DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Twenty-five years go by pretty quickly. Come to think of it, so does 40 years.

Los Angeles Downtown News is coming to terms with both of those facts. This marks our 40th anniversary year, and this issue is the 25th annual installment of our compendium of the Best of Downtown.

We feel old, but in a good, mature, look-how-far-we’ve-come way. It’s a record and achievement that is mirrored by the evolution of Downtown: So much of what is covered in this issue, so many of the things people can experience in 2013 in the Central City, didn’t exist 25 years ago. Just think of the restaurants, the bars, the entertainment options, the parks. The list goes on.

The progress is a great thing, and it is reflected in the Best of Downtown ballot that we put in the hands of our readers. From May 4-25, more than 3,400 people went online, choosing winners in 130 categories. We had high-tech, NSA-monitoring tools to prevent electronic ballot stuffing (just joking about the NSA monitoring. We think).

The winners were a mix of old, new and in-between. In the most popular category, Best Lunch, readers selected sandwich purveyors Mendocino Farms (who also grabbed Best Fast Service and Best Sandwich/Wrap). Veteran comfort food establishment Engine Co. No. 28 repeated as the Best Business Lunch, and in Best French there was, ooh la la, le flip flop: Last year’s runner-up Café Pinot captured the top honor, pushing 2012 winner Church & State to second place.

Seventh Street burger joint The Counter captured the Best New Restaurant prize (as well as Best Burger), and Water Grill proved that even after an extensive makeover it’s still up to snuff — it won Best Seafood honors.

While there were many repeat winners, it wasn’t always the case. MOCA, for years a Best Museum stalwart, was runner-up in 2013, behind the California Science Center. Which all goes to prove what a simple Space Shuttle will do for your popularity (the Science Center also won Best Family Attraction).

The Downtown News editorial staff also weighs in on some of the best things happening in Downtown. Check out our rundown of 24 of our favorite people, places and things (p. 26). They include our selections for Best Auction, Best End of an Eyesore and Best Power Player.

The sheer variety of winners is striking. It’s also pretty impressive and reflective of the community. We look forward to the next 25 years in Downtown. And yes, to the next 40 as well.

Best Entertainment

BEST LARGE MUSIC VENUE: Walt Disney Concert Hall

111 S. Grand Ave., (323) 850-2000 or

A decade after it opened, the WDCH still boasts one of the most acoustically sophisticated designs in the world. It’s a perfect fit for L.A. Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, who just keeps getting better. 

RUNNER-UP: Nokia Theatre

777 Chick Hearn Court, (213) 763-6030 or


800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 745-0162 or

Though it got its start as a salsa-centric club, the Conga Room has branched out into world music, rock and even jazz. But its heart still belongs to salsa: There are free lessons on Saturday from 8-9 p.m. 

RUNNER-UP: Grammy Museum

800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 765-6800 or



The festival just wrapped its 19th year and fourth in Downtown. It is only growing in size and reputation, giving movie fans access to critically acclaimed filmmakers, industry professionals and emerging talent. Most of it unfolds at L.A. Live.

RUNNER-UP: Downtown Film Festival


For visitors hoping to see sites, and regulars interested in finding a more scenic way to lunch, this website helps navigate the streets, sidewalks and paths in Downtown. 

RUNNER-UP: Los Angeles Conservancy

523 W. Sixth St., (213) 623-2489 or


135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 628-2772 or

With great sightlines and sound, and a solid lineup of plays and musicals, the Ahmanson is the region’s most consistent theatrical provider. For years, the Hot Tix program ($20 seats!) has been the bargain theatergoer’s best friend. 

RUNNER-UP: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 

135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 972-7211 or

BEST FREE EVENT SERIES: Pershing Square Summer Concert Series

532 S. Olive St., (213) 847-4970 or

Programming includes classic rock cover bands on Thursdays, Friday night films, Saturday night concerts and early evening Salsa Sundays. Best of all, it’s all free. 

RUNNER-UP: Grand Performances at California Plaza

350 S. Grand Ave., (213) 687-2190 or


111 S. Grand Ave., (323) 850-2000 or

Tourists pose for pictures in front of Frank Gehry’s sweeping silver steel seven days a week. The savvy ones know to check out a tour and the hidden-from-the-street garden upstairs. 

RUNNER-UP: Olvera Street

(213) 687-4391 or

BEST MUSEUM: California Science Center

700 Exposition Blvd., (323) 724-3623 or

It was a huge coup to nab the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Come see it, and learn about all the strange features and MacGyver innovations and heroism that make a shuttle journey possible. 

RUNNER-UP: Museum of Contemporary Art

250 S. Grand Ave., (213) 621-1710 or

BEST FAMILY ATTRACTION: California Science Center

700 Exposition Blvd., (323) 724-3623 or 

It’s easy to get there, thanks to the Expo Line stop just outside, and it’s a mere $2 to see the Endeavour. The rest of the huge joint is also pretty impressive.

RUNNER-UP: Downtown On Ice (Pershing Square) 

532 S. Olive St., (213) 847-4970 or

BEST FILM VENUE: Regal Cinemas L.A. Live

1000 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 763-6070 or

Lively but rarely overrun, these 14 theaters include several with 3D capabilities. The staff is egregiously nice at every turn. They also keep the place spotless. 

RUNNER-UP: Downtown Independent 

251 S. Main St., (213) 617-1033 or 


Spring and Main between Second and Ninth streets, (213) 617-4929 or

Locals and tourists watch in disbelief as some 20,000 souls descend on the Historic Core every second Tuesday of the month. It’s one big sidewalk party, with some art sprinkled in for fun. 

RUNNER-UP: Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 

(855) 433-LAFW or



Best Drinking


403 W. 12th St., (213) 746-0050 or

This place still surprises us. The shaggy-haired bartender doesn’t look like he’ll know wine, but he’s a hilarious, no-nonsense expert. The tucked-away spot doesn’t seem like it’ll come alive with nighttime energy, yet it always seems to do so. 

RUNNER-UP: BottleRock

1050 S. Flower St., Suite 167, (213) 747-1100 or


1011 S. Figueroa St., (213) 765-7070 or

Eat, drink and watch the game on a super-sized screen with a bunch of fellow zealots. Or watch another game on dozens of other screens. If your squad loses you can head up to the arcade to blow off steam.  

RUNNER-UP: Big Wangs 

801 S. Grand Ave., (213) 629-2449 or


451 S. Hewitt St., (213) 797-4534 or

This fresh roasted, whole bean, organic coffee destination has a handy “strong” option for the true caffeine junkies, and it’s chosen with strict quality and ethical standards. So it’s guilt-free, except that you’ve just had four cups and it’s not yet 9 a.m.  

RUNNER-UP: Spring for Coffee

548 S. Spring St., (213) 228-0041 or


108 W. Second St., (213) 613-0000 or

Though it’s already several years into what can sometimes be a short-lived L.A. nightlife run, the giant Edison never feels vacuous or generic. Part of that is due to the industrial-gone-burlesque design. Then there’s the fact that there are always surprises, including acrobats, dancers, bands and movie projections. 

RUNNER-UP: Library Bar

630 W. Sixth St., (213) 614-0053 or


107 W. Fourth St., (213) 625-7382

This Historic Core stalwart gets it done with cheap drinks and a neighborhood vibe. If conversation dwindles — and it probably won’t with these price points — listen to the great music or stare slack-jawed at the decor, best described as barfly runs loose at Midwest yard sale and scores big.  


