A New Yorker's Guide to Downtown LA

A New Yorker's Guide to Downtown LA

In the Which is Better: NY or LA game, nobody wins. Both cities have their highlights- 24 hour everything, weather, respectively- and both have their sore spots- oppressive competition, traffic- etc. So when you get to vacation from one of these cities to the other, you're getting the best of both worlds. As New Yorkers, we look forward to our LA trips as a huge break from the constant hustle and terrible humidity or cloud cover we get at home. And while certain parts of LA can get a bit plasticy and film industry centric, we cannot get enough of downtown LA. It's the perfect mix of the type of city life we're used to- it's walkable, there are museums- and the specific laid back LA charm we adore. Here are all the places that as die hard New Yorkers, we love to visit.


The Freehand recently opened a New York location, which feels swanky and a bit glam. The Downtown LA Freehand, on the other hand, is all about combining LA's classic laid back vibe with the urban downtown feel of the Commercial Exchange Building in which it is housed. The color scheme is all mustards and ochers, with lots of natural materials, and eclectic murals by local artists.

It's the perfect spot to be centrally located to all the best that downtown LA has to offer, but if you decide you don't want to leave the hotel, we won't blame you. With a rooftop pool, iconic rooftop bar the Broken Shaker, and The Exchange, a Mediterranean cuisine inspired restaurant that puts California produce in the spotlight, it's also the perfect place to chill out and decompress from your hectic New York lifestyle.

Another great downtown option is the LA Ace Hotel. Built in the gorgeous former United Artist Building, it's a testament to classic LA design, with interiors inspired by Austrian architect Rudolf Schindler's time in West Hollywood. In addition to the seamless art deco restoration, there are thoughtful touches like Noguchi lamps and custom Pendleton blankets in the bedrooms, and a mini bar stocked with local LA brands. And of course, it wouldn't be a hotel in the sunshine state without a rooftop pool- in this case one with an epic view of the downtown skyscraping skyline which is sure to warm your homesick NY heart.


You know you're in LA when one of the best meals you can get is in a strip mall. For incredible plant based Vietnamese, head over to Âu Lạc LA. As a New Yorker, you're not going to get better pizza or bagels out west, but when it comes to asian and vegan, LA has us beat, and never is that combination clearer than in dishes like Pepper Yam "Shrimp" and BBQ soy rolls.

Can't decide what to eat? Don't worry- they have food halls here too. In this case, a historic one, in the form of Grand Central Market, which has been a hub for food stalls since 1918. It's been updated a bit since then, and you can now try incredible modern Thai food at Sticky Rice, eat green falafel at Dimes-vibey Kismet, and truly great - though not vegan- classic LA style carnitas from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas.

On that note, as a New Yorker in LA, it's important to enjoy the great Mexican food that we don't get on the East Coast. But it can be challenging to find good vegetarian options- except in downtown LA at B.S. Taqueria. Here, in addition to excellent meat centric dishes, there are also phenomenal veggie options like eggplant and pepita tacos, and a red beet milanesa torta.

Lastly, we're no strangers to trendy Indian food in NYC, but even by our standards Badmaash is special. Owned by two Canadian-Indian brothers and their father, they're doing truly inventive, delicious Indian food in a cool, industrial looking space. 


LA has quickly become the place to see cutting edge art- probably because it doesn't have the same financial and space constraints as New York, where if you want to make bigger work and/or survive off your pieces, you need to be pretty damn established. To see exciting work, check out Hauser & Wirth, which combines iconic big names with up and coming artists in a sleek space so massive it could never exist in our home city.

You may think we get all the best museum exhibits in NYC, but then you've never been to The Broad. What makes this new museum so special is that it's post-war works are part of the formerly private collection of Eli and Edythe Broad. We're talking pieces by Koons and Murakami that you've never had a chance to see in person before- and admission is free, even for out-of-towners.

Another of the best places to see cutting edge contemporary art is at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Located in a former police car warehouse renovated by Frank Gehry, this Little Tokyo destination shows experimental works you might not be able to see otherwise.


There's nothing you can't buy in NYC, truly. But for an extremely well curated mix of homewares, personal care, shoes, and accessories, head to Alchemy Works which fully embodies downtown LA's boho meets urban aesthetic. Stock up on any Alder New York products you forgot to bring while you're there.

For a uniquely LA shopping experience, head over to ROW DTLA. A mix of work spaces, pop-up events, designer boutiques, and destination food spots, it's a bit like Industry City in New York, but with palm trees. While the events are constantly changing-  Poketo had an ongoing pop up for the holidays- there's always something exciting happening here.

And since you missed the holiday pop-up, you might as well stop by Poketo's permanent space in downtown's Little Tokyo. Poketo is the iconic design shop where you will find notebooks, candles, pens, bags, and other household objects you didn't know you so desperately needed till now.

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