Back in October, I traveled to Los Angeles first the first time since I was 5 years old. My memories of LA were expectedly hazy, but I did recall a frightening ride on the PCH (why are there no guard rails?), which resulted in my Pound Puppy never looking quite the same.
I also remembered a magical trip to a toy store with my aunt Linda. She told me I could select any toy of my choosing – the equivalent of winning the lottery to a small child. My Little Pony won, of course.
Armed with those memories, I was super excited/nervous to travel out West. I know most people believe L.A. is the antithesis of New York, and, sure, you don’t walk or use subways like we do back East, and the pizza can’t hold a candle to my Brooklyn favorites, but after getting to spend some time there with a native Angelino and my good friend, Stephanie, I got a good look at the wild West town and had a great time. Note: this was before I started eliminating animal products from life and diet.
I met Stephanie at her house in Orange County and we drove up to LA proper for some lunch. We hit some traffic (insert L.A. traffic joke here), so by the time we reached Simplethings Pie Shop we were ravenous. We shared two pies, a chicken curry, which was phenomenal, and a very tasty portobella mushroom pot pie. Given how hungry we were, we didn’t snap a picture of our pies before devouring every last bite, so you’ll have to use your imagination, or visit the shop yourself.
After lunch we both needed a caffeine fix, so I suggested Handsome Coffee Roasters. How does a native East Coaster who hasn’t traveled to California in over 20 years know about a West Coast coffee shop? Well, the previous summer I randomly met the proprietor, Mike Philips, at EspressoNEAT in C.T., just before he opened this store.
The shop is in a pretty obscure part of Downtown L.A., so I think I worried Steph for a bit about the location, but the shop is beautiful and the coffee is excellent so it’s definitely worth the trip. I ordered a pour over coffee and Steph ordered an espresso with milk, but they mistakenly made two, so we ended up splitting the coffee and an espresso each. As we were leaving, we happened to run into Handsome Mike.
Caffeine > Jetlag, so I was feeling ready to venture to Melrose to hit up some very unique shops. Stephanie suggested quite a few stores as we walked around, and three really stood out to me.
The first is Japan LA. Full of bright colors and kawaii clothes, accessories and toys, this shop is a Hello Kitty lover’s dream. They had these tiny, adorable mini-figures that looked like chocolate cake, teapots, and other sweets. I was sad this shop didn’t exist last time I was in LA, because my 5 year old self was mesmerized and I image that Hannah Minx visits this store anytime she’s in the city of Angels.
The second store I found very memorable was decidedly more sinister than the candy coated shop mentioned above. Taxidermy stockist, Necromance, has a wide array of merchandise, to fill all your stuffed animal needs. Browsing the shop I found beetles, baby chicks, feathers, and even some authentic Nazi paraphernalia. With the holidays not that far off, I immediately starting searching for gifts for my loved ones. Just kidding – kind of.
When I saw a few wolf and fox fur faces on display, I immediately thought of the Hunger Games (Fox Face), and then called Walter.
“Do you want a wolf head?”
“A wolf head. I am at a taxidermy shop and I think you’d like one of these.”
“You’re going to bring an entire wolf head on a plane?”
“Nope, just the top.”
“Ok, get two.”
When I returned home, Walt and I tried to do a reverse Red Riding Hood couple’s costume (him in a red hoodie, me as the wolf), but it didn’t end up working out. The wolf now sits on a shelf in the living room and the other one is went to his brother in China.
Back to L.A.:
The taxidermy store was a little unsettling, but the final shop, Never Open Store, was just plain scary. On the walk over, Stephanie explained this store lives up to its name. The door is always locked with a will return clock sign that doesn’t seem to change – at least for most people. It’s rumored that if the shop owner likes you, she’ll let you in. Otherwise, you’ll be left to look at the creepy window displays – naked, decaying baby dolls posed with syringes and old mannequins missing limbs with dusty-looking clothing.
When we approached the front door, my heart was in full speed. We pressed our ears up to the door, and heard noises inside. One solid knock, and we waited. The voices stopped. Knocked again, and, nothing.
Apparently we don’t fit the demographic Never Open Store customers, so we called an end to our shopping trip and visited Steph’s boyfriend nearby.
Because the store reminded me of Alma, a somewhat scary Pixar short involving a little girl and a doll, we watched it at Justin’s apartment before making a trip to In-N-Out Burger on the way home.
It wouldn’t be a true trip to L.A. without a stop at this famous (especially famous on the East Coast) restaurant. I haven’t eaten fast food in about 5 years, but, even though I wasn’t sure it would live up to the hype, I wasn’t leaving California without trying it “animal style”.
Which is exactly what we ordered – two burgers and fries – both animal style – and a chocolate shake. After trying the food, let me say this – it really is as good as everyone says, and it’s incredibly cheap (sorry, Shake Shack).
By this point, Steph and I were both in serious food comas and we parted ways. I had a few more days to explore the L.A. area, but this day was my favorite of the trip. Thanks again, Steph!
I’m returning to California in June and hope to share another fun itinerary with you again!