Best of L.A. 2021 | The Best Things to Eat, Buy, and Do in L.A.

Table of Contents PLAY ◍ EAT ◍ SHOP ◍ HEALTH & BEAUTY ◍ KIDS ◍ PETSBest of L.A.: PLAYEXPERT PICKBest of L.A.: EAT  EXPERT PICKBest of L.A.: SHOPEXPERT PICKBest of L.A.: HEALTH & BEAUTYEXPERT PICKBest of L.A.: KIDSEXPERT PICKBest of L.A.: PETSEXPERT PICK Just in time for the post-pandemic boom, […]

Just in time for the post-pandemic boom, we’re back with our annual, up-to-the-minute list of the city’s finest fare. From veterinarians to vintage shops, toy stores to tacos, swimsuits to psychics, our team of reporters tore up the city to find the best things to do, eat, and buy right now. Plus, the top hair colorist, facial boutique, and lash salon to get you glammed up for the good times.  Edited by Hailey Eber

PLAY ◍ EAT ◍ SHOP ◍ HEALTH & BEAUTY ◍ KIDS ◍ PETS


Best of L.A.: PLAY

Best Bowling Alley: Bowlero

» Place to Watch the Sun Set

If you keep heading north after Beverly Drive turns into Coldwater, you’ll come upon a street on the left called Lago Vista Drive. Take it up a couple of winding turns, and you’ll arrive at a ridge overlooking Franklin Canyon. Step out onto the hillside (yes, it’s public land), sit down on a blanket, and, as the sun descends, take in an amazing view. From this quiet perch, you can see it all: the horizon stretching from Catalina Island to the Getty Center, dusk’s fiery colors reflected in the towers of Century City, the silhouettes of Beverly Hills’s megamansions. No wonder the homes here cost millions. Lago Vista Dr. at Monte Cielo Dr., Beverly Hills.

» Secret Swing

No, it’s not a playground swing set but rather a sort of community treasure. Down an unmarked dirt path that leads southwest from the Debs Pond inside Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, there’s a large swing fashioned from a wooden plank and some rope. It’s a whimsical treat for kids and adults alike, and a romantic adventure for a date (yes, it can hold two adults). Even if you go alone, there’s no feeling like watching your feet soar above downtown and Elysian Park. Trailhead at 4235 Monterey Rd., Monterey Heights, laparks.org.

» Cocktail Bar

At the height of the pandemic, Matthew Belanger, GM of the unfortunately named Death & Co, reinvented the bar—drawing upon California’s agricultural bounty and distancing it further from the swank watering hole’s New York roots. What emerged was an already-impressive menu coming into its own. The Hanami ($17) showcases fragrant umeshu liqueur along with herbaceous chartreuse and shiso leaf, while the Contrapasso ($17) is an elegant blend of mezcal, vermouth, and rosemary. If you opt to go off-menu, the bar staff is as knowledgeable as they come, and the plush, dimly lit interiors are a perfect place to relax your inhibitions and delight in the fact that we’re no longer limited to drinking at home. 810 E. 3rd St., Arts District, deathandcompany.com.

death & company
Best Cocktail Bar: Death & Co.

Courtesy Death & Co.

» Music Venue

There are simple pleasures that many concert venues in the city can’t promise, but if you’re anywhere inside the Teragram Ballroom, you can see without craning your neck, hear without being pressed up against the stage, and get a drink without getting served an unwanted elbow sandwich. Pre-COVID, the atmospheric 650-person-capacity club enjoyed the pick of the rock crop, playing host to everyone from Industrial legend Ministry to Brit-punk upstart IDLES. Later this year, the venue will regain its reputation as one of L.A.’s most reliable, intimate, and fun live-music spots with upcoming shows from Ty Segall (September 5, 6, 13, and 14) and Middle Kids (October 13). 1234 W. 7th St., Westlake, teragramballroom.com.

» Bowling Alley

L.A. is full of bowling alleys converted to sleek club-like environs, with craft cocktails and the price-gouging to match. But Bowlero Mar Vista—though technically part of the Bowlmor chain—is something else entirely. Situated on a nondescript corner of Venice Boulevard, the place retains the funky charm of the original Mar Vista Bowl that was opened here in 1961. Strong drinks flow freely, and arguments over lanes and arcade games are passionate. Prices are a steal: at regular times, it’s $10 per game, plus $6.60 to rent shoes. And on Monday after 7 p.m., it’s $19 for unlimited games, shoes included. The Dude could definitely abide. Bowlero Mar Vista, 12125 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista, bowlero.com.

» Drag Brunch

Everyone is welcome at WeHo’s Hamburger Mary’s, the drag queen Disneyland beloved by local leathermen as well as tourists from Dubuque. But brunch is the best time to hit the chain’s WeHo flagship. That’s when you can enjoy bottomless mimosas ($25), a great burger ($14 to $23), and a rotating mix of talented queens from the utterly fabulous (Dani Kay) to the slightly freaky (Shontelle Sparkles).The performers don’t hold back on the blunt comedy, while drag servers provide additional sass. Reservations required. 8288 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, hamburgermarys.com.

» Surf School

If you want to learn to surf in Malibu—and who doesn’t?—hit up Zuma Beach’s Malibu Makos Surf Club, the only school licensed to teach in the wealthy enclave. Founded by a lifeguard in 1991, safety has always been a part of Makos’s ethos—its instructors are all CPR- and first-aid-certified. Group lessons (from $75) have a wonderfully low student-teacher ratio, or you can splurge on individual instruction (from $125). Lifeguard Tower #16, 30600 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, malibumakos.com.

