Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Last Remaining Seats

Have you ever wanted to go into one of those old theaters in downtown LA?  The Orpheum, The Palace, The Million Dollar Theater, and The Los Angeles Theater.  The LA Conservancy shows a movie in each of these theaters once a year in their Last Remaining Seats series. The Conservancy, which is run by volunteers, created this event in 1987 as a way to draw attention to the historic movie palaces of downtown Los Angeles, many of which were underused and in need of restoration.  Now in its 25th year it has become their signature event, drawing over 10,000 people a year from around the country and the world.

Many of the theaters began as vaudeville stages, where lives acts like the Marx Brothers and Sophie Tucker entertained wealthy families.  As film progressed and grew in popularity they were transformed into movie theaters. Behind their deceptively simple exteriors, these movie theaters from Hollywood's golden age are breathtakingly lavish temples.

We went to the bonus showing this past Sunday.  The shows are usually on Wednesday however they had a Sunday showing to mark the 100th anniversary of The Palace Theater.  The Palace was built in 1911 as part of the Orpheum chain and is now the oldest remaining Orpheum theater.  It seats 1,167 and is a replica of a Renaissance Florentine Palace but is reduced in size. They were showing a fan favorite, the 1950's film Sunset Boulevard.  The show was so popular they had to add two additional shows to their original one.  We got tickets to the last show added which was at 10am on Sunday morning.  Early!  We went arrived at the theater at 9:00 to find a line already formed half way down the block.  We stood in line anxiously waiting for the doors to open while the line quadrupled in size.  The doors were supposed to open at 9:30 however they were having technical difficulties so it was delayed 15 minutes.  We were allowed to enter and it was a rush to find good seats.  There was a short program before the movie started on the history of the theater which was entertaining.  Once the movie started the everyone was silent and enjoyed the show.  The picture was great, as it was a newly refinished copy.

Overall this is a great event.  Tickets are $20 each but the sale of them is tricky.  Members of the conservancy get a first shot at ticket sales about a month before everyone else.  The good shows usually sell out.  After that, the general public has a chance to buy tickets.  The good thing is, like any movie, seats are for the most part first come first serve, but you definitely need to plan ahead if you want to attend a show.  The last show of the series is tonight at The Orpheum.  If you're interested in this event look for tickets on the website in the spring.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Taco Tuesday - The Fish Taco

I'm sure Taco Tuesday is a national thing.  I am also sure there are fish tacos everywhere.  But I don't think its as regular an event and as popular as in Southern California.  There are countless places that have taco specials on Tuesday, the trick is to find a place that is consistently good and a deal!  I've found that place....Hole Mole in Long Beach.  A friend introduced me to this place a little over a year ago.  I had no idea they had such an amazing array of taco's all day long for just $1.  They have carne, carnitas, pork, chicken, etc.  However they are best known for their ensanada style fish taco which is also only $1 on Tuesdays. 
I get 2 fish tacos and 1 carne taco, some chips, then load up on salsa.  It's best if you eat there but I usually take it home.  You can also add beans and rice for just .99.  It's a deal and it's great food.  Plus it gives you something to look for at the beginning of the week.  SO, tomorrow is Tuesday, my advice, go to your local taco eatery (if that happens to be Hole Mole that's even better) and grab some tacos.  If you've never had a fish taco you'll hopefully be surprised!!!

As a side note, they also sell the same tacos every night for $1 after 9.  In case you can't make it on Tuesday :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Angles Baseball Game

I know I've already done a post on a Dodgers Game but I'm also posting about an Angels game because it's an incredibly different experience.  You have to visit both stadiums, if for nothing else, just to compare and contrast the experiences.  LA vs. OC.  Angel's fans vs Dodgers fans.  They couldn't be farther apart.

We went to a Monday night game which is much quieter than any other night.  We sat along the 3rd base line and hoped for some foul balls.  Angels stadium is really tight on security.  The crowd is much less rowdy (than Dodgers), and it's more of a family atmosphere.  My favorite thing about the stadium is they have just about any kind of beer you can imagine.  I opted for a Blue Moon, but no matter what you want, one of the stands will have it.

The food, like many other places is expensive, and nothing else is too out of the ordinary.  Just a great place to take the family and see a ball game.  You can always find cheap last minute seats if need be!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Grand Central Market

If you're downtown and hungry, the Grand Central Market is the place to be.  It reminds me of a mall food court, just with a much better selection.

