A May 2005 trip
to Los Angeles by SFPhotocraft
Quote: The name Los Angeles brings to mind beaches, freeways, and movie stars. Yep, we do have all three, but we also have a whole lot more. Let me tell you about life in LA!
Hotel | "Luxe Hotel - Beverly Hills"
The location of the this small boutique hotel could not be better. It's located smack-dab in the middle of world-famous Rodeo in Beverly Hills. Gucci, Channel, and Prada all are just across the street.
It came as no surprise to the staff that I was here to get my teeth worked on! This hotel caters to a lot of the rich and famous, who come here to recoup during plastic surgery at nearby offices. Seeing guests wrapped in gauze, reading a paper on the patio, is nothing new to the staff.
When I pulled up, I had to laugh at all the stereotypes. The hotel had two Rolls Royce’s parked in front. I had the feeling that this was going to be a luxury break. However, my hopes soon feel apart.
I found the staff to be less than helpful or friendly. The front-desk person could not find my reservation and told me that they were full and I did not have a reservation. Nothing was on a computer here. Finally, a second desk agent found it, with no apology given.
My room was light, bright, and comfortable. It was average size, but had a nice, relaxed feel to it. However, when I opened the curtain, the view was the back alley. In the front of the hotel, guests were arriving in limos and fancy cars, but here, homeless folks are digging through dumpsters (I guess Beverly Hills is good dumpster diving). It really was a startling contrast about out society. I guess rooms facing Rodeo Drive are the better rooms to request for a view.
The hotel does not offer a pool, but a popular sundeck on the second floor.
The hotel has a wonderful location and comfortable and cozy rooms. However, the staff fell way short of making this a luxury stay. I was here 2 days and never once did a doorman, bell hop, or front-desk person even give me a hint of a smile. My stay was okay, but I expected more, so it fell below my expectations.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 18, 2005
Luxe Hotel Rodeo Drive
360 N RODEO DRIVE
Beverly Hills, California 90210
Restaurant | "La Golondrina"
When you are strolling Olvera Street, you can't miss the busy patio. Just walking by, you get a sense of a lively fiesta.
The patio is the best place to sit. You get a bird's eye view of the street, and the people-watching is outstanding--all of Olvera Street will pass by. This last time, we ate indoors. The room was full of Mexican art, colorful and busy. However, I found it a little dark. I really missed sitting on the patio. If they do not have a patio table ready, the wait for one is well worth it.
To start, you need to have a margarita. They are excellent here, and there are several types to choose from. I always go with the House Margarita, but if you are a tequila connoisseur, they can steer to a more upscale blend. I did try the sangria here and have to say it's not nearly as good as the margaritas.
When we ate here, there were a lot of Hispanic families having big birthday parties. I feel anytime you eat in an ethnic restaurant and a lot of locals of that ethnic group are dining there, you have made a good choice!
I had the chile relleno and cheese enchilada, and it was great. Patrick had the carne asada, and Breana went with her standard bean and cheese burrito. Among the five of us at dinner, we all were happy with the meals. The meal came with fresh, hot tortillas, right out of the machine. I could have eaten a dozen!
Our wait staff was very friendly with the kids, our orders were taken quickly, and the food came in no time. Although everything was quick, we never felt rushed or hurried along.
The atmosphere here is true "fiesta". The place hums with a sense of being busy. This may not be the kind of place to come for a romantic, quiet getaway, but more the place to come with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday. They even have strolling mariachi bands on Friday nights.
The food is authentic, the service good, and the atmosphere fun. Best of all, you can step right outside and explore colorful Olvera Street.
One word of caution:
In Los Angeles, all restaurants have an A, B, or C rating from the health department. This grade must be posted at the front of each restaurant. "A" is a perfect score. La Golondrina only got a B, meaning some violations were found here. I personally eat at a "B", (never at a "C"). Many folks here will only eat at an "A" restaurant.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 12, 2005
Casa La Golondrina
West 17 Olvera St
Los Angeles, California 90012
+1 213 628 4349
When you drive up, you can't miss it. It has one of those great neon signs that light up the sky. The font and design says Jetsons. Palm trees surround the modern building. Today, the building in squeezed in on Washington between fast-food restaurants and strip malls. I imagine that, in 1958, it sat here pretty much alone.