» History Tour

The official Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour ($25) is a fascinating exploration of fact and fiction on the grounds of the 122-year-old memorial park where Judy Garland, Cecil B. De Mille, and others are buried. Guide Karie Bible is a character unto herself: She was born on Halloween, has two different colored eyes, and leads her 2.5-hour tour in a vintage black dress, parasol in hand. (And, yes, that’s her real last name.) But what makes Bible’s tour most unique is her remarkable ability to humanize long-faded icons and cast their scandalous lives in a new light. 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., cemeterytour.com.

hollywood forever cemetery tour
Best History Tour: Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour

Courtesy Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour

» ‘It’ Gallery

Opened in 2018, Nonaka-Hill is a vision quest through its founders’ experiences growing up in Japan. You might encounter anything from mountainous plinths filled with tactile tectonic vessels, paintings that explore the stillness of being deaf, or photographic studies of radioactive mushrooms. Housed in a strip mall and bearing a dry-cleaning sign, the tiny gallery is a jewel box always filled with surprising treasures. 720 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, nonaka-hill.com.

» Hotel Day Pass

Staycations were so pre-pandemic. In 2021, it’s all about day passes to hotels across the city, and the best place to travel (not too far) to is the W Hollywood, with its raucous rooftop pool. Lounge beneath towering palm trees and take in views of scantily clad influencers, downtown, and the hills. Refreshing slushed cocktails and bite-size bar snacks are added perks. You can book access to the excess via the Daycation app starting at just $30, and that includes free WiFi if you want to make it your alfresco office for the day. 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, whollywoodhotel.com.

» Painting Class

Art classes often skew cheesy or intimidating, but Roofless Painters is neither. Teacher Julio Panisello has a gift for giving helpful instruction to both beginner and advanced students in his mixed-level workshops, which have a max of eight. The two-hour, pop-up oil painting classes ($50) are held at fun spots around town, suchas Grand Central Market, Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and rooftops, and include all supplies. rooflesspainters.com.  

» Psychic

Some clairvoyants rely too heavily on the tarot; others dole out advice that’s suspiciously one-size-fits-all. Lily (known just by her first name) is the rare find who’s guided by something otherworldly. Her hour-long sessions look forward a year into the future, naming specific events and the months in which they’ll happen with an eerie accuracy that becomes clear once her predictions start to play out. Adding to her first-name-only mystique, she doesn’t allow voice recorders. But she does permit friends to tag along and take notes; good thing, because you’ll want to remember everything she says. 327 Arden Ave., Ste. 105, North Glendale, 818-507-1610.

nonaka-hill gallery
Best ‘It’ Gallery: Nonaka-Hill

EXPERT PICK

» Best Skating Venue
L.A. Courthouse Skate Plaza
1633 Purdue Ave., Sawtelle

It was originally a street-skating destination but then got turned into a public skate zone in the last decade. It’s fun, with plenty of flat ground for beginners but lots of obstacles for more advanced skaters looking to explore grinding and jumping. —Robbie Pitts, artist and professional in-line skater


Best of L.A.: EAT

house of gluten
Best Cakes: House of Gluten

Ryan Schude

» Cakes

Baking wizard Hannah Ziskin was M. Georgina’s pastry chef when the pandemic hit. After that downtown restaurant went dark, she started baking sensational cakes from her Glendale home under the name House of Gluten. Her creations are unique, relying on ultraseasonal fruits, delicate flowers, and thoughtful flavor combinations. Carrot cake is taken to new heights with kumquats and a salty pecan caramel. Black Forest cake is reinterpreted—and improved—with olive oil, a cracked-pepper chiffon, and a mascarpone mousse. Ziskin’s Instagram account is always filled with irresistible creations ($5-$100), and she’s also making the desserts for the Eastside pop-up Quarter Sheets Pizza. Order up. @hannahziskin, [email protected]

» Fish Market

Dry-aged fish savant Liwei Liao supplies seafood to top-tier restaurants like Anajak Thai, Rustic Canyon, and Damian, and home cooks can grab his oceanic delights at the Joint, the valley shop he opened in 2018. Liao ages many of his offerings—from wild Japanese nodoguro (a highly coveted fatty whitefish) to Baja o-toro—for a week or more, and the process dramatically intensifies the flavor and improves the texture, just as it does with meat. There’s also ultrafresh uni from both Hokkaido and Santa Barbara on offer, in addition to prepared foods like smoked Scottish salmon, hand-roll kits, lobster-roll kits, and ready-to-roast seafood entrees. Liao believes that “fresh is boring,” and after one visit to the Joint, you’ll agree. 13718 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, thejointeatery.com.

» Wings

Dino’s Famous Chicken is an L.A. institution that dates back more than 50 years, but it only started serving chicken wings ($14 dozen) earlier this year. The family-owned restaurant brought in versatile Secret Lasagna chef Royce Burke to develop the new menu item. Tossed in a thickened version of Dino’s garlicky, spicy secret sauce, the double-fried wings yield a flavorful punch and a glorious, shattering crackle when you take a bite. If you’re looking for something a little less saucy, you can order butter-cooked wings, which are equally delicious. 2575 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Union, and other locations, dinosfamouschicken.com.

» Next Gen Power Broker Spot

Since opening in November, Gigi’s has quickly become the most coveted seat in town for starlets, Hollywood execs, and TikTok stars. (A bathroom selfie here has become a tongue-in-cheek “Look, Ma, I made it!”) But while a reservation is harder to score than a Netflix deal, the service is relaxed, and the menu is full of bistro favorites, from oysters ($24) to steak frites ($54), and classic and inventive cocktails ($17). Sit outside and soak in the energy of the Hollywood Media District, or grab a velvet booth inside and enjoy the stunning interiors. 904 N. Sycamore Ave., Hollywood, gigis.la.

» Pasta Tasting

Encino empire-builder Phillip Frankland Lee is a wildly enterprising chef and restaurateur, so naturally he opened a tasting-menu spot in the middle of a pandemic. Pasta Bar serves seasonal 12-plus-course menus (from $125), headlined by four to five next-level pasta dishes. Lead chef Nathan Tauer, whose fine-dining bona fides include stints at Coi and Petit Crenn, makes pastas—sunflower agnolotti with duck, cavatelli with lobster and peas—that are among the most smartly composed in the city. The restaurant’s ambitious offerings clearly distinguish it from à la carte pasta counters and casual noodle samplers. Don’t be surprised if your final pasta course is accompanied by a few slices of Wagyu ribeye. 16101 Ventura Blvd., Encino, pastabarencino.com. 

