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Rediscovering Los Angeles

by Arthur Wooten
Rediscovering Los Angeles Photo by Lunamarina

When an opportunity recently presented itself to return to the City of Angels and enjoy her as a complete tourist, I jumped at the chance.

Photo by Lunamarina

It was exciting to discover that L.A. was more than alive and still kicking. She is actually stunning. She is a star. She is a true comeback Story.  

My first trips to Los Angeles were all totally work oriented. Exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting writing days, but the stress, anxiety, and possibilities overrode the chance to really explore the city and appreciate all she had to offer. So, when an opportunity recently presented itself to return to the City of Angels and enjoy her as a complete tourist, I jumped at the chance. But there was one twist, everything I would experience must be something completely new.

My first home base, the Thompson Hollywood, was an exceptional choice. With architect Steinberg Hart at the helm, the hotel was 6 to 7 years in the making and a complete new-build. Eleven stories high with 190 rooms and suites, the Thompson is an example of simplicity and elegance at its finest.

Thompson Lobby Bar and Lounge Area | Photo by Arthur Wooten

The interior designer is UK based Tara Bernerd, and from the moment you enter the hotel your shoulders drop, your breathing slows down, and the concierge staff smiles. Bernerd’s use of deep rich colored woods and neutral fabrics coupled with unique patterning and multiple styles of texture offer a nod to mid-century design that conjures up a space that evokes the old Hollywood glamour days.

The hotel officially opened August 8, 2021 and there are studios on up to very spacious suites with breathtaking views of the Hollywood sign and beyond. Some rooms have balconies or terraces and there are even interior rooms with gorgeous views of Tara’s foliage filled trellises. My king room was stunning and sophisticated with restful nights of sleep.

The rooftop brings a touch of the South of France into the mix. Bar Lis, is their chic lounge and bar area. The front room actually has a retractable roof and next to that there’s a large and beautiful space, a bit of the French Riviera overlooking the Hollywood hills. There are also tables outside along the rooftop patio, jazz nights on Tuesdays, and a DJ who plays Thursday through Sunday. They have an extensive cocktail menu and Chef Lincoln Carson offers an eclectic mix of dishes and small plates. The selection ranges from the Bar Lis hamburger to Regi is Ova Caviar which is 30 grams of California white sturgeon caviar served with traditional accoutrements. Just next door is their pool and The Terrace restaurant, open for breakfast and lunch, with 360-degree views of Los Angeles.

A friend who lives in Hollywood was able to join me for dinner at Bar Lis, and I believe, by the end of the evening we had tried every thing that was on the menu. The Kusshi oysters with a rosé champagne mignonette were so fresh and plump, a burst of the sea exploding in your mouth. We gobbled up the croquettes, which were made with serrano ham and leeks, served with a sauce gribiche. In particular, I loved the smoked salmon dip with dill, topped with trout roe and served with potato chips. The blistered shishito peppers made with tarragon and yuzu were addictive.

Brilliant finger food coupled with smart cocktails, like the Jane Birkin (Suntory Haku vodka, St. Germain, cucumber, mint, and lime). So refreshing. One afternoon I had the most delicious lunch at The Terrace restaurant. I ordered the casareccia made with wild mushrooms, pancetta and dande lion. Casareccia means “home-style” and it’s a twisty curvy tube-like pasta. Paired with a refreshing Spritz Veneziano (Aperol, prosecco, and orange). The meal, the cool breeze, gazing out over at the pool and beyond to the Hollywood skyline…it was all very intoxicating.  And a quick note, I must mention the Terrace’s bartender Johnny. He’s a treasure trove of information and super friendly with a great sense of humor. You must visit him.

Rooftop Pool at Dusk Thompson Hollywood Credit Arthur Wooten

Rooftop Pool at Dusk Thompson Hollywood | Credit Arthur Wooten

It was exciting to discover that L.A. was more than alive and still kicking. She is actually stunning. She is a star. She is a true comeback Story.

Another dining option is Chef Carson’s French restaurant, Mes Amis, on the street level, which offers recipes conjuring up flavors from Paris to Lyon. As the Chef says, “Our menu is playful, while still rooted in French cuisine, and reflects the bounty of our region’s farms and markets.”  

Next door to the Thompson is the historic Citizen News Building which has been renovated as a premiere meeting and event space which includes Mother Wolf, a Roman Italian restaurant guided by celebrity chef Evan Funke. And just around the corner on Selma Avenue, is the Tommie hotel. All of these new builds are creating quite a buzz and giving the Wilcox Avenue area a renewed and exciting reason to visit.  Also new to the neighborhood and only a few walking blocks from the Thompson is the Vogue MultiCultural Museum. Grand opening of the VMMLA was on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. The building, erected in 1935, is a historical landmark and for many years this was the favored movie house that premiered all the latest films. Over the decades the building has morphed into several different types of venues. Today, the Vogue has been renovated once more and now offers a multi-sensory and visually stimulating event space with an amazing 15,000 square feet to work with. 

When I visited there was a tremendous show dedicated to the rock band Pink Floyd titled, The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the band, but obviously not. As the museum boasts, “The new exhibit is much more than Pink Floyd live in concert, it’s an audio-visual musical journey through the extraordinary universe of one of the most iconic and influential rock bands.”  

The museum’s personal audio tours are state of the art, and it was exciting to hear not just their music but to listen to the band members past and present tell their stories and share their experiences, especially dur ing highlights of their career. Plus, there were over 400 artifacts including guitars, costumes, keyboards. and much more. 

