The VICE Guide to Los Angeles
Whether you're just visiting or settling in for the long haul, our VICE guide will help you navigate LA like a local.
Photos by Katie McCurdy
People love to hate Los Angeles. Tell someone you're visiting or moving here and steel yourself for a barrage of unsolicited jabs about how "the people are so fake," or "the traffic is unbearable," or "there's not enough water."
OK, well, that last one is totally true and we have no clue how to fix it. But look, LA's changed, we promise. It no longer manages to combine the trashiness of a Poison song, the pointless vapidity of an episode of Entourage, and the quiet desperation of the quiet and desperate who move here with hopes and dreams of stardom, only to have those hopes and dreams dashed upon the harsh rocks of reality. We've got amazing restaurants! And pretty OK bars! And history and culture and a cost of living that is (slightly) more affordable than New York's!
If that didn't sell you on our fair city, the least you can do is visit the place. And when that happens, these are the neighborhoods you should check out:
NEIGHBORHOODS WE LIKE
There's no denying Hollywood sucks, but like WWII Paris, pockets of resistance to that suckiness are there if you know where to look. One such oasis in the desert of awful clubs and tourist traps is the little strip of commerce known as Franklin Village. On the surface, an improv theater, cheap sushi, and a smattering of bars doesn't sound like much, but it's one of the few foot-traffic friendly areas for blocks that won't run you the risk of being accosted by mangey dudes in Spider-Man costumes in Hollywood proper.
Come for the amazing food, proximity to public transportation, good vibes, and extreme walkability, stay because you've been priced out of Silver Lake. For an evening straight out of an episode of one of the millions of shows about depressed rich LA hipsters (in a good way), try hitting Pot at The Line, then walking the mile over to Lock & Key's killer backyard patio (wear pants, dudes—the bouncers are kinda picky), and finishing off the evening by drunkenly throwing gutter balls at Shatto 39 Lanes.
Arts District/Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo has some decent stuff in the slightly-too-cute outdoor plaza, but you're missing the point of this place if you skip the Galleria. This mall is a dilapidated relic of the 90s full of specialty shops, a grungy BYOB booth karaoke spot, and a strangely fun bowling alley/bar/arcade on the third floor.
Cross Alameda Street into the Arts District and you'll find a totally different set of great restaurants, bars, and arcades altogether. Don't go into Wurstkuche if there's a line, and for the love of Christ, have some respect for yourself and don't take Instagrams in front of the murals that litter the area.
You'd think The Valley was Mordor the way some people speak of it, but The Valley of today is much less concerned with what you think–especially in hotspots like NoHo. The cheap rent coupled with myriad acting and dance schools have made the area a mecca for fresh-off-the-bus transplants. Naturally, the requisite bars, shops, and eateries have bubbled up to accommodate the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young things (until the city crushes their dreams and the move back home.)
Technically, it's Little Osaka, and some even call it Japantown. Angelenos are a utilitarian breed, so this neighborhood is only really ever referred to by its main thoroughfare, Sawtelle Blvd. Half of LA refuses to travel west of the 405, but this enclave of hip shops and experimental restaurants—just spitting distance from the cacophony of the freeway—is enticing enough to coax even the staunchest East-Side-4-Lifers from their snark bunkers.
Eagle Rock is great and so beautiful that it will make you wish for an idyllic past that never happened. It's also very, very, very far away from everything. But this is LA so you have a car and an Audible subscription is like, $15, so who gives a shit?
There's a ton to eat, drink, and do in Highland Park, and you can get some killer mid-century modern furniture at Sunbeam, which is conveniently enough, right off Figueroa. Just try not to fuck the place up if you move here by gentrifying it even further.
WHERE TO EAT
Drought aside, Los Angeles is full of great places to eat and drink. Here's a handy guide to all our favorite spots.
Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
5006 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
Don't let all the advertisements for Pit Bull Energy Drink fool you. This place serves good food! You might be able to get chicken and waffles in potato chip form at your local liquor store now, but no gastronomic snack food horror show can replace the real thing. The lines out the door for the Hollywood location might deter you, but be patient. It's worth it. And if you're feeling sleepy after your meal, why not try a Pit Bull Energy Drink?
3544 W Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, CA 90303
There may be no better place in the city for whole grilled fish and other Mexican seafood specialties than Coni'Seafood. Not only is it just a few miles away from LAX (ideal for when your friend or family member asks you to pick them up for the airport and they offer you a free meal in exchange), but it's also the go-to spot for Jonathan Gold, a.k.a. the belly of Los Angeles.