336 S. Hill St., (213) 687-7111 or


633 W. Fifth St., fourth floor, (213) 629-1929 or

This perennial happy hour spot has weathered waves of competition and recession, endless office birthday parties and the Cosmo. The drinks are good but it really stands out for the happy hour food menu.

RUNNER-UP: Public School 612 (Daily Grill)

612 S. Flower St., (213) 623-1172 or 


515 W. Seventh St., second floor, (213) 614-0737 or 

The term “five dollars” doesn’t usually come up in mixology discussions. But during this happy hour, the bar’s brown-liquor wonderments, which may be as fun to watch getting made as they are to drink, are just a Lincoln until 7 p.m. 

RUNNER-UP: Big Wangs

801 S. Grand Ave., (213) 629-2449 or

BEST HOTEL BAR: Standard Rooftop Bar — Standard Downtown

550 S. Flower St., (213) 892-8080 or

The pod-filled space that helped kick up Downtown’s nightlife renaissance more than a decade ago can still raise eyebrows. Expect weird pop-up performances, various states of dress and undress and midnight swimmers.  

RUNNER-UP: BonaVista Lounge — Westin Bonaventure

404 S. Figueroa St., (213) 624-1000 or


400 S. Main St., (213) 617-1000 or

A lot of nearby bars are open late, but they don’t have patios that allow dogs, the right amount of sitting space and the neighborhood’s daily gossip. 

RUNNER-UP: Yard House 

800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 745-9273 or


877 S. Figueroa St., (213) 972-9279 or

Country-fried steak, eggs, thick grilled sourdough. What hangover? 

RUNNER-UP: Nickel Diner

524 S. Main St., (213) 623-8301 or


108 W. Second St., (213) 613-0000 or

If you can weather the line, this is quite an evening. Hang out with a well-dressed crowd that, unlike clubbers elsewhere, seem genuinely happy to be inside. 

RUNNER-UP: Conga Room

800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 745-0162 or


800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 745-9273 or

There are a dizzying amount of tapped kegs here, but they’re broken up into categories to help you decide. Then there’s the whole sampler situation, in case you don’t feel like deciding. 

RUNNER-UP: Wurstküche

800 E. Third St., (213) 687-4444 or



Best Shopping

BEST FARMERS MARKET: Pershing Square Farmers Market

532 S. Olive St.,, Wednesday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Not every Downtown farmers market has food stands, but this one’s packed with them. It also has the requisite fruit, vegetable, flower and other vendors, all making the day a little more manageable. 

RUNNER-UP: FIGat7th Farmers Market

735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 955-7150 or


425 S. Broadway, (213) 533-8000 or

Whether you’ve got a handful of CicLAvias under your belt or you’ve been watching from the sidewalk and finally want in on the action, this is the place. Custom made bikes for any lifestyle, and a sweet indoor track where you can test ride.  

RUNNER-UP: Downtown LA Bicycles 

1626 S. Hill St., (213) 745-6783 or


564 S. Main St., (213) 438-0900 or

There’s a foundational product core of good food and basics, along with accessories and hilarious clothes. The staff goes out of its way to research, and then procure, products and bulk food price options for you. 

RUNNER-UP: Bark Avenue’s Pet Project

548 S. Spring St., (213) 688-7752 or 


919 S. Grand Ave., (213) 623-5821 or

Pick up any of the cool, handmade products here and support a school that keeps Downtown looking better, in a sartorial way. 

RUNNER-UP: Raw Materials

436 S. Main St., (800) 729-7060 or


847 S. Broadway, (213) 488-9347 or

The upholstered furniture and cool home accents are either vintage or vintage-inspired, and the prices are surprisingly good. 

RUNNER-UP: Hammer & Spear

255 Santa Fe. Ave. #101, (213) 928-0997 or

BEST BOOKSTORE: The Last Bookstore

453 S. Spring St., (213) 488-0599 or

You can lose yourself on the sprawling first floor of this word wonderland, but do get upstairs to the second floor mezzanine, where the shop’s sea of used books are arranged by color, in huge arcs in old vaults.  

RUNNER-UP: The Library Store 

630 W. Fifth St., (213) 228-7550 or

BEST CIGAR/SMOKE SHOP: Underground Smoke Shop

548 S. Spring St. #108, (213) 622-0224  

Cigarettes, hookahs and shisha, cigars and incense and a really helpful, sweet staff. Chill in the indoor lounge or take a seat outside and let the people watching begin. 

RUNNER-UP: 2nd Street Cigar Lounge and Gallery

124 W. Second St., (213) 452-4416 or

BEST AUTO DEALER — NEW CARS: Nick Alexander Imports

6333 S. Alameda St., (323) 583-1901 or

The place to go for new BMWs. Online reviews and word-of-mouth around town talk of a staff that treats shoppers with respect. 

RUNNER-UP: Toyota Downtown L.A.

1600 S. Figueroa St., (213) 748-8301 or

BEST AUTO DEALER — USED CARS: Nick Alexander Imports

6333 S. Alameda St., (323) 583-1901 or

The pre-owned inventory is kept up-to-date online. You can also fill out the dealership’s “CarFinder” form and the staff will go to work for you. Or just wander the aisles.

RUNNER-UP: Felix Chevrolet

3330 S. Figueroa St., (213) 290-1925 or

BEST JEWELRY MART: St. Vincent Jewelry Center

650 S. Hill St., (213) 629-2124 or

At this outpost in the middle of the country’s largest Jewelry District, shiny product is roughly 40% of what it would cost on the Westside. Jewelry shopping goes like this: Start here to get your feet wet, shop around town to do your due diligence, then return to the district and buy.  

RUNNER-UP: California Jewelry Mart

607 S. Hill St., (213) 627-2831 


548 S. Spring St., #112, (213) 622-0648 or

A thoughtful boutique addition to a street that has enough testosterone from its bars, barbers and food. There is a range of vintage and modern designer wares for ladies and gents.

RUNNER-UP: 1 Man’s Trash

655 S. Main St., (213) 840-3654


363 E. 2nd St., (213) 617-7222 or

Forget the slithery billboards and focus instead on the leg warmers, classic Ts, skirts and dresses. Plus, American Apparel has forward-thinking color palettes: They were selling bright green a year ago, and neon two years before that. 

RUNNER-UP: Popkiller/Popkiller Second 

343 E. Second St., (213) 625-1372 or 


729 S. Los Angeles St., (213) 627-9661 or

One of the last remaining old-school menswear stores, this spot has outstanding service and prices on the same suits you’ll see at big-name department stores. 


655 S. Main St., (213) 840-3654 

There are now chains and a couple of malls in the Central City, so thank the style gods that Downtown’s still got spots like this, stocked by owners who see things their way. Guys come by for blazers, bucket hats and a lot of vintage Gucci. 

RUNNER-UP: Raggedy Threads Vintage Shoppe

330 E. Second St., (213) 620-1188 or


250 S. Grand Ave., (213) 621-1710; 152 N. Central Ave., (213) 625-1391, or

Reasonable T-shirts, cards, baby products and cool art objects created with, or inspired by, the museum’s stable of displays and older stalwarts. Shop onsite or online; proceeds support exhibits, events and collections. 

RUNNER-UP: The Library Store

630 W. Fifth St., (213) 228-7550 or


919 S. Grand Ave., (213) 623-5821 or

The clothes here are donated by local companies and the proceeds benefit the fashion school’s students. Take a few minutes and start hunting for way-cool summery dresses, tanks, fabrics, shoes and jewelry. 

