As cities across the country begin to open up to domestic travel, we’re going to need some handy guides that keep us up to date on what’s popping in America’s biggest hubs. From food spots to clubs to public spaces and bars, our urban centers are in a continual state of flux. And considering just about every business is coming out of the hardest year it’s ever experienced, we need to get out there to support small businesses over big chains and well-established brands now more than ever.
To get (another) list of great spots in Los Angeles, we reached out to writer-director Steve Basilone, whose recent movie (now streaming), Long Weekend, used many SoCal gems (shout out haven of weirdness, Joshua Tree) as its backdrop. The romantic comedy-meets-science-fiction-drama, starring Finn Wittrock and Zoë Chao, captures a true sense of place — so it’s no wonder that Basilone feels a deep connection to virtually every shoot location he used.
Though Basilone is Boston-born, the writer-director knows LA well — spending about a decade in the city working as a writer on Community and The Goldbergs, among others. As a born and raised Angeleno, I gotta tip the hat to him for some truly dope picks. There are spots here that have immediately jumped to the top of my own “must see in LA” list. Check them out below!
“Long Weekend” is avaiable for digital download and will drop on DVD May 25th.
This kitschy Mexican restaurant isn’t just where Sharon Tate had her last meal, it’s also easily my favorite restaurant in LA. Not because the food is amazing — it’s never getting anything close to a Michelin star — but because it’s just so dang cozy. They’ve got Christmas lights up year-round, they have a perky wait staff in festive attire, and every table is a booth (which to me is heaven).
I wanted to fill this movie with as many things that were important to me as possible, and that’s exactly why you see both lead characters rocking an El Coyote tee-shirt at some point in the movie. Also, at 90 years old the place is just a classic.
I lived within walking distance of this park off Beverly boulevard for the entirety of my 20s and early 30s. Formerly the home to the Pan Pacific Auditorium (a 6000-seat arena that was at one time LA’s premiere location for indoor public events), the large park is now home to basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, exercise equipment, a small amphitheater, and just a lot of space to sit and get a sunburn while doing some solid day drinking.
It also happens to be where we shot three scenes of the movie!
During the week, it’s a great place for you or your pooch to run (there’s a 1-mile track that snakes through the park), and on the weekends it’s top-notch for people watching. On a casual stroll, you could see a toddler’s birthday party, a game of flag football, and a jacked influencer doing thousands of burpees. What’s not to love?! Fun fact: it’s also the only location I wrote into the script of Long Weekend that actually stayed the same.)
Before shooting here, I had only been to this chicken and beer bar on Beverly a handful of times. But after we spent an entire day shooting the dive bar/meet-cute scenes, I was fully in love. Their menu is simple — fried chicken and beer (you can also get some baked beans and mac ‘n cheese and stuff, but chicken and beer is really the draw). But what it lacks in frills it makes up for in charm. There’s a pool table, there’s a patchwork of eclectic bar art, and there are smoky red lights — it’s the perfect spot to grab a beer with a friend, or in my case, use as a backdrop for a fledgling romance.
This hotel/event space just outside of Joshua Tree in Pioneer Town is where we shot the lion’s share of our desert scenes. And it’s just rad. It’s got a bunch of small, cute cabins with fun stuff like Pendleton blankets, vintage refrigerators, and old cowboy records. There’s also an airstream trailer, a bunch of old cars, and 36 acres to traipse around on.
The dusty beauty of it was the perfect location for the apex of the couple’s love in the movie. And a parked car, one of those (borrowed) Pendleton blankets, and a cobalt night sky made for my favorite shot of the movie — an ethereal meteor shower exploding across the desert horizon.
Okay, we didn’t actually shoot any of the movie here. But it’s a few blocks from my house, so any meetings, re-writes, or pre-screening drinks were had here. This spot is mostly known as a breakfast place — as it should be because their sausage and griddle cakes are ‘holy fuck are you serious?!’ good—but I love it for the dinner time vibe.
With a simple, hearty menu and cocktails like the coal miner’s daughter (a gin drink with charcoal in it—so you’re getting detoxed while you’re getting liquored up!), it’s a great place to meet a friend, take a date, or just saddle up to the bar and get some work done. And if you go enough, as I do, you may even get a few of those coal miner’s daughters on the house.
This is another spot that we didn’t shoot in, but it was where I worked out the whole script. Anything I’ve written in the last decade, I’ve come up with the idea like this: I get a little high and I get a massage. For me, it’s the perfect way to avoid distractions, shut off your brain to all the internal noise, and just sit and think “what could be a fun idea…?”
This tiny bungalow on Larchmont has always been my go-to spot for massage ideas. It’s cute, but not bougie. Cheap but not gross. And if you’re a WGA or KCRW member you get 10% off treatments. Having trouble figuring some shit out? Seriously, get a little high and head to Healing Hands, I bet you’ll have some clarity after an hour rub down.
Short for No Lights, No Lycra, this weekly dance party in the dark began years ago in Australia. But as it grew in popularity down under, outposts began popping up in the states. Pre-Covid there were two locations in New York and one here in LA. An animator friend invited me a few years ago, and when I showed up to a weird event space behind a Korean church I was thoroughly confused. But when I walked inside, I was immediately greeted by LCD Soundsystem’s ‘New York I Love You’ blasting in an entirely dark room.
All I could see were a few shadows gyrating across the room. It felt bizarre, but as I started to dance, I loosened up and slowly began to realize that this was a wholly unique experience, one that I’d forever love. So much so, that I had to put it in the movie. And it’s one of my favorite scenes—as there’s such a sense of hedonistic abandon and weightlessness. When we can dance around each other again, you really must go. But bring a towel, because you will sweat your face off.