Every Taco Truck
Slam our pizza. I dare you. If you're worried about where you can get a slice of pepperoni in Los Angeles, you're completely missing the point of being here. The simple LA street taco is our shining star. Unencumbered by superfluous toppings, the street taco's meat is allowed to claim its rightful role as culinary King Shit around these parts. El pastor, carnitas, pollo, and more adventurous choices like lengua and cabeza really only need an assist from some salsa, a bit of cilantro, and a sprinkling of onion. Any more than that would be a fucking crime.
Hawkin's House of Burgers
11603 Slater St, Watts, CA 90059
There are cheeseburgers, then there are the meaty, beastly, things that you can barely wrap your mouth around at Hawkins House of Burgers. To say these Watts-style burgers are not for the faint of heart would be understatement, see for yourself with their "Whipper Burger." It consists of a double cheeseburger topped with ribbons of fleshy pastrami, a hot link, and your dignity.
Doomies Home Cookin'
1253 Vine Street, Hollywood, CA 90038
Doomie's is a vegan restaurant in a strip mall in Hollywood that sells fucking incredible fake-meat versions of buffalo wings and Big Macs and all the other junk food that vegans never get to eat. They could definitely stand to get their shit together on some fronts. For instance, it's 2016 and they don't have a website, and, as far as I can tell, there's some menu items that don't actually exist (the French onion soup has been "sold out for the day" as long as I've been going there) but it's worth it because their ham and cheese croissants are so addictive they may as well be a Breaking Bad box set wrapped in heroin.
11401 Moorpark Street, Studio City, CA 91602
Humble and unassuming, Cactus is one of those places that a friend takes you for a quick lunch and the life-changing meal throws you into an existential crisis about all the other hiding-in-plain-sight gems you're likely missing out on. Maybe that bar next to your apartment is actually the coolest place ever. Maybe the consignment store next to work is stocked with Rick Owens gear. Maybe James from accounting is actually kinda handsome. Cactus will fuck your shit up like that. The burritos are great. The tacos, even better. Oh, and if you've never tried lengua, here's your golden opportunity to be an adult and experience new things.
5107 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90065
The aesthetic of the site and shop can come off a bit too adorkable, and the punk band pun names for their signature donuts only compound the eye-roll factor, but god damn do they make a good donut. If you're looking for a bear claw or maple bar, there are a million other spots in town for you. Donut Friend is a bit more highfalutin with items like a vegan cream cheese, strawberry jam, and basil stuffed donut topped with a vanilla and balsamic glaze. You can also "make your own" if you're the sort that likes to tell people that are experts in their field how to do their job. But you do you.
9071 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
One of the most amazing things about LA is there's a ton of places that feel teleported straight from a David Lynch movie. Dan Tana's is the one that jumps to mind for me—this Italian restaurant is bathed in red light, under which decrepit men in tuxedos gamely serve you only the finest selection of pastas and adult beverages. The last time I was there it was 1 AM and I was eating chicken parm at a table next to Ron Jeremy, who was inexplicably hanging out with a seven-year-old girl and a man in silver cowboy boots. Yeah it's expensive, but can you really put a price on history? And if you can, who's to say that price isn't $28 for a plate of lasagna?
Before Oinkster, the only place to go in Eagle Rock was the food court of that weird post-apocalyptic mall on Colorado Blvd. Then the heavens parted and God threw us a bone of delicious hamburgers. It's a modern spin on the classic Southern California burger stand and they make their own ketchup that's almost worth drinking by itself. The waitstaff is so nice, they might even let you get away with that.
704 S. Alvarado Street, MacArthur Park, CA 90057
Come here if you like sassy, crusty waiters who probably worked there back when you couldn't walk in MacArthur Park after 10 PM without fearing for your life. It doesn't stay open late and isn't even open on Sundays, but it has the best pastrami sandwich in town (the #19). That's gotta count for something, right?
BCD Tofu House
3575 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Six-year-olds and other picky eaters, fear not. Despite what the name might suggest, you aren't actually relegated to a menu full of tofu. You can even get meat. I promise. Foodies will tell you it's not the best Korean food in K-town, and they're totally right. The world needs places like BCD, contently living that four Yelp star existence. They're open 24 hours, there's an honest-to-goodness parking lot, and you can fill your belly for like 10 bucks. What's not to love?
327 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
If you haven't caught on yet, Asian cuisine is just as much a staple of the LA diet as tacos, brunch, and edibles. It's impossible to select a ramen joint from such a formidable selection, so just take the recommendation of Daikokuya with the underlying presumption that they're giving the humble, bewildered "honor to even be nominated alongside you all" acceptance speech of a young Oscar winner. Located in Little Tokyo, the hearty bowls are packed with fresh ingredients and delicious broth. Well worth the potential hour wait and post-meal sweats.