RUNNER-UP: Buttons and Bows

111 W. Seventh St., (213) 622-0648 or


735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 330-4543 or

Not since Ralphs opened have Downtowners nudged one another with such consumer glee. The new City Target has an uncanny telepathy about what loft-dwellers need. There is also cheap wine instead of a garden section.  


750 W. Seventh St., (213) 628-9311 or


Best Restaurants


725 W. Seventh St., (213) 228-7800 or

The Counter bucks all the trends and global cuisine on Seventh Street by getting down to basics, offering build-it-yourself burgers, but with a fresh-faced staff able to talk you into all kinds of combinations and fried sides.

RUNNER-UP: The Parish

840 S. Spring St., (213) 225-2400 or


800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 745-9273 or

It’s like a British pub on American steroids, with curving patios for L.A. Live people watching, solid bar food and a good pre-game or post-work vibe.  

RUNNER-UP: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar 

800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 745-9911 or 

BEST FAST SERVICE: Mendocino Farms

300 S. Grand Ave., (213) 620-1114; 444 S. Flower St., (213) 627-3262; 735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 430-9040 or

The line of suits coursing out of this eatery can make one briefly consider takeout Chinese. Fortunately, the bandana-wearing staff is as serious about quality as proficiency, and the queue actually moves. It’s well worth the wait.

RUNNER-UP: Wurstküche

800 E. Third St., (213) 687-4444 or

BEST FINE DINING: Morton’s The Steakhouse

735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 553-4566 or

The two Windy City pals who founded this chain did a good thing back in 1978. The steaks knock even foodies out.  

RUNNER-UP: Water Grill

544 S. Grand Ave., (213-891-0900 or

BEST FARM TO TABLE: Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar

350 S. Grand Ave., (213) 621-2249 or

The phone-checking Bunker Hill office crowd, not heretofore known for their interest in organic, has embraced this healthy indoor-outdoor spot.

RUNNER-UP: Pete’s Café & Bar

400 S. Main St., (213) 617-1000 or

BEST LUNCH SPOT: Mendocino Farms 

300 S. Grand Ave., (213) 620-1114; 444 S. Flower St., (213) 627-3262; 735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 430-9040 or

Sometimes spending double digits on a sandwich is worth it. This is one of those times. 

RUNNER-UP: Urth Caffe

451 S. Hewitt St., (213) 797-4534 or

BEST DINNER: Morton’s The Steakhouse

735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 553-4566 or

A menu presentation with meat cuts and lobster leads to perfect protein, giant martinis and onion bread. But don’t fill up on the onion bread.

RUNNER-UP: Bäco Mercat

408 S. Main St., (213) 687-8808 or


630 W. Sixth St., (213) 614-0053 or

Amid leather-bound books (they’re real, we checked) and a Sherlock Holmes type den, this petite bar offers a range of small bites, burgers, and a solid beer and wine program. 

RUNNER-UP: Public School 612 (Daily Grill)

612 S. Flower St., (213) 623-1172 or


644 S. Figueroa St., (213) 624-6996 or

Comfort food in a converted fire station — it’s very stars and stripes. And we don’t get to say this often, but try the meatloaf. 

RUNNER-UP: Water Grill

544 S. Grand Ave., (213) 891-0900 or

BEST MIDDLE EASTERN: California Kabob Kitchen

141 W. 11th St., (213) 747-9500 or 

There are plenty of glorified kabob stands Downtown, but this is something more, something sophisticated. The food here is prepared by people who understand the intricacies of Persian spices and flavors. 

RUNNER-UP: Sultan Chicken

311 W. Sixth St., (213) 236-0604 or

BEST ITALIAN: Drago Centro

525 S. Flower St., (213) 228-8998 or

The pastas and proteins, as well as the Italian wine list, are stunning. Several years into the Downtown game, the restaurant has established itself as both a happy hour and a meal center. 

RUNNER-UP: Colori Kitchen

429 W. Eighth St., (213) 622-5950 or

BEST BREAKFAST: The Original Pantry Café

877 S. Figueroa St., (213) 972-9279 or

This is a quintessential L.A. diner, with breakfast all day and night, a former mayor as an owner, and all kinds of characters (that’s including the staff).  

RUNNER-UP: Nickel Diner

524 S. Main St., (213) 623-8301 or


426 S. Main St., (213) 623-1973 or

This Main Street pioneer has stood the test of time. Sizzling steak for meat lovers, pho for veggies and spring rolls for everybody, along with strong teas and coffees.  


1019 N. Broadway, (323) 227-0758


800 W. Seventh St., (213) 623-2288 or

This Downtown staple’s menu is like the greatest hits of Asian cuisine. The most popular Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes are all on one menu.  

RUNNER-UP: Chaya Downtown

525 S. Flower St., (213) 236-9577 or

BEST MEDITERRANEAN: Mediterranean City Grill

609 S. Spring St., (213) 489-9555 or 

The falafel, thanks to a home recipe from the Israeli owner, is delicious. The kabobs are a Spring Street staple. 

RUNNER-UP: Papa Cristos

2771 W. Pico Blvd., (323) 737-2970 or

BEST AMERICAN: Pete’s Café & Bar

400 S. Main St., (213) 617-1000 or

At Pete’s, people get a little burger and mac-and-cheese obsessed. The more serious entrees, among them short ribs and rib-eyes, are equally delicious. 

RUNNER-UP: Nickel Diner

524 S. Main St., (213) 623-8301 or

BEST STEAKHOUSE: Morton’s The Steakhouse

735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 553-4566 or

The tricks of the trade: An aging interim of 23-28 days, “abundant marbling” and an 1,800-degree broiler. All of it requires people who know and love what they’re doing. 

RUNNER-UP: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar 

800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 745-9911 or

BEST PIZZA: Bottega Louie

700 S. Grand Ave., (213) 802-1470 or

Bottega can feel like a circus. Zero in on the pizza chefs in back, calmly twirling dough and working the woodfire, all to turn out perfectly  balanced pies. 

RUNNER-UP: Pitfire Pizza Company 

108 W. Second St., (213) 808-1200 or


544 S. Grand Ave., (213) 891-0900 or

A few of us fretted about this classic’s menu transformation into something zippier and more bar-ified. We don’t worry anymore: The oysters, scallops and shrimp are amazing, and so is the presentation.  

RUNNER-UP: McCormick & Schmick’s

633 W. Fifth St., fourth floor, (213) 629-1929 or

BEST INDIAN: Saffron Indian Cuisine

505 S. Flower St., (213) 488-9754; 735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 688-1400 or

Saffron got its sea legs in City National Plaza, and now has a second outpost (dubbed Indus by Saffron) in FIGat7th’s impressive food court. Delicious masalas and tikka sauces, good prices and spices, and outstanding naan. 

RUNNER-UP: Gill’s Cuisine of India

838 S. Grand Ave., (213) 623-1050 or 


1037 S. Flower St., (213) 746-7750 or

We’re suckers for the tableside guacamole, the fireplace and the L.A. Lemonade margarita. For L.A. Live, it’s an affordable place to fill up before the game or the show. 

RUNNER-UP: Border Grill

445 S. Figueroa St., (213) 486-5171 or

BEST BURGER: The Counter

725 W. Seventh St., (213) 228-7800 or

The Counter claims there are 312,120 burger combinations available, give or take. If that level of choice is overwhelming, there are delicious go-to’s on the menu that don’t involve the clipboard. 

