We sat down over coffee, tamales and eggs with Alice Bag, first wave Angeleno punk rocker, author, educator and feminist. Here are 10 Things and Places She Loves in Los Angeles, in no particular order:
Ricky and Lucy love Alice
"Start by purchasing a $5 day pass for the Metro Rail Gold Line. You can do this at any of the station kiosks.
1, 2 and 3: Take a full day to ride on the Gold Line from Pasadena to East LA and back. Stop in South Pasadena and start your day with coffee at Buster’s and a piece of pan dulce at La Monarca. If you’re into cereal, Mix N Munch in South Pasadena allows you to concoct your own blend. Browse the boutiques on Mission Street, then get back on the Gold Line to Chinatown.
The Gold Line in Chinatown.
Shop from the open air vendors in Saigon Plaza, then visit the historic Old Chinatown Plaza. Take a picture with Bruce Lee’s statue, see where punk rock used to happen back in the late seventies at the Hong Kong Cafe. Hop back on the Gold Line and get off at Union Station. Check out the beautiful Art Deco influenced architecture but be careful that you don’t get run down by speeding hordes of passengers hustling to catch a train.
Just across Alameda Street from Union Station you’ll step back in time to LA’s birthplace, La Placita, aka Olvera Street. It’s a good reminder that Los Angeles was Spanish and later, Mexican before becoming part of the United States. The cleverly named Olvera Candle Shop is a particular favorite of mine.
Olvera Street, Los Angeles
After you’ve browsed Olvera Street, you can either walk back across Alameda and take the Gold Line one more exit to Little Tokyo or you can walk south down Alameda Street to the corner of 1st and Alameda. Be sure to wave to the prisoners in theMetropolitan Detention Center (the imposing looking building with slit windows on the west side of the street.)
If you’ve worked up an appetite by the time you’ve reached Little Tokyo, I recommend Oomasa for teriyaki combinations or Shabu Shabu House for Shabu Shabu. I don’t eat sushi, so you’re on your own there. Little Tokyo shopping favorites include Bun-Ka Do, Popkiller, Anime Jungle, Kinokuniya Bookstore (load up on your favorite manga) and for the Sweet Lolita in your life, Fairytale Boutique (they carry hard to find in the States Lolita labels Baby The Stars Shine Bright, Angelic Pretty and Metamorphose.)
A group of sweet Lolitas
Walk east on 2nd Street one block past Alameda, turn right, walk another block and you’ll be in the heart of the burgeoningDTLA Arts District. You are also near Skid Row. If you find yourself on Skid Row, you have gone too far. Turn around and walk back nonchalantly, looking cool, just like you own the place. Once in the Arts District, you can walk around and enjoy large and small scale works by artists from LA and around the world. (Editor’s note: Cream of the Crop is a standout collaboration between artists that stretches across an entire parking lot wall.)
Cream of the Crop
Stop in and sample some local brews at Angel City Brewery, a huge space with informal seating but no food. If theLudoTruck happens to be parked outside, SCORE! This fried chicken served with Bearnaise dipping sauce is OM-GAH.
Walk north back up Alameda to the Little Tokyo/Arts District Metro station and take the Gold Line to Mariachi Plaza. This is the center of Boyle Heights, a historic neighborhood in East LA. Here on weekends, you will see mariachis strolling with their instruments, waiting to be booked for the evening’s festivities.
Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights
Grab a cold and spicy michelada at Eastside Luv. If you are feeling hungry (as I usually am), continue on the Gold Line to the Maravilla station. Across the street from the station, you will see one of the original King Taco outposts. These are my favorite tacos de carne asada on the planet. Nothing is organic, vegan or gluten-free, and I am OK with that. This is street food and may not be to everyone’s taste, but since you asked me, I love this stuff. This is the food you’ll want after having a couple of beers at Angel City Brewery and a michelada or two at Eastside Luv - trust me on that.
From here, you can catch the Gold Line back to where you started in Pasadena.
4. Tiki-Ti. This place is tiny, has irregular hours (they open when they feel like it), accepts cash only and they don’t make your favorite drink, but Tiki-Ti holds a special place in the hearts of rum-drinking Angelenos. Try the legendary Ray’s Mistake or the Stealth (if you wanna have fun fast) and marvel at the decades of graffiti and tiki ephemera this family-owned and operated cocktail bar has collected.
Tiki-Ti, photographer unknown.
5. The Magic Castle. You’ll need an invite from a member to get into this enchanting private club. The historic mansion also functions as a restaurant and pub, but Magic is the real reason people come here. Rooms include the Close-Up Gallery (for close-up magic), the Victorian Parlor of Prestidigitation and the Palace of Mystery (for displays of Grand Illusion.) And they even have a resident ghost - need I say more?
6. Tacos de Cochinita Pibil at Guisados in Boyle Heights. Cochinita Pibil is a spicy, citrus marinated pork that originated in the Yucatan. Guisados makes an especially delicious version and they serve it on thick, warm homemade corn tortillas with a devilishly hot habanero sauce. Spice levels range from from 1-10. Start at Level 1 (2 if you’re brave) and work up from there - take my word for it. The agua de melon is particularly good here. Good options for vegetarians include tacos de calabacitas, mushrooms, and black beans.
7. The Old Zoo in Griffith Park. Equal parts cool and creepy, these cages were abandoned years ago when the current LA Zoowas built. I used to bring my kids here when they were small and we would pretend to hear the roars and growls of ghostly animals. Great place for a photo shoot. This spot can be a little hard to find, so park your car in the Old Zoo Picnic Area lot and walk up into the hills.
Old LA Zoo, photo by luxehotelier
8. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and Hollywood Walk of Fame. I know it’s not called Grauman’s Chinese anymore, but that’s what it was called back when I lived in Hollywood. As touristy as this particular choice is, it’s a great reminder of old Hollywood. It takes me back to the days when movie stars were larger than life, in a way that they aren’t nowadays. Be careful if you attempt to take a photo with one of the costumed characters - they will expect to be tipped.
The Bags on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1977
9. Santee Alley and the Garment District: whether you are looking for a special outfit for a formal event or something more casual, the Alley has all the latest styles at a fraction of the price you’d pay in stores. This is also one of those places where one might find a “Gucci” bag for under $40, if one were to be looking for such a thing…which of course you wouldn’t be. Bring cash, be smart about where you are and be ready to bargain like a fiend.
10. Disneyland: the Grandaddy of theme parks, this place has got something special about it that keeps crowds flocking to it year after year.”