Top 10 Hottest Places Right Now in L.A.'s Silicon Beach
From ForbesLife by Juyoung Seo, September 6, 2015:
L.A. is entering a new age. Downtown L.A., once a place-that-should-not-be-trodden is becoming a playground for hipsters and seeing the opening of new restaurants and bars almost every day.
The same changes are happening on the west side of Los Angeles: big-name tech companies such as Google, Yahoo!, and YouTube have opened offices here, start-ups such as SnapChat are sprawling like mushrooms, making LA’s so-called Silicon Beach area the second-largest tech hub in the country, behind Silicon Valley.
Here are the top 10 hottest Silicon Beach addresses for those who want to have a good time and indulge in the best.
1. Best New Restaurant: Cassia
This highly anticipated restaurant is a product of a partnership between chef Bryant Ng and power couple Joshua Loeb and Zoe Nathan of Huckleberry Bakery and Rustic Canyon restaurant. It’s set in an airy space in Santa Monica. The vibrant ambience created by the communal tables — they also have individual tables — and the open-fire oven save the somewhat industrial decor from being uninviting. Try the charcuterie platter that includes Singaporean candied pork and Vietnamese meatloaf. Also try chopped escargot with crisp flatbreads — after all, Bryant Ng honed his bread-making skill at Mozza under Nancy Silverton. Vietnamese pot-a-feu is a must.
2. Best New Deli: Gjusta
Just around the corner from the iconic Gold’s Gym (where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained) and the Google offices is Gjusta – a cafe, bakery, smokehouse, deli and pizzeria all rolled into one. Run by the co-owner of Gjelina restaurant on Abbot Kinney, it’s not surprising that this place has thrived from the time it opened in October 2014. Unless you go early in the morning, be ready to take a number and stand in line. If you haven’t passed out from standing in a long line, sit in the courtyard and hang out with the Venice hipsters. Or pick up the food and have a picnic at nearby Venice beach.
3. Best Hipster Coffee: Blue Bottle
It’s very easy to miss this shop set in a brickstone building on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Look for a small painting of a blue bottle on a black board above the front door without any other signs. Originally from Oakland, they only serve coffee that’s been less than 48 hours out of their vintage roaster.
For a shop with pure local origins, Groundwork offers exceptional coffee at several Venice locations (see here for locations). It owns its own roastery in North Hollywood and has been a leading coffee roaster in Southern California with a big emphasis on fair-trade and organic sourcing.
4. Best Ice Cream: Sweet Rose Creamery
Another place by Joshua Loeb and Zoe Nathan, who also own Rustic Canyon, Milo & Olive and Huckleberry — all of which are must-try restaurants. At this point, you’d wonder if there’s anything this couple can’t do. Their ice cream is made daily at their Pico Boulevard location using the best ingredients, including organic eggs and milk. Other than their signature flavors — such as fresh mint chocolate chip that is nothing like you’ve tasted anywhere before — they offer other creative seasonal flavors such as Mirabelle plum with cinnamon wafer. The handmade thick and crunchy waffle cones should not be missed.
There are several locations, including Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades, but the original location at the Brentwood Country Mart is the most fun option if you don’t mind an easy 10-minute drive from Santa Monica.
5. Best Sunset for Romantics: Suite 700 at Shangri-La
The rooftop bar at this luxury hotel offers a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. It’s fun to walk along the Santa Monica beach at dusk and watch the brightly lit ferris wheel on the pier. But if you want to sweep your loved one off his or her feet this is the place. Besides the view, they also offer drinks, small bites and regularly have DJs.
6. Best Street: Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Possibly the hippest street in Los Angeles — arguably in America — this boulevard is laid-back but edgy in character, eco-conscious in store design and philanthropic in philosophy.
