Alina's Favorite Places in L.A. - Part One

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A view of The Hills over Sunset Boulevard 

A view of The Hills over Sunset Boulevard 

I moved to L.A. a little over a year ago after a lifetime of longing to live here. The city inspires me in new ways every day and I fall more in love with it by the minute. Everything from its glamorous Hollywood history to its jaw-dropping terrain and pastel, palm-tree-silhouetted skies send my heart into a tailspin.

As someone who's a relative newbie here, I have a fresh perspective - the eyes of a person who actually bought a one-way plane ticket to LAX and never looked back. I spend all my free time eagerly exploring and getting to know my surroundings, so I am beyond excited to start sharing my version of L.A. through a little black book of my favorite places. I appreciate the city's diverse food culture, unique small businesses, iconic architecture, secret spots, and natural landmarks with every fiber of my being - I assure you you won't find a tour guide more adoring of this place as a whole. Join me as I break down my favorite destinations in L.A., part one.

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Vito's pizza is bar none the best pizza I've had in L.A. It's in an unassuming strip mall on La Cienega that you'd drive past a thousand times and never notice. Vito himself is a larger-than-life character who works behind the counter cursing about how good his pizza is. You don't have to have been before to know exactly which one Vito is when you walk in the door. He gives most people free Canolis. I thought we were getting special treatment the first time it happened, but later discovered he pretty much gives them to everyone.

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One of the houses on the perimeter of the Silverlake Reservoir - this orange VW van is always parked out front and makes me happy 

One of the houses on the perimeter of the Silverlake Reservoir - this orange VW van is always parked out front and makes me happy 

Activity-wise, my favorite non-ambitious thing to do is walk the Silverlake Reservoir. Probably because it's flat. I just love seeing all the houses in Silverlake lining the Reservoir. Since the walk is a loop, you often encounter the same people you passed awhile back, and everybody sweetly smiles and nods and says hello because it's a quaint neighborhood stroll with many young families, etc. It's not like the hikes in West Hollywood where everyone is in sexy gear and working on their fitness blasting Drake without headphones trying to get discovered.

I also love hiking Wattles which is probably my biggest secret that I can't believe I'm sharing. It's weird how few people even know of its existence. It's basically the twin peak to Runyon and usually completely empty whereas Runyon is always overrun. I've never encountered a soul on Wattles. It also has a dog park and mansion at the foothill where my friend and I bring rosé and a blanket and hang out with dogs that aren't ours. We're probably laying in their urine because it's a legit dog park, but it's really quite adorable to snack and have all these sweet puppies running up to you to cuddle and steal your sandwich. The views of the city from Wattles at sunset (or any time) are spectacular. 

Wattles Mansion Park at sunset 

Wattles Mansion Park at sunset 

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L.A. does many things infamously well, such as tacos. LA is not known for bagels, and hauling from the east coast that's something I thought I wouldn't find here. That was until Emily and Geoffrey told me about Sam's in Larchmont. I swear I drive out of my way there four times a week. They are divine bagels - as good as any in New York. I get poppyseed or everything with strawberry cream cheese. They have incredible strawberry cream cheese—it's subtle.

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Wasteland, a consignment shop on Melrose, is one of my favorite spots in the city. Second-hand clothing in L.A. is some of the best second-hand clothing in the world (because of the celebs, the industry - you'll see every major label second-hand) and Wasteland does a great curation; it's not one of those overwhelming warehouses nor is it over-priced, and it's all wearable. I always find AMAZING steals and I get complimented on things I've bought at Wasteland consistently. It's hard to walk out without a gem in hand.

Not far down the road is Slow, a perfect vintage store for both staples and unnecessary interesting pieces. One time, I was at a fashion preview with the Bartoli sisters, who are some of my style icons, and got up the courage to cold-approach them and ask where they get their vintage denim in L.A. (because they wear the best ever and I have scrolled their Instagram dying to know), and they said Slow on Melrose, so I felt pretty excited/validated to hear that my taste for Slow was shared by holy grail vintage sourcers (exclamation-points-for-days-excited). I found a pink slip dress there the night before Halloween for my Carrie costume, so I love the store for that reason too - because it came through when I needed it to, not just with exactly what I needed (a pink slip dress), but with a dream version of it (lace details, sheer panels - everything). 

Assembly on Melrose is quite frankly a dangerous place to go, in terms of temptation to purchase the whole store. They have an eponymous line, unique indie labels, incredible vintage, and the kind of footwear that's in that sweet - and honestly, pretty underrepresented - middle price range between Jeffrey Campbell and designer. 

I really like shopping at American Rag on La Brea. They have a great selection of contemporary labels (Alexander Wang; Emily's favorite, Ulla Johnson) and some solid shoes. They do a mean sale when they do a sale - like things that are $1,000.00 suddenly become $100. I like shopping there when I'm going to do the whole La Brea strip, including Steven Alan across the street, and taking a coffee break at Graffiti (more on Graffiti in my coffee section, part two).

Reformation, like Assembly, is the kind of store where everything is purchase-worthy. I love what they stand for - sustainable fashion - and that their clothing is designed and manufactured right here in downtown L.A. Their pieces are simply sick. They're all comfortable, effortlessly sexy, feminine but modern, and wearable in so many ways. They also sell incredible vintage Levi's denim that they tailor themselves so you don't have to go through that step. Obsessed would be an understatement for how I feel about their Melrose store. 

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The BEST rye chocolate chip cookie from The Sycamore Kitchen that Emily told me about

The BEST rye chocolate chip cookie from The Sycamore Kitchen that Emily told me about

I'm a huge pastry fan, so when I'm on the La Brea strip, I go to La Brea Bakery for a croissant with butter and jam + coffee if the morning, and Sycamore Kitchen nearby, for sandwiches and cookies, if lunch time.

