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September 27, 2007
Wilshire Boulevard begins in a forest of modern glass and steel skyscrapers in L.A.’s downtown. It passes through the Pico Union district, one of the most densely populated areas in the country, then dissects bustling Koreatown. Through Tar Pits and by LACMA, winding through Beverly Hills and Westwood, around Brentwood. Then, a few blocks before it drops off into the Santa Monica Bay, the Boulevard passes a diner called Callahan’s.
Callahan’s was established in 1927, so for 80 years the restaurant has been slinging hash and witnessing (and seemingly ignoring) Wilshire’s slide into urbanity. Slip onto a vinyl stool at their mile-long lunch counter and you’re decades into the past.
The restaurant’s look is vintage, but not faux vintage (like Johnny Rocket’s or another great restaurant, S&W Country Diner in Culver City).
Its soda fountain (pictured) stretches as long as a couch, with more than a dozen pockets that probably once held jimmies and chocolate sauce, left unused but kept sparkling clean like a museum exhibit. As coffee technology and tastes evolved, Callahan’s invested in new machines, lining the new ones next to the old, industrial-sized Bunn machine butted up to compact cappuccino maker. Ancient green vinyl booths match the mint walls.
Their menu offers traditional coffee shop fare, but their 2+2+2 breakfast — two eggs, two slices of bacon or links of sausage, and two hot cakes, which runs a nostalgic $3.95 — caught my eye.
Authentic old school diner with undeniably old school prices.
Price: $ (prices starting at $3.95)
Do you have a favorite vintage haunt? Where?
September 25, 2007
When we bought our first house a few years ago, this is the front yard we got. It was our first attempt at gardening, so I looked to Martha Stewart for guidance. Her books told me to propagate my own plants or risk going broke at the nursery.
Propagate? Are you kidding me?
That’s what 7 Oaks’ half-off plant sale is for. I don’t often go to the 951, but when the sprawling nursery off the 15 in Corona takes 50 percent off every plant they have — from trees in 36 inch boxes to the smallest annual — I make the long drive.
Sales are held twice yearly, over the Columbus Day and Fourth of July weekends, so one’s coming up the first weekend in October. If you decide to check it out, here are a few tips. First, the sale has become quite popular, so shop early for the best selection. Second, take advantage of the neat little sandwich shop hiding behind the 7 Oaks convenience store.
Load your truck, then fuel up on fresh sandwiches for the drive home.
When: Friday, October 5 to Monday, October 8, 2007
Where: 21501 Temescal Canyon Road, Corona, Ca 92883
What’s your best gardening tip?
September 20, 2007
Filed under: Play — StyleGuide @ 6:19 am
It helps to be well-read in L.A., even if it’s only to know what movies will be coming out. But keeping up with the bestsellers can get pricey.
My all-time best secret? Los Angeles Public Library’s online book reservations. Search the catalog at www.lapl.org. A few clicks and the book of your choice is sent from any one of their 70+ branch libraries to your local branch — all for free.
It’s even easier than hitting the bookstore. I’ll hear about a book, then quickly log on to the library’s site and reserve it (or the audio book to ease the commute). Within days, it’s waiting for me at the front desk.
There’s a $1 fee if you don’t pick the book up within a week of its arrival to your branch. But their email system helps out on this one. I get an email when it arrives, and after checking my book out, I’ll get an email four days before it’s due. I can even renew my book online when I’m too slammed to return it.
No searching through the stacks. No Dewey Decimal system. No late fees. Easy as pie.
Are you a library booster? Tell us.
September 18, 2007
Searching for Polka, you’ll be surprised by the exterior. It sports the same plate glass windows and swinging door that front convenience stores across the developed world. Enter the restaurant, however, and you’re transported from a small, squat strip mall in a dusty, barren stretch of Los Angeles to your Polish grandmother’s living room.
The decor overwhelms and comforts at once. Walls are covered alternatively with ruby flower-printed curtains and a huge river-scape mural. White statuary and porcelain figurines compete for space with silk flowers, photos, decorative plates and all manner of knick-knacks.
Welcome to Polka, where the family runs the kitchen, the food is generous, the hospitality is gracious, the surroundings curious and kitchy, and the ambiance fitting for anything from a family meal to a romantic dinner.
Make your way to your seat, and immediately a mug of hot, homemade soup arrives on the table in front of you. A green salad with homemade sesame dressing follows, then a turkey-platter-sized plate of authentic Polish fare, including entrees like kielbasa and boiled pierogis (choose chicken and pork, or one of two appealing vegetarian options). Plates are heavy on vegetables like corn, carrots and green beans. Expect a starch like potatoes or rice and a small dessert.
Let’s face it, Grandma’s home-cooked meals are an airline flight away for most of us in L.A. A night at Polka makes for a pretty good substitute.
Price: $-$$ (lunch entrees start at $9)
Where: 4112 Verdugo Road, Los Angeles, Ca 90065 (Eagle Rock)
September 13, 2007
Best of the Wurst is an occasional series on those who have perfected the art of the frankfurter.
