Downtown LA has been getting a lot of attention over the past few years. A destination for those who reside in other more residential neighbourhoods of the city to shop, drink, and dine, Downtown LA still feels pretty gritty in parts, especially if you make the mistake of walking to your destination from your hotel. It may be home to Skid Row and at times feel quite fragmented, but it’s also got the incredible Arts District, a bustling (and delicious) Little Tokyo, Grand Central Market, and more. Not to mention some super rad graffiti and rather incredulous architecture, including the Giannini Building currently under development by the Sydell Group, soon to be NoMad LA.
We spent a few days exploring the cities coolest neighbourhood and took the liberty of rounding up thirteen of our favourites, in case you’re planning a visit soon.
Acne Studios, 855 S Broadway
We’ve been to many Acne Studios shops around the world, and while it’s not exactly a local brand, the nicest location we’ve shopped at yet, outside of Europe, has to be their Downtown LA location. Built like a gallery and opened in just three years ago, inside the Eastern Columbia Building on South Broadway. A mix of cool metal fixtures and bright mod coloured carpeting, the space is a series of alcoves that perfectly highlight the Scandinavian designs that hang within them. The staff are also super helpful and totally conversational.
Verve is one of our favourite coffee roasters, when we can find it in Toronto, so obviously a visit to their newest location in Downtown LA was in order. Opened just last year, the cafe is just two blocks away from the Ace Hotel, which made for the perfect low key morning coffee run each day. They can pretty much make anything coffee-wise and have a lovely selection of baked goods from SHORT cake you can sit down and enjoy both inside and out.
You can also get yourself a juice flight from LA’s own Juice Served Here while you’re there if you’re not in the mood for a coffee.
With LA sneaker culture at an all time high, Blends has remained one of our go-to spots to check out Downtown. One of five locations, Japanese owners Tak Kato and Mike Toe combine perspectives to curate a solid selection of sportswear, running, and skate kicks as well as an edited offering of apparel in an uncomplicated space.
L.A.’s eggslut is one of those places we’re glad we don’t have close to home, because of its highly addictive nature. Located inside the bustling Grand Central Market, eggslut always has a huge line and for good reason. These heart attack inducing sammies are pretty damn incredible, however, we recommend trying one of their specialties, the Slut, which features a poached egg on top of potato purée in a glass jar topped with gray salt and chives served alongside crispy baguette ideal for dunking. We recommend adding a side of bacon (also good for dunking) and sliced avocado, because balance is key.
No visit to DTLA is complete without a stroll through the Arts District and in our opinion, a visit to lifestyle shop Poketo. Run by a design driven husband and wife duo, their flagship location on 3rd is the perfect place to snag an unconventional gift, like handmade jewellery, local apothecary products, ceramics, and much more. They also host art exhibitions and workshops regularly, so if you’re in town for a little while, why not try to sign up for one here.
Faith & Flower is probably the most expansive restaurant in Downtown LA. The food and cocktails are pretty rad and it’s a lovely place to take a date if you want to impress. While you’d probably want to sit at a table with your date, our favourite place to sit is at the bar where their famous Clarified Milk Punch is flowing. Nothing like milk at all, this signature punch is not your average cup of booze. The laborious and complex mix takes three days to make combining rum, cognac, whiskey, and absinthe finished with a milk wash for a rich, yet clear mixture that’s highly crushable.
While we’re regulars at the New York outpost of the Ace Hotel, our first visit to their DTLA location was a memorable one. Decidedly LA in vibe with all the quirky touches you’d expect to find at an Ace Hotel. The rooms feature high concrete ceilings, cushy beds with Pendelton blankets (not that you need it), gorgeous bathrooms with marble and brass finishes (if you’re lucky enough to get a corner room like the one pictured above), well stocked minibars, and skincare amenities from Rudy’s Barbershop. Take in some sun poolside on the roof, or have a more casual bite to eat on the shadier lounge area, or downstairs at their restaurant L.A. Chapter.
No visit to LA would be complete without a stop their newest contemporary art museum. Opened in the fall of 2015, The Broad is a truly unique space that’s not only incredible architecturally on the inside and out, but also wonderfully curated. The permanent collection features famed works by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Roy Liechtenstein, Ed Ruscha, the largest collection of Cindy Sherman works in the world, as well as hyped Yayoi Kusama installation Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. Definitely add this place to your list.
After taking over the Downtown LA counter space in 2014, chef Josef Centeno has reimagined this American restaurant into a casual space, serving elevated yet unpretentious cuisine. A popular place for lunch, weekend brunch, dinner and late night snacks, menu highlights include avocado toast (on sprouted rye bread with cream cheese & scallion), a Scotch Egg Burger (made with sausage, cheese, onion, dill pickle, green peppercorn mustard, and garlic aioli), and their Brioche Toast (served with Old Bank honey, ricotta and persimmon).
Located in the Arts District surrounded by some of the best graffiti in the city, the Apolis store is part community space, part retail space. You’ve likely seen their popular Market Bags at other retailers around the world (yes, even in Toronto) but the main centrepiece of their store is their utilitarian clothing and accessories for men. Sprinkled in are other collaborative goods including candles, books, and magazines.
LA is known for some rather amazing donuts spots, but our personal favourite is Birdies, just a short walk from The Ace Hotel on Olympic Blvd. Made fresh every hour, Birdies donuts are delicious and chef made every single hour, so there’s a good chance they’ll still be warm when you get there. Our favourite flavours include items from their cake, yeast and specialty offerings pictured above including Horchata Twist with Dulce de Leche, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Pumpkin Spice with Pistachio, and Banana’s Foster 🍩
If that wasn’t enough, they also brew Itelligentsia Coffee and have a whole free range fried chicken menu.
Portland’s own Tanner Leather Goods have long been a name in leather goods that are made in the USA to mature and stand the test of time. You’ve probably seen their products in shops around the world, but their LA flagship location offers one of the widest selections of products we’ve ever seen in one place.
While shopping in the Arts District be sure to take a much deserved ice cream break at Salt & Straw. With the smell of fresh waffles cones permeating out onto the street, it’s hard to resist going in. Stocking alternative seasonal yet alternative flavours like Roasted Strawberry & Toasted White Chocolate, Honey Lavender, Salted Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Stumptown Coffee & Compartes Love Nuts, you’d better make that a double scoop.