa Corona has been in Atwater Village since 1993 and grew in popularity when Anthony Bourdain gave it a shout-out on his show “The Layover” in 2012. Co-owner Maria Flores died in 2019, but her son and daughter continue to run it in her absence, making breakfast burritos whose fillings are perfectly proportioned inside elastic tortillas. Tender potatoes accompany star ingredients like nopales, or cactus pads juicy with a mild pickled tang.
BTW: Tacos Villa Corona is cash-only, but if you forget, there are a couple banks (Wells Fargo and Union Bank) in short walking distance.
Tacos Villa Corona, 3185 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, Calif. 90039
Revolutionario North African Tacos
Born in France to Algerian parents, Revolutionario’s owner, Farid Zadi, delivers North African dishes, like falafel and tagine, in the form of tacos and burritos. The duck hash taco is a tender, savory harmony, the potatoes soaking up the duck’s flavors and fats. Try the briks, thin, deep-fried pastries stuffed with egg, with crisp, salty edges.
BTW: After lunch, head west to Leimert Park to Eso Won Books, one of the oldest black-owned bookstores in the country.
Revolutionario North African Tacos, 1436 W. Jefferson Blvd. Los Angeles, Calif. 90007
Temporarily closed
Suehiro Cafe
As Little Tokyo quickly fills with trendy, expensive restaurants, Suehiro’s lunch special remains an oasis of affordable, homestyle Japanese food. For as little as $6.50, you can have a full meal of miso soup, rice, salad and an entree like a whole broiled pike or karaage-style fried chicken.
BTW: Follow your lunch with the coffee jelly, a kind of parfait of coffee-flavored jello, coffee syrup and cream.
Suehiro Cafe, 337 E. First St. Los Angeles, Calif. 90012
Town Pizza
Located in the Highland Park neighborhood in a little red storefront, Town makes pizza accessible to people with a variety of diets, including vegan and gluten-free. You can find all the basic toppings here, but Town does interesting things with both vegetables and meats — try the Mushroom & Rosemary, Beauty & the Beet, or the Town Mole, which incorporates Stumptown coffee.
BTW: One side of Town Pizza is a to-go counter with limited indoor and outdoor seating; the other is a restaurant and bar with table service.
Town Pizza, 5101 York Blvd. Los Angeles, Calif. 90042
Temporarily closed
Pine & Crane
Located in a busy part of Silver Lake near Sunset Junction, this Taiwanese Chinese restaurant often has a line out the door at dinnertime, even on weekdays. The food is worth the wait, but if you want to avoid it, go early — or have your food packed to go and eat it just outside on the Sunset Triangle. Go with a group to try as many of the small dishes as possible. The mix of warm and cold, cooked and raw, is what Pine & Crane does best.
BTW: Parking can be tricky here, so once you find a spot, stay for a while and go for a walk along Sunset — browse comics at Secret Headquarters and have dessert at Pazzo Gelato.
Pine & Crane, 1521 Griffith Park Blvd. Los Angeles, Calif. 90026
Button Mash
A bar, restaurant and old-school arcade, Button Mash is a good place to gather with a mix of people — drinkers and non-, hungry or not, even with kids (it’s all-ages until 9 p.m.). Before starting this place, two of the owners, Nguyen and Thi Tran, previously ran Starry Kitchen, an Asian restaurant with a playful menu. Some of their original dishes have carried over to Button Mash, like the bright-green crispy tofu balls and the lychee panna cotta.
BTW: If you like the food, you’ll like Nguyen Tran’s cookbook, “Adventures in Starry Kitchen.”
Button Mash, 1391 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, Calif. 90026
Temporarily closed
Saffron & Rose Ice Cream
A third-generation family-owned shop, Saffron & Rose makes Persian-style ice cream in flavors like orange blossom, cucumber, date, and saffron with pistachio. The creamery is part of Persian Square, one of the hubs of L.A.’s Iranian community (which is the largest outside of Iran). Nearby restaurants include Cafe Glace, which specializes in Persian pizza, single-serving, bubbly breads with toppings like beef and mushroom. From here, it’s a short walk to UCLA, where you can walk the hilly campus and check out the Hammer Museum.
BTW: Try the faloodeh (thin noodles frozen in rosewater) and dress it with lemon juice and sour cherry syrup.
Saffron & Rose Ice Cream, 1387 Westwood Blvd. Los Angeles, Calif. 90024
(Los Angeles illustrator Huyen Dinh for The Washington Post)
  1. The traffic is not exaggerated — and it makes a sprawling city feel even bigger. Plan to stay near the places you’d like to visit. If you’re on the Eastside and want to visit the Westside, make it a day trip.
