Experienced content producer and keen photographer May Iosotaluno was born and raised in the City of Angels. She shares why she loves LA’s most dynamic neighborhood – and where best to enjoy it.
In the sprawl that is Los Angeles, Downtown LA (or “DTLA”) is one of the few areas in this magical city where you won’t need to spend time screaming in a car. Grounded in history, diversity, and art — creatives, tourists and foodies flock to this chaotic and romantic epicenter. Get your city fix before you take a dip in the Pacific.
- Eat: Guisados is my “go to” for out of town guests who want a quick bite. This mouthwatering taco chain started in East LA and now there are a few across the city. Made for the indecisive, the taco sampler has 6 mini tacos for under $10. I swear by their spicy Cochinita Pibil. Bestia offers unique handmade pastas and pizzas with amazing cocktails. It can be hard to get a table — you’ll need to set a calendar reminder to make reservations 2 months in advance. I have a love-hate relationship with Grand Central Market as it’s become overcrowded and expensive. Still, in the midst of neon signs, no one can deny the incredible range of tasty food — bagels with lox, mango sticky rice, pupusas — even vegan ramen, which is absurd.
- Caffeinate: Blue Bottle recently opened a location in a spacious corner unit of the Bradbury Building — an iconic LA architectural gem that has starred in multiple films including Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer. You can buy used books and proceeds go to the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. G & B Coffee in Grand Central Market is a great place to start any DTLA adventure and makes the best iced lattes.
- Cocktail: Perch has the quintessential rooftop bar with an impressive view of the city. LA at night is stunning, especially since you can’t see the smog. I love The Varnish, a classy speakeasy hidden at the back of Cole’s, a French dip joint. The mixologists can take vague instructions like “fruity but not too sweet” and work up magic. It’s an intimate and lively date spot. Avoid bringing the entire squad; they won’t fit.
- Culture Up: The Broad offers free general admission to view the founding family’s impressive and rotating collection. Get there early and wait in line day of or make reservations ahead of time. It includes the greatest hitters of Contemporary Art — Lichtenstein, Warhol, Baldessari — and has wonderful ticketed special exhibitions. (Caution: The museum is photo friendly and can be overwhelming when trying to avoid other folks’ selfies.) The Museum of Contemporary Art aka MOCA has two downtown locations —one ticket gives access to both. On Thursday nights from 5-8P, admission is free and you get an eclectic LA crowd. Twice a week, I browse The Last Bookstore, a huge independent bookstore integral in the renaissance of DTLA and my personal sanctuary. Located in a former bank, visitors like to get lost in the “labyrinth” upstairs; I enjoy the art books annex.
- Work Out: I go to Yoga Circle Downtown – their focus is less on a sweaty workout and more on an experience that centers both mind and body. Time to practice stillness.
- Shop: There are two excellent lifestyle goods stores that are feasts for the eyes and dangerous for the wallet. Poketo in the Arts District has colorful design-conscious gifts ranging from cute stationary to kitchenware. Formerly Yes on Broadway indulges my inner minimalist — home products are curated with a “less is more” philosophy. Be sure to say hi to the owners’ adorable, white pup.