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A Culinary Walking Tour of Downtown Los Angeles
In the last few years, Downtown has blossomed into the dining "it" girl everyone wants to see, with so many ethnic eats, new upscale hot spots, and tasty classics. Traffic is ever-present, so park your car and walk.
Chinatown to Grand Central Market
Chinatown is a colorful fusion of the city's long-time Chinese community and a burgeoning artists' scene of art galleries and clothing boutiques. Along North Broadway you can find Central Plaza, a bright red Pagoda-esque shopping and dining hub home to the Hop Louie (950 Mei Ling Way 213/628-4244), a Los Angeles dining relic loved for its Chinese food and cozy dive bar. For classic dim sum turn north on Hill Street to Ocean Seafood (747 N. Hill St. 213/687-3088). be sure not to miss the house specialty chow mein. For a bite of L.A. baking history, stop into Phoenix Bakery (969 N. Broadway 213/628-4642), which has been baking its famous whipped strawberry cake since 1938. On Broadway, turn left toward the 100-year-old Phillipe: The Original Restaurant (1001 N. Alameda 213/628-3781), which claims to have invented the French dip sandwich. Order your sandwich "single dip," "double dip," or "wet," corresponding to the amount of au jus you want on the bun.
Continuing on Broadway, pass the last remaining Chinese stores and step onto Olvera Street—L.A.'s Latino hamlet. Walk through the leather shops, past stores blaring mariachi music.
Take a snack break at La Noche Buena (12 Olvera St. 213/628-2078), where tasty tacos and tamales beckon. For a sweet treat, try Mr. Churro (15 Olvera St. 213/680-9036) for a $3 caramel, strawberry, or sweet cream stuffed fritter rolled in cinnamon sugar.
On Broadway, turn right to walk into the center of downtown. The landscape turns into towering office buildings and live/work lofts. At about 1.2 mi you can find the Grand Central Market (317 S. Broadway), L.A.'s oldest open-air market and ethnic eats food court. This is a great place to come for buying spices, herbs, and produce from the specialty Latino and Asian markets.
7th Street to Little Tokyo
From the Grand Central Market your best bet is the Red Line to South Park—exit at 7th Street—the area's Financial District. Start at 7th Street/Metro Center and turn south toward Figueroa Boulevard, then straight toward the Staples Center. You'll walk past a number of chain eateries until you come upon L.A.'s oldest restaurant, the Original Pantry Cafe (877 S. Figueroa 213/972–9279), which is known for its hearty breakfasts of pork chop and eggs or buckwheat pancakes. Continue south on Figueroa until you see the new loft developments and leafy courtyards that make up South Park. Stop off at Rivera Restaurant (1050 S. Flower St. 213/749–1460), a block up from Figueroa, for a taste of excellent modern Latin cuisine and tasty mojitos.
Walk east down Olympic and make a left on Broadway. Just past W.7th St. is the entertainment complex L.A. Live (800 W. Olympic Blvd.) and Staples Center (1111 S. Figueroa St.), the sports arena that's home to the NBA's L.A. Lakers.
Clifton's Cafeteria (648 S. Broadway 213/627-1637), a historical landmark that's pure old-school kitsch. Order the hand-carved brisket and green Jell-O with a swirl of whipped cream. On Broadway head toward 6th Street and make a right. After a few blocks you pass Main Street and find Coles French Dip (118 6th St. 213/622-4090), now a hipster hangout, which has pastrami, lamb, turkey, or beef dips topped with "atomic pickles" or crumbled blue cheese. Get a side of excellent bacon-potato salad. The space is also home to the cocktail speakeasy Varnish., an L.A. favorite known for its specialty libations. We recommend the "Bartenders Choice" for a custom cocktail created from your favorite type of booze.
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