Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won’t Find in Any Guidebook
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Underground Eats: LA's Secret Foodie Spots
Tucked away in unassuming strip malls and hidden down alleyways are some of LA's most mouthwatering eateries that only the locals know about. These underground eats offer culinary delights you won't find on Rodeo Drive or the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
One such hidden gem is Parsnip, a cozy 20-seat restaurant started by chef Peter Park that serves modern American dishes with Korean influences. "I wanted to share my culture and love of food in an intimate setting," says Park. The ever-changing menu features items like soy-marinated short ribs, kimchi fried rice, and matcha creme brûlée. Despite no advertising beyond word of mouth, Parsnip has gained a cult following, with foodies flocking for the creative flavors. "The taste combinations are incredible," raves one reviewer.
For the ultimate LA experience, head to Hank's Homemade Ice Cream. This old-school parlor churns over 400 flavors, with eccentric options like Avocado, Roasted Garlic, and black olive. "I love inventing new flavors and seeing people's reactions," says owner Hank Ando. The small shop is filled with retro touches like a jukebox and soda fountain. "Hank's takes me back to simpler times," says customer Amy Wilson. Beyond the funky flavors, the creamy texture and emphasis on quality ingredients keep fans lining up every night.
Neptunica is an ode to Tijuana-style seafood tucked away in a mini mall. Luis Nova grew up watching his abuelita cook ceviche and fish tacos. "I wanted to share the vibrant flavors of my childhood," he says. Sizzling platters come loaded with plump shrimp, tender octopus, and mild white fish dressed in citrusy sauces. Nova also whips up aguachiles, complex moles, and Mexico City-style tacos. Despite the strip mall location, Neptunica draws hordes of patrons craving bold Baja flavors. As one Yelper declares: "This is seafood paradise!"
What else is in this post?
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Underground Eats: LA's Secret Foodie Spots
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Hidden Hills and Trails That Offer Solitude in the City
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Dive Bars and Hole-in-the-Wall Music Venues Away From the Spotlight
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Unexpected Art Galleries Showcasing Local Talent
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Outdoor Movie Screenings at Obscure Parks and Beaches
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Quirky Museums Dedicated to Niche Topics
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Neighborhood Shops Specializing in Rare Antiques and Vintage Wares
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Off-the-Radar Comedy and Theater with Local Flair
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Hidden Hills and Trails That Offer Solitude in the City
Nestled within the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles are a network of secluded trails and hills that offer a respite from the chaos of city life. For Angelenos seeking solitude without venturing far, these natural oases provide a sanctuary right in their own backyard.
Runyon Canyon Park, located in Hollywood, is a 130-acre expanse of chaparral-covered hills and trails. The loop attracts droves of hikers and dog-walkers, yet it’s easy to find isolation along the network of trails. Trekkers who veer off the main path and up towards the ridge are rewarded with spectacular city views and blissful quietude. “It’s amazing to feel so removed when you’re just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood and West Hollywood,” says frequent hiker Claire Davis.
For those yearning to get even further off the beaten path, head to the Santa Monica Mountains. This rugged range contains miles of secluded trails winding through canyons, cliffs, and peaks. Starting from the end of Mulholland Drive, the Trek to the Hollywood Sign leads hikers on a peaceful 6-mile journey with continuous panoramas. “It’s just you, nature, and one of the world’s most iconic landmarks,” raves TripAdvisor user Max Brenner.
Further east, Ernest E. Debs Regional Park offers 298 acres of open space and seclusion. Located in Montecito Heights, this preserve remains relatively unknown even to locals. The park contains nature trails, wooded hills, and a lake—offering a serene escape without venturing far. “I can’t believe this oasis exists right in the middle of Los Angeles,” says regular visitor Cassie Hill. “It feels worlds away.”
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Dive Bars and Hole-in-the-Wall Music Venues Away From the Spotlight
Dotted across Los Angeles are dimly-lit venues where local bands take the stage night after night. These underground music dens offer an authentic performance experience that can't be found along the Hollywood Walk of Fame or Sunset Boulevard. While they may lack neon marquees and name recognition, LA's hole-in-the-wall bars and clubs are havens of indie sounds and raw talent waiting to be discovered.
Footsie's is a dive bar in Cypress Park that's hosted up-and-coming punk acts for over two decades. This grungy joint offers cheap drinks and gritty ambiance, with graffiti covering the walls and bathrooms that are best avoided. The stage barely fits three musicians yet has launched numerous garage bands over the years. "The vibe is totally chaotic," says musician Liza Fleming. "Bands go wild on that tiny stage. It's where we cut our teeth and learned to rock out." Footsie's rough-around-the-edges atmosphere shapes many a young punk group, while offering patrons an unfiltered view of the LA underground scene.
The Redwood Bar & Grill in downtown LA is a warmly lit watering hole paying homage to the city's country music roots. Wailing steel guitars and boot-stomping jams fill the space, transporting patrons to Nashville itself. "You get that real honky-tonk vibe here," says customer Brad Knox. While modern country dominates the radio waves, The Redwood keeps old-school classics alive and well. "We enjoy spreading the history and sounds of country music, especially promoting local talent," says owner Dale Watson.
