By: Justin Jang
Over spring break, I had the great pleasure of returning home to Los Angeles, where I enjoyed rediscovering the city after months on the East Coast. This article is a simple travel guide based on my recent trip, that shows an alternate and perhaps more exciting way to experience life as a native Los Angelean would.
Though most tourist guidebooks would recommend the ever-popular Little Tokyo near downtown Los Angeles, I would suggest the lesser-known Little Osaka, located in Sawtelle near West Los Angeles. It is a Japanese food mecca, though admittedly an odd one. It’s rare to see so many quality restaurants packed next to one another within a couple of strip malls.
For ramen, I visited the delicious Tsujita LA. Their speciality, tsukemen, is a rather interesting variation on ramen in which you dip the ramen noodles, located in one bowl, into a separate bowl of broth. This, paired with one of their rice bowls, is a mouth-watering combination.
Alternate: If you’re looking for more conventional ramen, be sure to visit Tatsu Ramen right across the street.
Sushi is a comfort food that lies very close to my heart; so believe me when I say that Sushi Tsujita (no relation to the ramen place) is simply amazing. The lunch special is a well-priced combination of a rice bowl, hand roll, and soup that is a great way to start your day. If you’re feeling particularly decadent, order the toro hand roll – you will not regret it. However, finding this hidden gem may prove a bit of a challenge. Quite literally, there is no name or visible indication that this restaurant is named Sushi Tsujita unless you look at one of their business cards. Nonetheless, if you’re in the area and craving sushi, this place is definitely worth a visit.
Alternate: Sushi Sasabune
Avoid the horde of tourists by visiting Manhattan Beach. This lesser-known treasure has recently experienced an influx of restaurants, making this already beautiful beach a must-see destination. The coastline, even at night, is simply beautiful. Plus there are a plethora of shops and fancy houses stretching down the length of the beach, making for a great walk.
Rock’n Fish is a delicious choice for a more upscale dinner by the beach. They have a variety of fantastic seafood dishes as well as a good cocktail selection.
Alternate: The whole street that Rock’n Fish is located on is host to a large number of great restaurants, making the area an up-and-coming destination for foodies.
Aviator Nation has been one of my favorite brands for years, injecting a bit of California cool into their meticulously crafted, vintage-style clothing. If I had to choose just one staple, I would recommend their tees, although they also have a great selection of shorts, hoodies, and hats. What makes this particular store even better is the multicolored stage inside, which is used to host all sorts of events from music performances to yoga.
If you love to shop, this neighborhood is for you! From streetwear, to vintage finds, to high fashion, the stores are worth taking a day to visit and explore.
Start off your day with food from the local farmers market. As a native who’s been coming here since my childhood, I have very fond memories of sampling the array of amazing food available. I would personally recommend the French Crepe Company. Their sweet crepes were a childhood staple, although I prefer the savory ones nowadays. Afterwards, be sure to take a look around the adjacent Grove mall, known for its high-end stores and occasional celebrity sightings.
I discovered The Cocktail Lab for the first time this trip while looking for a muddler to finish off my cocktail set. They have a very large selection of cocktail bitters, equipment, and books that are practically necessities for any aspiring home bartender.
If I could only recommend one store, it would have to be American Rag. Their selection of Americana clothing is unparalleled in the United States, and rivals some of the best Japanese stores. Aside from their large selection of denim, they carry vintage clothing and jewelry, along with more hard-to-find fashion labels as well.
Alternates: Undefeated, 424 on Fairfax, Fred Segal, Mister Freedom, Maxfield
Much like Little Osaka, the main reason to visit Koreatown is for its food offerings. As a lover of Korean barbeque, I would say that Los Angeles has some of the highest quality barbeque you can find in the US. Genwa is a great Korean barbecue destination if you’re looking for a more polished restaurant. Try one of their dinner combos, along with a delectable soju cocktails.
On the more casual side, Kang Ho Dong’s Baekjeong is the ideal place to grab lunch, to satisfy late night munchies, or perhaps even to cure a hangover. They are best known for their pork offerings and their lunchbox, which is shaken for you at your table.
Alternate: Check out Sun Nong Dan, a local hangover/munchie-satisfying hotspot.
Of course, no conversation about Los Angeles would be complete without its crown jewel, In-N-Out. My first and last meal of every trip to California, with very little exceptions, is a combo of a Double-Double, fries, and a medium drink that amounts to a whopping total of $10. If you happen to remember, ask for the Animal Style Fries off their not-so-secret secret menu. They melt a slice of cheddar cheese on top, and apply a generous helping of their special sauce.
Whether it is your first visit to LA or you are a seasoned veteran, be sure to check out these local favorites.