like the intriguing “prawn martini”at
, in the Omni Hotel; thePeruvian-style seviche is especiallygood at
; and the
is one o the city’s most-expensive-but-worth-it restaurants. For comortood go to
, aneighborhood institution with a trulysurreal backyard garden. Anotherold-timey avorite is the
Pacifc Din-ing Car
, a converted 1920s railwaycar that’s always open.For real Downtown immersion,stay at one o the neighborhoodhotels. The legendary 1923
is a smart splurge or its old-schoolHollywood glamour and reasonablerates. Catch high tea in the Rendez-vous Court, which resembles a Span-ish cathedral. More casual is the
, which has hostedtravelers and stars alike since 1925. Ask or a room away rom the heavilytracked streets. Still trendy,
Standard, Downtown LA
is popularwith photographers, musicians andmodels, and those lucky enough toprocure one o their inventive rooms.Much ado has been made o its modrootop lounge, but go during theday or on a weeknight to avoid thecrowds. As an alternative, check outthe little-known
Takami Sushi &Robata Restaurant
in a penthousewith a large patio atop an ocebuilding on Wilshire Boulevard.
Abbot Kinney won dibs in 1891 onthis beachront plot just south o Santa Monica (in a coin toss, noless), iconoclasts and eccentrics haveound a sae haven here. Kinney’sidea to turn the marshy parcel intoa resort town inspired by Venice,Italy—with canals, Venetian-stylebuildings, and amusement piers withdancers, singers, and magicians—was denitely a highly personalvision. Although res eventually rav-aged the town in 1920 and the pierswere dismantled in the 1940s, thestreet perormers stuck around. Thattradition continues today on theboardwalk, where you can gawk atthe real-lie circus o disco-dancingRollerbladers, Speedo-sporting body-builders, bongo-banging reaks, scarymimes, and militant vegans.But personal expression inthis perectly walkable area isn’tlimited to the beach. The plethora o independently owned design shops,clothing boutiques, and art galleriesthat have sprung up in recent yearson the aptly named Abbot KinneyBoulevard orm the center o thisarea’s recent upscale makeover. “Myshop wouldn’t survive anywhere elsein LA,” says Michael Deyermond,co-owner o
on Ab-bot Kinney, a store that carries out-o-print, rst edition, and rare books.“Here, businesses succeed becausethey are products o the owner’s sin-gular vision; ones that aren’t, ail.”The Abbot Kinney district runsor about 1.5 miles between MainStreet and Washington Boulevard.you have your prescription handy.For brunch, try the
3 Square Caé +Bakery
or delicious German applepancakes, or
(pronounced ah-shay), or organic eats like grilled gswith goat cheese. You’d be hard-pressed to nd abetter deal than the three-course,$18 prix-xe lunch at
. Even ater 18 years in business,it’s still a task to get a table at
, where everyone rom moviemoguls to artists go or the sur andtur.
is a gorgeous placethat serves dressed-up comort ood. A bit o the beaten track is
, a seriously great northernItalian spot.Despite all its attractions, Veniceis sorely lacking in hotels. Luckily,Santa Monica is only a ew minutesaway. Along the beach, striped aw-nings announce the posh but casual
, where some suites havereplaces or rare cold nights. Nextdoor is the stately
Hotel Casa delMar
, where remnants o its past as a1920s private beach club are elt inthe grand marble lobby. Across thestreet rom the beach is the
, designed in a vibrantHollywood Regency style. Servicehere is top-notch, though the pool-side bar scene takes over on weekendnights. Ask or an oceanview roomon a top foor. Two blocks inland isthe 18-foor
, where a recentchic reinvention brought stylishJapanese Deco to the rooms, andthe
restaurant, with jaw-dropping panoramic views o Venice,Hollywood, and Malibu.
A fAmousLy eccentric encLAve stAys trueto its roots whiLe gAining An uPscALe edge.
You won’t be able to leave
without something; they carry itemsnot ound anywhere else, such ascutouts by German woodworkerSarah Finn. The Japanese shop
imports one-o-a-kind vintageitems, kitchenware, and ceramics, allwith a simple, modern design. Thehusband-and-wie team who ownit just opened a second location orlarger urniture a ew doors down.
Altered Space Gallery
sellsunique urniture (some by mastercratsman Richard Patterson), jew-elry, and “nonunctional” art. Furni-ture designer
Elizabeth Paige Smith
just opened a garden gallery-atelierthat showcases her own MOCA–worthy designs and works o ellowlocal artist riends. This summer,longtime Venetian Sandro Gebertlaunched the imposing contempo-rary art space
, whichseems out o place next to the morehomespun spots but is worth a look.Take a break rom shopping witha walk along the remaining canals,now lined with vintage bungalowsand multimillion-dollar concepthomes. Park near Venice Boulevardand Pacic Avenue and meanderthrough this lovely, hidden universe.Back on the main drag, you’llnd newer watering holes, like thelow-key wine and beer lounge
, and old haunts, likeart-lled
, both places whereshopkeepers and gallerists go aterwork. Stop at
or exqui-site desserts and Asian teas, and
or herb-enhanced organicgelato and medical marijuana…i
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