Downtown LA’s Southpark neighborhood has lived several lifetimes. Once a maze of unregulated parking lots, the burgeoning corridor has become a multifaceted district home to both commercial businesses and indie gems alike. Thanks to the Staples Center opening its massive glass doors 15 years ago, the area has undergone a supreme renaissance; and today, the formerly haphazard ghost town is a bustling micro-city. With no fewer than 28 colossal development projects on deck, Southpark is on the verge of becoming a bona fide urban hub. While the decadent skyscrapers and luxury lofts are indubitable signs of progress, we can’t help but embrace our retro darlings. But as responsible urbanites, we’ve vowed to maintain an open mind about what’s to come. So, in the spirit of the Taste Issue, we’ve rounded up of list of our favorite Southpark destinations—new and old.
BEST FULL-SERVICE MEXICAN
514 W. 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Ready for your new favorite Mexican spot? Bold statement, we know; but hear us out. Tucked between Niehule Salon and Soi 7 on 7th, B.S. Taqueria (short for “Broken Spanish”) is the neighborhood’s latest gem. Formerly Mo-Chica, the taqueria fuses traditional Mexican sensibilities with a casual Chicano vibe. Ray Garcia, the man behind the approachable concept, has a penchant for market-fresh ingredients, and proves it with dishes like Lemon-Pepper Chicken Chicharrones and Campechana Verde. The new spot is colorful and bright, with wooden accents and vivid hues throughout—a far cry from its dimly lit predecessor. If you can escape the grind for a long lunch once a week, this is your spot.
BEST SPOT FOR AN INTIMATE DRINK
939 S. Figueroa Street, 90015
The intersection of Olympic and Figueroa may not immediately conjure up images of glowing lanterns and ornate architecture. Nevertheless, it plays home to Downtown’s best-kept secret. The Hotel Figueroa is tucked away within Southpark’s corporate corridor, and boasts an unexpected wellspring of vintage SoCal charm. The Spanish Mediterranean hotel, complete with a pool and lounge, embraces the old-school glamour of LA while remaining completely unpretentious—with a consistently pertinent soundtrack as a noted bonus. Thirsty for mezcal on a Saturday night, but unwilling to brave a sea of bros? Make your way through the exotic lobby and settle in poolside for a cozy tête-à-tête against ivy covered walls.
BEST SOURCE FOR EMERGING TALENT
June 10-18th, 2015
A few years back, Film Independent—one of the nation’s premier film organizations—gave the LA Film Festival something of a makeover, garnering our hometown event the necessary clout to become a contender alongside highbrow competitors like Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca, and AFI. Recently, the LAFF moved its roster of showings over to the Eastside, with four out off the five featured venues located in and around pedestrian-friendly Southpark (including Regal Cinemas, L.A. Live, The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live, FIGat7th, and Union Station). The festival’s roundup consists of competitive sections for independent, feature-length U.S. fiction films; a diverse selection of documentaries; and a smaller round up of exceptional international films. New this year is a category called Nightfall, which includes genre pieces as well as a section exclusively dedicated to discovering emerging voices in indie filmmaking. We don’t have to explain the importance of supporting local creative talent, do we?
BEST HOME-COOKED MEAL
1150 S. Hope Street, 90015
Looking for an affordable, home-cooked meal in the heart of Downtown? It exists. Located on the northeast corner of 12th and Hope, Aladdin’s Coffee Shop serves up much more than the name suggests. The traditional Lebanese eatery has been a local staple for over 30 years, with a considerable army of loyal regulars who’ve braved every socioeconomic wave of the neighborhood. Aladdin’s menu offers two distinctive entrée options: an a la carte meal with DIY additions like chorizo, salsa, guacamole, rice, beans, and cilantro; or a buffet that includes a rotating selection of main courses. Carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans, rejoice: this place has got all of you covered (and boasts the Yelp reviews to prove it). Oh, and if you’re a fan of great service, make sure to ask for Cindy.
403 W. 12th St, 90015
Adam Fleischman of Umami Burger recently teamed up with Hollywood pals Keith Previte and Sean Robbins for ChocoChicken, a strange and ambitious concept eatery. Now, before you balk, hear us out. Although the wacky restaurant serves up traces of cocoa in nearly everything on the menu (think chocolate ketchup and Choco seasoning to accompany the duck fat fries), the sweet undertones in each dish are surprisingly subtle. And while drinks like the Angry Cock or house-made biscuits are definitely worth your consideration, its ChocoChicken’s namesake entree that steals the show. Made with organic Jidori chicken soaked in a 36-hour brine, then coated with a mixture of 20 spices, this elevated take on comfort food is complex and delicious. Since ChocoChicken’s controversial opening last spring, we’ve gone from eyebrow-raising skeptics to enthusiastic regulars.