Marla Cimini on January 4, 2017 0 Comments Set against the backdrop of the legendary Hollywood Hills, the neighborhood of West Hollywood is centrally located in the heart of Los Angeles, and known as a vibrant hotspot with an abundance of restaurants, bars, boutiques and cultural experiences. Frequent celebrity spottings, exotic cars and endless days of sunshine are the norm here, and this eclectic community attracts locals as well as tourists to soak in the essence of the authentic SoCal lifestyle. At just about two square miles in size (with nearly 36,000 residents), West Hollywood is a breeze to explore, and first-time visitors may be a bit surprised to learn that this hip part of town is extremely walkable and easy to navigate. That’s right…there is a fun and lively neighborhood in Los Angeles that you can enjoy without needing a car. Visitors can spend a day or evening wandering by foot and in addition to getting some good exercise, have plenty of restaurants, shops and bars to keep themselves busy. Andy Keown, the director of communications for Visit West Hollywood is also a resident of the area and an avid fan. He explains, “I think West Hollywood is the coolest little city on the planet, and that’s why I live and work here. West Hollywood has always been the place to go to for the scene. Seriously, going back to the 1920s and the early days of Hollywood, this is where the celebs and entertainment industry players came to play. What has changed in the past several years is that the quality of the chefs and the level of the cuisine has gone way up. Whereas it used to be enough for a restaurant to have a glitzy opening and decent food, the level of expectation today is way higher than it used to be.” Food Scene in West Hollywood In recent years, WeHo has been the go-to destination in the city for food lovers, as it has gained quite a reputation for the most innovative restaurants and most creative chefs. From tiny coffee shops and neighborhood mainstays, to posh establishments with award-winning chefs and lengthy waiting lists, the city offers nearly every style of dining possible. In addition to California cuisine, a few New York transplants — Serafina and Catch — have recently opened. Catch features an open-air experience with a retractable roof and 360 degree views. Photo Credit: Catch Keown says, “We’re seeing tons of variety right now in terms of types of cuisine, price points, and how it’s all being presented. From the Southern influences at Norah to the East Coast-style seafood at Catch to the bold Southern Asian flavors of EP&LP, the food is literally all over the map.” A haven for night owls, WeHo also has had a long-standing reputation as having the best bar scene in the city — and most locals would agree that it features the liveliest nightlife in Los Angeles and offers an array of fun cocktail bars — from dark, under-the-radar hideaways to sprawling outdoor rooftops. Keown shares a few of the current top favorites: He explains, “The rooftop at the restaurant EP&LP is a great place to sip their ‘Life Cultivated’ old fashioned cocktail and enjoy exceptional views of the Hollywood Hills. Arrive by dusk for the most incredible views.” He added, “I also love Harlowe, with its low-key vibe and on-tap cocktails (my favorite is the old fashioned, but the Moscow mule is pretty great too.) And the Hudson is an unpretentious neighborhood bar — about as close to a “locals bar” as you’ll find in this area. The crowd is mixed, the vibe is welcoming and the drinks are strong.” In this food-centric part of town, Keown adds some additional insights about a few current hot spots. “At EP & LP, I think Louis Tikaram is a culinary genius, not to mention an exceptionally nice guy, and I am obsessed with the food here. Owners Grant Smillie and David Combes are the embodiment of laid-back Australian hospitality and style. While the sexy rooftop is the main draw for a lot of people, they’re really missing out if they don’t enjoy a full meal in the restaurant.” He continued, “Eveleigh is another Aussie import. It has been around for a few years and has become deeply established in the Sunset Strip food scene. Its farmhouse-style setting matches the rustic American-style menu.” Photo Credit: The Eveleigh Not surprisingly, Southern California has a huge selection of vegan and vegetarian restaurants and WeHo is no exception. Keown says, “I am not a vegan by any means, so when I first checked out Gracias Madre, I thought I was not interested in Mexican food without melty cheese and meats. However, I absolutely fell in love with it. I found the food to be