RUNNER-UP: Umamicatessen

852 S. Broadway, (213) 413-8626 or


323 E. First St., (213) 680-1826

It’s not all sushi, ramen or shabu shabu in Little Tokyo. Most everything here is under $10, and that includes all those Korean sides. Go for rice, miso, cucumber, kimchee, spicy bean sprouts and potato salad. 

RUNNER-UP: Manna Korean BBQ 

333 S. Alameda St., (213) 617-0306 or

BEST JAPANESE: Shabu Shabu House

127 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, (213) 680-3890

If you can get past the wait (and there’s a lot to see in the mall), then a meat lover’s odyssey awaits. Every diner gets his or her own hot pot. 

RUNNER-UP: Takami Sushi & Robata Restaurant

811 Wilshire Blvd., #2100, (213) 236-9600 or


700 W. Fifth St., (213) 239-6500 or

Amid olive trees and balmy weather, Pinot is everything you’d think California-French ought to be. There’s even a Francophile foundation layered with a lot of local farmers market color. 

RUNNER-UP: Church & State

1850 Industrial St. #100, (213) 405-1434 or


518 W. Seventh St., (213) 537-0333 or

In a much more elegant setting than most of L.A.’s Thai joints, Soi 7 has great sit-down fare. Fortunately you can get out quickly and easily. The best options are the lunch specials  

RUNNER-UP: Sticky Rice

317 S. Broadway #C-4-5, in Grand Central Market 


600 W. Seventh St., (213) 627-3000 or

With Little Tokyo so close, it’s strange that Downtown’s best sushi spot is on Seventh Street. But the famous “trust me” sushi empire is thriving here, where the rules (don’t ask for extra ponzu, and do not utter the words “California roll”) are as great as the fish.  

RUNNER-UP: Sushi Gen

422 E. Second St., (213) 617-0552 or


300 S. Grand Ave., (213) 620-1114; 444 S. Flower St., (213) 627-3262; 735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 430-9040 or

People taste the tuna melt and/or dip into vegan-land with a shawarma, and they’re not the same. Don’t worry about wearing out the menu, as there are specials and seasonal selections every day. 

RUNNER-UP: Philippe The Original

1001 N. Alameda St., (213) 628-3781 or


327 E. First St., (213) 626-1680 or

Cheap, lightning fast, brothily delicious and as crowded at 1 a.m. as it is at 7 p.m. 

RUNNER-UP: Mr. Ramen

341 1/2 E. First St., (213) 626-4252 or


120 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, (213) 680-0567

Frying Fish is home to sweet, chatty chefs and great sushi. You don’t have to stick to the conveyor belt: Just order some ootoro from the chefs, or ask the ladies in the back for the menu. 

BEST DIM SUM: Ocean Seafood

750 N. Hill St., (213) 687-3088 or

Now that Empress Pavilion is no more, Ocean gets a chance to flex its muscle. It showcases formidable Hong Kong dim sum, great honey walnut shrimp and cart ladies who actually seem to be having fun. 


700 N. Spring St., (213) 617-2323  


819 N. Broadway, (213) 625-0811

Legendary slippery shrimp and 75-cent valet parking. No one’s ever accused it of being the most authentic Chinese eatery, but it’s undeniably a classic.  

RUNNER-UP: Plum Tree Inn 

913 N. Broadway, (213) 613-1819 or 

BEST MAC N’ CHEESE: Pete’s Café and Bar

400 S. Main St., (213) 617-1000 or

There are three cheeses in this little pot of love: Vermont sharp white cheddar, asiago and goat. It’s comfort food success.  

RUNNER-UP: Nickel Diner 

524 S. Main St., (213) 623-8301 or 


426 S. Main St., (213) 623-1973 or

There’s plenty of steak here, but vegetarians win big, thanks to an assortment of spring rolls, fritters, cold noodle dishes and pho. 

RUNNER-UP: Cabbage Patch

520 W. Sixth St., (213) 489-4489 or


413 S. Main St., (213) 617-9100 or

Main Street needed a sweet spot! Chocolate and red velvet options are just the start. Try the Reese’s peanut butter cupcake when they’ve got it. 

RUNNER-UP: The Pie Hole

714 Traction Ave., (213) 537-0115 or


413 S. Main St., (213) 617-9100 or

It’s either the Big Man himself, or one of the hilarious girls he hires, behind the counter. Either way, buying cupcakes here is more fun than other chains. It’s personal. 

BEST CAFÉ: Urth Caffe

451 Hewitt St., (213) 797-4534 or

First time visitors may think it’s a mirage or a movie shoot, but this Arts District outpost has become the area’s de facto living room, where locals are guaranteed to run into friends and neighbors. 


639 S. Spring St., (213) 612-3000 or


617 S. Olive St., (213) 488-9488 or

Cicada exemplifies Art Deco fabulousness, with Lalique glass, soft light, and a dance floor that couples have been swirling on seemingly since the 1920s. The Italian cuisine is pretty solid, too.


141 S. Grand Ave., (213) 972-3331 or


448 S. Hill St., (213) 802-1770 or

Once you park and get upstairs, you’ve earned a little oasis, and Perch delivers. Inside is for buzz and bar proximity, but the outside is the respite, with breeze and light and very-cushioned chairs. 

RUNNER-UP: Cafe Pinot

700 W. Fifth St., (213) 239-6500 or


735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 955-7150 or

The reimagining of what could have been the city’s millionth subterranean food court has gone off like gangbusters. There’s not a dismissible, expected spot in here. 

RUNNER-UP: Grand Central Market

317 S. Broadway, (213) 624-2378 or


700 S. Grand Ave., (213) 802-1470 or

When writing about Bottega Louie, you’re required to comment on the noise. So here it is: It’s loud in there. But it’s also a perfect group spot, with small and big plates, a game staff, and an environment where no one can hear your gossip no matter how good it is. 

RUNNER-UP: Pete’s Café & Bar

400 S. Main St., (213) 617-1000 or


448 S. Hill St., (213) 802-1770 or

This is the best way-above-ground dining in Downtown. It’s high enough not to hear the buses, but low enough to feel a part of the city. And you can see all the nature in Pershing Square from here. 


404 S. Figueroa St., (213) 612-4743 or

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT: WP24 in the Ritz-Carlton

900 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 743-8824 or

It’s a special occasion place, for sure. Gorgeous views, confident swankiness, and Peking duck, fancy bao buns and dumplings. 

RUNNER-UP: LA Market at J.W. Marriott

900 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 765-8630 or


700 W. Fifth St., (213) 239-6500 or

Maybe it’s the fact that there are a lot of weddings here. Maybe it’s the fine Cal-French food and the adept staff. Maybe it’s the quiet, elegant, sunny vibe. You get it. 

RUNNER-UP: Pacific Dining Car

1310 W. Sixth St., (213) 483-6000 or

BEST BRUNCH: Bottega Louie

700 S. Grand Ave., (213) 802-1470 or

There is no better spot from which to, in any order, people watch, sip a mimosa or a Bloody Mary, and wear sunglasses indoors. 

RUNNER-UP: Nickel Diner

524 Main St., (213) 623-8301 or 

BEST BARGAIN LUNCH DEAL: Philippe The Original

1001 N. Alameda St., (213) 628-3781 or

We like pickled eggs and pie, but show us another sandwich with a Facebook page, reams of food review acclaim, and an enduring genesis story about whether it, or Cole’s, created it first. All hail the French dip.