The moment you enter, you are in another decade. A valet parks your car at the door. Inside there is a roaring fire in a mid-century fireplace. At the bar there is a wrap-around piano bar with folks gathered and singing.
The hostess sat us in the very stylish dining room. The room has large black-and-white booths, and the entire room is a step back to the day it opened. We got a nice table with a view of the whole room. This was a Monday night and the place was packed.
Our waitress was charming, friendly, and welcoming. She had pride in her job and always did the little things, like making sure our bread basket was always full. She also knew her menu and was able to give us some suggestions and tips.
My favorite part of the meal was the relish tray that shows up when you sit down. It's loaded with radishes, celery, carrots, and peppers, all chilled on a bed of ice. This was exactly the small touches I remember when I went out to eat with parents in the 1960s. This is something that you seldom see these days.
We all started by sharing a Caesar salad, which is made fresh tableside. There is one woman who all she does is go around and makes the Caesars. They were authentic and very delicious.
I had a steak, and it was tender and juicy - cooked to perfection. I think the way to go here is with the steaks. Some are large enough to share and they are carved tableside.
As it was my birthday, I had to indulge in dessert. I had a piece of chocolate cake with a cream cheese chilled filling. It was delicious, and way too big for one person to finish.
We were surprised at our bill. I guess we have been living in LA too long. The whole bill, with drinks, salad, and dessert, came to just over $100. We thought that this was a real deal by LA standards.
Dal Rae is a step back in time. I may have been in a nostalgic mood, but I miss this type of dining, when portions were huge, the service friendly, and the prices in line. Dal Rae is a winner, and it's no wonder it has stood the test of time since the 1950s.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 24, 2005
9023 East Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90660
Restaurant | "Pinks"
Pink's opened on this corner in 1939 as a hot-dog pushcart by Paul Pink and has grown into an LA landmark. You can't miss it; driving down La Brea, the bright-pink sign will direct you to the spot, but the long line will also let you know that you have found this famous spot.
Pink's open at 9am and stays open until 2am on weekdays and 3am on weekends, and the line never dies down. The average wait time to get up to the front of the line is 1 hour.
Maybe there is a little bit of hype involved with the desire to have a Pink's dog. The truth be told, LA does not have the wide variety of hot-dog stands that places like New York or Chicago have. Also, there is a frenzy in LA to have something that someone else has, so the longer the lines are here, the more the others folks crave it, and they too join the line.
Once up in front of the line, you have a choice of hot dogs, hamburger, and tamales. The dogs all come with famous names and can be loaded with chili, bacon, sauerkraut, or avocado. The last time I had a Pink's, I had the Martha Stewart. It was a 10-inch dog with avocado, sauerkraut, tomatoes, bacon, and sour cream. Now, how Martha's name got attached to this dog, I have no idea! It was good, but very sloppy, messy, and impossible to eat.
Most of the burgers and dogs here are a bit overloaded. We laughed as we watched the next table, all French students, struggle and wrestle with burgers that were piled so full, everything would spill out the opposite side at the first bite. The frustration and mess just grew at every bite.
You can eat indoors or in the small courtyard in the back. The walls inside are graced with stars who have eaten here. In the past, I have personally seen Rosie O’Donnell, Adam Sandler, Britney Spears, and Chris Rock all chowing down at Pink's. The walls prove that almost anyone who is anyone in Hollywood has tried a Pink's Hot Dog!
Parking is a nightmare. There are a few places in La Brea. The last time I was here, I parked around the corner and got a ticket.
So, is it worth it? Long line, tickets, few places to sit: I guess it is. The burgers and dogs are good. I may have had better dogs in Chicago and New York, but this is LA, and hype counts for a lot! The longer the line, the more folks will just have to have one. So, next time you come to LA, get in line and order a Pink's - you never know who you will be sharing the line with!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 17, 2005
Pink's Hot Dogs
709 North La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, California 90036
Attraction | "Union Station - Los Angeles"
Union Station had a gala opening in 1939 and was the prime West Coast hub. When it opened, it was a deluxe station worthy of the capital of the emerging movie and entertainment industry. She was elegant, with handmade Spanish tiles, beautiful fountains, comfy leather seats in the waiting areas, and a five-star restaurant.
