MTN’s tonkotsu ramen with chasu pork
Instagram photo via @mtnvenice

Best Food Trend
Ramen Goes West

Venice Ramen | 515 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey
(310) 448-8886 | veniceramen.com

MTN | 1305 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | (424) 465-3313 mtnvenice.com

The Ramen Joint | 6220 W. 87th St., Westchester | (424) 227-9328 theramenjoint.com

Ancient Greeks may have conceptualized a food of the gods, but it was the Japanese who perfected it. Now, Los Angeles will make ramen its own.

If ramen calls to mind the dehydrated noodle bricks endemic to the romanticized poverty and glorious laziness of student life, consider yourself uninitiated. Ramen, done right, is fresh fare. And it’s all about the broth: rich, restorative, soul-filling. Especially the tonkotsu (pork broth), my personal favorite.

There was a time when the Mitsuwa food court (still an essential culinary destination) was the lone ramen destination west of Sawtelle Japantown, but now multiple interpretations of the real thing are more easily within reach.

Last year’s arrivals of The Ramen Joint and Venice Ramen put Westchester and Marina del Rey on the ramen map with simple, straight-forward counter service to quickly satisfy cravings. This summer, Gjelina chef Travis Lett and several culinary collaborators took the scene to another level with MTN, a game-changing Abbot Kinney izakaya (Japanese gastropub) with a culinary ecosystem on par with its flagship sister restaurant.

It’s time to make ramen a part of your life.

— Joe Piasecki

 


Pour your own a sip at a time at Brewport Tap House

Best Liquid Dim Sum
Brewport Tap House

204 Main St., El Segundo
(310) 648-8972 | brewporttaphouse.com

Beer aficionados may argue about what styles and flavors will be popular in a decade, but as of 2017 there is no question about the future of brewpubs. So you might as well try everything.

At Brewport Tap House in El Segundo, drinkers are issued a computer-chipped bracelet and turned loose on a row of more than four dozen beer taps, the bracelet keeping track of what you pour. The idea is to sample each beer until you find out what you like, then pour a full glass of whichever nectar fits your fancy.

While cynics may assume the self-service concept is just an ingenious way to avoid paying staff, there are practical benefits for beer lovers. You learn by tasting and can try many things while ingesting only a moderate amount of alcohol — it’s the liquid equivalent of dim sum and other grazing meals. Even better, you and your friends will have plenty to talk about as you sample and compare, so conversation won’t lag. Brewport also serves good and inventive food, making the snacking as enjoyable as the quaffing.

The next time your friends are showing off their new iPhones, you can tell them about the way they’ll be drinking when Apple’s latest gadgets are yesterday’s technology.

— Richard Foss


Mo Krant, the world’s most outlandish Hello Kitty
Photo by Mia Duncans

Best Surrealist Monday
Night Football Party
Mo’s Place

203 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey
(310) 822-6422 | mosplacepdr.com

At most sports bars, Monday Night Football is predictable: People on TV will do sports-hero things while people in the bar watch, cheer and consume burgers and beer. When the people on TV head for the locker room, the people in the bar stumble home.

The people on TV do the same things at Mo’s, but here the people in the bar are just getting the party started. They eagerly await the appearance of bar owner Maurice Krant, aka Mo, who is certain to show up in some bizarre costume to conduct a raffle while cracking jokes, insulting the customers, clowning, and generally being bizarre. You don’t have to like or even understand football to have a good time here, but it helps if you’ve had something to drink.

Mo’s costumed antics are a time-honored ritual that only happens on Mondays during football season, which is the reason Mo’s stays full after the game while other places empty out. You’d think other bars would adopt a similar strategy, but it’s not so easy to copy: As any Playa del Rey local can tell you, there’s only one Mo.

— Richard Foss


A Saturday reveler celebrates the reopening of Roosterfish
Photo by Mia Duncans

BEST COMEBACK STORY
Roosterfish

1302 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice
roosterfishvenice.com

When landmark Abbot Kinney Boulevard gay bar Roosterfish closed down last year — after 37 years on the block — it felt like the end of an era not only for the Westside LGBTQ community, but for Venice as a whole.

From the AIDS outbreak of the ’80s through the transformation of Abbot Kinney into one of the hippest (and most expensive) commercial districts in America, the Fish served as a safe space for self-expression and a bastion of gay nightlife west of the 405. Regulars mourned its closure (due to a rent hike) with a mock funeral, wearing black veils and carrying an inflatable Corona bottle in lieu of a casket.