extremely satisfying — despite the lack of animal ingredients. The ingredients that remain allow for plenty of variety of taste, texture and presentation.” A few other recently-opened notable restaurants in WeHo include the Doheny Room, showcasing an iconic Angelino aesthetic through its deeply-hued, understated interiors. The Doheny Room’s sophisticated classic cocktail menu and eclectic shared plates makes it a popular destination for dinner and late-night nibbling. Another new eatery, Norah, is located in a rustic space and features a menu of modern American specialties. In addition to newer establishments, WeHo is also home to a few iconic eateries, too, such as the casual Barney’s Beanery. Known as rock and roll bar and grill from the 1960’s and 70’s, it features a menu of burgers, tacos, sandwiches — and a wide selection of budget-friendly comfort food. Today, popular among locals and tourists, both the bar and restaurant are jumping nearly every night of the week. And just when you think you know all about the area, you find an unexpected treasure. For a taste of old Hollywood history, foodies love to dine at the iconic Yamashiro, a restaurant situated high above the Hollywood hills, overlooking the city and West Hollywood. Opened in 1914, the name means “Mountain Palace” in Japanese and it was built as a replica of a temple located in Kyoto. With a storied past, in the 20’s and 30’s it was a private celebrity club, and later known as a “rat pack” hangout in the 1950’s as Frank Sinatra and buddies were known to be frequent diners at the swanky destination. Over the years, the landscape has changed and the property restored and renovated, and today still features sprawling gardens and an inner courtyard. Specializing in sushi and Japanese cuisine, Yamashiro also offers their signature menu that includes fan favorites, such as salt and pepper calamari; Asian BBQ baby back ribs; and crispy Asian salmon. And don’t forget to order the giant fortune cookie for dessert…it’s certain to be overflowing with good luck. For the optimal mealtime experience, customers should arrive before sunset, as the panorama offers some of the best Los Angeles views and the opportunity to stroll around the adjacent gardens before entering the sprawling restaurant for a unique dining experience. Photo Credit: Petit Ermitage Nightlife in West Hollywood Because it has so much to offer, WeHo may be a bit overwhelming for first-timers…as there is an abundance of choices for restaurants and nightlife. For those seeking a fun nightlife experience, Keown recommends a few WeHo bars that are welcoming, but still offer a true taste of LA: Read Our Travel Guide for Pasadena Here He says, “The Abbey is a must-see. It’s one of the most popular gay bars in the world but very straight-friendly. Everyone has fun at the Abbey. Owner David Cooley is continually evolving the venue to keep it fresh and exciting. Look forward to the opening of the Chapel at the Abbey, a venue-within-a-venue he is building out next door.” He added, “And Skybar at the Mondrian hotel on Sunset is one of the sexiest venues in the world. Adjacent to (and surrounding) the hotel’s pool deck, with views of the city lights, Skybar after two decades still attracts a well-heeled mix of West Hollywood residents and visitors.” And for music lovers, West Hollywood certainly does not disappoint. With a number of legendary music venues, including the Roxy, the Whisky-a-Go-Go, Viper Room, the Rainbow and Troubadour, there are plenty of opportunities to check out a live band. These clubs have long defined he Sunset Strip and continue to pull classic and new acts — reminding people why The Strip got its reputation as one of the most famous nightlife districts in the world. Where to stay in Weho: Hip Hotels Petit Ermitage: A true hideaway, this boutique hotel is tucked away on a residential street, a few blocks away from the bustling Sunset Strip. It offers luxurious, spacious suites with balconies, a multi-tiered rooftop pool and an adjacent restaurant that is open to guests only. Expect an artsy, exclusive vibe (with a burlesque show on some nights) with friendly service and a real VIP feel throughout. Mondrian: Situated in a prime location in the middle of the sunset strip, the Mondrian is the place to see and be seen. With a focus on design, this hotel features airy, light-filled rooms and jaw-dropping views of Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Hills. Home to the famous rooftop “Skybar,” this property is a destination unto itself, and guests here feel like celebrities from the moment they step inside.