Urth Cafe - go for the food, not the celebs!

Eggs Salmone - Urth Caffe's best breakfast dish!
Many a Los Angeles restaurant charges a king's ransom for mediocre food. And for what? To give mere mortals the opportunity to sit amongst celebrities, that's what. The Ivy on Robertson has been paparazzi central for over a decade, yet whenever a friend describes the meal, they shrug and say, "Meh." The two things they do remember: Steep prices and starlets pushing around their salads. 

Here's my question: If the food's so insignificant, why eat there?
Here's the likely answer: To be photographed by the paparazzi.

This means that The Ivy doesn't even have to try.

Now, I haven't eaten at The Ivy, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. The restaurant I wish to speak of, is Urth Caffe. There are a couple of locations, but it's a fact that the Melrose spot almost always has a star present. Everyone is in dark shades so no one will catch them staring, and everyone seems distracted while they eat, keeping an eye out for whatever celeb may be present. They can't miss an opportunity to brag about it on Facebook. Am I above it? Honestly no. Then again, it's not giving the Urth Caffe their fair due. I go for the food, not the clientele. Their dishes are impeccable, and fairly priced. It's a must-do.


Creepy in the Simi Valley - Bottle Village

The Simi Valley has always felt a bit creepy to me. It's home to the Santa Susana Pass, where Charles Manson and his "family" lived, on Spahn Ranch. It's also an epicenter for sudden brushfires that always roar out of control. Also home to Simi Valley is Bottle Village. 

Constructed by "Grandma Prisbrey" (who scowls at you from the official website), it's a little city made of glass that she salvaged from junkyards.

The light glinting off the glass was beautiful, yet haunting. Pictures exposed immaculate craftwork, but total dilapidation. Particularly Cleopatra's Bedroom. One can tell it was a beautiful shrine with a raised bed and billowing curtains, but disintegrated into a dusty pile of scraps. 

After wandering fearfully through all the tiny sheds, it's a bit strange to return to life in Los Angeles. One moment you are looking at decrepit doll heads on stakes, and the next moment, you see a man tinkering with his Chevy in his garage, Eagles on the stereo.


Old Hollywood glamour thrives at the Beverly Hills Hotel

It wasn't the golden age of Hollywood, but the 60's were still glamorous in L.A.. Think Marilyn Monroe, the Rat Pack and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The Beverly Hills Hotel still encompasses that Mad Men chic, which has influenced the powers that be in Hollywood. After all, if it weren't for Mad Men, upstart series like The Playboy Club and Pan Am never would have been greenlit. I even saw a Shakespeare play, The Merchant of Venice, set in 1960's New York City amid Wall Street.

But did the Beverly Hills hotel hold onto that mid-century modern style throughout the changing times, like Palm Springs did? Or did they revamp it to make it look older than it was after some hideous 80's makeover?

Not sure, but one thing is: the hotel's Circa 55 encompasses all that glittered in the 60's. I enjoyed a lunch there recently. It was poolside with a view of the cabanas, of course. I half expected to see a starlet glide by in a white terrycloth robe and cat-eye shades.

Keeping with the old times, the cuisine at Circa 55 has not been infused with "Pan-Asian" or "California Cuisine." You can still enjoy a good, old-fashioned steak, martini, cobb salad or crab cakes.

It's no wonder this is a stomping ground for presidential visits and royalty too, like Will and Kate who came here on their North American tour.

If you don't have time for a trip to Palm Springs, lounge here for a while.


Musee Mechanique - opium dens, honky tonks and more!

One of the great things about living in Los Angeles are the weekend getaways. From the snowy peaks of Big Bear to the vintage chic of Palm Springs, the choices are endless. San Francisco is a bit further out, but every Angeleno has pulled off a weekend there. After all, it's just as far as Vegas as long as you take the inland route. You'll miss the high coastal cliffs that car commercials are made of, but you can at least see the route where James Dean died.

If you've done Alcatraz and Chinatown, there's a little gem in the Fisherman's Wharf area: Musee Mechanique, a penny arcade. It's free to get in, and just 1 to 25 cents to see an opium den come alive (per the video above) - a cautionary tale with skeletons popping from closets and addicts rocking back and forth. A slap-happy honky tonk bar with good ol' boys partying in slow motion. 
J'adore! XXX back then was a girl in a bikini and boy shorts!
When stumbling upon this place, you feel communal pride with the other visitors - all excited to be in on this big, great secret. It's esoteric, Gallic, vintage, funny and sometimes scandalous. What's not to love?

Nancy Regan had nothing on them!

ah, innocence