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Top Chef Travels — Suzanne Goin

suzannegoinF.jpgSuzanne Goin is one of the most celebrated chef-restaurateurs in Los Angeles, now with three popular restaurants under her belt. At A.O.C. and Lucques, she runs the show with partner Caroline Styne. At The Hungry Cat, Goin shares responsibilities with her husband, David Lentz, who runs the kitchen.

Goin’s life may be hectic (not to mention twin toddlers at home), but when she goes out in L.A., Goin really knows how to play. Here, Goin shares her favorite places to soak up the Hollywood vibe over cocktails, nosh on sticky buns near the farmer’s market, and get a pedicure while sipping Champagne.

Fodor’s: If one of your good friends were coming to L.A. for the weekend, where would you take them?

Suzanne Goin: I think a good place to start is the bar at Chateau Marmont. It’s this beautiful, old Hollywood hotel, and the inside bar is great. It’s like a living room. You always see celebrities, usually behaving badly. Every time we’ve been there there’s somebody either getting really drunk or getting in a fight with someone, or wearing weird outfits.

I’d say go for cocktails in the late afternoon. It’s also a good late-night place. Like if you go out to dinner or something, and you want to go have a coffee or an after-dinner drink.

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Fodor’s: Where else would you go?

SG: I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by L.A. because it’s really spread out. But it’s actually a million little neighborhoods stuck together. So if you kind of go a neighborhood at a time, it’s easier to take.

So take Lucques, for example, which is in West Hollywood. Right around Lucques there’s plenty of great people watching and shopping. It’s actually becoming a super chichi neighborhood. All of the big fashion designers who were on Rodeo Drive are all moving to Melrose Place — Oscar De La Renta and Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs. It’s turning into a little fashion row and it’s a pretty street with beautiful old buildings. So you can shop and then come have lunch at Lucques.

Fodor’s: Tell me a little bit about the dining experience at Lucques and what you can expect.

SG: When we were opening the restaurant our goal was a restaurant that we would want to go to. Kind of chic and stylish, but still really warm and comfortable, and you feel good when you’re in there. Out back, we have a patio that’s sort of a Zen-like, peaceful place.

One of my favorite times at Lucques is Saturday lunch because it’s a really relaxed atmosphere. Everyone’s drinking wine or Champagne and people are just there to hang out. We’re not really a business lunch place. We’re more of a fun, treat yourself place.

Fodor’s: Where do you like to go shopping?

SG: Third Street is a pretty cool shopping street between La Cienega and Fairfax, which is a pretty big span. They have a great women’s clothing store called Noodle Stories [8323 West 3rd St.]. The men’s version is called Douglas Fir [8311 W 3rd St]. Just great, lesser-known designers with a kind of edgy feel. And then there’s a place called OK [8303 West 3rd St.] — housewares and books. And then there’s Sigerson Morrison. People think you can’t walk in L.A., but I do all my Christmas shopping on Third Street. You go there and walk and then come for a glass of wine at A.O.C. on Third Street at Crescent Heights.

Fodor’s: Tell me about the dining experience at A.O.C.

SG: A.O.C. is basically our version of a wine bar, with small plates of food served family-style. We have 50 wines by the glass and it is a really fun, bustling, urban space. Tasting wines and tasting cheeses is definitely part of the experience. It’s very interactive. If somebody was a single traveler, this is a fun place to go. People at the bar always end up talking to each other, sharing food. It’s very communal.

Fodor’s: Are there any farmer’s markets you like?

SG: There’s a really funky, bohemian-style farmer’s market on Sunday in Hollywood. That’s fun because you have great farmers there, but it’s a very Hollywood feel. So you have the crazy tamale guy, the crazy guy selling seeds, and weird, little bands and stuff.

The Hungry Cat, where my husband is chef, is right around the corner. We do an amazing brunch there, so I recommend going to the Hollywood farmer’s market around the corner, then coming to The Hungry Cat to have a crab Benedict or sticky buns and bacon.

Fodor’s: What’s the atmosphere like at The Hungry Cat?

SG: It’s somewhat industrial. It’s kind of tucked back in a courtyard in a mixed-used complex with apartments on top. There are exposed pipes in the ceiling, simple wood tables, cement floors. The focus is the food — really showcasing the local, seasonal products. The Hungry Cat also makes the best cocktails in L.A. — they juice everything to order and all the fruit is from the farmer’s market, so it’s very seasonal.

Fodor’s: What is your itinerary for a relaxing day?

SG: I’m a total spa junkie. I love Kinara Spa. It has a really great aesthetic, so you can count on great facials, great massages. And they have this pretty café in the back, so you can go and have lunch or get a pedicure and order Champagne.

Fodor’s: Are there any particular beaches or hikes you recommend?

SG: We go to this beach called Beach at Point Dume. You take a short walk through this little nature preserve, and it’s on a bluff overlooking this most beautiful beach, and you take this long staircase down and it is just a beautiful beach. There’s barely anybody there. It’s a little secret spot.

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