Located in the south eastern part of Downtown Los Angeles, the Arts District is the city’s newest capital of cool (move over Venice).
But the Arts District has come a long way to claim its spot as LA’s emerging “it” neighborhood. From the largest wine producing vineyard in California (1830s), to citrus groves (end of the 19th century), to booming industrial zone (World War II), to industrial wasteland (1950s-60s), to community of artists illegally occupying and working in vacant factories and warehouses (1970s), the Arts District has been reborn time and time again.
Today, the Arts District is burgeoning, bright and more alive than ever before — tattooed with bold and colorful street art and welcoming a growing number of delicious places to eat, one-of-a-kind stores to shop and craft beer to drink.
So if you’re an LA resident who still hasn’t made it to the Arts District (and many I’ve spoken to still haven’t), it’s time to get in your car and go. And for travelers looking to experience LA beyond the Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive and the Santa Monica Pier, consider the Arts District a required stop during your visit.
Founded by brothers Shea and Raan Parton and opened in the Arts District in 2012, Apolis produces quality apparel, luggage and accessories for men. Born from their love of travel and shaped by their international observations on how business can affect positive social change, the Parton brothers run Apolis under the mantra advocacy through industry. That means producing Apolis products in partnership with craftspeople from around the world in ways that enhance local communities and create opportunities (read more here). If you’re looking to be the best dressed and most comfortable traveler on your next plane ride, this is your store.
Address: 806 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Phone: 855-894-1559. Hours: Mon-Wed 12pm-6pm, Thurs-Sun 12pm-7pm
An exhibit on the curation of cool, Alchemy Works is a galley, retail and events space opened in late 2013 by Lindsay Parton and her husband Raan (co-founder of Apolis). To paint a picture of what you can expect, imagine the best style/trend blog you know came to life in a bright, old warehouse, one where you discover masculine new watches, drop kits, leather bags, fine photography and even vintage cars — that’d be Alchemy Works. And while many of the items on display don’t come cheap, you can now find a Warby Parker showroom inside Alchemy Works if you’re in need of new and affordable glasses. Plus, if you need a caffeine pick-me-up, check out the new Blacktop Coffee which recently opened next door.
Featured in this video: 1959 Fiat Abarth (recently sold!). Will Adler photography. Weiss Watch Company watches ($950), Shinola watches (prices vary). Stephen Kenn bags (prices vary), TMT’s 12 Best Weekend Travel bags.
Address: 826 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Phone: 323-487-1497. Hours: Mon-Sun 12pm-7pm
For LA’s fashion forward crowd looking to channel Kanye’s streetwear style, 12345 has got you covered. While I tried on some of their most double take-worthy clothes, they do also carry a selection of slightly more mainstream items fit for the guys looking to stand out just a little less.
Featured in the video: Craig Green tie dye shorts, pants and shirt.
Address: 811 Traction Ave. #1A Los Angeles, CA 90013. Phone: 213-221-7858. Hours: Mon-Sun 12pm-7pm
Hammer and Spear
When Hammer And Spear opened in March of 2013, walking the three-block equivalent from the corner of Traction Avenue and 3rd Street was territory of the more adventurous Arts District explorer. Now, a giant loft complex is nearing completion across the street and a few new shops are starting to dot that once bare three block stretch. Once inside, you’ll be met by the one-of-a-kind finds gathered by owners Kristan Cunningham and Scott Jarrell (like this vintage travel trunk and this leather armchair). After checking out the furniture, lights and wall art, move on to the men’s grooming products, stationary, hand carved wooden kitchen supplies and various other fascinating odds and ends. And while there are some expensive items in the store (like the $1,500 leather rhino) Kristan and Scott have done a great job bringing together a variety of awesome items at a variety of different price points.
Fun fact: On this trip to Hammer and Spear, several black SUVs were packed outside, along with a few guys in suits standing guard. While my crew had to stay outside, I walked in, no questions asked, to find Bill Clinton doing some shopping!
Address: 255 S. Santa Fe Ave. #101, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Phone: 213-928-0997. Hours: Mon by appointment, Tues-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm
Thanks to Hammer and Spear, your home is now a more stylish and welcoming place. It’s time for your bed to follow suit. For that, head to the Matteo showroom and shop their selection of luxury sheets, duvet covers, pillows, pillowcases, blankets and quilts to craft a sleeping space that no one will want to leave. Don’t forget to pick up a few ultra soft and oversized towels too.
Now that you’ve treated yourself, it’s time to buy something for someone else. That’s where Poketo comes in. Located right next to Apolis, Poketo is a hub of artistic, colorful and unique gifts perfect for commemorating your day in the Arts District. Stocked with housewares, bags, toys, books, wallets, items from Etsy, cards, men’s shaving tools and countless other knickknacks, you’re sure to find something you’ll want to take home.
