Best of L.A. 2021: All the Best Things to Eat, Shop for, and Do

Just in time for the post-pandemic boom, we’re back with our annual, up-to-the-minute list of the city’s finest fare. From veterinarians to vintage shopstoy stores to tacosswimsuits to psychics, our team of reporters tore up the city to find the best things to do, eat, and buy right now. Plus, the top hair coloristfacial boutique, and lash salon to get you glammed up for the good times. Edited by Hailey Eber

PLAY ◍ EAT ◍ SHOP ◍ HEALTH & BEAUTY ◍ KIDS ◍ PETS

Best of L.A.: PLAY

bowlero

Best Bowling Alley: Bowlero

»Place to Watch the Sun Set

If you keep heading north after Beverly Drive turns into Coldwater, you’ll come upon a street on the left called Lago Vista Drive. Take it up a couple of winding turns, and you’ll arrive at a ridge overlooking Franklin Canyon. Step out onto the hillside (yes, it’s public land), sit down on a blanket, and, as the sun descends, take in an amazing view. From this quiet perch, you can see it all: the horizon stretching from Catalina Island to the Getty Center, dusk’s fiery colors reflected in the towers of Century City, the silhouettes of Beverly Hills’s megamansions. No wonder the homes here cost millions. Lago Vista Dr. at Monte Cielo Dr., Beverly Hills.

» Secret Swing

No, it’s not a playground swing set but rather a sort of community treasure. Down an unmarked dirt path that leads southwest from the Debs Pond inside Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, there’s a large swing fashioned from a wooden plank and some rope. It’s a whimsical treat for kids and adults alike, and a romantic adventure for a date (yes, it can hold two adults). Even if you go alone, there’s no feeling like watching your feet soar above downtown and Elysian Park. Trailhead at 4235 Monterey Rd., Monterey Heights, laparks.org.

»Cocktail Bar

At the height of the pandemic, Matthew Belanger, GM of the unfortunately named Death & Co, reinvented the bar—drawing upon California’s agricultural bounty and distancing it further from the swank watering hole’s New York roots. What emerged was an already-impressive menu coming into its own. The Hanami ($17) showcases fragrant umeshu liqueur along with herbaceous chartreuse and shiso leaf, while the Contrapasso ($17) is an elegant blend of mezcal, vermouth, and rosemary. If you opt to go off-menu, the bar staff is as knowledgeable as they come, and the plush, dimly lit interiors are a perfect place to relax your inhibitions and delight in the fact that we’re no longer limited to drinking at home. 810 E. 3rd St., Arts District, deathandcompany.com.

death & company

Best Cocktail Bar: Death & Co.

» Music Venue

There are simple pleasures that many concert venues in the city can’t promise, but if you’re anywhere inside the Teragram Ballroom, you can see without craning your neck, hear without being pressed up against the stage, and get a drink without getting served an unwanted elbow sandwich. Pre-COVID, the atmospheric 650-person-capacity club enjoyed the pick of the rock crop, playing host to everyone from Industrial legend Ministry to Brit-punk upstart IDLES. Later this year, the venue will regain its reputation as one of L.A.’s most reliable, intimate, and fun live-music spots with upcoming shows from Ty Segall (September 5, 6, 13, and 14) and Middle Kids (October 13). 1234 W. 7th St., Westlake, teragramballroom.com.

» Bowling Alley

L.A. is full of bowling alleys converted to sleek club-like environs, with craft cocktails and the price-gouging to match. But Bowlero Mar Vista—though technically part of the Bowlmor chain—is something else entirely. Situated on a nondescript corner of Venice Boulevard, the place retains the funky charm of the original Mar Vista Bowl that was opened here in 1961. Strong drinks flow freely, and arguments over lanes and arcade games are passionate. Prices are a steal: at regular times, it’s $10 per game, plus $6.60 to rent shoes. And on Monday after 7 p.m., it’s $19 for unlimited games, shoes included. The Dude could definitely abide. Bowlero Mar Vista, 12125 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista, bowlero.com.

» Drag Brunch

Everyone is welcome at WeHo’s Hamburger Mary’s, the drag queen Disneyland beloved by local leathermen as well as tourists from Dubuque. But brunch is the best time to hit the chain’s WeHo flagship. That’s when you can enjoy bottomless mimosas ($25), a great burger ($14 to $23), and a rotating mix of talented queens from the utterly fabulous (Dani Kay) to the slightly freaky (Shontelle Sparkles).The performers don’t hold back on the blunt comedy, while drag servers provide additional sass. Reservations required. 8288 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, hamburgermarys.com.

