Our first few days in California were spent in the City of Angels -- the metropolis that is Los Angeles. Full of movie stars, rabid tourists, and neighborhoods of every country imaginable, we wanted to see. it. all. .........in two days. .............on just a weeeeee bit of cash. Doable? Yes!
The BiltmoreFirst things first, we got a deal on our hotel stay at the Biltmore -- an amazing throwback hotel that is so 1950's awesome that it has been featured in a host of movies and our favorite: Mad Men. Hands down the coolest part of the hotel was the "fitness" area, an indoor pool, wet sauna and dry sauna that all remains original to the period. I had never been in a "wet" sauna before, but basically it is a giant steam room. The steam hits you immediately as you walk in the door and you can only see a few feet in front of your face. Breathing is difficult, but in a good way. Think "breathe in through your mouth, breathe our through you nose" and do it SLOOOOOOWWWWLLLY. I lasted about 2 minutes in there -- Alex loved it and would stay in for 10-15 minutes at a time. Whether you like the saunas or not, they are super cool to check out thanks to the authentic brass trimmings and such.
Virtual Tour of the Biltmore is HERE.
This post is NOT about the hotel however. THIS post is about the EATS.
The Mexican Market and Skid RowFirst off -- LA is a prime city for cheap eats, but you are going to have to brave those non-tourist areas if you want to find them. In fact, our favorite trip of the entire LA stay was a venture into a Mexican neighborhood where there was a blocks long market set up in the streets, full to busting with Mexicans, cheap food and more excitement than we saw anywhere else in the city. It was magic. Want to know where it was? Well let me show you the map...
|Map Courtesy of Experience LA -- has good info on LA neighborhoods!|
Turns out skid row is fascinating (and sad). Homeless folk are everywhere and in lines at the shelters and soup kitchens. One interesting fact: The original "skid row" was in Seattle (And other northern Pacific Coast cities) and referred to a road through town where the loggers would drag, or skid the logs, creating a muddy mess. As you can imagine, that wasn't the most highly sought after real estate and "lowlifes" and "misfits" settled in there. Learn more about the history of Skid Rows HERE.
PS -- The Toy District and Fashion District were also VERY cool and if it weren't so hot and I wasn't so pregnant, we would have spent much more time shopping the whole-in-the-wall supply shops there. If we go back to LA, THIS is where we will definitely go!
Want to take our path? Skid row is bounded by Main Street (west), Third Street (north), Alameda Street (east) and Seventh Street (south), then keeps going into the Mexican and Asian neighborhoods.
More history specifically on LA's skid row can be found HERE.
....but this post isn't about skid row, but about the CHEAP EATS!
Mexican Market -- Fresh Squeezed OJ, Tortillas and more!Here is where they started! That Mexican market I mentioned? There was stand after stand of AMAZING authentic Mexican dishes, cooked in front of your face and scarfed down by lines of waiting Mexicans. We were the only white people at the market, so this was NOT tourist food. My hands down favorite food at the market however was the fresh squeezed orange juice. Literally orange after orange after orange is squeezed in front of you into a large plastic cup and for a few bucks, you get to visit the Garden of Eden and sample the oranges. Amazing. Like drinking an orange (which you are). The one and only disappointment was the bagged hard "funnel cake" type things. They were fine and cheap,but not great. Rule of thumb -- if they are making it in front of you DIG IN! If not, say No Thanks! with a smile. We visited the market on a Saturday and could find no info on whether it is a weekly thing, a Saturday only things, etc, etc. Nonetheless, the drive through this neighborhood is worth it!
Tacos Por FavorWhile in California, we were determined to only eat good, authentic Mexican food, so our next stop was Tacos Por Favor (Tacos Please!) and we were not disappointed. The joint is a local place, full of locals and workers from the area and very few tourists and hipsters. The tacos are the typical Mexican white tortillas -- not soft flour like taco bell :) The meats were so-so. Chicken and pork fillings were a bit dry (though the green and red salsas helped a lot), but the steak was delicious and the chorizo was surprisingly good. I think of chorizo as the super-duper spicy ground sausage type meat, but this was chunks of flavorful (but not overly spicy) meat. yum. The fish tacos were just so-so. The salsas were delicious -- I was a major fan of the green salsa, using chips to dip it up at the end. I am normally a red salsa girl, but the green was fabulous here!
Note: Order tacos individually instead of getting the combos. The combos are way overpriced while tacos alone will just cost you a buck or two. Really weird setup on the menu... Also, regular Coke is a buck and comes in a can, but Mexican Coke comes in a bottle, is much more delicious and costs $2.50.
ink.sack in West Hollywood
|Forget the food! Get me this pink chandelier in Vivienne Westwood's!!|
We were in West Hollywood at the time and are fans of Michael Voltaggio (from Top Chef), so his less expensive sandwich place called "ink.sack" was our lunch choice du jour. The sandwiches are $4-7 (a wee bit pricey in our book), and some remarked that they are small, but we were WELL pleased with our meal. We ordered three sandwiches between us thinking that two wouldn't fill us based on other folks' advice. Turns out two was quite enough. The sandwiches might be short, but they are wide and FULL of meat. The ingredients are the same gourmet ingredients you would expect to see at Michael's flagship restaurant ink and every single bite was delicious. I had the cold-fried chicken and Alex downed a bahn mi and loved every bite. The third sandwich was a warm Rueben and while it was also delicious, it didn't hold a candle to the first two. We rounded out the meal with a Mexican Coke and were divinely stuffed and satisfied for many hours afterwards.
More info on both restaurants can be found HERE and the ink.sack menu is HERE.
|Cupanis at the Getty|
Sidenote: The Getty is ok. I am not a huge art museum buff, so perhaps I am not the best judge, but it was just ok. The gardens were very nice to walk through. The museum is free, but parking is $15. Worth it? Depends on if you like museums (and breakfast burritos).