Category Archives: DTLA Restaurants

Our picks for best downtown L.A. restaurants

DTLA Shopping: Made-to-Order Jeans and Shirts Plus New Cafe

Parker & Barrow Design Yeam Thelma and Tarek
Parker & Barrow Design Team Thelma Siguenza and Tarek Akaweih

You never know until you walk in, what you might find in DTLA’s new retail stores which are popping up everywhere these days . At Parker & Barrow, which  just opened at 814 S. Broadway on the same block as Urban Outfitters, I discovered that this store offers women’s and men’s PB brand jeans  off the rack or the option of getting a pair made to order with a custom fit and color choice.

Parker & Barrow is the vision realized of Thelma Siguenza who describes herself as a “fit architect.”  She’s been responsible for the fit that has made Joe’s Jeans such a phenomena and she also lends her expertise to a myriad of other jeans and pants companies.   By today’s  price standards for jeans, PBs are reasonable–around $125–plus a nominal add-on if you go with custom made options that can include a little longer leg, waist adjustment or maybe narrower or wider at the bottom.  Once you have your first custom order, your specs stay on file making it easy to order in another color or fabrication.

Men can also get custom shirts made in fabric combinations selected from bolts on display.  These aren’t your father’s custom shirts — the Xeres (pronounced “series”) label, designed by Tarek Akaweih, takes the shirt to a whole new dimension with the finished product making a significant statement of individuality.

I tried on one of the PB jeans and couldn’t resist  the  soft brushed cotton with a slimming stretch to the fabric.  There were about eight colors to choose from and I decided on a faded military green.  The fit was perfect but I opted for an extra inch at the bottom and Thelma suggested tapering the leg a little bit more.   Stay tuned for next week and I’ll show you how they turned out.

I have a hard time finding scented candles that I really love but I think my search may be over now that I’ve discovered The Fenix Candles which are also found at Parker & Barrow.

Fenix Candles at Parker & Barrow
Fenix Candles at Parker & Barrow
Fenix Candles at Parker & Barrow
Fenix Candles at Parker & Barrow






The Candles come in scents curated for women and men and just smelling each of them can become addictive.  I settled on Greek Currant but it wasn’t easy to narrow it down.  Fortunately the store is just across the street from where I live should a whiff of California Redwood beckon!  There are 182 scents to choose from on the Fenix website.  Thank goodness there are only about 20 choices at Parker & Barrow.

Every shopping trip deserves a break and  the perfect new place to take it is at Verve.  If you’re walking (and you should be) the shortcut from Parker & Barrow on Broadway to Verve at 833 Spring Street is through the parking lot next to Two Boots Pizza then to your right on Spring.

Bringing on the Verve
Bringing on the Verve: Malvina and Katie

Even though they weren’t officially open, Verve managers  Malvina and Katie invited us in for a look around.  They offered to test out their new high-tech coffee machinery on us but we could tell they were still unpacking boxes so we promised we’d be back.  Verve is based in Santa Cruz, CA where they have four locations and this is their first one outside of Santa Cruz.  With the proximity to The Fashion Mart, I can see Verve fast becoming the fashion industry hangout packed with designers and buyers collaborating on the next trend within this creative and spacious environment.

In addition to the coffee choices,  Verve shares its space with Juice Served Here, a LA company.  Lots of fresh raw juice choices and cleanse options for those getting ready for fashion week!

Outside Seating at Verve 833 Spring Street
Outside Seating at Verve 833 Spring Street

The other intriguing feature of Verve is the back room which is the headquarters for the company that designed the space: MAI Studio. Verve  is completely aligned with MAI Studio’s description on their website that states, “Our material  expertise allows us to push the boundaries of design, creating products, interiors and alternative methods of construction which provide innovative solutions to the built environment. Our team draws on a wide range of backgrounds integrating fine art, branding, interior, graphic and industrial design. Our International portfolio includes boutique hotels and restaurants as well as residential and condominium projects.”