But now the dearly departed dive is making a miraculous comeback. After Roosterfish closed, Venice Pride President Grant Turck secured a trademark on the name. When the owners of South End decided to revive the bar, they licensed the name for $40,000 a year — money that will underwrite Venice’s annual free public pride celebrations for the next decade.

Last Saturday, Venice Pride hosted a joyous Roosterfish Revived pop-up party with deejays, dancing and drink specials, with patrons coming from as far as Northern California to celebrate. Expect a return to regular hours sometime later this year — minus the pool table, but with new front windows and the same famous men’s restroom ceiling.

— Christina Campodonico


Upscale vintage cocktails never go out of style
Instagram photo @alleyloungela

Best Place to Drink in an Alley
Alley Lounge

12223 W. Washington Blvd.,
Culver City | (310) 596-8257
alleyloungela.com

Invite someone to go drinking in an alley and they may consider an intervention. They’ll calm down after you take them to Alley Lounge, a strange and stylish speakeasy located behind popular seafood restaurant Fin.

Alley Lounge looks like nothing from the outside, but within is a charming little bar in impeccable mid-century taste. It’s more than just a pretty room; the drinks are excellent and the soundtrack of soul, hip-hop and R&B jams
creates a lively atmosphere.

There’s a small food menu, but few selections of beer and wine — you’re here for the cocktails, which are inventive and well made.

Yes, this is a hip speakeasy. But before those words send you away, give this one a chance. It’s a fun place for a good drink, well worth taking a trip down an alley to find.

— Richard Foss


Best Community Sports Tournament
Del Rey Cup
Mar Vista Gardens
4901 Marionwood Drive, Del Rey (310) 398-5763

The Olympic Games is a shining example of how sports can build bridges among strangers and rivals. At Mar Vista Gardens, the annual Del Rey Cup soccer tournament is doing the same for young residents of the public housing project, kids from other neighborhoods and local law enforcement.

This year two Mar Vista Gardens teams will take part in an eight-squad double-elimination tournament, with LAPD Pacific Division officers cheering from the sidelines while participating in school supplies giveaways and other family-friendly activities. For the police who patrol Mar Vista Gardens, it’s an opportunity to repair community bonds frayed by the gang violence and heavy handed enforcement of the 1990s.

“I want the community to know my officers and for my officers to know the community. We would like to continue to build trust,” says Pacific Division leader Capt. Dominic Choi.

Del Rey Cup organizer Enrique Fernandez welcomes the evolution.

“It’s great because people get a chance to know the police and the police get to see us as normal people, not just as gangbangers,” he says. “For me, the best part of the Del Rey Cup is seeing kids play soccer and just the environment in Mar Vista Gardens on that day, when people are happy and engaged.”

— Gary Walker


Dream your way to San Francisco and back on a Cabin bus

Best Moving Hotel Cabin
Palisades Park
(Ocean and Arizona avenues), Santa Monica
ridecabin.com

Flying commercial is for the birds, and driving 400 miles on the 5 is hardly a vacation. Why not dream your way from Santa Monica to San Francisco in a private sleeping cabin?

The main value proposition of Cabin is to eliminate travel time, or at least having to experience it. Riders board buses, stretch out in their personal sleeping pod and wake up refreshed at their destination. Each sleeping pod is equipped with a blackout curtain, reading light, ear plugs, free Wi-Fi and a power outlet. And yes, there’s a bathroom on board.

Nightly roundtrip service between Palisades Park and the Embarcadero begins Oct. 11, with buses leaving at 11 p.m. and arriving by 7 a.m. sharp. Tickets are $115 each way, including two pieces of luggage and a carry-on bag.

Cabin debuted last year as SleepBus, a short test run that attracted a waitlist of 20,000 people and $3 million in seed funding. Now that’s proof of concept! And until Gov. Jerry Brown gets his bullet train or Elon Musk debuts his 600-mph vacuum tube, there’s no breezier way to go.

— Joe Piasecki


Smashbox Venice lead makeup artist Sheena Davis
Photo by Christina Campodonico

Best Free
Makeup Tutorial
SMASHBOX VENICE

1335 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice
(310) 314-3851 | smashbox.com

If you’re like me, makeup can be a mystery. Ask me to apply smoky eyes and I’d probably end up looking more like a raccoon than a sultry minx.

Thank goodness for the makeup artists at Smashbox Cosmetics’ flagship store on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. It isn’t a store so much as an opportunity to learn from the pros.

The brainchild of Hollywood makeup legend Max Factor’s great grandsons Davis and Dean, the brick-and-mortar is not just a place to pick up lipstick or eyeliner; it’s a complete makeup and photo studio offering everything from free 15-minute walk-in touchup sessions to 90-minute makeup and photo services.