You can almost still feel the ghosts in these walls, young starlets stepping off the train from Fargo, ND, in hopes of making it big in the movies. You can sense the young GIs leaving home to fight in World War II leaving from these tracks. Some never returned home. Some of the most famous movie stars of their time used this station to come and go. These walls hold so many stories.
Sadly, jet travel took over rail travel in the United States, and by the 1960s, passenger numbers started to decline. Rail travel never left Union Station, and famous trains like the Startlight Limited always left from here. Slowly, the grand lady started to show her age.
I remember leaving from here in 1982 going to San Diego. The station was a sad sight. Only about an eight of it was in use. Most of the grand spaces were closed to the public. You could peak in through the boards and see the once-posh restaurant sitting empty. Homeless people were camped out everywhere. You could still sense the grandeur, but the shine was definitely gone.
The old girl seemed to be on her last breath when the city stepped in and did the right thing. Like most Hollywood leading ladies, she needed a facelift. Millions of dollars were spent to get her back to her former glory. Today, Amtrak and Metrolink use the station as their L.A. base.
You can get a real feel of what it was like to travel by train from Hollywood in the 1940s. She has been cleaned, polished, and restored. The homeless have been given haven elsewhere ,and it's a joy to come here. A fine restaurant was opened in the station called Traxx. Folks now come just to dine here.
The old ticket lobby is still closed, but you can view it, and it's often used in movies when a 1940s train station is needed. Private parties can be held here, with the bars being the wooded ticket windows.
Whenever we have guests visiting L.A., I always suggest a train ride to San Diego or Santa Barbara from Union Station. Amtrak hugs the coast on these routes and you can enjoy unmatched scenery. It's a civilized way to see Southern California. But it you travel from here, come early, spend some time looking over this wonderful station, and see if you can get the walls to give up a story or two.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 11, 2005
810 North Alameda St
Los Angeles, California 90012
No phone available
The small street is near Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. The street is more the size of an alley and traffic is not allowed. There are colorful stands selling trinkets and goods from Mexico, taco stands, historic Mexican restaurants, and carts selling hot churros. You will often see a strolling mariachi band or folkloric dancers dancing in the plaza. You will need to remind yourself you are not in Mexico, but in downtown Los Angeles. The atmosphere here is like a fiesta day or night.
The area is more than just Olvera Street. It's really a historic district of 27 buildings built around a square. You can see Los Angeles's first house or its first fire station. This is where it all grew from.
My favorite times here are any of the Mexican feast days and holidays. We always try to get down to Olvera Street for Dia De Los Muertos, when altars to dead relatives are placed all over the street. It's a sweet, somber festival when the dead are honored. A parade of dancing skeletons takes place during the afternoon. Cinco de Mayo is fun and festive here. It's gets crowded. My favorite feast is that of St Francis, when children bring their pets and farm animals for the traditional blessing. The street is lined with young faces holding dogs, cats, hamsters, snakes, and birds. There are farm kids with pigs, goats, ponies, and calves. It's one of the sweetest sights you can imagine.
This year on Dia De Los Muertos, an altar was set up to honor the war casualties from the invasion of Iraq. It honors both the U.S. soldiers killed and innocent Iraqi citizens who lost their lives. It was so touching that it has been left up after the feast day. It's added to each time another solider is killed. The hope is that this will be the first permanent monument honoring the dead in Iraq.
I love historic Olvera Street. It's a reminder to me how we have deep and long-standing Hispanic roots in this city. It's a colorful place that is full of life. No visit to the City of Angeles would be complete without a stop to see it. Our roots are deeper than the movie studios!
Parking can be tough down here. There is some street parking on Alameda if you are lucky enough to catch a free spot. However, the nearest lot is at Union Station. The post office across the street will allow parking in their lot on weekends they are not open.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 12, 2005
Main and Alameda streets
Los Angeles, California 90079
+1 213 680 2525; +1