get outta live

If you're in LA for a convention, chances are you're in the LA Live area. Please know this isn't really downtown LA - from its bad architecture and poor urban planning to its mediocre chain restaurants, its a bit of an embarrassment to those of us who live here.  But it serves its purpose. Its basically a mall. Its handy, so enjoy it for what it is - but if you can, venture a little further out. Here are some of my favorite downtown spots.  Most are roughly concentrated in the Civic Center/Little Tokyo/Arts District-ish area - easy to get to on the Red, Purple, or Silver Line (more below).  So make your own tour of tasty treats, or of architecture highlights, a combo of both, or just hit one certain spot. Its easier than you think.

Tasty treats: 

Spitz - In my travels in Europe, I became a huge fan of Doner, which is common in most places, but seems to be on nearly every corner in Germany. I've never understood why you can't find it in the US. Similar to shawarma or gyro, doner is a Turkish dish of beef, veal or lamb from a vertical spit. Spitz not only does doner, but they do it amazingly well. Get the Street Car - beef & lamb, on bread, with everything (I skip the onions). Don't miss the fried pita strips - amazing. Good beers on tap too.  371 East 2nd St.

Wurstküche - a great spot full of hipsters (but still worth it), they feature tons of gourmet sausages, but I usually skip those and go straight to the bar. Great beer selection with lots of Belgian and German specialties. 800 East 3rd

The Pie Hole - fun little spot across from Wurstküche. with pies. lots of pies. From Chicken & Cornbread pie, to Mac & Cheese pie, to Maple Custard or Earl Grey Tea pie.  How wrong can you go? Unfortunately, no beers.  714 Traction Ave

Mikawaya - across from Spitz (sorta) in Little Tokyo - a favorite for mochi ice cream (a japanese treat of ice cream wrapped in soft dough). I've never been a huge mochi fan myself, but everyone else I know loves it, so go for it!  118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall

Philippe's - further away, but a must-do in LA (get off at Union Station for this one) - this is the place that invented the French Dip in 1918, and it probably hasn't changed much since then. I always go for the lamb with blue cheese, but get whatever sounds best to you. Stand in line, put your cash (only) on the tray, walk across the sawdust-covered floor to find a table, and enjoy. (Don't miss the train lore on the walls of the back rooms.)  1001 N Alameda

Cole's - also in a different area (get off at Pershing Square for this one) - this is a new place masquerading as an old place - but they do it so well that it doesn't matter. A more hipster and fashionable version of Philippe's. But also with a secret speakeasy in the back. really. 118 East 6th Street  colesfrenchdip

How to get there: 

For most of these, you can take the Red or Purple line Metro - get off at Civic Center and take a stroll east to these places. downtown Metro map  

you can also take the Silver Line - which is a bus - to the Spring Street stop:   Silver Line map

Architecture to see along the way:

CalTrans District 7 Building - designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, this is one of my favorite buildings in LA. Best viewed in the evening when you can take in the amazing 4 story light sculpture by Keith Sonnier  - 1st and Main

LAPD Police Admin Bldg - maybe not completely successful, but a lot of valiant attempts that still make for a pretty nice civic building by AECOM and Roth Sheppard Architects - 100 W 1st St.

City Hall - a given. Completed in 1928 and long the symbol of Los Angeles. Or for some of us, it was the Daily Planet on tv's Superman.  Don't miss the observation tower on top. - 200 N Spring St.

Grand Park - newly completed and stretching from City Hall to LA Music Center, its still one of LA's best secrets. The interactive fountain is a highlight.

LA County Hall of Records - a beautiful piece of often overlooked civic architecture by Richard Neutra; its another of my favorites  - Temple and Hill

LA Music Center - at the top of Grand Park, a collection of MidCentury architecture designed by Welton Becket along with the newer Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry - 135 N Grand Ave.

John Ferraro Building (Dept of Water & Power) - another of my very favorite buildings in LA. A beautiful piece of Corporate International modernism by AC Martin - 111 N Hope Street