Wall Garden of Verve's Outdoor patio
Wall Garden of Verve’s Outdoor patio

While Verve has been in the build-out, I’ve seen the spectacular wall garden in the making.  Week after week plants were being carefully mounted onto the facing walls on each side of the patio.  The seating area is a conservatory of exotic plants where you can breathe in this  welcome oxygenation in the middle of the city while getting even healthier with a bottle of Clean Greens Juice made of Coconut Water, Cucumber, Kale, Spinach, Parsley and Romaine. On the other hand, there are those of us who need of a surge of caffeine through our veins, so the cupping ritual of a Verve coffee, carefully  brewed from beans sourced in remote global villages, might be just what the doctor ordered!

A walk around the block these days has become an adventure and, while everything new is exciting,  I also want to be sure to support places like il caffé  which is connected to Acne Studios, the Swedish clothing retailer located in the Eastern Columbia Building .  When I walk into il caffé they know my name and I inevitably run into one of my neighbors which reinforces the sense of community that continues to make DTLA feel like home.

Breakfast, The Cathedral and a Play

My  post in today’s  Larchmont Buzz mentions a few places we like for breakfast in and around the Arts District.

Heart of Downtown on a Sunday

I also reflect on the sentiments of the play we saw at The Ahmanson, “The Trip to Bountiful,” and how fond memories can come from the city as much as they can from a small town upbringing.  Home is indeed where your heart…and your soul is.  I also write about why the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is such a special place for us.

Thursday Night at Grand Central Market in DTLA

Thursday Nights at Grand Central Market is the topic of my article today in  The Larchmont Buzz.   I’m glad Jay and I were able to get over to the market the other night because now I have to get busy packing.  I leave on Monday for Florida where I’m attending Chain Store Age‘s Executive SPECS Conference.  We’ll stay in the West Palm Beach area until November 7th when we leave for Santo Domingo, the capital of The Dominican Republic.  It’s going to be an entirely different downtown experience working at a school for 500 children, many of whom are orphans.  We’ll be helping to install a computer lab  and then spending the rest of our time playing with the children at this school as well as spending time with the children at a few other schools and orphanages in the area .  The Dominican trip is very much inspired by Nick who at 13 years-old wanted to help kids in the Dominican Republic knowing how much baseball is part of their culture.  Nick collected used baseball equipment from his little league teammates and sent it over to The  Dominican.   For our trip the  Notre Dame High School team is donating between 15-20  used baseball gloves for Jay to bring with him on the trip.  He better be sure there’s ice over there to put on his elbow!

In the meantime, work will be finishing up on the loft we purchased in the Eastern Columbia Building.  We plan to move in on Sunday, November 16th.  Before and after pictures will be coming!

Faith & Flower: A flawless beginning

Bar View
Bar View
Dining Room
Dining Room
Seared Branzino, Marinated Rock Shrimp, Blood Orange Bernaise
Seared Branzino, Marinated Rock Shrimp, Blood Orange Bernaise

Faith & Flower is like a model without make-up–stunningly beautiful without being intimidating.   Rarely does a new restaurant exude such grace on its first Saturday night with every table seated. From the minute we walked in the door we were swept up in the charm and elegance with a welcome undercurrent of relaxed casualness throughout the evening.

Our waiter, Peter, with a charmingly messy ponytail, dapper bow tie and rolled up sleeves of his denim shirt took us into his care the minute he saw us perusing the little hard-cover black book menus looking for the wine selection.  He told us he would send over the sommelier with the wine list and then he let us know that the menu was meant to be enjoyed “family style.” I so much more like that term than “small plates.”

It didn’t take long for us to decide on Sautéed Monterey Calamari; Oxtail Agnolotti made with Butter, Tangerine Salsa, Beef Tendon and Chicharrones; English Peas and Gold Beets; and  Glazed Tender, Boneless Short Ribs. Kudos on the creativity, presentation and deliciousness  to Executive Chef Michael Hung, formerly of San Francisco’s Michelin-starred La Folie.