This market has been in existence since 1917.  Then Angelenos rode the Angels Flight Railway for a penny down to the best open-air shopping in town. It is located in the ground floor of the stately Homer Laughlin Building, which once housed an office for American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and forms the centerpiece of L.A.'s Historic Core District. It is Los Angeles's oldest and largest open-air market. Over 38 merchants offer their finest selections of produce, delicacies, and unique specialty items from around the globe.

We went during the week at lunch time and it was quite crowded.  There are a lot of options for lunch but the place that was the most crowded by far was a Mexican eatery called Tacos Tumbras A Tomas.  I had to wait in the crowd for about 5 minutes before I could work my way up to the counter to order.  They had 6 pans of different types of meat behind the corner that were ready for any kind of burrito, taco, quesadilla, or whatever else you want.  I stuck with the simple carne asada burrito with everything on it.  It was pretty big for the price ($5.50), and it only took a minute or so for him to make. 

Once we got the burrito we sat down and split it in 3 parts to eat.  It was slightly hard to find a clean place to eat.  If I make another trip, I'll probably take the food to go.  The burrito was amazing.  The meat was flavorful and wasn't too fatty.  It was perfect for a snack (because we split it) but would have been more than enough for a meal. 

We walked around the market after we ate.  They have butchers, spice shops, and produce.  Food wise, just about anything you could want (except dairy.)  I would stick to getting fast meals that are good and fairly inexpensive.  Definitely a great lunch stop!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shatto Lanes Bowling

I haven't been bowling in years. It's a pretty big past time back home in Milwaukee but I never really got into it. Shatto Lanes is a bowling alley in downtown LA near Koreatown that's pretty cool and cheap.  I had to check it out!

We went during the day on a week day and the alley was virtually empty.  There may have been one other group bowling.  It was $3.50 per person per game and $3.00 to rent shoes, a deal!  We picked out our balls and started our game. They were blasting Power 106 which was a great soundtrack for the atmosphere.  I've never been very good at bowling so I had a few gutter balls.  The game went fairly quickly.  Grete won, Liz came in 2nd, and I was last with a dismal score.  We decided to play another game since it went by so quickly. The 2nd game was more my pace and I actually won, but still with a pretty bad score.

The bowling alley is pretty old school.  Nothing fancy, but that's what makes is so enjoyable.  They have a bar that didn't open until 6 but their drinks are pretty cheap.
$4.00 cocktails!  We'll have to go back in the evening :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Grilled Cheese Food Truck

I first saw the Grilled Cheese Food Truck at the LA Art Walk (see previous post).  The truck parked and a line formed within seconds.  Before I knew what was going on the line was an hour long.  I of course was not going to stand in the line after a long day.  But I was intrigued.  Since then I've been on a quest to get to the food truck in a timely manner.  So I started tracking the food truck online.  They put out a weekly schedule of where the trucks will be (they have 2 at least) and I waited until the truck came somewhat close to Long Beach.  Last week it did!  I saw early in the week that it would be at the San Pedro Art Walk and I made plans to be there when it opened.

A few friends were interested so we all went down to San Pedro.  We got there at 6pm when the food truck was supposed to open.  When we got to the line there was already ~30 people ahead of us.  I was not surprised.  They weren't even open yet.  While waiting in line someone from a local bakery came by to give us danish samples which were yummy.  We got menu's and contemplated what we would get even though I had been planning my order for days.

When they opened it took about 30 minutes to get to the ordering window. They have an ordering menu and a pick up menu.  I ordered my sandwiches and waited to be called.  I ordered a custom sandwich which was a sharp cheddar grilled cheese with turkey and caramelized onions.  Grete ordered the Cheesy Mac and Rib which has macaroni and cheese with sharp cheddar, with bbq pork and caramelized onions.  I also ordered tater tots and a grilled cheese to go for a friend. The total order was only $21. Our friends ordered other sandwiches including the Veggie Melt, the Pepperbelly Melt, and the daily special.  It took about an additional 10 min to get our sandwiches then it was time to find a spot to chow down.  We picked the curb right in front of the truck and began to indulge.
My sandwich was incredibly cheesy, which I loved.  Being from Wisconsin, I can't get enough cheese.  It was a little unmanageable because of all the ingredients but well worth the wait.  My sandwich in particular is something that shouldn't be eaten everyday (otherwise you might have a heart attack.)  It was rich and incredibly good. Other sandwiches weren't as rich but equally good! The tater tots only made the meal that much better.  All in all, the food off of this truck is spectacular.