» Surf School

If you want to learn to surf in Malibu—and who doesn’t?—hit up Zuma Beach’s Malibu Makos Surf Club, the only school licensed to teach in the wealthy enclave. Founded by a lifeguard in 1991, safety has always been a part of Makos’s ethos—its instructors are all CPR- and first-aid-certified. Group lessons (from $75) have a wonderfully low student-teacher ratio, or you can splurge on individual instruction (from $125). Lifeguard Tower #16, 30600 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, malibumakos.com.

» History Tour

The official Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour ($25) is a fascinating exploration of fact and fiction on the grounds of the 122-year-old memorial park where Judy Garland, Cecil B. De Mille, and others are buried. Guide Karie Bible is a character unto herself: She was born on Halloween, has two different colored eyes, and leads her 2.5-hour tour in a vintage black dress, parasol in hand. (And, yes, that’s her real last name.) But what makes Bible’s tour most unique is her remarkable ability to humanize long-faded icons and cast their scandalous lives in a new light. 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., cemeterytour.com.

hollywood forever cemetery tour

Best History Tour: Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour

» ‘It’ Gallery

Opened in 2018, Nonaka-Hill is a vision quest through founders Rodney and Taka Nonaka-Hill’s cultural deep dives in Japan. You might encounter anything from mountainous plinths filled with tactile tectonic vessels, paintings that explore the stillness of being deaf, or photographic studies of radioactive mushrooms. Housed in a strip mall and bearing a dry-cleaning sign, the tiny gallery is a jewel box always filled with surprising treasures. 720 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, nonaka-hill.com.

» Hotel Day Pass

Staycations were so pre-pandemic. In 2021, it’s all about day passes to hotels across the city, and the best place to travel (not too far) to is the W Hollywood, with its raucous rooftop pool. Lounge beneath towering palm trees and take in views of scantily clad influencers, downtown, and the hills. Refreshing slushed cocktails and bite-size bar snacks are added perks. You can book access to the excess via the Daycation app starting at just $30, and that includes free WiFi if you want to make it your alfresco office for the day. 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, whollywoodhotel.com.

» Painting Class

Art classes often skew cheesy or intimidating, but Roofless Painters is neither. Teacher Julio Panisello has a gift for giving helpful instruction to both beginner and advanced students in his mixed-level workshops, which have a max of eight. The two-hour, pop-up oil painting classes ($50) are held at fun spots around town, suchas Grand Central Market, Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and rooftops, and include all supplies. rooflesspainters.com.

» Psychic

Some clairvoyants rely too heavily on the tarot; others dole out advice that’s suspiciously one-size-fits-all. Lily (known just by her first name) is the rare find who’s guided by something otherworldly. Her hour-long sessions look forward a year into the future, naming specific events and the months in which they’ll happen with an eerie accuracy that becomes clear once her predictions start to play out. Adding to her first-name-only mystique, she doesn’t allow voice recorders. But she does permit friends to tag along and take notes; good thing, because you’ll want to remember everything she says. 327 Arden Ave., Ste. 105, North Glendale, 818-507-1610.

nonaka-hill gallery

Best ‘It’ Gallery: Nonaka-Hill

EXPERT PICK

» Best Skating Venue
L.A. Courthouse Skate Plaza
1633 Purdue Ave., Sawtelle

It was originally a street-skating destination but then got turned into a public skate zone in the last decade. It’s fun, with plenty of flat ground for beginners but lots of obstacles for more advanced skaters looking to explore grinding and jumping. —Robbie Pitts, artist and professional in-line skater

Best of L.A.: EAT

house of gluten

Best Cakes: House of Gluten

» Cakes

Baking wizard Hannah Ziskin was M. Georgina’s pastry chef when the pandemic hit. After that downtown restaurant went dark, she started baking sensational cakes from her Glendale home under the name House of Gluten. Her creations are unique, relying on ultraseasonal fruits, delicate flowers, and thoughtful flavor combinations. Carrot cake is taken to new heights with kumquats and a salty pecan caramel. Black Forest cake is reinterpreted—and improved—with olive oil, a cracked-pepper chiffon, and a mascarpone mousse. Ziskin’s Instagram account is always filled with irresistible creations ($5-$100), and she’s also making the desserts for the Eastside pop-up Quarter Sheets Pizza. Order up. @hannahziskin, houseofgluten@gmail.com.

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The Social Vegan 
505 West Georgia St., Tallahassee, FL 32301

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