Fahara, the lovely and attentive sommelier, guided us through the wine options in French and California whites as well as Pinot Noirs.  We settled on a bottle of Cargasacchi, a Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir –which she decanted into an antique glass vessel which helped awaken  each of the four levels  to the wine: earthy, silky, woody and bright.   Sure, we could’ve opted for one of the great values on the wine list but who wouldn’t be seduced to indulge with this kind of  ambiance and service– $84 was kind of a splurge for us, but you can also easily go larger, too.

There are a few small elements of the restaurant that are works in progress–the veranda that you cross to the front door has huge potential for sipping and nibbling on a warm summer night with the vines taking hold on the overhead trellises.  Inside, there is a glassed-in marble area that’s soon to be a full raw bar with fresh oyster shucking and all varieties of shellfish–a signature feature when Faith & Flower eventually opens for brunch.

The name Faith & Flower comes from the restaurant’s location on Flower Street but also it’s an acknowledgement to the history of Los Angeles in the early 1920s when this street was allegedly named “Faith.”  It embodies the old and the new elements that have come together in what must have been an expensive renovation of a previous restaurant that was in the ground floor of this building  just east of Figueroa.

During our meal,  management briefly stopped by and asked how our evening was going and made what was already a perfect evening even better by bringing us something else to try–the Roasted Young Carrots and Brassicas, Smoked Yogurt and Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette.  I’m not a carrot fan but these tender whole baby carrots were so good they could’ve been dessert.

Tonight we passed on dessert but the menu created by Executive Pastry Chef Ben Spungin (Bernardus Lodge) is another reason to bring us back.  Maybe after an event at L.A. Live–a high table in the bar with a glass of champagne and something artistically composed and decadently sweet to indulge in?

The bar space at Faith & Flower makes everyone look beautiful. It’s large but still intimate and the glowing candles, reclaimed doors that panel the walls and the black & white, Robert Vargas mural of a sultry woman’s face lure you in and could quite easily get a hold of you for a very long time.   There’s a certain cocktail that we noticed people experiencing involving an empty snifter that’s “treated”  with a liquor that emits invisible vapors.  Your server holds the snifter with a thickly folded napkin over the top–a thin straw sticks out which one sips. In the center of the table is a stout tumbler of a caramel-colored slightly viscous pour. First a sip of the vapor, then a sip of the liquid–then a sigh… the next thing you know, that report that’s due on Monday has totally loosened its grip on you.   Michael Lay (Restaurant 1833, Rose.Rabbit.Lie.), who helms the bar program as Lead Mixologist, gets all the credit.

We sat along the center banquet–it was a row of rightly-spaced two-tops that evening. We told the two gentlemen next to us not to miss the Agnolloti.  They didn’t spend as much time as we did over dinner…I had the feeling they had somewhere to go.  Being the chatty one that I am,  when they left I asked them what their plans were for the rest of the night.  They told us they are reggae musicians and they had a gig to get to.  Sharing a bit of conversation with them was just another one of Faith & Flower’s pleasant surprises.


Why do we love The Factory Kitchen?

We have favorite restaurants for various reasons but when we’re asked these days what our overall favorite downtown restaurant is, it’s hard not to say The Factory Kitchen.  Why do we love it so much?  Partly because it’s so much fun to Uber over there with friends who’ve never been, and watch their faces as the driver heads down what appears to be an alley to nowhere.  There’s a vertical neon sign that marks the spot but if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy  to end up at the L.A. Gun Club at the end of the street.

But once up Factory Kitchen’s worn cement steps and inside the door of this old red brick former factory building, you’re welcomed by a room full of people.  That’s  the first impression which, I think, is all in the design.  The space is open, the floor is concrete, the chairs are a little modern, the simple tables are made from reclaimed wood–but what really stands out is the community vibe of the restaurant where the people, food, and beverages are the standout  ambiance elements–not the decor.