Unknown even to many East LA residents is Sticky Fingers, a hole-in-the-wall hosting blues, jazz and soul acts seven nights a week. Fluorescent beer signs illuminate a scuffed wooden bar and a few wobbly tables crammed together for maximum intimacy. "There's no better place to soak in organic, heartfelt blues," declares ardent fan Krista Daniels. Owner Hedy Reed strives to showcase unheralded musicians who play with raw passion. "The spotlight belongs on artists who do it for love, not fame or fortune," Reed emphasizes.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Unexpected Art Galleries Showcasing Local Talent
Tucked away in unassuming storefronts and anonymous warehouses across Los Angeles are scores of under-the-radar art galleries that provide a platform for promising local talent. These unexpected havens give emerging artists the opportunity to showcase their works and visions to genuine art lovers, not just tourists seeking selfies with Van Goghs and Warhols.
One such gallery is Side Street Projects, located in a former packing warehouse in the Arts District. "We're passionate about providing space for undiscovered artists, especially local ones," says owner Tara Imperatore. Large airy rooms with concrete floors and white walls provide a blank canvas. Exhibits rotate monthly, with recent shows highlighting Latinx abstract painters, Korean mixed-media artists, and more. Works range from ethereal watercolors to provocative installations. "It's exciting to encounter art I've never seen before," says frequent visitor Megan Walsh.
In a Koreatown strip mall, Ochi Gallery provides diverse Asian artists with space to push creative boundaries. Graphic paintings of rice pickers and calligraphy prints share walls with avant-garde video installations. "I aim to dismantle the myth of a singular 'Asian art style'," explains curator Michelle Chong. She handpicks each artist, searching for those "willing to share poignant perspectives." The emotive exhibits speak to the plurality of Asian experiences, from first-generation immigrants to fifth-generation Americans. "It's eye-opening to see this talent flourishing right in my own city," notes patron Henry Wu.
On an unremarkable stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard sits Durón Gallery, nurturing Chicano and Latin American artists. Vibrant abstracts depicting cholas and luchadores share space with socially conscious photos of immigrants at the border. "We provide a platform for voices often marginalized by the mainstream art world," says owner Marcos Durón. Every show provides insight into the Latino experience, from Día de los Muertos altars to graffiti-inspired pop art. "The exhibits here tell stories you'd never see on museum walls," explains aficionado Maya Ortega.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Outdoor Movie Screenings at Obscure Parks and Beaches
As the sun dips below the horizon, flickering images begin dancing across giant inflatable screens at secret locales across LA. From secluded beaches to verdant parks, outdoor movie screenings transport film lovers away from sticky-floored multiplexes and into the magic of cinema under the stars.
Westchester Park, located near LAX, transforms into a twinkling wonderland each Saturday night during summer. Families lay out blankets and beach chairs on the expansive lawn as kids frolic and friends chat over snacks and drinks from food trucks. When darkness falls, an inflatable screen rises behind the playground as the latest blockbusters, comedies, and family-friendly classics fill the night air. “It feels nostalgic, like going to the drive-in as a kid,” says moviegoer Tim Clark.
Further south in San Pedro, Point Fermin Park overlooks crashing waves and Catalina Island. Perched on the edge of the Pacific, attendees bring jackets and bundle up as Hawaiian Breezes plays cult favorites like Sixteen Candles and hits like Bohemian Rhapsody. “Hearing Queen while staring up at the stars was just epic,” describes recent attendee Arianna Flores. The hillside location also offers stunning city lights vistas, adding to the magical atmosphere.
For cinephiles craving independent, foreign, and art-house films, Barnsdall Art Park’s Friday night screenings deliver. Located in East Hollywood, this arts complex contains the historic Hollyhock House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Attendees arrive early to picnic on the grounds and glimpse the famed architecture before settling onto the grassy hillside sloping down towards the movie screen. Programming veers from Oscar darlings to LGBTQ cinema to retrospectives of iconic directors. “It’s like watching a great film in your own backyard,” explains movie buff Jack Ramirez.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Quirky Museums Dedicated to Niche Topics
Dotting the vast metropolis of Los Angeles is a treasure trove of quirky niche museums celebrating the obscure. While mega-institutions like LACMA and The Getty showcase masterpieces to the masses, these offbeat galleries offer glimpses into hyper-focused worlds. From bulldozers to ukuleles, airplane history to neon signs, these curated collections provide portals into peculiar passions.
"I created this museum to share my peculiar obsession," says Arnie Levinson, founder of the LA Bulldozer Museum. As a child, Levinson discovered a fascination with bulldozers that blossomed into a lifelong calling. His museum located in Reseda contains over 300 miniature bulldozer models, artwork, posters, and even a popcorn maker shaped like a bulldozer. Lifelike dioramas depict historic construction scenes, while Yelp reviews rave about the "pure joy" Levinson exudes while guiding visitors through his shrine to all things earth-moving.