RUNNER-UP: Mendocino Farms

300 S. Grand Ave., (213) 620-1114; 444 S. Flower St., (213) 627-3262; 735 S. Figueroa St., (213) 430-9040  or


1001 N. Alameda St., (213) 628-3781 or

One of the few places in L.A. where suited executives stand alongside uniforms, all to catch a dripping meat sandwich from an aproned counter lady.  

RUNNER-UP: The Original Pantry Café

877 S. Figueroa St., (213) 972-9279 or


130 S. Central Ave., (213) 687-0733 or  

With double-digit flavors and toppings that range from candy bar bits to cereal to cookie dough to lychee fruit, it’s almost impossible to screw up at this DIY spot.

RUNNER-UP:  Pinkberry

332 E. Second St., Suite A, (213) 621-7645 or



Best Miscellany

BEST-LOOKING BUILDING: Walt Disney Concert Hall

111 S. Grand Ave., (323) 850-2000 or 

To this day, Frank Gehry’s landmark is still talked about, even far beyond L.A., as a standout example of American architecture in the 21st century. 

RUNNER-UP: Central Library

630 W. Fifth St., (213) 228-7000 or


601 S. Figueroa St. #2200, (213) 330-8020 or

The powerhouse Brookfield has the Bank of America Plaza, Figueroa at Wilshire, and Ernst & Young Plaza in Downtown. They also do a pretty hefty art/cultural series at their local buildings. 

RUNNER-UP: Downtown Properties Holdings LLC

818 W. Seventh St., Suite 410, (213) 213-8600 or


453 S. Spring St., Suite #1116, (213) 239-8336 or

Spring Street is flush with new businesses, a new park and a farmers market that survived the growing pains of its first year. And that’s just Spring! The entire Historic Core seems energized, and the BID, which operates cleaning and safety programs, is one of its cornerstones. 

RUNNER-UP: Downtown Center BID

626 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200, (213) 624-2146 or


842 S. Broadway, (877) 677-4386 or

This 1926 vaudeville venue is a gorgeously restored event space. Owner Steve Needleman seems to know everyone and cares deeply about what happens to the neighborhood. Joe Satriani plays this month! 

RUNNER-UP: Los Angeles Theatre

615 S. Broadway, (213) 629-2939 or 


601 S. Figueroa St. #2200, (213) 330-8020 or

This firm’s properties, as the website says, “define the skylines of many major metropolises.” Downtown is certainly among them. Things will likely only get better for Downtown once Brookfield’s pending purchase of four former MPG Office Trust towers closes in the fall.

RUNNER-UP: Cushman & Wakefield

601 S. Figueroa St., fourth floor, (213) 955-5100 or 

BEST LAW FIRM: Latham & Watkins, LLP

355 S. Grand Ave., (213) 485-1234 or 

The firm started in L.A. in 1934 with just a trio of barristers. There are more than 2,000 today, with offices all over the world. They’re big power players in Downtown.

RUNNER-UP: O’Melveny & Myers, LLP 

400 S. Hope St., (213) 430-6000 or


1000 W. Sixth St., (213) 927-1822 or

Ask any big office manager or small business manager Downtown and they’ll tell you the same: Everybody uses them.

RUNNER-UP: Los Angeles Movers

333 S. Grand Ave., Suite 2500, (213) 596-9683 or 


500 S. Figueroa St., (213) 327-3600 or

This architecture behemoth came from Santa Monica to Downtown, because as nice as the beach air is, transit, energy and proximity to projects like Dodger Stadium, Farmers Field and the new Sport Chalet count too.  

RUNNER-UP: Arquitectonica

818 W. Seventh St. #800, (213) 895-7800


Several locations, (800) 869-3557 or

Packing complete banking services, there are branches throughout Downtown. There’s also a Wells Fargo History Museum on Bunker Hill, should you want to more fully explore your bank’s past, or see a real stagecoach, which is how the bank, in the pre-Internet 1860s, was known to make transactions.  

RUNNER-UP: Bank of America

333 S. Hope St., (213) 613-9579 or


444 S. Flower St., (213) 553-3300 or

You can either give this venerable firm your money, or read their cool “Blue Papers” online and pretend you’re giving them your money. They service individual investors with a huge toolbox and an international reach: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities and more.

RUNNER-UP: Wells Fargo 

333 S. Grand Ave., (213) 253-7166 or

BEST EMPLOYMENT AGENCY: Apple One Employment Services

888 S. Figueroa St., (213) 892-0234 or

Apple One’s Downtown staff is known to place clients quickly, or keep at it until they do. Then they diligently follow up.  


330 S. Hope St., (213) 623-8166 or 


214 S. Main St., (213) 626-1507 or

Barely escaping the wrecking ball, the city’s first cathedral has secularized itself into a spectacular event space with old marble and onyx grandeur on the inside, and a garden courtyard full of king palms and olive trees. 

RUNNER-UP: Walt Disney Concert Hall

111 S. Grand Ave., (323) 850-2000 or

BEST PRIVATE EVENT VENUE: Millennium Biltmore Hotel

506 S. Grand Ave., (213) 624-1011 or

The 1920s-era hotel has five ballrooms, an exhibit hall and an executive boardroom that eschews boxy conference room tradition with chandeliers, carved friezes and vaulted ceilings. 

RUNNER-UP: J.W. Marriott 

333 S. Figueroa St., (213) 617-1133 or


810 S. Flower St., (213) 955-5700 or 

Nice proximity to, well, the core of the Central City. It also has a famously kind staff. 

RUNNER-UP: Eastern Columbia 

849 S. Broadway, (323) 930-3742 or


725 S. Bixel St., (877) 239-8256 or

The merry-making USC and FIDM students who comprise the tenant majority at this 632-unit complex like the heated pool, the tennis courts, and the easy walk to, well, more merry-making. 


1155 S. Grand Ave., (213) 741-2700 or

MOST ROMANTIC HOTEL: Millennium Biltmore

506 S. Grand Ave., (213) 624 1011 or

The venerable property offers up the Gallery Bar and the Rendezvous Court, as well as alcoves and lookouts to induce canoodling. Hey, get a room!

RUNNER-UP: Ritz-Carlton

900 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 743-8800 or

COOLEST HOTEL: Standard Downtown

550 S. Flower St., (213) 892-8080 or

Eccentric room design and gorgeous views — of Los Angeles, and of whomever you’re staying with, thanks to the see-through showers.  

RUNNER-UP: Ritz-Carlton

900 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 743-8800 or


1911 W. Sunset Blvd., (213) 484-1265 or

Six different rooms that can accommodate up to 200 people, along with no room fees and the knowledge you’re now a part of an L.A. institution’s history. 

RUNNER-UP: San Antonio Winery & Maddalena Restaurant

737 Lamar St., (323) 223-1401 or



Best Services

BEST DAY SPA: Ritz-Carlton Spa

900 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 743-8800 or

This bright white spa has a full range of massage and beauty services. In between, everybody repairs to the co-ed Sanctuary for sofa time, tea and snacks.  

RUNNER-UP: The Spa (Omni Los Angeles Hotel)

251 S. Olive St., (213) 617-3300 or


607 S. Olive St., (213) 623-4383 or

The shop’s flagship always has pampered clients inside, happily sipping beverages. Known for a color, cut and eyebrow magician staff, it’s a full-service salon and urban sanctuary.

RUNNER-UP: Salon Pure

117 E. Sixth St., (213) 624-7873 or 


512 W. Seventh St., (213) 627-5300 or

A nail spa that branched off from the Seventh Street shop, featuring a full range of mani/pedi options and gels, a hoard of colors, and champagne, wine, juice, tea and coffee. 