It’s a shame that high rents caused by its popularity are pushing out the eclectic shops and restaurants in favor of the big name chain stores. Nevertheless, don’t forget to try Gjelina, one of the best restaurants in L.A. It’s open from 8 a.m. for breakfast. For lunch, share pizzas, kale salad and roasted peaches with burrata. By the time you leave, it’s likely to become one of your favorite restaurants on earth.
For coffee, head to Intelligentsia. You might notice something science lab or even Star Trek about it in the baristas’ intense focus on the art of coffee-making. It’s futuristic and hip. You are guaranteed to be energized by the crowd, music and coffee. Call it daytime clubbing without the alcohol if you wish.
If you want something more relaxing, go to the flagship store of Toms shoes. It’s a “lifestyle store” — think hippie West Coast equivalent of the preppy East Coast Ralph Lauren stores — embodying the company’s philanthropic and bohemian spirit. For store design, they used weathered reclaimed wood, largely sourced from random places such as a lumber yard, a friend’s garage and even Frank Sinatra’s old house. They serve coffee that comes from their own roaster that you can drink at the bar or the sunny patio.
There are many beautiful shops but pop into Heist for their beautifully and meticulously curated clothing and accessories — many of them are relatively obscure brands so it’s a perfect place to find “one of a kind” pieces.
7. Best Luxury Hotel: Shutters
No wonder it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorite hotel in Santa Monica. Original artworks by Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock and Jasper Jones are hanging throughout this East Coast-style hotel. The sandy beach is literally right at your feet and you can rent a fancy $7,000 Budnitz bike that weighs like a feather to cruise along the beach. Each room has a toiletry cabinet displaying Cosabella underwear, Avene and Khlorane products. For children, there are bath toys by the tub and a small toy basket in each room.
8. Best Boutique Hotel: Palihouse Santa Monica
This gem of a hotel is away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist area but only two blocks from the Third Street Promenade and the beach. Sophisticated and quirky with a bit of Englishness shown in their wallpapers and decor, it’s a “luxury hotel meets Airbnb,” borrowing the words of Kirsten Leigh Pratt, the Principal of Hotels and Branding at Paligroup Management. It’s rather like staying in your friend’s posh country house. Each room is generously spacious and equipped with a small kitchen that comes with a snack basket from Dean & DeLuca. Use their smartphone app, “Palifornia,” to guide yourself in L.A.
9. Best Cultural Site: Eames Foundation
If L.A. only conjures up images of beach bums and plastic surgery obsessed personalities, you might be missing the different side of L.A. This city also has produced and embraced numerous celebrated figures in arts and culture. Sergei Rachmaninoff called it home, Canadian-born Frank Gehry resides there and many more creative types have always been drawn to this land of free spirits.
To witness the creative essence of L.A., arrange a visit to Eames House in Pacific Palisades. Named “Case Study House No. 8,” it was the 8th of a series of projects commissioned by the publisher of Arts and Architecture magazine between the 1940s and the 1960s. It was designed by Charles and Ray Eames and they used it for as personal residence and work studio. You need to make a reservation one week ahead. If you’re not an art fanatic the price for the guided tour — $275 ($200 for members) for 1-2 adults might seem steep but it’s a unique opportunity to see inside the genius couple’s mind that you may already have known through their incredible works such as a series of films, “Powers of Ten.” Arranging a picnic in the Eames House Meadow — $750 ($675 for members) for 1-4 adults — can be an unforgettable experience.
10. A Must-Visit Place Outside Silicon Beach: The Broad
Chances are you will feel like the west side of LA has everything you need. But if you have to choose one reason to venture further out, go witness a new mind-blowingly innovative art space in downtown. With the opening of the Broad, L.A. will become one of the most important arts destinations in the world with the museum housing nearly 2,000 postwar and contemporary art works collected by Eli and Edythe Broad during the past 50 years. Even if you’re not an art lover, the honeycomb-like white building — designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in New York — is an artwork in itself. The Broads also generously decided to make general admission free. There’s absolutely no excuse not to visit this most exciting venue of the year.