Upon first glance, it may not look like much, but take a closer look and you’ll see Downtown LA’s Arts District is more than just early 20th century warehouses and abandoned factories. Must-see galleries, socially-conscious eateries, stylish coffee shops, and trendy blocks are popping up more and more, and Angelinos seeking novel streets to meander and new backdrops for their photos are starting to flock as they catch wind of this hip neighborhood.
Having lived in LA for more than half a decade, I revel in any opportunity to explore places I don’t usually frequent. So, with a fairly open weekend on my hands, I made the drive downtown. With the sun deciding to greet me after a week of Southern California’s infamous “June Gloom”, it was hard to leave my beach town. But, I’m so glad I did.
Fourth-generation vegetarian, John Secretan attended school in Berkeley, California and dreamed of bringing the vibe of the area down to LA. Opening his first Zinc Café in Laguna Beach almost 30 years ago, Secretan lived behind his first ever food industry venture in a small wooden shack to ensure he’d always have a close hand in the business.
After years of renovating and expanding, a new branch of Zinc opened in Downtown Los Angeles, boasting the franchise’s first full service restaurant and bar. With three years under its belt now, my brunch experience was a success and filled with creamy lattes, fresh dishes, and creative cocktails. www.zinccafe.com
Street Art at Every Corner
Cities around the world are seeing a sprouting cultural wave involving Street Art, and the artists behind the paint are turning into household names. The Downtown Arts District is no stranger to this popular movement. In wandering the streets, you can find hand-painted murals, airbrushed stencils, or thought-provoking proverbs to fit your day’s mood.
Pit Stop at Resident
Perhaps one of the coolest places I’ve discovered in a while is Resident, tucked away only blocks from the popular Arts District Co-op* and other chic shops. What began as a studio for the artist-owners, this is “not-your-grandmother’s” backyard, as it has been transformed into a hybrid of a bar, beer garden, and music venue. With beer, wine, and cocktails on tap, drinks are served out of an Airstream, and semi-permanent food trucks are carted in to help you beat those mid-day cravings. At night, the inside opens up as a hip bar, as well. Bonus: The owners, Tim and Bridget Vagedes, still live there, as they’ve secured an RV on the roof of the three-story former metal shop and warehouse, decked out with string lights, yard decorations, and plenty of greenery. www.residentdtla.com
The Arts District Co-op is a landmark not to be missed. Picture a 15,000-square foot indoor flea market, but with nothing but the most up-to-date fashions and desirable trinkets. Over two dozen vendors offer jewelry, apparel, home goods, and, if you’re in the market, art of all mediums. Plus, there’s a permanent stage set up in the back for live music featured on the third Saturday of every month!
As the sun set, I didn’t want to admit that the day was coming to a close. I had only scratched the surface of this neighborhood-on-the-rise and hungered for more. For example, the Arts District Brewing Company has finishing tanks stationed behind each bar to serve tap beer straight from the source; and, while sipping your suds, you can play Skee-Ball or try your hand at table hockey. Westbound, unobtrusively set along the perimeter of a mixed-use walk street (both residences and storefronts share this stretch), features craft cocktails, seasonal small bites, and even boozy milkshakes.
It’s not hard to see why this area is becoming so popular, as the Arts District has a little bit of something for everyone. With so many more to streets explore, shops to peruse, and bites to nibble, I’ll certainly be making my way downtown more often.
*Shae is our guest blogger from Los Angeles. An educator whose lust for experience influences her teaching, she travels with the desire to immerse herself in diverse cultures, seeking new adventure and inspiring others to engage with compassion and expand their world view. Follow Shae on Instagram! @seekvantage