» Handcrafted Chocolates

See’s is a SoCal classic, and esoteric flavors abound at various haute bon bon boutiques. But John Kelly Chocolates takes the top spot, thanks to its sophisticated-but-accessible varieties (oftentimes, a girl just wants a great caramel or elevated peanut butter cup) and culinary ingenuity. The chocolatier’s signature dark chocolate truffle fudge bites (two for $10) are made from a secret recipe that creates an incredibly smooth texture—the sweet spot between fudge and ganache­. Plus, the handcrafted treats are massive and satisfying, with most pieces weighing in at almost one ounce. John Kelson and Kelly Green opened their first store inside their Hollywood factory back in 2010, and they’ve just launched a new flagship shop in Beverly Hills’s Golden Triangle. With it, JKC is rightfully poised to become L.A.’s go-to cacao dealer. Locations at johnkellychocolates.com. 

best chicken wings
Best Wings: Dino’s Famous Chicken

» Cheese Shop

More epicurean encyclopedia than mere gourmet market, the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills sells an unparalleled selection of offerings from around the world: Vacche Rosse Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO, pata negra ham from the Iberian Peninsula, Golden Imperial Osetra caviar, 25 varieties of olive oil, and much, much more. Proprietor Norbert Wabnig leverages decades of experience and relationships abroad to source rare curds for both the shop’s customers and chefs from Spago and Jon & Vinny’s, and the Bellagio in Las Vegas. He and his crew happily provide advice on wine pairings or assemble customized gift baskets. Let them show you the whey. 419 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, cheesestorebh.com.

» Doughnuts

Even when compared to excellent local titans like Sidecar, DK’s, and the Donut Man, Oui Melrose stands out with made-from-scratch doughnuts that taste like fancy pastries while satisfying nostalgic cravings. Chef Armen Piskoulian’s vanilla-glazed doughnuts ($3.50) are simply perfect: soft and airy but substantial, with a nice chewiness and just the right amount of mellow sweetness. They’re also wonderfully fresh: Piskoulian makes doughnuts in the morning and the afternoon because he correctly believes that they should be an all-day indulgence. Oui also excels at specialty flavors such as birthday-cake buttermilk bars and Boston-cream, strawberry-shortcake, and guava doughnuts. 6909 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, @oui_melrose.

» Food Hall

Few dining destinations in the city hold as much history as Grand Central Market. The 40-stall food mecca has been a downtown staple for over a century. Eclecticism is key to its enduring success, as is a lively cross-section of old and new L.A. Unctuous vegan broths are ladled out at Ramen Hood, adjacent to plump links of German-inspired sausage at Berlin Currywurst. Savor the spicy Filipino fare of Sari Sari Store while contemplating a bite of sustainably sourced shellfish from the Oyster Gourmet. Shiku is the latest crowd-pleaser, conveniently formatting Korean comfort staples for those on the go. And cultural expression here extends far beyond the culinary space. The market now features a bazaar highlighting local independent artists and rooftop comedy showcasing top talent against the evening skyline. 317 S. Broadway, downtown, grandcentralmarket.com.

» Vegan Croissants

Pastry chef Jennifer Yee worked for years in celebrated kitchens like Bouchon Bakery, the French Laundry, and, most recently, at Echo Park’s Konbi, where her buttery chocolate croissants created a sensation. Now Yee is baking up sublime French pastries that just happen to be vegan—no easy feat. Every Friday and Saturday morning since May, she’s been selling plant-based chocolate cookies, muffins, and, most notably, croissants ($5 each), via her Baker’s Bench pop-up at Far East Plaza. While most bakers eschewing butter manage only dense, leaden treats, Yee achieves a miracle. Using dairy-free Fababutter, which is made with coconut oil and aquafaba (the liquid from canned chickpeas), she’s baking flaky creations with textbook soft, layered, “honeycomb” centers. They are in a category all their own. 727 N. Broadway, Chinatown, @bakers.bench.

» New-School Chinese

At Needle, their tiny spot near Sunset Junction, Ryan and Karen Wong balance familiar Cantonese dishes with exciting new iterations of the beloved cuisine. Their pork-chop bun ($13) and eight-spice youtiao (Chinese doughnuts, $5) are testaments to their innovation, while an elevated shrimp-and-egg dish ($16) is a pristinely sourced classic. The recently launched Dinner at Needle—an ambitious banquet menu including lobster and snow crab and served on the patio—is a great reason to eat out again. 3827 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, needlela.com.

» Old-School Chinese

New Haojing just opened earlier this year—and has “new” in its name—but its wide-ranging menu of Hong Kong–style dishes is all about traditional favorites done really well. The thrills sneak up quietly as servers bring out plates piled with fried pork chops tossed in spicy salt ($13), minced-chicken-and-salted-fish fried rice ($12), and mushrooms tossed with crisp-coated “Japanese egg tofu” ($14). With more than 200 dishes on offer, it’s the sort of place you want to return to again and again. 500 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, newhaojing.com.

» Fried Chicken Sandwich

L.A. has no shortage of crispy poultry sammies, but Daybird flies the highest. The strip-mall spot from Top Chef winner  Mei Lin finally opened in March, and it was worth the wait. A hulking, flattened chicken thigh is brined in buttermilk for 12 hours, then dredged in a blend of flour, Sichuan peppercorns, cumin, star anise, fennel, mushroom powder, and cinnamon, and twice fried in rice bran oil. Stuffed in a Martin’s potato roll and topped with a bright, chile-laced slaw, it’s a perfectly balanced, crave-worthy sandwich ($13.50). Half of the thigh sticks out from the bun, the better for dippping in Lin’s excellent sauce options. 240 N. Virgil Ave., Ste. 5, Westlake, daybirdla.com.