The menu has one of the most creative and varied assortment of Italian dishes that we’ve ever seen.  It’s experimental but not “out there.”  Among the  dishes we love are the delicate little soft cheese stuffed sweet & spicy peppers.  Factory does an amped-up version of a dinner salad with field greens, spring onion, radicchio, dates and goat cheese with a champagne vinaigrette.  And  frittura — puffy, light baby leek, beer batter chick pea fritters go really well with that first glass of wine.

There are two must-have entrees–the mandilli di seta, described as handkerchief pasta with ligurian almond basil pesto.  Be careful, though, if you’ve sworn off carbs–should you succumb to a taste of this as a shared plate, don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night craving another mouthful of  these delicate, house made thin sheets of pasta with their cloud-like filling!  The other crave-worthy entree that makes you wonder “How DO they DO this?!”  is the porchetta.  This rolled pork belly cooked with aromatic herbs, fennel and their version of the holy trinity–carrots, celery and red onion; is almost a religious experience as the flavors of the pork and juices come together with those crispy pieces of pork fat.  Did I say “religious?”–this one might require confession!

Side plates are as tempting as all the other menu options.  our favorites are the cipolline, warm, balsamic-glazed small onions; ortaggi all’ agro which is a righteous combination of steamed kale, green chard, spinach and shallots cooked in ligurian olive oil; and the patate novelle-crisp on the outside and soft on the inside oven-roasted new potatoes with fine herbs.

The well-curated wine list represents a tour of Italy’s wine regions with a few hop-overs to California.  Beers include Milano lager and some options from DTLA’s own Angel City brewery. The full bar has some inventive cocktail options –the Sweet Jane with barrel aged genever, rhubarb and lavender honey and the Italian Stallion made with fernet branca, lemon and ginger.  I have no idea what either of those liquors are but someday I may be adventurous enough to find out. .. If you’ve ever tried them…let me know! 




Where to eat in the Broadway vicinity

The restaurant scene is really Jay’s area of expertise having opened and/or managed several restaurants in his younger, and dare I say, adventurous, days–and, as anyone who’s ever been in the restaurant business knows, the reality of running a restaurant is most aptly stated in a  soundbite made famous by a man who all sports-minded L.A. boomers would recognize–  the late great Jim Healy, who played this Tommy Lasorda quote repeatedly on his radio show:

So with this valuable insight on the restaurant business, you know that Jay has the ability to be empathetic to the challenges restaurants face while also holding them to high expectations.  So for Jay to put any restaurant on this list, they have to show they can make everything come together–food, service and the vibe.  Several of the restaurants on this list have been around for a few years.  One, Starry Kitchen,  has moved from a pop up to (we hope) a permanent home–but we haven’t been to the  new location yet.  This is our go-to list at the moment but we’ll update every time we have something to add and the time to write it.  With the variety of restaurants we’ve discovered downtown, including Factory Kitchen; one of our new favorites in the Arts District; we ‘ll be giving you lots of delicious reasons to come back for updates to the list.  For the first go-around most of these restaurants are walk-able from what we consider the epicenter of the downtown renaissance: 9th & Broadway.

