There’s something pretty magical about being in Los Angeles at this exact moment in history. Sure, there’s always been the beach, the access to great entertainment, and, of course, the company of millions of people who wanted to escape their small towns to live where the sun never stops shining. But what’s special right now, is that Los Angeles is in the thick of an artistic and culinary Renaissance.
As a birthplace for street art, Downtown L.A. (and its surrounding neighborhoods) are becoming exponentially more vibrant and captivating — filled with moments to make you stop and marvel, then whip out your phone. Yes, there have been street and graffiti artists in the area for a long time. But over the past two decades, the medium — once dismissed as vandalism — has gained respect as a bona fide art form. The neighborhoods of downtown and East LA have exploded as a canvas for artists of all styles — from the guerilla street artists of the ‘80’s and 90’s to globally renowned muralists to the young paste up stars, following the footsteps of Banksy and Shepard Fairey.
Walking the streets downtown will give you more Instagram worthy shots than you’ll probably know what to do with, but also the sense of being dropped right into the middle of a scene that is in full bloom. Of course, no good Renaissance (or Instagram) story is complete without the new wave of creativity affecting all sectors of life. So in addition to upping your artistic IQ, we thought we’d help you expand your palate by adding a food recommendation for each stop on your tour.
N. Figueroa St & Ave 50, Highland Park
The Arts: Defer
The Eats: Chico’s
One of LA’s hottest neighborhoods east of Downtown is Highland Park. Filled with cool, intimate music venues and hip new restaurants (see the likes of Nancy Silverton’s Triple Beam Pizza or breakfast taco phenomenon, Homestate), it’s also a fantastic place to see street art, and the main drag, N. Figueroa St, plays host to some pretty impressive works. Heading towards the end of this mega hipster block, tucked away in a modest corner, is Avenue 50 Studio Gallery, home of the stunning mural by Boyle Heights native, Defer. Characterized as one of the most era defining street artists in LA, and founder of graffiti crews K2S and STN, Defer’s work is wild and vibrant. His signature color palette of deep blues, greens, and infinite white swirls and lines spans the wall of this completely unexpected find.
Though N. Figueroa has a plethora of restaurants to choose from (and likely, you won’t go wrong), right across from Ave 50 Studio Gallery is Chico’s – a family owned, colorful hole in the wall Mexican joint for you to indulge in authentic, no-frills tacos and (of course) delicious chips and guac.
The Arts: Mikolaj Wyszynski & Tommii Lim
The Eats: Spoke Bicycle Cafe
At the edge of up and coming Frogtown is a place where you can find art, food, and bikes all in one stop. Spoke Bicycle Cafe is a bike lover’s dream, but also great for anyone who loves cooly-themed patio vibes and cocktails. Along with literally all the bike things (repairs, a bike path, and bike decor) the spacious patio and restaurant serves delectable daytime eats and night time drinks. Enjoy a blackberry compote and goat cheese toast with coffee while admiring two pretty spectacular murals by Downtown street artists, Mikolaj Wyszynski and Tommii Lim. With bikes as their muse, Lim’s mural captures movement with striking minimalist lines while Mikolaj’s calming blue bike set within a vignette of nature serves as the perfect compliment. So while you’re enjoying an off the beaten path brunch, don’t miss these captivating murals facing the lovely bike bath.
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It’s lunchtime! Pictured is the classic California BLAT (bacon lettuce avocado tomato) made with our applewood smoked salt and pepper oyster mushrooms. This yummy sandwich is available with thick cut bacon, oyster mushrooms, or our house made tempeh bacon. We’re here til 10pm tonight (kitchen open til 9:30). Come hang out on the river today! ✌️ 📷: @ravenandcrow #blat #lariver #bikecafe #frogtown #dtla #outdoorpatio #lunchbreak #whatshouldieatforlunch #avocado
The Arts: Armando De La Torre Jr.