» Food Truck

Options for tasty comfort fare on wheels abound, but Yess Aquatic is on another level. Chef Junya Yamasaki, who made a name for himself in London’s avant garde circles, is serving up impeccably sourced, inventive seafood dishes from a cheery orange-and-blue truck. A ridgeback prawn sandwich ($14)­ featuring notably tender shrimp and banh mi fixings, thrills. The ever-changing menu is full of exciting options—Nashville-style fried shark sandwich, anyone?­—depending on the fresh catch. Yamasaki and Yess owner Kino Kaetsu have plans to open two brick-and-mortar spots in the fall, but, rest assured, the food truck will also keep on truckin’. 2001 E. 7th St., Arts District, yessaquatic.com.

» Dirty Rice

With diced hot links, chicken andouille sausage, and ground sirloin, alongside onions and bell peppers that magically retain a crisp texture, the Cajun rice dish at Orleans & York Deli is a masterpiece. Eating it in Los Angeles, a city where good Cajun food can be hard to find, is transporting. It’s a perfect side dish to fried oysters at Sami Othman’s dazzling delis in South L.A. and beyond. But it also works wonderfully as a main course. Order liberally—the flavor-packed dish tastes great the next day. Various locations at orleansandyorkdeli.com.

» Boba Tea

In a city with boba shops seemingly on every corner, standing out can be difficult. However, Bopomofo Café, created by friends Eric Wang and Philip Wang, has risen to that challenge. The restaurant’s tea options showcase unique combinations of perfectly balanced-harmonious flavors and delicious not-too-soft, not-too-chewy boba. Featuring an expansive tea collection ranging from the Carrot Matcha Latte ($5.50) to Strawberry Corn Milk ($5.75), there is a delightfully refreshing option for everyone. Plus, food options, like Mapo Tots, put tasty twists on comfort fare. 841 W Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, bopomofocafe.com.

» Caterer

When chic women like Jenni Kayne, Molly Sims, and Heather Taylor want to throw a perfectly lovely party with delicious food, the latter usually comes from Annie Campbell. A former actress on shows like Veronica Mars and The Perfect Host, Campbell is known for creating elegant boutique events like splashy brunches. Her ingredients are carefully sourced and menus strike the perfect balance between elegance and comfort. And, even if you’re not having a big party, Campbell offers delivery to Westsiders in need of a great meal (and not just another night of meh takeout)—roasted lamb with mint sauce, strawberry shortcake with buttermilk biscuits and Harry’s Berries strawberries—and feeling too exhausted to cook. Order up. annie-campbell.com.

 EXPERT PICK

» Best Wine Shop
Flask Fine Wine & Whisky
12194 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, flaskfinewines.com

It’s my local place. If I go in there and say, “I’m looking for this,” they always hook me up with something interesting. —Elizabeth Banks, actress and co-owner of Archer Roose Wines 


Best of L.A.: SHOP

best vintage
Best Insta Vintage: Roam Vintage

» Insta Vintage

After a decade in the fashion industry as a stylist for brands like American Express and J.Crew, Natasha Zoe Garrett struck out on her own in 2018 with Roam Vintage, an Instagram-centric shop. Every Wednesday, Garrett showcases her finds on the social media platform, then takes orders via email. Her sensibility reflects her bohemian childhood spent in the Bay Area and New Mexico, and her intention is to source pieces you can wear for a lifetime or pass down: think worn-soft ’70s blouses ($62 to $78), overdyed Czech military liner jackets ($180), and Oaxacan nightgowns ($195), alongside highly curated home goods. Her weekly online offerings have garnered such a loyal following that she’s now opening her own brick-and-mortar shop on Jefferson Boulevard in West Adams, where she plans to offer appointment-only shopping alongside ongoing art events open to the public. @roam-vintage, roamvintage.com.

» Sofa Supplier

Long before the pandemic had desperate DIYers waiting months for their West Elm couches, the Joneses L.A. was supplying both local designers and savvy civilians with sofas, settees, and sectionals. Open since 2013, the family-owned company, which has a manufacturing facility in Canoga Park, was the first in California to ban chemical fire retardant on all upholstery. Today, its easy-to-miss Beverly Hills showroom beats big-box stores in terms of variety, quality, and pricing. Thirty-plus frame styles, available to view in-store, include entry-level loungers like the Fairfax ($1,595), a 78-inch three-seater with tuxedo arms and tufted back cushions, and the Berliner Playpen ($7,500), a glamorous sectional with gently curved arms. All seating is made with customizable fabrics and finishes, and despite a global foam shortage, the Joneses is still delivering the goods within six to eight weeks—not months, as is the case with many of its corporate competitors. 227 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, thejonesesla.com.

» Home Goods

Owned by globe-trotting textiles guru Joanna Williams, who divides her time between Echo Park and her hometown of Mexico City, Kneeland Mercado is full of rare wonders. Williams, who consults for the likes of Dries Van Noten, Chloé, and Dôen, stocks her intimate boutique with treasures such as glazed Turkish terra-cotta jugs ($175 to $300), lavishly embroidered Egyptian linens (Malaika guest towels, $75 a pair), Venetian blown-glass vases ($295 to $695), antique lacework (Italian tablecloth, $450), and Mexican wicker lampshades ($600), all meticulously sourced. It’s a true destination shop that at once reflects and draws on L.A.’s unique energy while pushing the city’s design sensibility forward. 4767 Adams Blvd., Mid City.

» Tennis Shop

In the game for nearly nine decades, Westwood Sporting Goods is a one-stop, wonderfully old-school shop for all things tennis. Pick up a new racket for a trial run, grab apparel from top brands, or get a beloved racket restrung by the expert staff, who also ready the gear for the UCLA tournament and pros. Over the years, greats like Serena and Venus Williams and Pete Sampras have shopped there, and Arthur Ashe even worked there in his youth. Game on. 1065 Gayley Ave., Westwood Village, 310-208-1615.