Opened in 2008, Wurstküche (translation: wurst/sausage kitchen) was one of the first businesses to begin drawing new visitors into this often overlooked neighborhood. Now an Arts District institution, you’ll want to swing by for one of their exotic sausages (rattlesnake and rabbit, pheasant, duck and bacon), a side of their thick-cut Belgian fries and a beer from their impressive selection of Belgian and German brews — all of which are served in a modernized beer hall setting with a DJ spinning during peak hours.
Address: 800 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Phone: 213-687-4444. Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-12pm
In 2009, Umami Burger took LA by storm and quickly cemented its spot as LA’s go-to gourmet burger joint. For those unfamiliar, unlike many quick-service burger establishments, Umami Burger is a sit down, yet casual restaurant with waiter service, full bar and burgers starting at $12. Their Arts District location opened in summer of 2013 and has a modern industrial feel and a back patio for open air eating. To drink, Umami stocks an impressive list of beers by the bottle and on draft, all of which come from breweries within a two-hour drive of this location.
Address: 738 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, California 90013. Phone: 323-263-8626. Hours: Sun-Thurs 11am-11pm, Fri & Sat 11am-12am
The Pie Hole
In 2011, the Arts District became a whole lot sweeter, savory-er, and crustier (in the best way possible) with the addition of The Pie Hole. With pies made from scratch daily, come in for a fresh and sweet slice to snack on, like the Mexican Chocolate, the Maple Custard or the Earl Grey. Got a bigger appetite? Go for a personal sized savory pie, like the Angel City Steak and Ale or the Chicken and Cornbread Pot Pie. And don’t forget about breakfast. If you start your day in the Arts District early, stop in for a cup of coffee and a Breakfast Egg Hand Pie.
Address: 714 Traction Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Phone: 213-537-0115. Hours: Mon-Thur 7am-10pm, Fri & Sat 7am-11pm, Sun 8am-10pm
If pizza is more your style, stray from the neighborhood’s center with a trip to Pizzanista. This New York style pizza joint co-founded by former pro skateboarder Salman Agha, serves by the slice in its small, brick-walled space. Pro tip: get a slice of the Meat Jesus, which is topped with pepperoni, sausage and bacon.
A few doors down the street from Pizzanista you’ll find Bread Lounge, a bakery that churns out fresh breads and pastries daily (try the ham and cheese croissant). For more than a snack, check out their selection of sandwiches — all of which are made using their delicious breads (obviously). Lastly, don’t forget a baguette for the road.
If you’re looking to end your day in the Arts District with a proper dinner (you know, one with a meticulously crafted menu and cocktail program) then you’ll want to head to Bestia, a multi-regional Italian restaurant opened in 2012 in an unassuming industrial building tucked away at the end of a quiet industrial street. With a menu ranging from wood-fired Napolitana pizza, to house-made pastas to a 28-day dry aged bone-in ribeye for two, you’ll gain a new perspective on and appreciation for Italian food. Just make sure to arrive early for a dink and leave room for dessert — trust me.
Angel City Brewery
Housed in a 100-year-old factory once used to produce steel cables for suspension bridges, Angel City Brewery transformed this cavernous space into an art deco tasting room, beer hall and production facility which opened to the public in February 2013. Inside, you’ll find plenty of room to spread out, hang with friends, play some board games, eat, and of course, enjoy a few beers. While Angel City doesn’t serve food, feel free to bring in your own from one of the food trucks that are usually parked right outside, or from one of the nearby eateries like The Pie Hole.
Address: 216 S Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Phone: 213-622-1261. Hours: Mon-Thurs 4pm-10pm, Fri 4pm-12am, Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12pm-10pm
For late night fun, head around the corner from Angel City to EightyTwo, a minimalist, concrete-floored arcade bar packed with classic arcade games like NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat II, Pac-Man and Tron. With games spread out over two rooms connected by a sleek and spacious central courtyard, Eighty Two will turn your idea of an arcade bar on its head. And of course, you can’t forget the booze which helpful bartenders are more than happy to pour with little delay.
For more beer, head to Little Bear, an industrial (yes, everything in the Arts District is ‘industrial’) Belgian beer bar with a rotating selection of both imported and domestic Belgian style beers. With 17 draft beers and a list of over 60 bottled beers, choosing just one (or four) won’t be easy. Luckily the bartenders know their stuff and can help you narrow in on the brew for you.
Located directly next door to Pizzanista you’ll find Tony’s Saloon, a dimly lit dive bar with wood paneled walls, a pool table, darts, a healthy selection of beer and whisky and a large back patio. There’s even a small window cut into the wall which allows pizza from next door to be passed through. Yes, it’s genius.
Remember, use what you’ve learned here as your guide, but never be afraid to also make your own discoveries when exploring a new neighborhood. The Art’s District has more to offer than just what I’ve mentioned here, and as the neighborhood continues to grow, so will the list of awesome places shop, eat, drink within it. Travel on!
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