The Eats: Guisado’s
Because we strongly believe tacos are art, this Echo Park mural truly speaks to the soul: a taco truck amongst a beautiful Los Angeles evening. Another moment of art and food seamlessly together as one, Guisado’s co-owner and rising restaurateur, Armando De La Torre Jr.’s art is just as good as the restaurant he’s built. Amidst a fountain and shaded patio, the East LA native perfectly captures the spirit of his hometown in this panoramic tribute. Deep blues and shadows paint the city streets as a bright orange sunset fades into the distance. And, of course, a taco truck serves up delight on the street corner. So grab some tacos and relax amongst this perfect taco-inspired background.
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Th Sampler from Guisados…. this sampler plate comes with mini tacos of the first 6 meats on the menu which are mole poblano, tinga, bistek en salsa roja, steak picado, chicharrón, and chuletas en salsa verde. Some of them have a thin layer of refried black beans and the tortillas are hand made right in front of you! There are multiple locations through out Los Ángeles but I went to the one on sunset near Downtown. If you haven’t tried these tacos already, I highly recommend you do! Nothing but high praises from me.. plus you should also try their aguas! My fave… Armando Palmero: Lemonade with a splash of Jamaica 😋 . . . . #tacos #guisados #fooodie #foodies #tacosofinstagram #tacosofla #ilovetacos #guisadostacos #mole #chicharron #gorditafoodventures
The Art: Hueman
The Eats: Eat: Angel City Brewery
The poster of transformation in downtown is the Los Angeles Arts’ District which is packed with street art and murals to indulge in. But we’d like to acknowledge a very hard to miss, significant piece: “Bloom” by Oakland-based artist, Allison Tenati aka Hueman. The water-color hues and epic presence of her largest mural is a surreal fusion of abstract and figure. Hueman hones a free-style process, creating motion and dimension through spontaneous splashes, and a refined portrayal of human features.
Right next to this stunning mural is Angel City Brewery- this Arts’ District staple is decked with art, craft beers, and games, and it serves as the perfect unwinding spot for post mural revelations.
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There's probably no taco more closely related to Los Angeles than the classic Al Pastor. Carved off the trompo and loaded with spices, this taco is a glorious mix of Mexican, Lebanese, and LA tradition. No wonder it goes great with an IPA! What's your favorite taco in LA? Take a picture and tag it #TacoBrewsday, and we might feature it on our feed. Because tacos aren't just for Tuesday!
Hauser & Wirth Alley
The Art: Kim West
The Eats: Eat Drink Americano
One of the most magnificent finds of street art in the city is on the side of mega gallery, Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel. Though an excellent spot for modern exhibitions, the best thing to see at Hauser & Wirth is in the alleyway: a stunning piece alongside the building by LA-based painter Kim West. This tranquil and feminine mural spans almost the entire side of the multi-story building. Though delicate in feel, this powerful and marvelous work is the perfect compliment to the industrial harshness of Downtown.
Across the alley from Kim West’s mural is Eat Drink Americano- an artisanal gastro-pub with local faire, boutique wine, and craft beer. Specializing in charcuterie and classical American dishes, Americano provides a low-key, neighborhood feel in the heart of the bustling Arts’ District.
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Definitely want to get a bite to eat here at @eatdrinkamericano next time I'm up in downtown LA shooting the brand new @alisoapartments. 😋 . . . . . . . . . . #eatdrinkamericano #artsdistrictla #losangelesapartments #dtlaartscene #dtlaart #dtlaapartments #dtlalife #alisoapts
The Art: Various
The Eats: Everson Royce Bar
Wrapping around the corner of a white building is of a row of window-shaped impressions filled with the works of various street artists. Admittedly, I didn’t recognize any of the artists (and perhaps missed their tags), but I stopped in my tracks when I stumbled upon this intersection by accident. An eclectic group of styles — from multi-colored lettering to powerful female figures — the corner of Mateo & 7th street is truly a gem. And continuing just past the intersection along Mateo is another row of bright murals from artists including the up and coming James Haunt.