Stuff I Eat
114 N Market St, Inglewood, CA 90301
One of the problems with being a vegan is that people always think you like vegetables. LA's best antidote to that stupid misapprehension is Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, where you can gorge yourself on plant-based versions of soul food staples like greens and tofu BBQ that doesn't really taste like BBQ, but thankfully, it also doesn't taste especially healthy. Now to be fair, Babette, the owner, started the place with the intention of bringing healthy food to her community, and they do have lots of items with kale in them. If you're into that sort of thing get the nacho salad—at least that has "nacho" in the name.
Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway, Downtown, CA 90013
Grand Central Market, an enclosed public food hall, has been a Los Angeles institution since the late 1800s. You can get fresh produce, deli meats, seafood, and prepared dishes. This is one of those places assholes like to refer to as "foodie heaven," but it really is. For many years it served a mostly Spanish-speaking clientele, but just like everything in downtown, the rest of the city recently discovered it in the last five years. Now, it's got trendy chefs renting stalls to serve gourmet food at places with names like Eggslut. But don't let that dissuade you from popping in.
San Pedro Fish Market
1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, CA 90731
The best way to witness the CO2-belching realities of giant-scale globalized trade is to head down to San Pedro's Fish Market for a huge pile of spicy seafood and bread while you stare at enormous container ships moving their payloads in and out of the Port of Los Angeles. The fish markets are all awkwardly crammed into one little space, but they all serve the same menu in the same giant portions, and all the bars serve equally massive micheladas, a.k.a. cerveza mixed with tomato juice and spices—the perfect thing to guzzle while you watch NAFTA in action.
WHERE TO DRINK
Eating is great and all, but what's more important than a nice spot to grab a drink? Here are some of our favs in LA.
6202 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, 90038
This place is owned by skate photographer Atiba Jefferson and it's one of the few places in Hollywood that isn't crawling with tourists and/or dickheads. It's got a big outdoor backyard space, stiff drinks, and televisions screening movies for those nights when you want to zone out and not talk to anybody. Show up early and it's very mellow; show up late and you'll get drinks spilled all over your skate shoes. Why did you wear white shoes for going out anyway?
Cha Cha Lounge
2375 Glendale Blvd, Silver Lake, CA 90039
Not to be confused with the restaurant Cha Cha Cha (which is also great), Cha Cha Lounge is what you'd get if a giant ate every element of hipster kitsch, then threw up. I mean this totally in a good way, though—the bar is this weird tiki hut, there's a foosball table, and a truly bizarre cross-section of crap culture repped on its walls. On top of that, it has an incredible vending machine in the corner that sells everything from WWE cards to t-shirts to home pregnancy tests. You didn't hear it from us, but you can park in the Bank of America parking lot nearby and nobody will give you any shit. Oh, and if it's too crowded, just hit the labyrinthine, German-style Red Lion Tavern across the street.
864 N. Virgil Ave, East Hollywood, 90029
Sure, it's cramped. And the drinks are pricey. And they just started charging for karaoke. And there's a two-drink minimum. And the bathrooms are gross. And the people behind the bar are so rude that, at points, I've been convinced I'm on a hidden camera prank show, but... Actually, I have no idea why people continue to drink here. Anyone?
1455 Sunset Blvd, Echo Park, 90026
There are a lot of bars in Echo Park fighting to claim the title of "most popular bar to get shitty drunk in without shame." Some say it's Gold Room. Others will go to bat for Little Joy. Unfortunately for them, there can be only one championship belt holder: The Short Stop. While it boasts some of the most popular dance nights in town, Short Stop really shines as a place to wreck yourself before a Dodger game. They do $3 PBRs in the hours before the game, and it's packed with die-hard fans. This is the only place you should go if you want to have a sloppy argument about whether or not Don Mattingly should have pulled Kershaw in the 7th inning of Game 1 of the NLDS last year. The answer is "yes," by the way.
Church of Scientology Celebrity Center International
5930 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, 90028
This is the restaurant in Scientology's "Celebrity Center," but it's open to everyone. Their sommelier was once named "best sommelier in Southern California" by the Restaurant Writer's Association, so their wine selection is really good—provided you can convince yourself that it hasn't been spiked with Scientology mind-control drugs.
1222 W. 7th Street, MacArthur Park, 90017
Monty Bar has the advantage of not being totally "discovered" yet, mostly because it's nestled between downtown and Westlake/MacArthur Park on a fairly desolate strip of 7th Street. Of course, that anonymity is being ruined with this paragraph, so if you really love this bar and appreciate how spacious and not trendy it is, feel free to send a dirty email right now. Forgive me.
2640 N. Figueroa Street, Lincoln Heights, 90065
Yes, this place is all the way out in Lincoln Heights. Yes, it's called "Footsies," which makes you think about elementary school flirting. But who cares when you can enjoy their free jukebox? A free jukebox means you can play music that doesn't suck for as long as you want (or until the DJ shows up at 8 PM).