» Discount Suits

A unique secondhand shop and Burbank institution since the ’80s, It’s a Wrap gets its merchandise straight from the studios. There are props and tiaras available for purchase, but the real treasures are to be found among the large section of barely worn clothing from the sets of The Good Wife, Mission: Impossible movies, and more. Sport coats and suits—from labels such as Armani, Hugo Boss, John Varvatos, and Banana Republic­—are plentiful, well-organized, and priced at roughly 75 percent off. If you have to return to the office, you might as well look good—without spending a fortune. 3315 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, itsawraphollywood.com.

» Women’s Work Clothes

A favorite of highbrow fashion influencers like British impresario Brittany Bathgate, Fabiana Pigna is a meticulously crafted, aesthetically rarefied label made in downtown L.A. Pigna, a Venezuelan now based in Eagle Rock, focuses on sculptural silhouettes in workhorse fabrics like Japanese cottons and Belgian gingham and a buildable palette of whites, neutrals, black, and navy. Everything’s washable and durable, equally suited for long days of meetings, gallery openings, and last-minute cocktail parties (remember those?). The high-waisted Vera trousers ($285) are sewn from surprisingly soft Japanese nylon that not only resists wrinkles but also wipes clean should you spill salsa on your lap over dinner with friends at Salazar. The forthcoming fall collection features chic cupro dresses ($595 to $610) in velvety colors, thanks to a collaboration with a local dyehouse. If you’re going to abandon the leggings-and-Crocs life, these are the clothes to do it with. Available at fabianapigna.com and select boutiques, including Salt, 1114 Abbott Kinney Blvd., Venice, fabianapigna.com.

fabiana pigna
Best Women’s Work Clothes: Fabiana Pigna

Paley Fairman

» Bargain Shopping

If you’re looking for deals, downtown’s Santee Alley is hard to beat. The outdoor flea market is open daily and has some 150 vendors hawking electronics; luggage; shoes; handbags; men’s, women’s, and kid’s clothing; and more. Sure, some of the wares are knockoffs and most items aren’t made to last, but if you’re looking for cheap and cheerful trendy updates, this is a great source. Wear comfortable shoes, and come ready to haggle. 210 E. Olympic Blvd., Fashion District, fashiondistrict.org/santee-alley.

» Plus-Size Vintage

Five years ago, fashion designer Jen Wilder and TV producer Marcy Guevara-Prete launched the Plus Bus, a plus-size consignment shop in a small Glassell Park space. Thrift shopping is often anything but size-inclusive, so women flocked to the one-of-a-kind shop. It’s since moved to buzzy York Avenue in Highland Park and become an Eastside fashion destination for those looking for everything from gently used red-carpet gowns and Maria Cornejo separates to new pieces from Wilder’s recently released line, URTUMUCH. You might even score something from Lizzo—a fan of the store, who donates her clothing—and look, dare we say, good as hell. 5031½ York Blvd., Highland Park, theplus-bus.com.

» Design Object

Trained at Harvard and Pratt, Los Angeles architect-designer Jerome Byron brings a playful sensibility and an ingenious grasp of contemporary construction to every project he touches, from the industrial verve of Color Camp’s Fairfax manicure bar to a Los Feliz guesthouse conceived as a futuristic fort. His concrete stools ($650 to $850) have become an unlikely obsession for in-the-know design fiends. Pigment-infused in chalky pastel tones and reinforced with glass-fiber for buoyancy, they’re poured into soft, sculptural shapes with brutalist heft equally suitable indoors or out. Are they best used as seats, tables, or footrests? The choice is yours. Available at Plant Material, 3350 Eagle Rock Blvd., Glassell Park, plant-material.com.  

» Bridal Salon

Weddings are a mix of fantasy and harsh reality (often in the form of drunken relatives). When it comes to dress shopping, Claire Pettibone offers up the former in spades, with a 4,700-square-foot, chandelier-bedecked gothic atelier housed in the landmarked Heinsbergen Decorating Company. Brides-to-be can sip champagne while browsing Pettibone’s ethereal, romantic-but-unfussy Chantilly lace gowns, a favorite of celebs such as Cameron Diaz and Elizabeth Moss. Priscilla Chan wore a Pettibone dress when she wed Mark Zuckerberg in 2012. Even if you don’t have Facebook cash, the gowns aren’t out of reach. Pettibone has three lines at various price points from $2,500 to $35,000. She also sells beautiful lingerie and bridal separates. 7415 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax District, clairepettibone.com.

» Retro T-Shirts

There hasn’t been a Licorice Pizza record shop for over 30 years, but T-shirts bearing the name of the store are selling out at the Valley Relics Museum, where they share shelf space with tees from Pioneer Chicken, the Palomino Club, and other long-gone L.A. hangouts. The nostalgic garb (from $17) comes via Tommy Gelinas, who founded the museum in 2013 and also makes official band merch. On August 18 (aka 818 Day, an important holiday in the Valley), he’ll offer a 20 percent discount. 7900 Balboa Blvd., Van Nuys, valleyrelicsmuseum.org.

best sofa supplier
Best Sofa Supplier: The Joneses L.A.

Trey Pride

» Shopping Mall

After a $1 billion, two-year renovation, Westfield debuted its revamped Century City Mall in 2017. Leave the Grove to the tourists. This is a 400,000-square-foot wonderland for serious open-air shopping, with Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Tiffany, and Peloton, plus beautiful gardens and outdoor furniture design by Kelly Wearstler. Nearly a quarter of the space is devoted to food retail, with L.A.’s only Eataly offering up delicacies you can’t get anywhere else. 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-277-3898, westfield.com.

» Bike Shop

With 11,000 square feet of space, Helen’s Cycles is the largest cycling shop in the city—and it’s also the best. Whether you’re looking to drop a four-digit sum on a Pinarello or get a shiny cruiser for under $400, Helen’s staff of expert enthusiasts will get you fitted and make thoughtful recommendations for accessories. An able, fairly priced, repair department offers four levels of tune-ups ($60 to $275). 2501 Broadway, Santa Monica, helenscycles.com.