When I go in, Smashbox lead makeup artist Sheena Davis shows me a few tricks of the trade: use a concealer one shade lighter than your foundation to hide dark circles and brighten your eyes; start with a light eye shadow and layer on darker colors for that soft smoky look; make a fish face when you contour; smile when applying blush to your cheeks.

“We want to send people home knowing how to use the products they purchase,” Davis explains.

I left not only looking gussied up, but also feeling glamorous about my newfound knowledge — beautified, inside and out.

— Christina Campodonico


You can be anyone you want to be at Robinson Beautilities
Photo by Ted Soqui

Best Place to Buy Women’s Clothes for a Man
Robinson Beautilities
12320 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista
(310) 398-5757 | premiereprops.com/robinson

The retro storefront of Robinson Beautilities isn’t a reproduction — it’s just been there a long time. Since 1935, to be exact.

Simultaneously a local treasure, community resource and entertainment museum, the cavernous showroom on Venice Boulevard is jam-packed with props, wigs, theatrical makeup and handcrafted costumes by the thousand.

Whether you want to be Queen Elizabeth or a drag queen, Hannibal Lecter or Mother Teresa, Robinson Beautilities has you covered.

Longtime locals may fondly recall Belle Fischer, who started the business selling fake blood novelties and soon expanded to include stage makeup and costumes. Film producer and entrepreneur Dan Levin bought it in 2009; it blended well with another family business — Premiere Props, which contracts with movie studios to manage costumes and props after films wrap production. That’s why actual wardrobe from “Resident Evil” hangs on their racks, right between the showgirl and post-apocalyptic thug sections.

A spectacle in its own right, this summer the store was a location for an upcoming (and top secret) Disney project.

If you’re having trouble finding something, ask store manager Eric “Ricky” Raines. His mother worked with Fischer in the 1970s, and he’s been here for decades. In fact, Ricky may be the only one who knows where everything is.

And it’s not just for Halloween. Go to work dressed as Scarlett O’Hara and you can just bat your eyelashes when someone asks you to solve their email log-in problems.

— Martin L. Jacobs


Matthew Perry offers some pointers during a master scene study class at the Ruskin School of Acting

Best Place to Get Schooled
by a Celebrity
Ruskin School of Acting

3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica
(310) 390-4212 | ruskinschool.com

Many come to L.A. to make it big on the silver screen. At the Ruskin School of Acting, aspiring actors and actresses can actually learn firsthand from the stars.

On Saturdays the esteemed Santa Monica-based acting school holds master scene study classes led by the likes of Golden Globe winner Dylan McDermott (“The Practice”), “Friends” star Matthew Perry (a.k.a. Chandler Bing) and most recently comedy star Jim Belushi.

The Ruskin School, which specializes in teaching The Meisner acting technique, began offering these master classes 17 years ago, when a student of founder John Ruskin convinced Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins to
visit the school.

“He was just phenomenal and I could tell he was an amazing teacher,” remembers Ruskin, who then asked Hopkins to teach a class. “He would come every weekend he was in town. I got my idol in the school.”

More stars of the stage and screen soon followed. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet (“Race”), Tony Award winner and Santa Monica local Paul Sand, actor Ed Asner (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), actor Ed O’Neill (“Modern Family,” “Married with Children”) and Academy Award-winning director Tony Bill (“The Sting”) have each taught at the school.

Master scene study classes run just $400 for an eight-week session and are open to current Ruskin students and newcomers who can pass an audition. Pupils not only benefit from the experience and guidance of these seasoned pros, “they’re getting those life stories — how they came up and kept their careers and became the actors that they are,” says Ruskin. The next session starts Oct. 21.

— Christina Campodonico

 


The helpful staff at Urbanic know what you’re trying to say
Photo by Ted Soqui

Best Way to Say ‘I Love You’ on Paper
Urbanic Paper Boutique
1644 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice
(310) 401-0427 | urbanicpaper.com

Audrey and Josh Woolen built their business on love. Really! The founders of Urbanic Paper Boutique began sending handwritten love letters across the continent to keep their long-distance love story moving forward, and the rest is history.

Today their quaint Abbot Kinney Boulevard outpost offers an array of stylish greeting cards, stationary, writing accessories and even personalized wedding invitations. There are also gift-wrapping, calligraphy and watercolor workshops for the more active correspondents among us.

It’s easy to lose yourself playing with all the fun gift ideas and perusing row after row of beautifully crafted cards, both comedic and sweet. My personal favorite — a card I gave my mom for Mother’s Day — says “I would get on the 405 at 5 p.m. for you.” If that doesn’t say “I love you” in L.A., nothing does.

— Gabrielle Flam

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