Posted by: Viviana M. Rueda Image | November 23, 2008

What’s image got to do with it?

You’ve heard it once from me and you’ll always hear it from me.  Image has everything to do with it.  In this case I’m talking about downtown Los Angeles.  That area which Westsiders like to refer to with a sideways glance and lifted eyebrow…”Oh, I’ve been to The Standard, before, it’s cool.”  Live it up folks!

Downtown Los Angeles’ image has changed.  And it is decidedly cool.  It happened a long time ago among the avant-garde types and is now hitting main stream.  And it’s getting cooler by the year.  If you aren’t careful…you’ll miss it.  The bridge and tunnel crowd (you know what I’m referring to if you’re a New Yorker and although I’ve been trying to make it popular to call these Los Angelinos “The Canyon People”…do I really need to explain why they are the Canyon People?, it just hasn’t stuck yet, so for the time being we’ll call them Bridge and Tunnel) can be seen overtaking the line at The Edison on a weekly basis – a sure sign of the cool factor fading at this club – Although, they have instituted a recession-friendly happy hour on Fridays that I highly recommend – free sandwiches and depression era-priced drinks…Seriously worthwhile and scoot out of there before the Bridge and Tunnel show up around 9 p.m.  If still hungry, slide into the bad Chinese restaurant on the ground floor of the Higgins to watch the Edison party-going fashion disasters retrieve their cars from the valet or better yet, stroll down Main Street to Blossom which is hands down the freshest and most economically-priced Vietnamese food in town.

I’m not sure if I should be happy or slightly depressed that downtown is becoming mainstream cool because now we’ve an Urth Café.  An establishment where you feel slightly violated after realizing that you paid over $20 for a cup of tea and a dessert…really?  But their peach pie is to die for I must admit.  And if mainstream isn’t your thing, stroll through Little Tokyo, where you can find the tastiest ramen in the city at Orochen Ramen.  In fact, if your palate allows for searing spicy food, take their challenge and order the #1.  You’ll get your picture on the wall, but you may need a new stomach after that kind of spice abuse.

smokyqtzchampagne_med2Although it’s become just a little trendy to know about the Brewery I’d wager to say that it’s not quite yet mainstream.  What is the Brewery you ask?  It’s a live-work art colony on Main Street.  Actually reminds me of Christiania in Denmark with less scary large dogs roaming the streets and less scowling European starving artists.  The art colony consists of about 500 incredibly cool artists who live and work in a smattering of industrial factory buildings – one loft features a hot tub that you have to walk across a plank to get to (think Peter Pan plank), and the hot tub looks more like a cauldron out of the Hansel and Gretel  children’s stories than a hot tub.  Immensely cool.  Every year the art colony has an art walk where all the residents open their doors to the public.  This year I lucked out when I unexpectedly walked into an Akiko sample sale.  And I came away with two FABULOUS dresses for $90 which were originally over $200 each!  HEllo…  Plus I found the most adorable apron (yes people, you must look good even when you are cooking and why would you ruin a perfectly fabulous frock while cooking…cover thyself with an apron please).  And if you are looking for truly cool art galleries, this is the place.  You must check out the avant-garde designs at Claudia Endler (Christmas is almost here and in case you are wondering, I’m drooling over her smoky quartz pendant with champagne diamonds, uhm champagne and diamond all in one!  So me).

church-state1The Downtown image is infinitely cool these days with fabulous restaurants that will charm your palate if not challenge the serious foodie .  You can find almost every type of cuisine including French which for some reason seems sadly represented in Los Angeles.  For a great experience check out Church and State – A charming bistro down a one-way street in front of the Toy Factory Lofts.  With the cute lights streaming above you it’s reminiscent of a Paris bistro but for me it has more of a LoDo feel to it and for me, that alone is worth the dining experience.
The city center has a ton to offer that you just don’t know about until you stroll the streets.  From phenomenal Chinese food in Chinatown where you can have Sweet and Sour soup that will actually titillate your senses (I think everyone has forgotten that Chinese doesn’t have to taste like Panda Express) to charming Olivera Street where they’ve recreated a Mexican-style plaza on the site that was the birthplace of Los Angeles.  If you’re curious about the history of Los Angeles indulge in the walking tours offered by the Los Angeles Conservancy.  It will give you a new perspective next time you drive down Broadway or walk into the Bradbury building.

cdg-spring-09And for those of you Fashionistas, well, it’s easy enough to see why you’d want to get to know downtown.  While it’s not your Melrose or Rodeo Drive where you really don’t need to think about fashion because thanks to the millions of dollars spent on branding, marketing and advertising you don’t have to think, it’s served on a pretty silver platter for you, downtown will challenge you to think.  “How can I make those $20 patent booties from Santee Alley work with my Michael Kors skirt” for instance.  I’d encourage you to hit up The Scholarship Store.  There’s a ton of inspiration there and all courtesy of the tirelessly arty students.  Are you a true fashion snob?  Then hit up the Comme des Garcons Guerilla store which is so fabulously cool that you can barely find it as it’s down a VERY obscure alley.  Although rumor has it that it’s closing in 2009 (shocker given the economy) so get your booty down here if you want to check it out.

I’ve barely touched the surface of what downtown has to offer.  There are way too many cool restaurants to talk about, a phenomenal arts and culture center, museums, nightclubs, live-music venues, gorgeous live-work spaces, a ton of free/live concerts courtesy of local city improvement organizations and if you aren’t into edge but like main stream there’s L.A.  LIVE, which is being vaunted as the The Times Square of the West (OMG, I’m not going there).  Next time someone glances askance at you when you mention the downtown cool factor, tell that person they need to get out more often.lalive

Viviana M. Rueda
Fashion & Image Fury

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