» Adult Store

Not all sex shops feel welcoming, but Cupid’s Closet encourages lingering, with its bright Apple store-like aesthetic and a staff of certified sex educators. And there’s lots of good stuff to browse, including a curated selection of top-shelf toys like the Womanizer Premium, along with lingerie, lube, and leather. First opened in 2013 in Westchester, the shop expanded to Brentwood in 2020 with an airy, 2,500-plus-square-foot emporium. 12201 Wilshire Blvd., Brentwood, and 8340 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester, cupidscloset.com.

» Specialty Bookstore

The only shop on the West Coast dedicated to romance novels, the Ripped Bodice is a unique literary haven for lovers of the genre—both Jane Austen traditionalists as well as fans of contemporary romance. There’s even an expansive gay and lesbian romance section located near the front of the store. “We want people to find it without needing to ask,” says Leah Koch, who owns the store with her sister, Bea, and goes to great lengths to stock a diverse array of writers. 3806 Main St., Culver City, therippedbodicela.com.

» Nursery

Long before indoor plants became Instagram stars, Rolling Greens was selling greenery from a magical two-acre plot on a hidden hillside in Culver City. Two decades later, the nursery has three locations, with a fourth in Studio City on the way. The sprawling grounds mean plant lovers can delve far beyond trending species into lesser-known flora. The selection of containers is equally extensive. At its “arrangement bars,” in-house designers will customize verdant still lifes in containers you buy on-site—or favorites you bring from home. Multiple locations at rghomeandgarden.com.

plus bus
Best Plus-Size Vintage: Plus Bus

Cassia Demayo

EXPERT PICK

» Best High-End Vintage
The Way We Wore
334 S. La Brea Ave., Hancock Park, thewaywewore.com

The’ve got really amazing pieces from all sorts of eras, from designer Victorian pieces to YSL and Yohji Yamamoto. I was just shopping for Margot Robbie [for the new David O. Russell movie] there, and fashion designers also love it. I’ve run into Michael Kors there. J.R. Hawbaker, film and TV costume designer 


Best of L.A.: HEALTH & BEAUTY

wild terra
Best Apothecary: Wild Terra

Courtesy Wild Terra

» Holistic Medicine

For more than a decade, prominent fertility specialists and orthopedic surgeons have been referring their patients to Dr. Jeiran LaShai, an Eastern medicine practitioner with an uncanny ability to alleviate pain (new-patient appointment, $195; existing-patient appointment, $95). With a doctorate in acupuncture and Oriental medicine, LaShai has an unusual depth of expertise, whether she’s addressing back tension with tui na and cupping or applying her vast needling acumen, which newly encompasses cosmetic procedures like acupuncture facelifts ($350 a session). No wonder her waiting room is usually filled with an eclectic mix of erudite A-listers, from indie musicians to top screenwriters. 4443 Sunset Dr., Silver Lake, blog.jeiranlashai.com.

» Apothecary

Whether you’re looking for a custom tincture or want to switch to a more eco-conscious laundry detergent, Wild Terra can help. Pop in for a Mayan loofah ($3.75) or stay a while for in-depth conversation with founder and herbalist Danielle Noe on the intricacies of the endocrine system and the antispasmodic properties of black haw bark ($4.50 an ounce). Who knew ashwagandha root ($2.50 an ounce) steeped in milk would be such a delight? Noe did. 5858 Figueroa St., Highland Park, wildterra.la.

» Makeup

Since its 2004 launch, Venice-based Hourglass Cosmetics has continuously updated its products while remaining true to founder Carisa Janes’s cruelty-free ethos. Its makeup leaves you feeling good and looking great—no small feat in a world of virtuous cosmetics that don’t quite get either job done. The line’s Unlocked Instant Extensions mascara ($29) is the best around, while the Immaculate Liquid Powder foundation, is a non-drying, just-enough-coverage miracle that gives a polished look for hours. Multiple locations, hourglasscosmetics.com.

» Bath Products

Flamingo Estate’s body washes, soaps, candles, and oils are uniquely steeped in pleasure. The company is headquartered in a 1940’s Eagle Rock compound formerly owned by a pair of artists who filmed avant-garde porn on the grounds. Ingredients for its botanical bath products are sourced from the estate’s orchard and gardens, making for formulations that have a local tie but also feel a touch exotic. The Royal Jasmine body oil ($52) is at once earthy and lush, while the Invigorating body wash ($40), has antimicrobial properties and de-stressing potential, thanks to various herbs. Packaged in beautiful amber-glass bottles, they feel like luxe splurges, but after the past year, you deserve them. Available at Mohawk General Store, 4011 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, or flamingoestate.com.

» Teeth Whitening

Founded by cosmetic dentist Edwin Hakimian in 2019, Britebar offers three levels of whitening at locations in Calabasas, Santa Monica, and WeHo. Ranging from $99 to $199, treatments cost a fraction of what you might pay at the dentist or spa, and the office emphasizes safety, with a proprietary gel that uses a lower percentage of hydrogen peroxide than many home kits. But the process is also highly effective in just one session, thanks to the use of LED light. All clients leave with a treatment pen to keep their smiles shining, and results typically last three to six months. thebritebar.com.

» Affordable Massage

If your body is in need of a tune-up, truck it to the Massage Garage. For nearly two decades, owner Lauren Cresto has made a point of keeping her prices reasonable ($90 for a 90-minute deep-tissue overhaul) while also maintaining a staff of highly skilled therapists, many of whom have worked at the Garage for years. Eight treatment rooms make scoring an appointment easy, and the welcoming lobby features a mix of modern decor and kitschy car references that set a lighthearted tone. 3812 Main St., Culver City, themassagegarage.com.

» Splurge Massage

Venice-based masseuse Polly Thornton is a favorite of high-end resorts like Terranea in Palos Vedes and Hollywood studio bigwigs. She’s studied kinesiology and physiology and employs a wide variety of techniques—reflexology, Thai massage, acupressure, trigger point therapy, Swedish massage, and deep tissue work—to truly relax and unwind clients. Thornton comes to clients’ homes with all her equipment and does a minimum 90-minute massage, the time she believes is needed to really get some body work done. $150-$200 for 90 minutes, depending on travel time. For appointments, text  323-637-6402.