You can’t miss Alpine Village, that sprawling amusement park of Teutonic delights right off the 110 in Torrance. The replica Bavarian village boasts a bakery and grocery store, several restaurants, a wedding chapel, a traffic school, a flight school, a dentist office, a swap meet (daily save Monday), 15 speciality stores including a “toy and leather store,” and, come fall, their legendary Oktoberfest.
Alpine Village’s sausage kitchen, helmed by Master Sausage Maker Alex Lagger, is the draw for me. The kitchen boasts the 2000 award winning sausage at the Annual State of California Meat Processors Competition. (A Meat Processors Competition? Two thoughts on that: 1. What is this competition? and 2. How come I haven’t vacationed there?)
Mr. Lagger’s weisswurst is a milky white sausage — something you would never expect to hold its own against the richly colored links that share space in the RV-length deli case. Yet the savory meat, served inside a casing with some snap, holds its shape on the plate yet melts in your mouth. I never expected this kind of flavor from such a pale link.
$ (prices start in the $2-$3 range per half pound)
Where: 833 W. Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90502
Have you tried Alpine Village Market? Do you have another source for handcrafted sausage?
September 11, 2007
Expert Opinions are tips from L.A.’s ultimate insiders. Today’s contributor is fashion stylist Alexandra Haines.
My biggest, newest secret as a stylist is Haute Seconds on Wilshire in Santa Monica. These gently used clothes are right off the runway with going-out-of-style prices. The shop is small enough not to be overwhelming, friendly enough that it is not intimidating, and fresh enough to make you feel fabulous as you try on discarded Prada, Armani, Chloe and all their compatriots.
I’ve picked up a beautiful hand painted silk Akris top, a classic black Anna Sui dress, and a Jean Paul Gaultier top for under $100 each. This is the best place to rock some serious names without breaking out the Benjamins.
Where: 2721 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, Ca 90403
I am a stylist that has been in and around the fashion world by styling photo shoots and designing clothes and accessories. I’ve worked in major design studios tracking trends and creating products for consumers. None of which would mean anything if I wasn’t intrinsically interested in people and how each individual can express themselves uniquely in their dress. No cookie cutter advice here.
Call: 310-908-7605 (Alexandra)
September 6, 2007
Filed under: Eat — StyleGuide @ 8:42 am
If celebrities can teach us anything, it is that being environmental is hot.
So while I love eating out, I’m bugged by how wasteful it can be. Here my top ten lazy ways to be a little more eco-friendly when dining out:
1. Skip Styrofoam. Ask to have your take-out, delivery or leftovers wrapped in aluminum foil. When done, rinse the foil and recycle it.
2. Ask restaurants to leave out the extras when packing your take-out or delivery. No one needs all those napkins, sporks, ketchup and soy sauce when eating at home. Tell them to pack your food and be done with it.
3. If you end up with extra napkins, condiment packages or sporks, save them. I keep a Ziploc bag full in my cupboard for when I have a meal on the go.
4. Use your own cup at the coffee shop, like one of those travel mugs you can keep bringing back. It sucks that a cup used for an hour wallows in the landfill for decades.
5. When given a choice, pick soda, juice, beer and iced tea in cans or bottles over drinks in disposable cups. Recycle the bottles and cans and you’re done.
6. Or tell them to keep the straw and lid so there’s less waste. At the bar, skip the stir stick and napkin around the drink.
7. This requires true dedication to the cause and some forethought, but consider Tupperware as doggy-bag. Their FlatOut! containers collapse to fit discretely in your bag until you’re ready to leave the table, plus they have a lifetime guarantee.
8. With self-serve napkins, take only what you need.
9. Forget bottled water. Most bottled water is just purified tap water. Plus it took 1.5 million barrels of oil just to produce the bottles Americans threw away last year. And only a tiny percentage of plastic bottles are recycled.
10. Reduce and recycle when you can. For example, when I get “stand food” like Irv’s Burgers, my order comes in a paper sack. If I can keep the sauce off the bag, I can recycle it. If I don’t need a bag, I tell them to keep it.
I’m still working to reduce my carbon footprint from a big old moon boot to a tiny little Jimmy Choo sandal, and I’m nowhere near perfect with these things. Still, I guess it’s all about our little changes adding up.
Tell us how you eat green.
September 4, 2007
Village Pizzeria’s Veggie II pizza always leaves me considering the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.
Normally I’m all for ordering up the city’s rich offerings of carnivorous delights, whether a hefty brisket, slow cooked carnitas, or a juicy link — and this tiny Larchmont pizza parlor even tops their pizzas with homemade sausage. But their Veggie II, smeared with pesto and dotted with fresh spinach, mushrooms, little Lincoln logs of breaded eggplant, and garlic, is an eye-opener.
Did I mention it has garlic? Lots and lots of garlic. Aromatic mountain ranges of minced garlic. It’s the kind of dish you’d want to eat before you slay vampires.
Village Pizzeria serves pitchers of beer (think Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada), so pass your carnivore friends a frosty one before trying to make converts out of them.
Price: $$ (whole pies start around $16)
Where: 131 N. Larchmont, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Any other amazing vegetarian pizzas out there? Tell us.