Anywhere the truck is, there will be a crowd.  I suggest looking online at their schedule to see where they will be and get there early.  Otherwise if you see the truck and want a sandwich be prepared to wait!  The wait will be well worth it.  And you will be able to say you've had a meal from the famous Grilled Cheese Food Truck.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Abbot Kinney First Fridays

Abbott Kinney is a famous street in Venice. To be totally accurate Abbot Kinney was a developer and conservationist who designed Venice (in LA).  But now there is a street names after him.  The street is filled with galleries, shops, restaurants, and of course a great area for events.  One of the events is the Abbott Kinney First Fridays which is Venice's version of an Art Walk. Since I've had so much success with Art Walks around the city in the past I thought this would be no different.

We arrived a little before 6 (the event is from 6-10) and had some trouble finding parking.  Anyone that knows anything about Venice knows parking is always a hassle.  When there is an event going on, it's even more of a pain.  It took about 20 min to find a place maybe 5 blocks away from the main street which wasn't too bad.  When we arrived on the boulevard it wasn't as busy as I expected it to be.  The shops we went into were fairly empty and most of the people out were giving their attention to the food trucks.  We walked down the street and into a few galleries.  One gallery curator was particularly helpful telling us that the Art Walk use to be more lively, but it ended up turning into a bunch of drunken kids walking the streets, the cops were called, so the galleries stopped attracting people that would actually appreciate art.  They also stopped serving alcohol and the even went more away from an art walk. Now the food trucks have taken over and the street just becomes a food truck fair.  It sounded like some of the galleries and boutiques prefer not to have the event because it doesn't improve their business as it is intended to.

If you happen to be in Venice on the first Friday of the month, you might as well try to stop by, you may find some deals.  Otherwise, I wouldn't rush out for First Fridays.  It's not all that fun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Hungry Cat Raw Bar

The Hungry Cat was a hard bar to find.  It's address states it's on Vine street in Hollywood but there is no signage or indication that the bar exists from the street.  We had to get out of the car and look for it.  It is tucked into a pedestrian alley way that is between the old Borders and the Bed Bath and Beyond on the corner.  On top of that, there are 6 ft hedges that hide the restaurant.  I felt like I'd solved a mystery trying to find the place so I was ready for a cocktail, which is what I had come for!

Before we get to the drinks, the restaurant has incredible seafood and a raw bar.  We actually sat at the raw bar and saw the chef''s prepping the nights specials right in front of us.  It was really cool.  But we came for the drinks.  The cocktail menu isn't big.  they have 8 on the menu and a daily special.  The special that day was the Rumble so that's what Liz got.  I went for the Tigerlilly which has green tea-infused vodka, lemon, honey, tonic, blood orange.  The drinks are a bit pricey, mine was $13 but I figured having one wouldn't hurt my wallet too much.  After we ordered they brought oyster crackers (probably in anticipation of us ordering seafood), and the waiter briefly explained the menu, pointing out the small plates and the entrees.  Liz actually was swayed to get food so she ordered the cheese plate which had 5 cheeses, honeycomb, and almonds on it for $20.  Our drinks came and they looked quite festive.

My drink was bitter, I anticipated the blood orange would add sweetness however it was more like grapefruit juice.  Liz's drink was great however I don't remember what was actually in it since it was the special.  

The atmosphere was laid-back.  The restaurant was not crowded; it was still early in the evening.  The cheese platter was really good and more than enough to share.  The best part of the experience came when we got the bill.  The drinks were half off due to happy hour.  We were not told of happy hour so I was not expecting this at all.  At this price, the drinks are more than worth it. 

If you find yourself in Hollywood during happy hour sniff out The Hungry Cat.  You'll enjoy the cocktails and if you're hungry I'm sure the food is more than worth it as well :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Venice Beach Boardwalk

If you've truly never been to Southern California before Venice Beach is a must.  It will probably fulfill a boatload of stereotypes you have about the area (depending on where you're from).  Stereotypes or not, it is a hands down fun place to to stroll and people watch.

Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic. In the 1950s and 60s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art. Major participants included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Lawrence Lipton, John Haag, Saul White, Robert Farrington and Philomene Long.  Today, Venice is a vibrant area of Southern California and it continues a tradition of progressive social change involving prominent Westsiders.
Venice Beach has an awesome beach with great breakwater and is an acclaimed local surf spot.  There is a boardwalk that runs parallel to the beach, Muscle Beach, handball courts, paddle tennis courts, Skate Dancing plaza, numerous beach volleyball courts, bike trail and businesses and residences that have their addresses on Ocean Front Walk. The basketball courts in Venice are renowned across the country for their high level of street ball and numerous NBA players were developed or recruited from these courts.