» Nail Art

The Russian manicure—a technique in which an electronic file is used to remove excess skin around the nail bed—is invasive and controversial, but there’s no question that it achieves a uniquely smooth canvas. Only a handful of manicurists are trained in the technique, and among them Russia native Lisa Kon has established herself as the go-to gal for celebs like Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber. With its own line of polishes and nail-art supplies, her Lisa Kon Lab is the place for next-level nails whether you’re looking for a subtle French manicure (from $100), blinged-out talons with ombre elements, zebra-inspired designs, or three-dimensional effects ($1-$20 per nail). 4444 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, lisakon.com.

best colorist
Best Colorist: Meché Salon

Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

» Colorist

Matt Rez, former dye-job dynamo at celeb magnet Méche Salon, has gone out on his own, setting up a Beverly Hills studio with superstar hairstylist Adam Campbell. They’re keeping the address a secret but insist it’s welcoming both to mere mortals and big-name clients like Angelina Jolie and Italian Instagram star Chiara Ferragni (pictured above). The warm, charming Rez can take clients from brown to blond in a single session, and he applies highlights with such skill—using a mix of foils and balayage—that they look great as they grow out. Base color from $175; partial highlights from $475; full highlights from $575. Call or text 424-245-9702.

» Facials

Are your skin-care dollars better spent at the spa or the dermatologist’s office? At Facile, you get the best of both worlds. Chic interiors with online booking and transparent pricing make for a spa-like experience, but there’s a noted dermatologist—Nancy Samolitis—at the helm. First-timers get a consultation with a nurse practitioner, and there are medical-grade treatment options. Pricing is fairly reasonable, with facials from $170, lasers from $350, and fillers starting at $650. Plus, it’s one of the only places in L.A. to offer CO2 laser-assisted serum delivery ($750), which brightens skin and stimulates collagen production with little to no recovery time. 8457 Melrose Pl., West Hollywood, and 140 S. Lake Ave., Ste. 104, Pasadena, facileskin.com.

» Lash Lift

Forget high-maintenance extensions. The enhancement of the moment is the lash lift, in which lashes are curled around a silicon rod and chemically set, producing a natural-looking curl for several weeks or even months. At I Lash Haus in Glendale, Tanya Mendez does a luxe version of the treatment, using Yumi Keratin ($150), a unique formula that strengthens and conditions lashes in addition to curling them. Mendez is one of the few aestheticians in the area using InLei Keratin ($95), an Italian option that thickens lashes and can last up to seven months. 127 S. Brand Blvd., Ste. 320, ilashhaus.com.

» Workout

Getting ripped in just 20 minutes a week sounds like a delusional gimmick, but the Strength Shoppe truly works. Trainer Melinda Hughes helps clients from age 12 to 92—many of them entertainment industry jet-setters—get toned with sessions that are shorter than a network sitcom, using maximum weight resistance, a slow cadence, and attention to form. “The science is there,” says Hughes, who was skeptical herself when she first opened the studio a decade ago. “Physiologically speaking, your body only needs to go into what we affectionately call ‘muscle failure’ once a week to achieve a stimulus that gets results.” 305 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park, and 350 South Lake Ave., Pasadena, thestrengthshoppe.com.

best facials
Best Facials: Facile

Sam Frost

EXPERT PICK

» Best Beauty Store
Nigel Beauty Emporium
11252 W. Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, nigelbeauty.com

They have everything you can think of to get your look together. And the staff is amazing. One of my favorite products there is Terry Hyaluronic Hydropowder, a very fine powder that sets your foundation without the fear of settling into fine lines. It’s amazing.
—David “Raven” Petruschin,  makeup artist and RuPaul’s Drag Race fan favorite


Best of L.A.: KIDS

gourmandise school
Best Cooking Classes: The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories

Berangere Chung

» Music Class

In a city filled with amazing kiddie jam sessions, What A Babe! stands out with convenient small-group classes (from $130 per child for four weeks) held in your own backyard. Highly engaging instructors bring an orchestra of instruments and props, and there’s a different theme each week, from transportation (think Prince’s “Little Red Corvette”) to Hawaii (Aloha, Moana!). 14342 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, whatababe.com. 

» Cooking Class

The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories isn’t adults-only—it also offers serious instruction for kids and teens. Recent guest teachers have included KCRW’s Evan Kleiman and alums of Border Grill and the late Patina. Classes cover mise en place, knife skills, plating, busing, and keeping your station in order—the better to ensure young chefs don’t create a three-course mess at home. 395 Santa Monica Pl., Ste. 323, Santa Monica, thegourmandiseschool.com.

» Toy Store

Whatever the children in your life might desire—from cheap and cheerful Pop Cutie necklaces ($14) to hand-painted Belgian goose lamps ($155)—chances are they’re waiting on a rustic shelf at Merci Milo. The charming, barn-like shop is perfectly curated and stocked with unique items you can’t just order up on Amazon. 6017 Echo St., Highland Park, shopmercimilo.com.

» Playground

Ahoy, munchkins! Brookside Park’s Reese’s Retreat features a massive pirate-ship structure on a half acre. Kids can ring bells from the mast, “fire” cannons, and “steer” the vessel. If anyone goes overboard, thick rubber flooring cushions the blow and, along with ramps, makes the play area accessible to those in wheelchairs or strollers. Adding to the fun, the wonderful Kidspace Museum is just a pleasant five-minute walk away. 360 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, cityofpasadena.net.

» Botanical Garden

The Huntington gets a lot of love, but Descanso Gardens distinguished itself as a verdant MVP after it stayed open throughout most of the pandemic. On the uniquely child-friendly 150-acre grounds, children can frolic around a koi-filled stream, chase squirrels, collect sticks, and follow coyote tracks without attracting sideways glances. And when the city is sweltering, the glens of coast live oaks, redwoods, cherry trees, ginkgos, azaleas, and camellias stay cool, which means fewer meltdowns for all visitors. 1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, descansogardens.org.

