Neighborhood Stroll: Downtown L.A.

There are few neighborhoods in L.A. changing as rapidly as downtown. Pop-up restaurants are settling down in brick-and-mortar spaces in the Arts District, money is pouring in for infrastructure improvements and new developments, and the Expo Line will bring downtown residents to the Pacific within a few years. Those of us in L.A. for the long haul will have the privilege of watching this historic neighborhood go through a renaissance of sorts. Soon we’ll all be saying “Remember when…?”

If you find yourself in the mood to explore, here’s a suggestion or two for your next DTLA stroll.

EAT:

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BAR Ama, Josef Centano’s newest kitchen venture on 4th Street at Spring, has been on our list since it opened late 2012. We love baco mercat, so of course hopes were high as we stepped into the space — a cool, open dining room with exposed brick, campy metal dishware, and a jolly staff (I feel like I’ve had some serious friendships form while dining at Baco — where do they find such jovial dudes to work the floor?). An order of puffy tacos were a must (we tried the pork and pineapple), and everything beyond them was just for gluttonous fun: Tex-Mex queso and chips (fancy nachos, really), green enchiladas with a kick of heat, and a duck chalupa on special. We didn’t leave disappointed or able to walk well, and the first thing we’d do again is the taco, but of a different type for variation’s sake. The shells are deep fried in peanut oil to achieve their airy, bubbly texture, the waiter explained, and the pork and pineapple made for this awesome sweet/salty combo that I loved.

SHOP:

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One should not leave the area without whiling away an hour or two in The Last Bookstore — though two hours may not be enough. The store is housed in an old bank building and takes up the street level and second floors. Below is The Crocker Club, above are artist’s live/work spaces. It feels a bit post-apocolyptic and lawless inside: a few shelves are easy to maneuver (the bestsellers wall, the used fiction section), but the entire 2nd floor has few labels, some shelves organized simply by spine color — the pre-Civil Rights area of books, I guess — other books glued together to make arches you can walk under or book windows that serve no purpose (other than being awesome) that I can discern. It’s an experience, and if you’re a book lover, it’s one not to miss.

DRINK:

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A short drive away is Demitasse Cafe, a Little Tokyo coffee shop often recognized for it’s hot sipping chocolate. It was too warm of  a day for the likes of hot anything, so an ice coffee it was. Their pastry counter deserves a once-over as well — every month they source the goodies from a different local bakery.

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