The tiny Harbor History Museum in San Pedro contains artifacts from LA's nautical past. Vintage ship models, logbooks, and faded photographs provide a portal back to the port's heyday. Curator Alicia Cox relishes the chance to immerse visitors in obscure seafaring lore. "I get to share tales of daring 19th century captains and the gritty world of longshoremen," she explains. Despite the modest size, the evocative exhibits here capture LA's maritime foundations in a way mega-museums never could. As one TripAdvisor user declares, "This place brings our harbor to life!"
Ukulele aficionados have found paradise at LA's Four Stringed Guitar and Ukulele Museum. Over 300 instruments line the walls, capturing the evolution of ukulele design across cultures. Japanese, Hawaiian, Portuguese, and Native American ukuleles reveal diverse craftsmanship and decorations. Owner Kekoa Beamer offers free ukulele jam sessions so patrons can try out different models and get a feel for the instruments showcased. "People don't realize how rich the history is behind this tiny instrument," Beamer explains. Indeed, the exhibits here unveil hidden depths sure to resonate with any ukulele enthusiast.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Neighborhood Shops Specializing in Rare Antiques and Vintage Wares
Tucked away on side streets across Los Angeles are hole-in-the-wall antique shops filled with rare treasures and nostalgic wares. These neighborhood gems provide access to unique vintage items you won't find along Rodeo Drive or The Grove. Independent store owners curate their eclectic inventory based on personal passions, resulting in collections as diverse as the city itself. For bargain hunters and vintage connoisseurs, these quirky boutiques offer one-of-a-kind discoveries that capture the spirit of old LA.
Take Carson Classics, located in a tiny storefront in Carson. "I sell the items that speak to me, especially Mid-Century Modern pieces that shape the aesthetic of LA," explains owner Ryan Carson. His meticulously curated inventory spans atomic-era lamps, space age dinnerware, and groovy artwork. Carson frequents estate sales across the South Bay to source distinctive items. "I love the thrill of the hunt," he says. For customers, Carson Classics provides access to rare Richard Neutra and Paul Evans originals without gallery markups. "This stuff is disappearing fast. I'm trying to preserve it for posterity," Carson notes.
Further west, Refindery LA houses a lovingly compiled collection of Art Deco accessories. Located in Culver City, this petite shop overflows with perfume bottles, compacts, and ornate mesh handbags. "I want to give these functional works of art a new life," says owner Sasha Wingate, who rescues the pieces from estate sales. Meticulously restored, the items transport shoppers back to the Jazz Age glamour of old Hollywood. "It's like exploring a museum with a time machine," enthuses customer Maggie Ford.
In Highland Park, bourgeoisie BOIS oozes Parisian charm. Owner Jacques Reno curates "objets d'art for the Francophile," including ornate mirrors, paintings, and taxidermy. Reno frequents auctions across Europe to procure the unique pieces that fill his salon-style space. "I look for items that capture the opulence of La Belle Époque," he explains. Yelp reviews describe meandering here as "falling down an antique rabbit hole into the glory days of Gay Paris." For Francophiles, this quaint oasis provides a passport to another world without ever leaving LA.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in LA You Won't Find in Any Guidebook - Off-the-Radar Comedy and Theater with Local Flair
Tucked away in holes-in-the-wall across Los Angeles is a flourishing comedy scene bursting with local talent waiting to be discovered. While tourists flock to spectacles along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the city’s unheralded stages spotlight raw performances and boundary-pushing material away from the limelight.
“I founded this theater to nurture voices ignored by mainstream comedy,” explains Chuck Jackson, founder of The Chuckle Hut in North Hollywood. This 70-seat venue located above a bowling alley provides an intimate space for fearless standups to workshop edgy new material. Recent shows have tackled topics from sex trafficking to chronic illness, all delivered with fearless panache. “These comedians pull no punches,” notes audience member Maya Powers. “It’s refreshing to hear such unfiltered perspectives.” The Minority Comedy Hour on Tuesdays offers a platform for female, LGBTQ, and ethnically diverse comics, while Saturdays highlight local improv troupes. “No topic is too taboo here,” Jackson says proudly. “Our only rule is making the audience think while laughing.”
Down an alleyway in Downtown LA, The Limbo Room stages daring immersive theater that pushes boundaries. Avant-garde productions unfold across every inch of the 1,500 square foot black box theater as audience members flow amidst the action. Recent shows immersed patrons in an anarchist collective’s plot to redistribute wealth, a virtual-reality biotechnology experiment gone awry, and a passion play exploring religious conflict in the Middle East. “Some parts disturb me, others blow my mind, but I’m always riveted,” explains frequent attendee Amy Chang. The intimate, participatory nature makes shows here unique, according to artistic director Trevor Stark. “We eliminate the separation between art and audience, bringing patrons right into the ethical dilemmas we explore.”