Also at the corner of Mateo & 7th is Everson Royce Bar — with its high quality, local liquor and wine list and some of the best biscuits (with extra honey butter) and cheeseburgers around — Everson Royce is the perfect bar and patio for a quick cocktail and bite after checking out the amazing art.
The Art: Meg Zany
The Eats: Urban Radish
Just a bit down from the mural row of Mateo Street is a local grocer, Urban Radish, whose parking lot plays host to murals that rival any Downtown street. Of these artists is Meg Zany — an up and coming talent in the LA art scene. After deciding to leave her corporate job to pursue street art, Zany first came to prominence with her campaign, “Courage Has No Gender”. As an extension of her signature self portrait and bold statements, her new mural at Urban Radish literally made me jump out of my car and smile brightly. Alongside Zany are exceptionally colorful pieces by artists including the prolific street writer, Wordsmith and Jazzguetta. Together, this collection of murals will make you stop, put away your phone, and (probably) inspire you to change the world.
Though Mateo St. is full of eating options- support the establishment that hosts these amazing murals: Urban Radish. Packed with produce from local farmers, a deli with freshly prepared items and sandwiches, and a lovely, plant-filled seating area, Urban Radish is the perfect place to support local eats and art.
The Art: Vilhs & JR
The Eats: B.S. Taqueria
In the midst of the bustling of Downtown lives a collaboration from two of the world’s most renowned contemporary artists, Alexandre Farto aka Vhils and photographer JR. Vhils rose to prominence as a prolific graffiti artist and broke ground in the medium by carving murals versus solely painting them. The inaugural street campaign debuting his masterful technique still lives in Downtown, LA on Spring St. — peeking around a corner of a building above a parking lot. Mixing painting and carving, Vhils partnered with innovative French photographer JR to create “Dona Benedita”, a highly intricate portrait of a Brazilian woman from JR’s “Women Are Heroes” collection.
About a quarter of a mile down 7th is B.S. Taqueria — the brainchild of modern Spanish master chef Ray Garcia. The Taqueria is the low-key sister restaurant to the upscale Broken Spanish. But don’t worry, with the counter service lunch and full service at night, dishes like “beans and rice” and house favorite, “bologna with escabeche tacos” will not disappoint.
The Art: RETNA
The Ears Smorgasburg
The former Southern Pacific Complex at the edge of the Arts’ District has officially been reinvented into an upscale bazaar packed with sophisticated apparel from independent designers, artisanal coffee shops, and even an oyster bar. Though, the real must-see of this trendy conglomerate faces Alameda Street: a massive multi-building mural by legendary LA street artist, RETNA. Deemed an urban poet, RETNA’s signature style of calligraphy, complex layering, and intricate linework now spans the former American Apparel warehouse and neighboring buildings.
Any day of the week at Row DTLA you can indulge at Cafe Dulce for coffee and pastries or Hayato for Japanese cuisine. But on Sunday’s, LA’s millennials can experience a foodie lovers’ dream: Smorgasburg. At the Alameda Produce Market, this Sunday pop-up market features local food vendors from around LA including vegan staple Donut Friend, homestyle Japanese-Chinese Baohaus, or bar-b-que powerhouse Black Sugar Rib. So, feel free to shop and eat your heart out.
The Container Yard
Artists: Ricardo Gonzalez, Defer, and many, many more
The Eats: Resident Bar
Expected to open this July in Downtown LA is a creative warehouse, hub, and marketplace set amongst the work of some of the world’s best street artists. Curated as a creative space filled with art installations, the Container Yard will be the ultimate stop for food trucks, events, and of course, a stunning collection of murals. Works span across a diverse group of artists including: Ricardo Gonzalez, Ricky Watts, James Haunt and countless others. Though not open just yet, you can still swing by the Container Yard to see a few murals along the perimeter for an impressive look at what to expect inside.
Just down the road is warehouse turned music venue turned bar – the Resident. A beer garden, home to a refurbished trailer, and food truck KTCHN DTLA by chef Felix Baron, this Downtown staple serves up a delicious menu including a tomato burrata sandwich, crispy potatoes, and a habanero scramble.