I used to have a love-hate relationship with downtown Los Angeles. Actually, I still do. For one, it's a bit rough around the edges and the streets are notoriously difficult to navigate through. And yet, this neighborhood is home to some of my favorite restaurants, bars and cultural centers in the city. It's also the one area in L.A. that makes me feel like I live in a buzzing metropolis - with hordes of people and high-rises extending to infinity and beyond. Well shucks, now that I've waxed poetic, it looks like I might actually love-love downtown L.A., flaws and all. Maybe you will too.
Grand Central Market // 317 S Broadway
If you came to visit me in Los Angeles, I'd take you straight to Grand Central Market, a dual food court and market that has been in continuous operation since 1917. That's a whole lotta of history right there. What makes this place so special however, is the food and the variety of it. With close to 40 vendors serving everything from pupusas to pizzas, Grand Central Market can be overwhelming, especially on weekend afternoons. To get through the maze and to the good stuff, here are some of my favorite spots to eat at when I visit.
Owned by two lady chefs, Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson, Madcapra is churning out some of the best falafel sandwiches I've ever had. Heavy on the veggies and accompanied with a sauce, the falafel sandwiches and salads are named by color: red, green, yellow and orange. My favorite is the green falafel sandwich with cauliflower, pickled fennel, labneh, cilantro and mint. Wash it down with a sumac-beet soda or their orange blossom yogurt drink.
There's a reason why you're paying a premium for the coffee at G&B: cream and sugar aren't needed when the cold brew and drip go down smooth, creamy and rich. If you're having a treat yo' self type of morning or afternoon, order the almond macadamia nut latte.
Tacos Tumbras y Tomas
Tacos are a dime a dozen in Los Angeles, but that doesn't mean you should trust every taco truck, stand or cart you see. But you should absolutely trust Tacos Tumbras y Tomas. Their carnitas tacos are juicy, meaty and fatty (but not too fatty) in the most delicious way. Ask for everything on it.
Olio Wood Fired Pizzaria
Raise your hand if you've ever payed $16 for dough, cheese, and tomato sauce? [Raises hand]. Olio Wood Fired Pizzaria is churning out solid '10 individual pizza pies that are surprisingly affordable for L.A. standards. Prices start at $8.49 for margarita, three-cheese, pepperoni and marinara pizzas.
Museum of Contemporary Art // 250 S. Grand Ave.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) on Grand Avenue is one of my favorite museum's in Los Angeles. Wholly underrated and not nearly as crowded as The Broad Museum across the street, MOCA has a great permanent collection in addition to rotating exhibitions of art. I went to MOCA for the first time during the Kerry James Marshall: Mastry exhibition, which was a beautiful and honest portrayal of the Black experience in America. Tip: visit Thursday evenings from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. when admission is free.
Upstairs at the Ace Hotel // 929 S. Broadway
I'm a sucker for rooftop views. Years ago, I lived in a Brooklyn apartment that had an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline. Los Angeles doesn't have that type of skyline, but I do feel like I'm in the thick of a city when I'm Upstairs at the Ace Hotel, which is open to the general public after 11:00 a.m. It's a tad bougie and a whole lot of hipster, but the drinks are good - try whatever frozen drink they have that day (I'm a sucker for piña coladas) or the cocktail, Mama Make Nice Again. On Sunday afternoons, a DJ spins while hotel guests and visitors lay out by the pool. Make sure to check the Ace Hotel events calendar for DJ sets and events happening other days of the week. #TGFWeekends
Photography // Megan Ambrose
MOCA Images // Taylor Henriquez