  • Mexican – Mas Malo  Good margaritas along with classic as well as unique Mexican food. Ingredients are locally sourced and support the description on the website of “East L.A. style Chicano food.”  You’ll find Mas Malo right in the center of downtown’s restaurant row  at 7th and Grand.  It’s a party atmosphere and the price of the margaritas is the rent you pay to hang out in this circa 1923 jewelry store turned restaurant with its baroque ceiling, art deco bar, contemporary furnishings and soundtrack with a pulsing  beat,  you’ll definitely want more than one maggie.
  • Peruvian –  Mo-Chica  Right across the street from Mas Malo. This restaurant used to be just a takeout counter in a warehouse-style food court near USC.  Unless you’ve been to Peru, you won’t be familiar with much on the menu but go with what your server tells you are the most popular dishes and you won’t be disappointed.  It’s most fun if you go with people who like the shared-plate way of dining so you can try a variety of the small plate offerings. If something piques your interest, be adventurous.  Mary doesn’t like spicy and there were lots of choices on either side of the heat scale.  Lots of good seafood options, too.  There’s nothing fancy about this place with its cement floors and simple furniture but the staff does a great job of making sure you’re well taken care of.  Cocktails with names like “The Dogfather,” “Addictive to You” and “Oaxcacalifornia Love” have ingredients as interesting as their names.
  •  It all Started Here  Bottega Louie is what opened the doors to proving that something very different from The Original Pantry could thrive through breakfast, lunch and dinner in Downtown L.A.  On the other end of the spectrum from The Original Pantry that puts out good grub, Bottega Louie is the crown jewel of So Cal for all-day dining elegance. It’s  a fantasy world of jewel tone macaroons sparkling behind pristine glass cases.  Servers in white shirts, black ties and bistro aprons  float trays of all varieties of artistically plated comfort food above their heads before gently landing the plates  on marble table tops occupied by urban dwellers, workers and voyagers who can’t get enough of the ambiance, the food, the charm and the grandeur of the social and epicurean experience taking place in what was once a very large Brooks Brothers clothing store long before there was such a thing as casual Fridays.  Whether it’s a perfectly soft-boiled organic egg in-shell served with house made pain de mie toast points, a BLT made with the best bacon you’ve ever tasted and the most delicate and flavorful bibb lettuce, heirloom tomatoes and avocado; or a perfectly arranged swirled mound of tagliatelle topped with  just the right proportion of meaty Bolognese; you get exactly what you had hoped for and more when the selection you made first caught your eye on the menu.  No, they don’t take reservations and yes, that big Louie-the-whatever-roman-numeral-it-is hostess table with the dazzling attendants guarding the gates to one of those coveted tables can be a bit intimidating–but don’t be deterred.  The tables turn, the people come and go, the pastries look like museum curios and the bartenders make great drinks.
  • Pizza/Pasta – Terroni  is our favorite neighborhood place to walk to at 8th and Main.  We used to be able to always get a table but now they seem to be bustling every night.  The 6,000 sq. foot space was built in 1924 as the City National Bank and much of the grandeur has been preserved .  The bar is expansive and a great option when tables are full.  The main dining room gives you a view of the open kitchen.  The owners, Italians from Canada, first launched the more casual Beverly location a few years ago while Terroni downtown  is a unique blend of luxe meets industrial.  Warning: your pizza will not come sliced in wedges–part of the Terroni experience is to tear or cut your pizza as you creatively choose in whatever portions you prefer.   A glass-enclosed room showcases house-cured meats.   The entire  Terroni experience is Italian immersion from the choices of Apristomaco (named for what they are intended to do) to the Italian phrases you’ll pick up if you visit il bagno.