Prominent residents of Venice include actresses Julia Roberts, Kate Beckinsale, and Anjelica Huston, Nicolas Cage, and many more. Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting career began after becoming a regular bodybuilder at Venice's famous Gold's Gym, whose present facility claims to be "The Mecca of Bodybuilding." Restaurateur Wolfgang Puck has owned and operated noted eateries in the area since the 1990s.

We went on a weekday afternoon and it was fairly quite.  The boardwalk wasn't too crowded but there was still plenty of peddlers to to entertain us. If you want a crowd go on the weekend during the summer.  You are sure to see a great show!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

AIDS/Lifecycle Bike Ride

Imagine riding your bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles, all for a good cause!  That's exactly what AIDS/LifeCycle is. I actually found out about this ride a few months after I first moved to California.  I lived in Pasadena and heard a lot of riders met at the Rose Bowl for Saturday morning rides.  Since I didn't know anyone who rode here I went down to meet up with a group and it just happened to be a training group for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride.  I rode with them that day and a few times as a guest.  It didn't take long for them to convince me to sign up.  I did the ride in the summer of 2009 and it is still to this day one of the top things I've done in California.
A little more about the ride itself...AIDS/LifeCycle is a charity event to raise money for HIV/AIDS services and raise HIV/AIDS awareness. Participants which include riders, roadies, and staff raise money through out the year. The tour includes up to 2,500 riders and 500 roadies or support crew participants. In the first week of June over 7 days, the riders cycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles with the support of the roadies and staff. For seven days, ALC passes through communities in California as a memorial to those who have died of AIDS and as an event to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Each day of riding can range from 40-100+ miles. At the end of each day of riding, cyclists arrive in a camp to eat, shower, and rest before riding out again the next morning. The riding route is about 545 miles in total.

The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS among participants, their donors, and the general public. The ride is done because the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center agencies need funding to provide the critical services and education needed to meet the growing needs of the community.  


For me, the ride was fun, rewarding, challenging, and at times daunting. If you don't know anyone, it's easy to make friends.  Everyone is happy, supportive, and there to have a good time.  It's a great way to see California, especially scenic HWY 1.  My favorite portion of the ride was riding from Ventura to LA going through Malibu along the coast.  It was an experience that I will always remember. I hope to come back to California to do it again one day.

In the meantime, anyone can get involved, as a rider,  roadie, or just through donations.  The ride kicked off this morning in SF and will be rolling into LA next Saturday.  Check out the website to see how you can help and be apart of a great cause!

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles you say?  That doesn't sound good.  Well, you haven't had Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles...together.  So yummy.  And it's not just the food, it's the experience.

The Chicken and Waffles combination was brought from Harlem to LA in the 1970's by Herb Hudson. The restaurant became popular among Motown artist and, spread through word of mouth, it became a legend.  The Los Angeles Times refers to Roscoe's as "such an L.A. institution that people don't even question the strange combo anymore." It is known for the signature Chicken and Waffles but they offer so much delicious soul food that it's a great home away from home for food.  When I go I always get the greens and mac and cheese in addition to the signature.

Now, I must admit, I've never been to the restaurant before midnight, it's usually a late night visit but that's what makes it so great.  (Side note, I have had their take out during the day and it's just as good.) On this particular weekend I went at around midnight and it was as packed as ever. There was about an hour wait so we went into the lounge where they had a jazz band (The Long Beach location has a jazz lounge as well.)  When we were seated we knew exactly what we wanted,  I usually get the #1: SCOE'S 1/4 Chik prepared southern style, 2 waffles but since we were sharing we went with the #3 which subs the 1/4 chicken for 1/2.  We also got a side of greens and mac and cheese.  More than enough food to satisfy our appetite that night.  The food takes around 10-15 minutes to come out and about that long to devour it all!  As usual it was good.

As I said, the thing that makes Roscoe's so special is the late night atmosphere, everyone is happy, hungry, and quite loud.  I think just about anyone could walk into the restaurant at night and they would be accepted and have a good time.  The staff is nice and somewhat tolerant of the late night shenanigans.  There is security just in case but I've never seen anything get out of hand.

Roscoe's is popular with a lot of celebrities most notably Snoop Dogg and Larry King.  It's also been mentioned in countless movies and songs. If you're in LA, you definitely need to try the chicken and waffles.  Even if you've had this combination before, their recipe will impress you!