RUNNER-UP: Nails on 9th

127 W. Ninth St., (213) 627-6245


460 S. Spring St., (213) 232-4715 or

Good barbers and marketing geniuses, these guys understand the neighborhood intimately. To wit: For a $3 “Hairy Beast” card, you get free PBR or root beer. 

RUNNER-UP: Rudy’s Barber Shop

550 S. Flower St., (213) 439-3058 or


514 W. Sixth St., (213) 688-9699

Months or even years after you’ve had your kicks fixed, if its cobblers see you hoofing down Sixth Street, they wave and remember your name.  

RUNNER-UP: Shoe Masters

350 S. Grand Ave., Suite A

BEST CHURCH/SYNAGOGUE/ PLACE OF WORSHIP: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

555 W. Temple St., (213) 680-5200 or

Catholic or not, you’re welcome just to see the sights. This is a bold interpretation of a modern urban cathedral. Plus, there’s a gorgeous sculpture of the church’s namesake by the late Robert Graham.  

RUNNER-UP: First Congregational Church

540 S. Commonwealth Ave., (213) 385-1341 or

BEST FLORIST: Downtown Flowers.Net

505 S. Flower St., (213) 488-2028 or

The classics are here, among them long-stemmed Ecuadorian roses and compact centerpieces. The shop is also known to cut loose with exotics. 

RUNNER-UP: Bloomies Flowers and Gifts

515 S. Olive St., (213) 489-9757 or

BEST DRY CLEANERS: Sloan’s Dry Cleaners

330 S. Hope St., (213) 620-0205; 601 S. Figueroa St., (213) 627-5123

This chain services thousands of Downtowners, especially high-rise denizens and hotel guests with delivery fluff and fold needs. 

RUNNER-UP: Tokyo Cleaners 

426 E. Second St., (213) 628-2474 

BEST HOSPITAL: Good Samaritan Hospital

616 S. Witmer Blvd., (213) 977-2121 or

The right kind of hospital for Downtown, and not just because its CEO rides his bike to work every day. Good Sam services all of our demographics competently and kindly. 

RUNNER-UP: St. Vincent Medical Center

2131 W. Third St., (213) 484-7111 or


255 S. Grand Ave. #204, (213) 620-5777 or 

Dr. Mungcal has been a mainstay in Downtown for years thanks to his comfortable offices, sci-fi X-ray machines and, most important, quality services. 

RUNNER-UP: Zen Dental

110 E. Ninth St., Suite B225, (213) 623-1129 or

BEST CHIROPRACTOR: Downtown Live Chiropractic

714 W. Olympic Blvd.,Suite 1001,  (213) 744-1099 or

Dr. Levon is into the whole well-being enchilada. He’s quick, friendly and proficient, but he can also talk posture, diet and lifestyle.

RUNNER-UP: Akimoto Chiropractic Office

712 E. First St., (213) 617-9224

BEST OPTOMETRIST: Downtown L.A. Optometric Vision Center

623 W. Sixth St., (213) 628-6291 or

Dr. Barnes and her sweet staff get you in and out quickly, explain themselves in a patient way, and can help navigate insurance for routine eye exams, custom contact lenses and Lasik. 

RUNNER-UP: Robert Shapiro, OD, FAAO

555 S. Broadway, (213) 627-5911 or 

BEST GYM/WORKOUT FACILITY: Los Angeles Athletic Club

431 W. Seventh St., (213) 625-2211 or

Forgetting the bar, the restaurants and the rooftop lounge — activities which tend not to burn calories, it turns out — LAAC is a fantastic gym. The equipment is well maintained, the classes are small and personalized and it has the best pool in Downtown.

RUNNER-UP: Gold’s Gym

735 S. Figueroa St. #100, (213) 688-1441 or


2601 S. Figueroa St., (213) 741-3111 or

This gem in a historic building offers travel services, maps and very helpful ladies behind the counter. Don’t go on your lunch hour as it gets crowed, but do go.

RUNNER-UP: Liberty Travel

661 S. Flower St., (213) 688-2150 or

BEST HOTEL: Ritz-Carlton

900 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 743-8800 or

The hotel’s brand means that incredible service and amenities are assured. But what’s nice about the Ritz-Carlton Downtown is that all the luxury is complemented by fantastic views and proximity to hundreds of adventures.  

RUNNER-UP: Millennium Biltmore Hotel

506 S. Grand Ave., (213) 624-1011 or 


6333 S. Alameda St., (323) 583-1901 or

Unlike other dealership service departments, these guys don’t charge for services that ought to be free, and flatbed truck pick-up and loaner vehicles are a given, not something to be haggled over.  

RUNNER-UP: Toyota of Downtown L.A.

1600 S. Figueroa St., (213) 748-8301 or 

BEST AUTO BODY/AUTO REPAIR: Downtown Auto Repair & Body Shop

1023 E. Olympic Blvd., (213) 622-8579

Downtowners are picky and frequently need same-day service so they can drive home after work. This shop makes that happen. 

RUNNER-UP: Downtown L.A. Motors

1801 S. Figueroa St., (888) 854-2969 or 


With the new Expo Line open, we can traverse a better part of the City of Angels on the rails: Long Beach to Sierra Madre; Culver City to East L.A.; and all over Downtown.


100 S. Main St., (213) 808-2273 or

BEST PRE-SCHOOL: Pilgrim School

540 S. Commonwealth Ave., (213) 385-7351 or

Pilgrim’s a school of the city, focused on academics and indoor/outdoor fun. It constantly ushers its little charges to MOCA, Exposition Park, cool Downtown neighborhoods like Chinatown, and Disney Hall. 

RUNNER-UP: La Petite Academy

750 N. Alameda St., (877) 861-5078 or 

BEST DAYCARE: Hope Street Friends

330 S. Hope St., (213) 787-2006 or

This early education center looks after the offspring of nearby law and investment firm employees, but it’s open to community kids too.  

RUNNER-UP: La Petite Academy

750 N. Alameda St., (213) 202-6230 or


545 S. Main St., (213) 748-7485 or

The floor staff treats Downtown’s fuzzy children with love and joy. They know names, favorite games and routines. They never just let the dogs out. 


1728 Maple Ave., (213) 748-4364 or


564 S. Main St., (213) 438-0900 or

Patient groomers who understand breed-specific standards, but aren’t above lion cuts, mohawks and tattoos. Plus, there’s a self-serve bath set-up if your pets are more comfortable with you scrubbing them down. 

RUNNER-UP: Bark Ave.

545 S. Main St., (213) 748-7485 or 


A local agent for years, Trentman may know the Central City better than the back of his hand. He knows what’s here, he knows what’s changing and he’s an adroit listener. 

