Editor’s Picks for Best of the Westside 2015
Best Place To Wear Your Poodle Skirt: Pann’s
Everything outside these walls has changed, but inside it’s still 1958. The Coasters, the Everly Brothers and Johnny Otis remain the soundtrack of life under the tilted roof and off-kilter neon sign of this space-age diner, among the best-preserved examples of L.A.’s iconic Googie architecture of the ‘50s.
Pann’s is no hipster hangout or tourist fling, but the place where Westchester locals go for famously good fried chicken, burgers and homemade malts. Even so, you’ll still see the occasional two-toned car with tailfins in the parking lot — a sign that some devotee of the 1950s or early 60s is having a completely authentic night out.
— Richard Foss
Best Place to Dive into a Volcano: The Warehouse Restaurant
Unlike the exploding magma kind that cause mass evacuations, the volcanoes that erupt at The Warehouse threaten nothing more dangerous than an intimate evening for two.
Served in a tiki-themed goblet with a scale volcanic mountain rising from the center, these massive cocktails made from a dangerously exotic blend of light rum, dark rum, apricot brandy, banana liqueur, fruit juices and grenadine are meant to be shared. True to form, they arrive at the table
on fire — the shot of 151-proof rum splashed in the volcano’s center burning with
a romantic blue-and-orange flame.
The Warehouse has been serving its signature volcano ($18) since opening in 1969. With its decor of pirate barrels, rigging nets and a bar-area stage done up to look like a smuggler’s quay for live music, this Marina del Rey landmark epitomizes a style of fantasy dining that was once the height of chic in L.A. Now, it’s a retro survivor with killer sunset views and drink recipes for a night to remember.
— Jasmin St. Claire
Best Reason to Date an LMU Student: Fritz B. Burns Recreation Center Guest Passes
Loyola Marymount University is known for feeding its students’ minds, but the Jesuit college also provides for the wellbeing of the body temple.
The Burns Recreation Center features a fitness center, exercise classes, multi-purpose gymnasium, tennis courts, healthy snack shack, massage services and, perhaps best of all, an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool. And while membership is largely limited to LMU students, faculty and alumni, there are ways for locals to get in for a workout.
For $5 per visit, members can bring a guest; that’s widely promoted. Lesser known is the university’s $34-per-month morning membership program, which allows locals to use the center on weekdays from
6 to 10 a.m. and any time on weekends — that is, with the sponsorship of an LMU student or staffer.
“We try really hard to work with our community. The a.m. membership is one of the ways to do that,” said Virginia Doherty, a rec center supervisor.
Morning fitness classes currently include cycling, and on the weekends there’s restorative yoga and kickboxing. An added bonus
to the morning workout: that’s when crowds are smallest, said Doherty, meaning there’s a better shot at getting through your
circuit without a wait. — Bonnie Eslinger
Best Place to Do a Handstand on Water: YOGAqua at Mother’s Beach
Finding your Zen while floating on water seems natural enough. Doing it with your feet in the air may sound like some kind of Zen koan, but this is a transformative experience within reach.
YOGAqua founder Sarah Tiefenthaler has taken her yoga classes outside studio walls and into the great outdoors — on top of paddleboards in the placid waters of Mother’s Beach. Each 90-minute YOGAqua class ($39) melds a vigorous workout with a relaxing day at sea through a Vinyasa Yoga flow customized for the harbor setting.
Tiefenthaler offers classes for all skill levels, allowing both seasoned pros and the yoga-curious to navigate this careful balancing act of stretching and stand-up paddleboarding.
Don’t be intimidated. Halfway through your first paddleboard yoga session, the
sea and the sun will have you thinking, “Nah Ma Stay Out Here Forever.”
— Bethney Bonilla
Best Place to Get a Vintage Story with your Vintage Outfit: Animal House
The next time you drop by The Townhouse & Del Monte Speakeasy for a vintage-style cocktail or two, don’t forget to pop over to Animal House for some vintage fashion just a few doors down — and maybe a vintage story or two.
Owner Ronny Kleyweg founded Animal House 33 years ago, and he’s been around long enough to see everything from the excesses of the ‘80s (fashion and otherwise) to recent surprise visits by Hollywood A-listers like Johnny Depp and rock stars like Gwen Stefani and Bruce Springsteen.
In addition to his bread-and-butter vintage inventory, Ronny has expanded the shop to include newer clothes and accessories with a boho-surfer vibe as well as a juice bar around the back of the store where table tops affix to street poles and crates stand in
Grab a fresh-pressed juice and a paisley blouse to match, but don’t miss Ronny
behind the register.
What’s his craziest story?
“Too much to tell in 33 years. Too much to tell!” he answered me, so I guess you’ll have to ask.
— Gabrielle Flam
Best Place to Find Absolutely Anything You Can Imagine: The Mart Collective
This place is insane!
