Although New York remains the cultural capital of the country, Los Angeles is attracting young artists who are priced out of Manhattan. The affordable rents, large spaces, thriving music scene, and new galleries are making it much more appealing and feasible to live and work as an artist in LA. A lot of the action is centered around the Arts District, just east of downtown. The neighborhood is becoming one of the most exciting areas in the city. Here is a guide to ten businesses that are serving and shaping the spirit of the neighborhood.
What if I told you there was a place where you can get a kick ass haircut, buy a record, and hear DJ's spin? Well, the Artform Studio is the place. Artform is owned by super stylist Sherry and her music guru husband Adrian. The studio specializes in both women and men’s hair ($25 cut). The record store has a very well-curated selection of used records, especially soul, punk, and jazz. Artform has a friendly old-school feel, while still being modern and urban.
The Pie Hole is a family run pie bakery that makes delicious sweet and savory pies. Their menu changes often as they use ingredients that are in season to satisfy traditionalists (Double Crust Apple Pie) and adventurers (Strawberry Pretzel with Cream Cheese). The communal tables and the late hours make this a popular gathering place in the Arts District.
Poketo is a not just any ordinary gift shop, owners Ted and Angie work with local and international artists and designers on every day wares, tools, and clothing. Check out their exclusive collection of sunglasses by Super and their selvedge chambaray ties by Hill-Side.
What makes this Novel Cafe different from all the others is that it is the heart of the Arts District. Locals and artists who live in the neighborhood gather here daily for organic coffee, fresh squeezed juices, and gourmet sandwiches. Try the Bitches Brew coffee. There is art on the walls and plenty of plugs if you want to camp out and bring your laptop.
Wurstkuche (pronounced "VURST koo kah") serves a variety of traditional, gourmet, and veggie sausages on a bun. For the spiciest hot dog you'll ever eat try the Louisiana Hot Link with spicy peppers, chipotle ketchup, and spicy mustard. Then wash it down with a cold Saint Feuillien farm house ale or any of their impressive German and Belgian beers on tap. If you're feeling adventurous try the crocodile and pork sausage or the rabbit and veal sausage.
I can't get enough of this place! Bread Lounge is an Artisan bakery run by master baker Ran Zimon that specializes in old world breads and European style pastries. They also serve salads, focaccias, and sandwiches. My favorite is the Jambon sandwich (prosciutto and emmenthaler) on country bread. Try the pain au chocolat, the light roast coffee, and take a baguette home with you.
The best pizza in downtown. Pizzanista makes an effort to use fresh and local-grown ingredients and humanely raised meats. They also serve veggie and vegan pizzas. Mix and match a few slices or have a whole pie. The Max Chow pizza with homemade meatballs is fantastic. I also crave their White Pizza with mozzarella, ricotta, and grana padano.
Nola's is a New Orleans Cajun style restaurant and bar. The live music on the weekends will make you feel like you're in New Orleans. You can't go wrong with the jumbalya here. Sometimes they roast their own chicken on an outdoor grill. Also, try the Sunday brunch buffet. Happy Hour is Monday through Thursday from 5pm to 7pm.
The second location of Ooga Booga is in the old Southwest Lithograph building under the bridges connecting downtown and East L.A. In addition to all the specialty art books and gifts, this location is incorporated into a magnificent open space that serves as art an gallery. They also conduct lessons on book binding, screenings, and other cultural and artistic events.
12345 is a clothing store for men and women that also sells shoes, accessories, toiletries, and eyeware. The store has has a cool, urban vibe. They carry the stylish Paris brand Cote & Ciel messenger bags and backpacks designed with Apple lap tops in mind.