RUNNER-UP: Laura Silver

1200 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 747-4151 or



Best of Downtown Staff Picks

BEST PUBLIC ART: Colette Miller’s Angels Wings

Like all good street art, Colette Miller’s colorful angel wings appeared without announcement or fanfare. The three pairs of wheat pasted wings on the roll-down doors of the Regent Theater on Main Street were designed so that a person could stand in front of them and instantly appear angelic. Then, Los Angeles Downtown News photographer Gary Leonard invited people to pose with the wings on several weekends. Hundreds showed up, including former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and current Mayor Eric Garcetti. It had such an impact that Miller was invited to paint a new pair at the FIGat7th shopping center.—Ryan Vaillancourt 


There are numerous online destinations for people hungry for news about Downtown Los Angeles. While we recommend, ahem,, the DTLA Facebook page ( is a forum where more than 2,000 members cover, sometimes emotionally and with terrible grammar, a uniquely broad swath of community issues. Members can search old threads to find a good dry cleaner, shamelessly self-promote their local business, ask if anyone’s seen Ricky the Pirate lately (and inquire about his health) or lament the latest community problem. It is an unfiltered conversation where people are often sarcastic and occasionally rude, but ultimately insightful.—Ryan Vaillancourt

BEST COACH: Doc Rivers

The new Clippers coach has yet to helm a game with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in his lineup. Yet the former guard who guided the Celtics to a 2008 NBA title over the Lakers (and lost one to Kobe’s crew two years later) is already paying benefits. Working out a deal to bring Rivers to L.A. to replace the banished Vinny Del Negro helped convince free agent Paul to sign a five-year contract, and Rivers is known for having a far more complete coaching approach than the Lakers’ offensive-minded Mike D’Antoni. Winning a championship won’t be easy, but with Rivers on board, pro ball watchers know the Clippers have a legitimate shot, and that’s saying something.—Jon Regardie 

BEST ODDITY: Tree Growing Out of a Wall on Broadway

Trees traditionally grow from the ground. Just don’t tell that to the ficus at 351 S. Broadway. It emerges from the top of the five-floor building’s south facing wall. Although no one knows exactly how it got there, Jim Henrich, the curator of living collections at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, theorized that a bird may have dropped a seed in the building’s walls. He noted that the hearty ficus can establish itself almost anywhere with just a bit of moisture. The tree is now about 12 feet tall, but its days are numbered. Developer David Gray is renovating the building and the ficus will eventually have to be removed.—Richard Guzmán 

BEST AUCTION: King Eddy Saloon

On Dec. 16, 2012, the venerable dive the King Eddy Saloon closed its doors so new owners could do a renovation. Before the drinking destination on the ground floor of the 1906 King Edward Hotel at 131 E. Fifth St. shuttered, outgoing owner Dustin Croick decided to auction everything inside the bar. Well, he tried. After hours of goodbye drinking, Croick began trying to sell about 100 items, including beer signs, bar glasses, paintings, statues, stools and even a pair of nunchuks that had hung over the bar. Did it work? Not even close! The bar ran out of Pabst Blue Ribbon and the auction started about two hours late. At the end, only about 25 items sold for a total of $200. The most popular item, curiously, was a painting of a trotting white unicorn with a rainbow flowing from its horn, which started at $2. Although some regulars said they had never before seen it at the King Eddy, it fetched $30.—Richard Guzmán 

BEST GHOST STORY: Haunted Wilshire Grand

As demolition crews took apart the old Wilshire Grand, some workers felt that not every guest of the hotel had left. Security guards and employees of an auction company that stayed in the hotel at Seventh and Figueroa streets after it closed insisted that the place was haunted. One guard recalls talking to his girlfriend via Skype when she asked who was standing behind him. He had been alone in the room. Others reported hearing a little girl singing on the seventh floor. A Downtown News reporter spent a few hours canvassing the empty hotel and found nothing, but those who did were legitimately spooked. Will the alleged apparitions inhabit the new $1 billion replacement? Let’s hope they can’t afford it.—Ryan Vaillancourt


Exercising is essential, but it can also be expensive, with gym memberships, pricy shoes and other sport-specific accessories. Of course, it’s possible to get a great workout without spending a dime. One option is the Los Angeles Theatre Center (514 S. Spring St.), which offers free flow yoga classes at 9:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. What can you expect? As a recent Facebook post for the offering promised, “gentle twists and mini backbends are on the yoga menu today. Come and partake! It’ll be subtle and sweet.” In an age when an hour of yoga can cost $50, this freebie is a rare community resource. Namaste.—Ryan Vaillancourt


Downtown has the Fashion District, the Arts District and the Toy District, which is far less joyful than it sounds. Unbeknownst to many who live and work in the Central City, it also has an unofficial piñata district. Near the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Central Avenue are more than a dozen stores that all carry colorful piñatas. Some have a few hundred options, while others overflow with more than 1,000 of the party-smashing offerings. Predictably, the choices are far too numerous to count: There are superheroes, cartoon characters, animals, stars and oversized beer bottles. The list goes on and on, and they cost as little as $2.—Richard Guzmán  

BEST GRASSROOTS PROJECT: Metro Charter Elementary School 

The Downtown revival has given the community almost everything… expect a school lofties will accept for their children. Thus, a group of Downtown parents three years ago said they would create a charter school, and lo and behold, it looks like they’re doing it. The Metro Charter Elementary School is slated to open in September, with 150 kindergarten through second grade students taking classes in a 12,000-square-foot space at the California Hospital Medical Center at 1401 S. Grand Ave. (current occupant the Hope Street Family Center is moving to a new location in August). Plans call eventually to expand Metro Charter to 500 students as the school expands up to fifth grade. Now, with a school, Downtown has everything! Except maybe a water park.—Richard Guzmán 


Six years ago, two different entrepreneurs tried to launch pedicab companies in Downtown. However, wary city officials quashed the concept of having people provide pedal-powered, taxi-like service amidst speeding autos. Now, just like zombies, the pedicab concept is back from the dead. Fourteenth District City Councilman José Huizar in April authored a motion directing the city to study ways to create a pedicab system. The city Department of Transportation is on the job and is looking at a regulatory system to implement a pilot program in Downtown. There’s no timeline yet on when (or if) cabs will start rolling through the neighborhood.—Richard Guzmán 


The reign of City Council President Herb Wesson brings up the old Machiavelli question of whether it is better to be feared than loved. Wesson is quick and ruthless in his strikes, as Angelenos learned when a) he orchestrated the snatching of Downtown from Jan Perry’s Ninth District during council redistricting, and b) he unceremoniously dressed down former Mayor Richard Riordan in public. Wesson grabbed the council presidency in 2011 and was unanimously re-elected to the post this month after helping engineer the election of several new members. He has also turned the body into a Sacramento-style machine where public disagreement is limited. Yes, many chafe against the former speaker of the State Assembly, but few dare confront him or criticize him in public, fearing the repercussions. Wesson may not be loved, but he’s cutthroat great at politics.—Jon Regardie


The Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council has an important role in local civic life: The all-volunteer board votes on land-use and other issues, and their decisions function as formal if non-binding recommendations to the City Council. While DLANC board members are elected, many stalwarts are mere volunteers (in fact, no one gets paid). Unelected DLANC volunteers don’t get to vote, but they can sit on committees and help steer the group’s priorities. Got a particular passion that DLANC doesn’t currently have a committee to handle? You can start your own. Learn more at—Ryan Vaillancourt


Two years ago, USC music professor Josh Kun and a team of researchers started digging into the Central Library’s trove of 50,000 pieces of sheet music. What they found was a revealing portrait of early 20th century Los Angeles, and how Angelenos used music to sell Southern California. Kun is behind the ongoing exhibit Songs in the Key of L.A., which features gorgeous, orange crate-reminiscent sheet music cover art and other artifacts from the library’s collection. View the exhibition in the first floor galleries, then make an appointment and peruse the songbook collection yourself and bring an old tune back to life. There’s also an accompanying coffee table book.—Ryan Vaillancourt