With 16,000 square feet of antiques, art and design, it’s like the best, most intricately curated flea market ever. Think Istanbul Grand Bazaar meets your grandmother’s house — endless aisles of objects inspiring awe and delight.
There’s unique jewelry, mid-century modern furniture, art, books and plenty of all around awesome knickknacks. Here you really can find absolutely anything imaginable, meaning there’s something for everyone, from antique hunters to set decorators to happy hipsters who want a typewriter because they’re so over technology.
Launched in 2013 by Anthony Hudson and Robin Messick, who previously managed the Wertz Brothers Antique Mart in Santa Monica, this place is quintessentially Venice and yet so much more.
— Gabrielle Flam
Best Place to Do Some Needlework: Needlepoints West
Knitting, it seems, is fashionable again. But did it ever really go out of style?
Since 1972, Needlepoints West has been the place where knitters, crochet weavers and needlepoint sewers can find all the tools of their trade.
Now it’s also the place where those who are new to needle and thread can learn the craft. When owner Joanne Bronson took over the store in 2002, she began holding classes for weavers of all skill levels, from master knitters to novice needle-pointers.
“It’s like paint-by-numbers, but with needle and thread,” says Bronson, whose beginner students have made everything from simple scarves to hanging ornaments.
Classes cost $20 per session, and you can pick up a ball of yarn to get started for as little as $8. Those who want a little more help can arrange for private lessons.
— Christina Campodonico
Best Place to get a Taste of ‘Old’ Abbot Kinney: Bazar
Venice native Tina Wakino opened Bazar on Abbot Kinney Boulevard 15 years ago, which makes Bazar about as “Old Abbot Kinney” as you can get these days.
This cozy boutique has a kind of beachy Asian vibe, with the alluring aromas of luxurious soaps and candles awakening the senses while bright vintage textiles and sparkling handcrafted jewelry dazzle the eyes. You’ll want to hold everything in your hands to examine the singular exquisiteness of each object.
Free from the shackles of trends, Wakino manages to find rare and under-the-radar brands from all over the world that even the savviest of shoppers and hippest of the hipsters haven’t heard of before.
Bazar stands out as one of the more interesting shops on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and it’ll likely stay that way for years to come.
— Gabrielle Flam
Best Place to Meditate Under the Belly of an A320: Dockweiler State Beach
- A jet flies low over Dockweiler, ready for
Photo by Ted Soqui
The northerly part of Dockweiler State Beach, far from the chaos of the bonfire pits, is a great place to get away from it all and find your center when life seems overwhelming. Rarely will you encounter more than a handful of other people, making for very few distractions — except, of course, for the massive, roaring jets taking off from LAX’s 24-R runway.But the jets that fly overhead are less disturbing than you might imagine. Many are even quite beautiful, and there’s something special and humbling about contemplating your navel, then looking up to contemplate a jet’s belly. Some of the “heavies” (that’s aviation talk for really big jets such as the 747s and A320s) take off so low you could almost wave to the flight crew.Photography enthusiasts should bring a medium zoom lens to capture some unusual and striking images. I use a 70mm for the heavies and a 200mm for the 737s. If jets aren’t your thing, the area is also a sanctuary for the Western Snowy Plover. These very shy, sparrow-like birds may reveal themselves in the sand if you’re patient and quiet.The area also has a refreshing lack of concessions, so bring your own food and water. There is sometimes free parking available along Vista Del Mar near Vista Del Mar Park, but the best way to arrive is by bicycle: the Marvin Braude Bike Trail cuts right through.
— Ted Soqui
Best Place to Find a Creepy Scarecrow: Caltrans Lot under the 90 Freewa
Los Angeles is full of weird stuff, but this has to be one of the stranger sights east of the Venice boardwalk and this side of Hollywood.
Between the Ballona Wetlands and the Marina (90) Freeway at Culver Boulevard, an anthropomorphic fox wearing lipstick, a country dress and flowers in her hair stands guard over a Caltrans construction field office. And yes, her eyes do seem to be looking right at you.
But this isn’t an urban art installation or some kind of prank. As it turns out, Caltrans workers grappling with critter and bird invasions placed the scarecrow on the lot after finding it along the side of the 90 one day.
“We don’t know if it fell off of a truck or somebody dumped it, but we’re all about recycling,” said Caltrans spokeswoman Kelly Markham. “They thought this might be a good place to put it, and apparently it’s working.”
— Joe Piasecki
Best Place to Play Free Ms. Pac-Man
- Ms. Pac-Man is the kind of woman who eats ghosts for breakfast
Chop Daddy’s Culver City
9552 Washington Blvd., Culver City | (310) 559-5967 | chopdaddys.com
If you remember the ‘80s as totally rad, then hop in your Cabriolet and head over to Chop Daddy’s in Culver City. There, you can work out a winning pattern on an old-school Ms. Pac-Man machine — for free, while tapping your foot to tubular tunes by A-ha, Tears for Fears and Cyndi Lauper.