K-Town Karaoke Bars
American-style karaoke, a.k.a. forcing a bar full of strangers to listen as you realize that you don't actually know the words to "Lose Yourself," is awful. Koreatown is full of spots where you do the other kind of karaoke, the kind where you and your friends get a little room of your own with a long booth seat and a huge table covered in tiny liquor bottles. If you're lucky, the English part of the Korean-made karaoke system will have something as contemporary as old Taylor Swift, but if not, that's fine because they have plenty of Boyz II Men. You better hope the door-to-door strippers show up before you've had more than two bottles of soju, because their services can get pretty expensive once you've lost all your inhibitions. Tip: The button to push when you want your song to start is the one labelled "시작." A lot of people struggle with that.
Pinz Bowling Center
12655 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, 91604
Like everything else in the Valley, this place is tucked into a strip mall. Don't let that scare you away. Pinz is a great bowling alley and, according to a Google Image search I just did, Justin Bieber and Nelly have both bowled there at some point. There's a diner inside called Jerry's where you can order terrible food and pretty good drinks, but you can also get drinks delivered directly to your lane by pressing a button on the bowling console. It's probably how all the "celebrities" do it.
Dan Sung Sa
3317 W 6th St, Koreatown, CA 90020
Named after a legendary movie house in Seoul, Dan Sung Sa is a greatplace to knock back soju and snacks. Just arrive early and grab a big booth, and then keep texting more people to join you as you get drunker and drunker, and the place gets noisier and noisier. The snacks on the extensive menu are good and everything, but they're just a way to occupy your hands, and soak up the alcohol before you stumble into the karaoke bar next door around midnight.
Bigfoot Lodge West
10939 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034
The hunting lodge aesthetic seemed cooler when we were all going through that "lumbersexual" phase, but even though we've moved on to greener sartorial pastures, this place still has some nice happy hour cocktails and a charming ambiance worthy of return visits. The live music might downright suck at times, but good places to drink on the West side are so few-and-far-between that you'll let it slide.
939 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Fight it as long as you care to, but eventually you'll find yourself at one of LA's many poolside bars. You'll hate yourself (and your body) if you go to brofests like The Standard or Roosevelt, but Hotel Fig's disheveled, quirky building and decent music brings the douchiness down to more manageable levels. After a couple drinks you might even begrudgingly have a good time. It's closed right now, but is scheduled to reopen in time for pool season.
303 E. 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Because no career politician would ever consider upsetting the ready-for-outrage hydra that is MADD by actually passing legislation that would allow CA bars to stay open past 2 AM, we're forced to find weird, quasi-legal loopholes to stay inebriated, such as the inception of the "afterhours club." The Overpass is one of the better ones. There's regular cool local DJ sets and cheap (cans of) beer. Check online to make sure there's actually something going on the night you want to go or you risk showing up to a locked gate and looking like an idiot in front of your date.
WHERE TO HANG OUT DURING THE DAY
It seems like everybody can handle an average of six winters in New York City before they scrap everything and flee west, and the reason is pretty obvious—Los Angeles is beautiful and the weather is routinely gorgeous and there is a seemingly unlimited amount of fun shit to do while the sun's out. Here are some of our favorites.
Go on a Day Trip
Have you ever been on Soarin', that ride at Disney World where you fly over California? There's a reason they chose California for that and not like, Delaware or something. California is fucking beautiful. It's like the state is a video game world with mountain, beach, city, forest, and desert levels. Drive an hour in any direction and you'll be in an environment so scenic, you'll almost forget to eat the shrooms you brought along for the trip.
One of the main streets in downtown, Broadway has the largest concentration of classic movie palaces in the world. For decades, it's been a popular shopping destination for Spanish-speaking immigrants. You can still pick up a pink ball gown or a cowboy hat for cheap, but the addition of spots like the new ACE Hotel and Acne Studios has made the street equally as popular with people who learned how to ask for the bathroom in Spanish on their junior year trip to TJ. There's also the Bradbury Building, which is that amazing iron and wood building they used in Blade Runner that looks like an Escher painting.
Hike a Trail That Isn't Runyon Canyon
We LA folk sure do love hiking. But not, like, real, Appalachian Trail-style hiking with backpacks and unfashionable shoes. No, LA hiking is really just walking on a dirt path with a slight incline in new Lululemon duds. That said, it's still pretty fucking fun to break a slight sweat with friends on a Saturday afternoon. We have this mountain range just sitting there in the middle of the city. Might as well use it. Just don't go to Runyon.
Let me save you a Google search: Griffith Observatory is that white domed building on a h