BEST END OF AN EYESORE: Park Plans for The Graffiti Pit

For decades, a very conspicuous blight spot at the northeast corner of First Street and Broadway has marred the Civic Center. The fenced-in site of a former state office building, which was razed after the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake, still contains the remnants of the edifice’s foundation. Over the years it was a canvas for graffiti vandals and a homeless encampment, and today a batch of feral cats hang out there. Community stakeholders dreamed of turning it into a park, especially once the adjacent Grand Park opened last summer. Well, it’s happening. The city worked out a deal last month to buy the land from the state using funds earmarked for park space acquisition. No designs or anything resembling a plan have been announced, but change is underway.—Ryan Vaillancourt

BEST BUSINESS 2.0: The Medallion 

When the $125 million Medallion opened three years ago, developer Saeed Farkhondehpour intended to fill the 200 small retail spaces with discount and wholesale stores like the ones found in the Toy District. Things didn’t work out, and occupancy reached only 20%. So, this year, Farkhondehpour switched tracks, turning instead to a food-oriented program. He has already spent $4.5 million on upgrades and has brought in the restaurants Simply Salad and Dr. J’s Vibrant Café. He is also teaming with John Edwards to create a permanent farmers market and open an array of new spots: On the docket are Café Uzes, a 2,000-square-foot eatery from Tara Thomas of Traxx at Union Station; Bigmista’s Barbecue, which has earned a following at several farmers market; and Bread Bar Bakery, an offshoot of the Century City artisanal bread maker. Dozens more are expected to follow.—Richard Guzmán

BEST CHILDREN’S ACTIVITY: Storytime at the Central Library

Downtown has an increasing roster of kids’ offerings, many at Grand Park, but nothing compares to the year-round fun of Storytime, which takes place most Saturdays at 2 p.m. The happenings in the fantastic and huge children’s library inside the Central Library are led by a pair of eager librarians who orchestrate an hour-long lineup of stories, songs and a puppet show. The subjects change weekly and are gentle and sweet: Think “Springtime Animals” or “Fruits and Vegetables, Yum, Yum, Yum!” The events, which attract several dozen kids, are interactive and encourage a love of reading and checking out books. They are also free.—Jon Regardie

BEST BLOWUP OF THE PAST YEAR: The Departure of Tim Leiweke

Tim Leiweke never ceased to blow Downtown away. The longtime president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group made L.A. Live and the Convention Center hotel happen, and he had Downtown believing that, in Farmers Field, pro football would return to L.A. Then in March he dropped a bomb, abruptly walking away from the company and the city, an ugly side-effect of a split with company owner Phil Anschutz over Anschutz’s decision not to sell AEG. Downtowners were stunned by the departure of Leiweke, who Downtown News once named the Most Powerful Person in Downtown. Today, the fate of Farmers Field is in question and Leiweke is in Toronto, where he is likely convincing Canadians that the seemingly impossible is within reach.—Jon Regardie


Shoppers beware: Once you enter Saigon Plaza, you may never leave, and not because the deals are so good. From the outside, the shopping area at 800 N. Broadway looks like a regular plaza with a few small shops. Once inside, however, you’re in a labyrinth-like territory with a system of Escher-esque aisles flanked by more than 100 stalls. The cavernous maze of commerce is usually packed with people, and no matter where you turn, all you see are more shops down more aisles selling toys, clothes, backpacks, beauty products and even fountains. Eventually (hopefully) you’ll glimpse an exit sign. Run to it, though recognize that the street you emerge onto may be different than the one where you came in.—Richard Guzmán  

BEST URBAN FAMILY HIKE: Downhill From Grand Park to Spring Street Park

Kids have short attention spans and a lot of energy. Address both with a family friendly park-centric hike. Start at Grand Park, where the fountain and splash zone will delight the little ones and give mom and dad a chance to sit and relax. Once the excitement of water wears off, walk downhill along First Street toward Main Street to the LAPD headquarters. Head up to the LAPD Memorial and find the seating area that overlooks the lawn fronting Second Street, which has basically become a dog park. Have lunch while watching the hounds play. After lunch, head south on Spring toward the new Spring Street Park, just below Fourth. Let the wee ones cavort on the play structure. That’s one easy walk, three parks and, hopefully, exhausted kids.—Richard Guzmán 

BEST RETAIL TREND: Hybrid Businesses 

Need new music and a haircut? Or some jeans and a new hair color? No longer must you hit multiple stores, as Downtown is seeing a burgeoning trend of businesses with multiple offerings that may seem mutually exclusive. One option is Artform Studio (701 E. Third St.), where the front room is a record store with racks full of vinyl. The back, meanwhile, is a beauty salon where stylists give haircuts. Then there’s The Well (1006 S. Olive St.). The first thing visitors see is a cavernous space with a sleek white display counter with jewelry, sunglasses and other accessories. There is also men’s and women’s clothing — think designer jeans, dresses, shoes, jackets and purses. Toward the back is a salon with comfortable dark brown chairs and black sinks. Behind the salon is a 2,500-square-foot space that can be rented out for private events.—Richard Guzmán

BEST GO HERE BEFORE IT CLOSES: Los Angeles State Historic Park

Visiting the park on the edge of Chinatown is a great way to escape the urban bustle without actually leaving Downtown. The park has walking paths, grassy areas and even some wildlife, if you count the gophers who pop their heads out of holes every once in a while. While adored by its users (including the crowds who check out Hard Summer, the FYF Fest and other concerts), the park will close in January as part of an $18 million renovation that will create a welcome pavilion, a promenade for a farmers market, an amphitheater, wetlands areas and infrastructure improvements such as permanent restrooms. So get your fill of the park within the next few months, because it will be shuttered for a year.—Richard Guzmán

BEST COMMUNITY BATTLE: Humans vs. Dogs vs. Babies at Spring Street Park

Many Downtown dog owners rejoiced at the June 17 opening of the Spring Street Park, heralding the public space, in particular the pet-wooing patch of grass at the northern end. Non dog-owners, however, saw it a different way, fearing that the inviting relaxing area would be far less appealing if it frequently served as a dog toilet. Oh, and what about the children’s playground adjacent to the lawn? Some argued that it isn’t safe for dogs to be roaming around near screaming, unpredictable kiddos. The battle is still raging, mostly via social network forums. A curious aspect to the fight is that, inside the park, all three groups are mostly coexisting happily.—Ryan Vaillancourt

BEST SPACE CASE: Shuttle Endeavour’s Arrival

Since the 122-foot-long retired NASA Space Shuttle Endeavor parked at the California Science Center, most of the chatter has centered around the new exhibit, or the shuttle’s 12-mile, cross-city drive. But before Endeavor got hitched to a truck en route to Exposition Park, it rode cross-country, piggyback atop a 747. On Sept. 21, the shuttle flew over the city and zoomed across Downtown, and local workers and residents stopped what they were doing and headed to roofs, parks and other public areas with a view and watched the memorable spectacle. It was only in view for a short time, but few who saw it have forgotten the image of the shuttle on a plane flying across the Downtown skyline.—Ryan Vaillancourt


Although the Downtown dog population continues to grow, there are not many safe and legal places where Fido can run off-leash. The fenced-in dog run at Grand Park is an exception. It’s not huge, but it’s plenty big enough for a group of athletic terriers, spaniels, pit bull mixes, mutts and more to sprint after each other and wrestle on the decomposed granite surface (it’s not dirt), all within the confines of a fence. The park is always stocked with waste bags and there are two doggy-level water fountains. A massive olive tree in the center of the park lends ample shade on hot summer days.—Ryan Vaillancourt 

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2013