After you’ve worked up an appetite chasing ghosts and bundles of fruit, order up a half-rack of ribs or a smoked BBQ pork sandwich with a side of sweet potato tots. Then wash it all down with a bitchin’ draft beer while taking in local artist Jonas Never’s neon-bright mural featuring Dr. Emmett Brown from the iconic ‘80s flick “Back to the Future.”
Happy hour specials from 3:30 to 6 p.m. on weekdays include a free side (Tater Tots, mac-and-cheese, baked beans or potato salad) with any sandwich purchase, or a free Jello shot with any beer purchase.
— Shanee Edwards
Best Hangover Cure: The Jungle Hangover Smoothie
The Mad Carrot
Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey is a remarkably convenient place to tie one on: You have Playa Provisions, The Shack, The Harbor Room, Mo’s Place, The Triple and the mighty Prince O’ Whales all in a stretch of about 1,000 feet.
With the recent addition of The Mad Carrot, it’s also a good place to be the next morning.
A health-conscious deli and juice bar that eschews preservatives and embraces organic ingredients, The Mad Carrot is home to the Jungle Hangover Smoothie, a specialized recovery concoction named for the hard-partying neighborhood just down the beach.
Working with doctor and pharmacist friends, The Mad Carrot proprietor Darren Dowler — a singer and guitarist who recently toured with Paul Revere and the Raiders — spent three months tweaking the recipe before settling on a surprisingly mild and silky smooth blend of coconut oil, berry, melon, citrus and a closely held secret ingredient.
A 20-oz. smoothie goes for $8.50, which Dowler says is a small price to pay for the room to stop spinning.
“I’m a rock ’n’ roll musician, so I’ve had a few hangovers myself,” he says. “We finally found a recipe that seems to work, and now we have a lot of satisfied customers every weekend.”
— Joe Piasecki
Best Place to Go on a Truly Blind Date: Opaque
2020 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica (310) 546-7619 | darkdining.com
Table manners not
Can’t decide what to wear?
Try dining in the dark.
Opaque offers a fresh take on the age-old experience of dining out by serving gourmet three-course meals in complete blackout darkness, eliminating visual distractions and heightening diners’ senses of taste, smell and touch.
The waitstaff, all of whom are visually impaired, act as guides throughout the evening to help diners adapt to the temporary blindness.
Equal parts restaurant and social experiment, Opaque allows the sighted to momentarily put themselves in a blind person’s shoes while interacting with food and their dining partners in a new way.
Dinners are served between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays inside the V Lounge. Prix fixe meals ($99) include appetizer, entrée and dessert.
— Billy Singleton
Best Place to Breastfeed while Eating a Burger: Astro Pub at Whole Foods Playa Vista
12746 W. Jefferson Blvd., Playa Vista (310) 862-9900 | wholefoodsmarket.com
The brand-new Runway at Playa Vista retail complex is home to an expansive Whole Foods Market that features an impressive salad bar, a mochi ice cream dessert case, a fresh-from-the-oven pizza counter and a full-service restaurant-and-bar: the Astro Pub.
Once seated by the host, diners can order from a menu that includes daily specials, cast iron skillet meals and fresh sushi made to order. It’s also apparently quite the baby-friendly environment, where it’s not uncommon to see new moms scarfing a cheeseburger and fries while breastfeeding their tots. After all, breast milk is the original “whole food.”
Not lactating? The Astro Pub offers 24 beers on tap and curated craft cocktails made from local ingredients whenever possible. Happy hour is from 4 to 7 p.m. daily.
— Shanee Edwards
Best Secret Hangout for Whiskey Worshippers: The Daily Pint
2310 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica (310) 450-7631 | thedailypint.net
The name of this classic old bar implies it’s a haven for beer drinkers, since not many people down a pint of whiskey at a sitting. Though there is certainly a good variety of beers on tap at The Daily Pint, there’s an even more impressive library of whiskies, including old and rare scotches, dozens of bourbons and even labels from Japan, France and India.
Stop in on the right evening and you’re liable to find a tasting conducted by representatives of a distillery, but on any night you’ll find both great selection of whiskies and a staff who can make intelligent recommendations based on your taste buds.
— Richard Foss
Best Place to Burn Rubber for the Planet: MPG Car Rental
2423 Lincoln Blvd., Venice | (310) 305-0505| mpgcarrental.com
Somebody tell Kermit the Frog: At MPG Car Rental, it’s easy being green.
MPG rents only hybrid, clean-diesel and electric vehicles, meaning any car in the fleet is a good choice for the planet.
Better yet, MPG is one of the few places in L.A. where customers can get behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S.
Producing zero emissions and able to go from zero to 60 in just four seconds, the Model S is a favorite of critics and one of the most sought-after electric cars on the market today.
But if turning heads isn’t your thing or you’re in need of saving a little green for yourself, MPG offers a range of affordable gas-savers that make renting a car easy on the environment as well as the wallet.
— Billy Singleton