  2. L.A. is more than Hollywood. That means (a) we’re not all wealthy white actresses on Goop diets, and (b) you can skip the star tours and Walk of Fame unless they’re personally meaningful to you.
  3. But you might actually get to see Keanu Reeves sitting on a bench. If you do, be cool.
(Los Angeles illustrator Huyen Dinh for The Washington Post)


Echo Park Lake
When Echo Park Lake reopened in 2013, after a two-year renovation, it felt like a gift. With a walking trail around the lake, a fountain in the middle and swan-shaped pedal boats for rent, this park attracts people of all ages, and it’s fun to see everyone together enjoying something so simple. In midsummer, the lake’s lotus flowers bloom pink and white, and the city celebrates with the annual Lotus Festival in July. Park admission is free, but you’ll pay to rent boats.
BTW: From the lake, it’s a short walk to the Echo Park stretch of Sunset Boulevard, which has plenty of coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
751 Echo Park Ave. Los Angeles, Calif. 90026
Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Only in L.A. could you watch outdoor screenings of cult-favorite movies at the cemetery where Judy Garland is buried. It’s weird, fun and very communal, and you can bring a picnic. The only downsides: You have to come early and wait in line if you want a good spot, and you also have to walk awkwardly through a sea of picnic blankets if you need to go to the bathroom. Bring something to sit on, both during the screening and while you’re waiting in line.
BTW: Take public transportation or ride-share to avoid parking.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, Calif. 90038
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The largest art museum in the western United States, LACMA includes art from ancient to modern and from all over the world. From April to November, it also hosts free jazz nights from 6 to 8 p.m. on Fridays in the courtyard. The forest of street lamps in front of the museum may have saturated L.A. Instagram, but when the sun goes down and the lights turn on, it’s hard to deny the installation’s magic.
BTW: Visit the La Brea Tar Pits and Craft Contemporary earlier in the day, and then have dinner in Little Ethiopia or at the whimsical Yuko Kitchen.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, Calif. 90036
The Ripped Bodice
Started through a Kickstarter campaign by sisters Bea and Leah Koch, the Ripped Bodice is the only romance-specific bookstore in the country. Whatever your favorite subgenre of romance, or even if you don’t identify as a reader of romance (let the Ripped Bodice expand your definition), this place will charm you. Its whimsical decorations — claw-footed vintage furniture, a display of books creeping up the wall, a bookshelf dedicated to gift-wrapped books for purchase, their contents a mystery apart from brief reviews from staff members — convey the owners’ love of the genre. The Ripped Bodice also emphasizes diversity in its inventory and through its annual State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing Report. Check for author readings and other events on its website.
BTW: You can meet the store’s canine mascot on his personal Instagram account, @fitzwilliamwaffles.
The Ripped Bodice, 3806 Main St. Culver City, Calif. 90232
Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is an L.A. icon, but unlike the Walk of Fame, it’s not overrated. Whether you’re up close to the stage in box seats or way in the back row, there’s really no bad seat at the Hollywood Bowl. Wherever you are, if you’re snacking with friends while listening to music — whether it’s Rachmaninoff or Cyndi Lauper or the best of the “Simpsons” soundtrack — surrounded by neighbors under the darkening sky as the air cools, what else could you need?
BTW: Parking and traffic around the Hollywood Bowl can be a nightmare. Find options for shuttles near you on the Bowl’s website.
Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave. Los Angeles, Calif. 90068
Laemmle Playhouse 7
Going to the movies while on vacation might not be for everyone, but Laemmle, a local chain of theaters, screens independent, international and art-house films that aren’t widely released. Most of the theaters are also in walkable neighborhoods surrounded by other interesting places to visit. Laemmle Playhouse 7 is in the middle of Old Town Pasadena, right next to Vroman’s, one of L.A.’s best independent bookstores, and across the street from Wollhaus, a friendly yarn shop with knit nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Thursday nights, food trucks pop up nearby on El Molino Avenue at Colorado Boulevard, so you can pick up tacos or dumplings after your movie.
BTW: Visit the website’s special engagements section for film festival screenings.
Laemmle Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, Calif. 91101
Mia Nakaji Monnier
Mia was born in Pasadena and moved seven times across the country before finishing high school in L.A.’s South Bay. After going to college in Vermont, she came back to L.A. in 2010 and has lived here since. Before going freelance, she worked on staff at the Rafu Shimpo, the local Japanese American community newspaper, based in Little Tokyo.
Lisa Corson
Lisa is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post based in Los Angeles.