» Kids’ Retail Store

For more than a decade, the Green Bean has eased the pain of how quickly kids outgrow their stuff. The friendly spot buys and sells quality, lightly worn, brand-name children’s clothes—from Native shoes to Petit Bateau rompers—as well as toys and books. It also stocks new playthings from reputable companies like Hape. If you’re getting rid of stuff, the shop will price your items and give you a 40 percent in-store credit. Everyone wins. 5060 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock, the-green-bean-kid-shop.myshopify.com.

» Children’s Designer Duds

 For tykes, tweens, and teens looking for high style, it’s hard to beat Sunset Kids. The quaint shop carries local designers and big names like Paul Smith and Kenzo and has such a great selection of rock ’n’ roll T-shirts that Westside moms often shop for themselves. 8671 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, sunsetplaza.com.

EXPERT PICK

» Best Outdoor Excursion
Annenberg Beach House
415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica, annenbergbeachhouse.com

We love it on hot summer days when you can’t decide between the beach or pool. With toddlers and small kids, a day at the beach can seem daunting—you feel like you’re packing for a two-week vacation—but Annenberg has it all there for you: splash pad, food, easily accessible restrooms, and a play area. —Parent-coach Kristin Gallant and child therapist Deena Margolin, the Native Angelenos behind the popular Instagram @biglittlefeelings


Best of L.A.: PETS

dogue spa
Best Groomer: Dogue Spa

Ryan Schude

» Groomer

Dogue Spa is the spot for fashionable pooches—including those belonging to Usher and Awkwafina—to get a fierce new haircut or try out the latest in funky color combinations. Groomer Joshua White specializes in Japanese-style cuts ($99-$215), unique precision trims that can turn a canine into a teddy bear or Ewok. He also offers vibrant dye jobs ($25-$400+) should you wish to turn Fido into a rainbow. But, rest assured, it’s safe: Dogue uses vegetable-based dyes and performs patch tests on clients. White’s own pooch, Snow, has become an Instagram sensation, thanks to her ever-changing, multi-colored dreamcoat. Bowwow! 8278 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, doguespa.net.

» Dog Walk

On the fourth Sunday of every month, the South Coast Botanic Garden opens most of its lush, 87-acre grounds to on-leash dog walking, allowing for some thrilling new sights and sounds for Fido. Explore the mammoth Moreton Bay fig trees in the banyan grove or wander through the shady fuchsia garden with your best friend. No wonder the dog days often sell out and require advance tickets ($15 for humans, $5 for dogs). Pamper your pooch further by arranging for a bespoke picnic with both people food and puppy treats, along with blankets (from $325 for humans, $25 for dogs). 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula, southcoastbotanicgarden.org. 

» Veterinary Care

Concierge medicine isn’t just for humans. Veterinary start-up Modern Animal launched in 2020 with a fresh business model: for an annual fee of $100 per pet, members get access to 24/7 virtual care and unlimited clinic visits­—perfect for neurotic puppy parents. Appointments can be made and records can be accessed via a slick app, and the prices for various procedures and medications are listed on the website. The West Hollywood clinic has been a hit, and locations in Pasadena, Studio City, and Playa Vista are expected to open by year’s end. 8122 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood, modernanimal.com.

» Cat Café

One of only two brick-and-mortar spots in the city where you can get both a cuddle with kittens and a cup of coffee, Crumbs & Whiskers is the top cat, thanks to its longer menu and slightly cheaper prices ($20 for 30 minutes, $35 for 70 minutes). Patrons can enjoy espresso beverages, teas, and sweet treats before entering an airy, glass-enclosed room filled with up to two dozen cats wearing pink bowtie collars. If you find you’re smitten, take one home for $175, fully vaccinated and spayed. Even if you leave without a new pet, you’ve helped the feline kind: since opening in L.A. in 2017, the cat café has raised  $41,000 for animal charities. 7924 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, crumbsandwhiskers.com. 

» Aquarium Supply

Whether you’re looking for a simple three-gallon freshwater setup for your home office or need help maintaining the 25-gallon tank you’ve had for your red-eared slider turtle for years, Underwater Depot is a tremendous resource. The company’s awe-inspiring showroom is stocked with an extensive selection of freshwater and saltwater species. An especially knowledgeable staff doles out advise on fish selection and care. The shop is known for selling healthy creatures, along with providing supplies and services for stunning aquascaping. Aquarium cleaning and maintenance is also on offer. 13708 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, underwaterdepot.net.

EXPERT PICK

» Best Bird Store
Omar’s Exotic Birds
Multiple locations at omarsexoticbirds.com

It’s the ultimate bird-shop experience. The birds are well-socialized and out of their cages, hanging out on circular perches. They’re excited to hop onto your arm. The staff are knowledgeable and have relationships with each bird. —Chan Quach, bird behaviorist


Contributors: Alexandria Abramian, Will Bahr, Leigh Anne Bowles, Sue Campos, Lauren Castro, Hailey Eber, Claire Fausett, Merle Ginsberg, Marissa Gluck, Maureen Harrington, Brad Japhe, Jason Kessler, Dakota Kim, Josh Lurie, Chris Nichols, Liz Ohanesian, Oren Peleg, Heather Platt, Jordan Riefe, Paul Schrodt, Melissa Seley, Michael Slenske, Andy Wang, Valerie Wu

Lead photo: PROPS AND STYLED BY AVA JONES; PRODUCED BY VILLANI PRODUCTIONS; RETOUCHING: WET NOODLES; HAIR AND MAKEUP: KIRA ISFAN; MODELS: PAINTER: PATTY PAINTS OUTSIDE; ROLLERBLADER: ROBBIE PITTS; BUBBLE FAMILY: JETT, MELINDA, NOVA & ACE PFUTZENREUTER; SURFER: MIA PFUTZENREUTER; MUSCLE BEACH: CHLOË CARO & OSCAR YERUSHALMI; DRAG QUEEN: JACKIE BEAT; SKATER: JEREMIAH ALARCON; BOY AT BOOTH: OLIVER SMITH

 

Mellie Mebane

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