On Melrose, I love taking a shopping break at Mauro's Cafe at Fred Segal when I need a treat or pick-me-up. I'll get an Arnold Palmer and macarons, or I also really like their tuna sandwich. I'm partial to Mauro's because I'm a fan of any place in LA that has a dedicated, non-valet, easy-to-navigate, ground-level parking lot. Parking is such a b*tch here that I appreciate any place that makes it easy for customers. Finding parking basically anywhere else on Melrose is a nightmare. Open-air parking lots--the way to my heart.

On Melrose Place, Croft Alley is a hole-in-the-wall spot around the corner from Alfred coffee and Compartés chocolate that has such simple, quality food. I get the turkey lettuce wraps, the tuna melt (which is insane), and/or the triple chocolate chip sea salt cookie, which will basically ruin your life. The chlorophyll yogurt is a must-try (and Instagram gold). 

The Instagram-famous chlorophyll yogurt from Croft Alley on Melrose Place 

The Instagram-famous chlorophyll yogurt from Croft Alley on Melrose Place 

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Potato Chips makes amazing deli sandwiches. They only have like 4 items on the menu and each one is excellent. It's a tiny little closet of a space on Beverly across from Erewhon (the fanciest supermarket ever). My friend Kat introduced me to it and anytime I'm craving a classic turkey sandwich that's a cut above the rest, I drive straight to Potato Chips. 

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My friend introduced me to this amazing Guided Crystal Meditation at a place called Spellbound Sky in Silverlake. I'd never done anything like it before, but the teacher, Jessica Snow, is the loveliest person. Listening to her talk you through visualizations is soothing and revealing (of what's going on in your head). Meditating here is what made me know and feel that I was ready to quit my job in DC and move to LA. I will always feel very fondly towards it.

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I love having a drink at The Hudson. It's my neighborhood go-to for weeknights. It's on a corner, SO cozy, and is built around trees with this gorgeous, unparalleled, kind of panoramic view out the windows. The staff there are great, and the food is consistent. You're never going to get something bad at The Hudson. My best guy friend and I have a table that's "ours," where we'll go once a week for sweet potato fries and wine - and the grilled cheese when we've thrown cares to the wind. They also have a photo booth.

The Churchill is another great local spot for drinks. I probably go twice a week. Friends and I will meet for pizza and martinis, and then also on the weekend for brunch and mimosas. It's just a solid hang-out.

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Jones is currently my favorite venue in the entire city of L.A. I live for it. It's sultry, moody - has incredible lighting for a date - and is just cool. It's one of those places where you find yourself looking around and the whole vibe, the clientele, the ambience, it's all cool. Not to mention the pizza and martinis are other-worldly. Have I mentioned pizza and martinis twice? I've outed myself.

The Umbrella Club on Melrose is a cute place for a craft cocktail with a date or close friend. The space/decor is amazing. My favorite time to go is happy hour - like any bar in West Hollywood, it gets packed come 10:00 on a Friday.

I love Figaro bistro in Los Feliz for those times when you want to get a glass of wine with someone and straight hang. It's a French bistro that feels like a sidewalk cafe in New York City and has great people watching. It has a romantic feeling for dates. 

La Poubelle is a dreamy little French venue in Franklin Village - one of my fave areas in the city. It's so darling. I think most importantly, what I appreciate about it, is that it's not a scene. It's low-key, and a good spot for a date because it's not overrun and unless you live in Franklin Village, you probably won't run into anyone you know. It's not West Hollywood, or Downtown L.A., or Los Feliz, or Silverlake - the most popular places to live. Therefore it feels a bit like you've escaped the city even though you of course haven't - but that's what I like about it. 

If any place was going to tie with Jones as my all-time fave in L.A., Bar Stella, would be the winner. There's Bar Stella and Cafe Stella (mentioned below), the bar being in a basement of sorts and where you go for after-dark drinks versus brunch. It's, in my humble opinion, the most well-designed place in the city. The décor is out of this world. They have an extensive cocktail menu (something like 35 different original creations) and the bartenders will make you anything. Last time I told the bartender the following, verbatim: I hate sweet drinks, I love fizzy things, I love gin, I love martinis, and I hate Negroni. And with that hodge podge of data, he asked if I like ginger (the answer was a suspicious yes - because I worship ginger and how did he know), and he made me some fizzy lemon lavender ginger gin drink that went down real easy. They're like mind-reading machines that churn out custom drinks you love based on your eye color. Go at 8:30 p.m. on a Monday night with a date - I promise you'll thank me. 

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Little Dom's in Los Feliz on a cloudy day 

Little Dom's in Los Feliz on a cloudy day 

I love going to Little Dom's for late brunch in lounge clothes on a sleepy Saturday, like one of those perfect days in college when you'd wake up late and get pancakes in your pjs. Their ricotta pancakes are my favorite in the world.

In Silverlake I adore Cafe Stella (above Bar Stella). It's kind of tucked away off the street, and has a very relaxed feel - like somewhere you can chill all day in a pair of cut-offs and ballet flats with your girlfriend. It's particularly cozy/perfect on an overcast afternoon with nowhere to be, and French bistros are my favorite for that. You get French onion soup and champagne - ideally something with Hollandaise sauce - and talk for hours with a buzz. 
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Thanks for reading! In upcoming parts, I plan to cover places to shop for your home, coffee, places to go out (i.e. "party"), beauty, specialty foods (sushi, tacos, dim sum, etc.), epic beach itineraries, music venues, hotels, and more. Let me know if there's anything specifically you want me to cover, in the comments below - and of course, share your favorite places in L.A. as well! 

You can also check out Emily's Guide to LA here and a list of the best chocolate chip cookies in LA here.