  • Chinese Dumplings – Peking Tavern  When we want something cheap, fast and fun this is our other close-by walking option as it’s  located in the basement under Terroni–enter door to the right of Terroni’s and walk down a flight of stairs.  Don’t let the dying vine that never quite made it up the wire fool you (if they haven’t already uprooted it).  They may not be able to grow plants in a basement but they damn sure know how to make dumplings.  In fact, most of the time you’ll see one or two women; through the side window when you walk in; deftly patting dough into perfectly round  dumpling skins ready to be filled as fast as they can make them.   They have a great selection of beers on tap.  The space is designed for optimal mingling with a long bar and high communal tables.  Seems that most of the crowd would rather mingle than sit,  so for us 20+ years- of- marriage boomers, tables for two have, so far, been easy to come by.   The website describes the concept as Hollywood style Chinatown of yesteryear crossed with the old “hutongs” of Beijing. I wouldn’t know what an old “hutong” is but I know some great dumplings and a beer can be the perfect comfort food at the end of a long day!  Six dumplings are about $6-$8.  And if you want to make it a late night, There’s  a really cool bar in the same basement as Peking Tavern  built in what was once the vault of the former City National Bank.
  • Indian Gastro-pub – Badmaash  is one of our absolute favorites.  and one we have to Uber to–just a  little further on the north end of town than we’d care to walk to  at 2nd Street between Spring and Main.  The heat scale runs the gamut with plenty of options in Mary’s mild and Jay’s spicy comfort zones. The choices center around Indian street food along with some traditional Indian dishes. Beer comes in cans and there’s a limited wine selection.  Downstairs, the dining area is small but there’s also an  upstairs mezzanine.  Indian movies play on the curved two-story white wall that accentuates the high ceiling making  this small restaurant feel spacious.   Don’t miss the lentil soup (ask for a side of basmati pilaf to add to it)  and the Bad Ass Chicken Tikka Masala! Get into the Badmaash irreverence and be sure to order a few items from the “#FoodPorn @BadmaashLA” column of the menu and if you’re social media-ly inclined, follow their suggestion printed on the menu and “Instagram that shit!”
  • Something totally different–Starry Kitchen The best –and maybe the only–Singaporean food you’ll ever have.  Owned by this wild Vietnamese immigrant, Thi Tran,  and his adorable wife/ chef extraordinaire, Nguyen.  We discovered Starry when they had a pop-up location a block away from  us but now they’re in the  Grand Star Jazz Club  (as Tran writes on the website) in CHINATOOOOOWN @ 943 N. Broadway.  Tran will pepper all conversations with endearing F-bombs.  And with crab season upon us, if you want the Spicy Crab you have to order it a day ahead.  Be prepared for a dinner like none you’ve ever had.  There are mild options but go with the mindset that this is going to be a rather spicy night in more ways than one!
  • Total Hipster – LA Chapter at Ace Hotel Every boomer parent should have one of their 20-something kids  employed by the hippest place in town.  Thanks to Nick working “Upstairs,” the designation for the rooftop bar at Ace Hotel,  they let us up the elevator as long as it’s not dark yet.  And since Jay’s beard has grown in and as long as Mary keeps up with her colorist, we’ve been given excellent service in the restaurant.   All kidding aside, Ace Hotel is the single most significant contributor to the transformation happening on Broadway between Olympic and 9th Street.  And while the crowd is definitely hip–it spans all ages and demographics–OK, it’s mostly 25-35–but one night Mary took Jay’s 84 year-old  mom there for dinner, and although there were no tables, they sat on the mezzanine,  had a bunch of great small plate dishes and a couple of glasses of wine and got a big hug from their waiter when they left.  The food at LA Chapter is outstanding, the service is exceptional, the space transports you to another era in keeping with the history of the building which was the original offices and theater of United Artists’ –the group  formed by D.W. Griffiths, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks when they wanted to get out from under the control of the big studios.  With natural light streaming in by day and the black cars pulling up to the curb at night, there’s a special energy in L.A. Chapter.   For breakfast, if you’re a waffle fan, the Buckwheat waffle is ethereal and if you like your toast with a kick–wait till you try this fresh-baked 7-grain bread version with a big thick schmear of avocado  laced with aleppo pepper.  And staying on the spicy side of things, the Bloody Mary is de rigueur –even if you make it a virgin.  And for mild Mary, who prefers to get her blood from her oranges–the Carnation, made with blood orange juice and sparkling rose’ served in an old-style champagne glass with a sugar-infused hibiscus flower– is the perfect Saturday brunch antidote to coming home after a long busy week on the road.  Our easy commute home  is just a walk past Tacos Mexico,  the world’s busiest 24-hour taco stand, and then across the street to the Eastern Columbia Building which makes it tempting to just  head Upstairs and lounge on Ace’s rooftop chaises or claim a comfortable corner with cushions and pillows and continue the day-drinking until Nick shows up for his evening shift and tells us it’s time to go home.