Because the space is so expansive, I never felt rushed or crowded by the other attendees. The CEO of the museum, Diego Gonzalez shares his passion for their venture. “Out of our interest for bringing new and excit ing experiences to the people of Los Angeles, the Vogue Multicultural Museum is born in this historical place. The building has been upgraded with state-of-the-art installations, while at the same time respecting the original architecture. 

“The VMMLA is a space devoted to creating unique cultural events, and our mission is to become an important place in the city, popular for its innovative and never-before-seen exhibitions.”  

Future exhibits include Alone with the Night—HR Giger (creator of the xenomorph from Alien), and also an exhibition titled Wonderland, that celebrates the artwork by Lewis Carol, which is a very interactive exhibit as well.  

Exiting the Vogue museum and walking down Hollywood Boulevard, allowing my eyes to readjust to the blazing Los Angeles afternoon light, I came across The Dudes’ Brewing Company. Hungry and thirsty, I darted into the spacious entrance and was surprised to find not one but three bars and an open-air roof top deck. I had never heard of this brewery and discovered the reason why; they opened at their Hollywood location as recently as June 23, 2021. 

Looking at the extensive list of libations, I mentioned to co-owner Maegen Humes, that I was curious as to how many beers/ales they offered at this location and wondered where their actual brewery was located? “We have anywhere between 24 to 30 different beers on tap at any time. As well as wine and our high-proof ale, which we use to make creative ale-based cocktails. Our production facility is located in Torrance, it has an onsite tasting room. We also have restaurant outposts in Santa Monica and Santa Clarita.” 

They also have a wonderful food menu. Small plates range from Bavarian pretzels to steak bites to fried garbanzo beans tossed in a chile lime seasoning, as well as salads and thin crust pizzas. I had no trouble deciding upon the prosciutto and arugula made with their house tomato sauce and three-cheese blend. It’s then topped with shaved parmesan and chili oil. Maegen added, “Our Director of Restaurant Operations/Chef, Daniel Boror, is a Hollywood native. He graduated from Hollywood High School and grew up just a 5-minute walk from this location. He has been pivotal in crafting the food menu.”  

Job well done. But I needed to choose a brew from the enormous list! Sensing my dauting task, it was suggested that I might enjoy their boysenberry wheat ale, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fantastic pairing with the pizza.  

I asked Maegen, who owns the brewery? “My husband and I own about 95% of the company and I am the majority owner. Ironically, The Dudes’ is a woman owned business.” I think they need to shift their company name from The Dudes’ to the Dudettes’ Brewing Company. 

During my visit to Los Angeles I had the opportunity to speak with members of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, including Kaylee Kiecker, Executive Vice President, Ana Martinez, VP of Media Relations, and Dan Halden, Communications Director for Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, of the 13th District. They shared with me that Councilman O’Farrell has launched his Heart of Hollywood Initiative and Hollywood Walk of 

Assorted Plates Marco Polo Trattoria and Bar Credit Palisociety

Marco Polo Trattoria and Bar | Credit Palisociety

Fame Masterplan. It will focus on economic growth, world-class design, and a strong sense of community. Hollywood Boulevard, which includes the Walk of Fame, is probably the most popular sidewalk in the world. It’s actually comprised of 15 blocks on Hollywood Boulevard and 3 blocks on Vine Street.  

With respect to tourism, as well as Hollywood residents, the current state of Hollywood Boulevard falls short of most people’s ideas of what Hollywood represents. So, the Masterplan will invest and update the design of Hollywood Boulevard with the goal of meeting and exceeding people’s expectations.  

The Design firm Gensler, who have been renovating and reimagining the Hollywood/Highland Mall, renamed Ovation Hollywood, has been hired to help design A Street for Everyone. The proposal includes: wider sidewalks and more space for pedestrians, two lanes of traffic going both ways as opposed to four, room for sidewalk dining, shade trees, a protect ed bicycle lane, and a pleasant environment along the 1.3 miles of the famous stretch of fame.  

I also discovered that the formerly named Bob Hope Airport is now officially the Hollywood Burbank Airport and is home to Avelo Airlines, a deep discount carrier offering surprisingly low fares in and out of Hollywood.  Located just off of Hollywood Boulevard on Vine Street is an establishment that had me a bit puzzled at first. One morning I had a reservation for a 9:30 A.M. meal at The Breakfast Club. Was it going to be movie related? Was it going to be more geared towards children and teenagers? The outside of the restaurant was bright and cheerful, if not a bit cartoony, but I ventured in with an open mind and stomach, and an eye-popping, cheerful, sleek, and expansive space wowed me as I was escorted to my table.  

Glancing at the menu, I was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of choices. Suddenly, my server Brian dropped by and introduced himself. Dizzy with options, I asked him which one was a bestseller? Without hesitation he recommended the maple sausage turkey smash: a toasted brioche bun, maple sausage turkey, fontina cheese, and a farm fresh egg with tabasco aioli. Probably not my first choice but I trusted him. I’m embarrassed to admit that I inhaled the breakfast sandwich, it was honestly that good.  

Then Manuel Mesta, the restaurant’s general manager appeared at my table. After introductions, he offered a selection of pastries to end my meal with, but I shook my head and waved my hands, “No I couldn’t possibly!” He smiled and asked, “How about a guava and cream cheese filled croissant?” Sheepishly, I shrugged my shoulders, yes. I was only going to take a bite. 

Manuel returned to my table as I was finishing up the last crumbs of the croissant. “Would you like a tour?” I nodded yes, my mouth being full. 

I was surprised to find out that the restaurant had only been open four weeks prior to my visit because it was running so smoothly. 

Manuel escorted me to their open-air outdoor dining option that actually butts up to the W Hotel. String lights crisscrossed the space and I can only imagine how magical it must look like at night.  

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