Literary City Guide | Los Angeles, CA


Los Angeles, take off your sunglasses, roll your window down;
I like it when you let your hair whip into knots.
— Sandra Beasley, from "Love Poem for Los Angeles"

Tour Guide: Nicole Gulotta

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Nicole is the creator of Eat This Poem. Although born and raised in Southern California, she didn't begin to appreciate LA until moving here seven years ago. Her main gripe? Too many restaurants, too little time. Oh, and traffic, naturally. (All photos by Nicole Gulotta.)

Q&A

Relationship to LA: Southern California native and LA resident for 7+ years.

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Elizabeth Gilbert

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Gjelina's Travis Lett

Writing soundtrack: Miles Davis

Pen or Pencil: Pen

Coffee or Tea: Tea, almost always.

Paperback or Hardback: Paperback 


Good Reads


BOOKSTORES

Arcana. Located in the historic Helms Bakery complex, Arcana specializes in rare books about 20th century art and design.

Book Soup. A landmark on the Sunset Strip, Book Soup boasts frequent author signings and drop-ins from celebrity shoppers.

The Last Bookstore.  A 10,000-square-foot space in downtown LA, The Last Bookstore houses books, vinyl records, and a coffee shop. The second floor offers more than 100,000 used books, all priced at $1.

Skylight Books. A neighborhood bookstore near Griffith Park, Skylight has been supporting LA's literary scene since 1996. 

& Pens Press. This indie publisher recently opened a shop in Culver City. Stop by for everything from magazines to graphic novels. 

Traveler's Bookcase. This quirky travel bookstore is on bustling 3rd street. Pop by Magnolia Bakery or Joan's on Third for a treat to fuel your browsing.

LIBRARIES

LA Public Library. LA's Central Library started in 1844 above a saloon. The popular [ALOUD] series brings together authors, scientists, and politicians for lectures, conversations, and readings.

Huntington Library.  Probably one of the only libraries to be attached to a botanic garden, Huntington is a space to enjoy indoors and out.

Santa Monica Public Library. This beautifully designed library has indoor and outdoor seating, and lots of natural light. 

READINGS & CONFERENCES

Hammer Museum. UCLA's Hammer Museum offers year-round readings and lectures.

LA Times Festival of Books. Every April, book lovers flock to this two-day festival, one of the largest in the country.

Writers Bloc, a local nonprofit, hosts conversations with high-profile writers throughout the year. 

Bob's Espresso Bar. Every Wednesday night, writers of all genres gather at this North Hollywood cafe to participate in readings with fellow authors. 

Skirball Cultural Center. This beautiful facility hosts readings and lectures throughout the year with a diverse group of writers. From comedy to cooking, there's something for everyone. 

OTHER FINDS

Beyond Baroque. This literary arts center in Venice offers readings, free workshops, and also houses a bookstore. Its imprint, Beyond Baroque Books, publishes emerging, overlooked, out-of-print, and experimental poetry. 

The Los Angeles Times built an interactive map of literary LA, and Poets & Writers Magazine keeps a calendar of local happenings.

Literary Libations. The Wellesbourne bar serves excellent cocktails in a library-like setting with large booths, a fireplace, and book-lined walls. Hemingway's Lounge in Hollywood serves up drinks like "Hemingway's Daiquiri" and "The Sun Also Rises."

The Writers Junction. If you're a writer in need of a room of one's own, this Santa Monica facility offers a shared workspace. It includes private desks, open tables, a lounge, conference room, kitchen, and internet. They also offer classes, author readings, and writing groups. 

NoHo Lit Crawl. Literature hits the streets during the North Hollywood Lit Crawl that occurs every October. It's like an art walk, but with readings and pop up bookstores. 

Urbanic Paper Boutique. I love a good stationary store. This adorable outpost on Venice's Abbot Kinney is stocked with dreamy candles, notebooks, artful desk accessories, and curated greeting cards.


Los Angeles was the kind of place where everybody was from somewhere else and nobody really dropped anchor. It was a transient place. People drawn by the dream, people running from the nightmare. Twelve million people and all of them ready to make a break for it if necessary. Figuratively, literally, metaphorically -- any way you want to look at it -- everbody in L.A. keeps a bag packed. Just in case.

-Michael Connelly, The Brass Verdict

Good Eats


 COFFEE SHOPS

Alfred's Coffee & Kitchen. Tucked on tree-lined Melrose Place, Alfred's is designed for lingering. A large patio, cozy fireplace, and Stumptown coffee make this one of my favorite stops.

Intelligentsia. Some of the best coffee in LA can be found here. It's also on trendy Abbot Kinney in Venice, great for people watching and boutique shopping. 

The Conservatory of Coffee, Tea & Cocoa. This low-key spot is tucked away near downtown Culver City and is so unassuming you would probably drive by if you weren't looking for it. The interior is cozy, not fancy, and they take their coffee seriously (a sign reads "do not touch the roaster"). High marks for the baked goods and tea selections, too. 

Chaumont Bakery. Parisian treats like pain au chocolat await at this patisserie in Beverly Hills.  

Urth Caffe. Organic coffee, tea, and food makes Urth a popular spot with locals. There are shops all over town, including West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Downtown.

Verve. This Santa Cruz-based roaster recently opened a bright and airy shop downtown near Alma and the Ace Hotel. Street parking can be a challenge (try the lot next door for $5), but traffic stress will melt away once you step onto the relaxing patio. New locations around town are opening soon.

A PROPER MEAL

AOC. Of Suzanne Goin's many LA restaurants, AOC is my favorite. The bar is always bustling, and the relaxed, Spanish-style ambiance (complete with fireplaces), makes this the kind of restaurant you could become a regular at. Try the famous Zuni chicken, farmer's plate, and wash it down with a specialty cocktail.

Eveleigh. For any meal of the day, Eveleigh on Sunset is a favorite spot. It's a farm to table-style restaurant, and the menu has new items weekly based on what's fresh at the market.

Bestia. This downtown Italian restaurant has an unassuming warehouse exterior and a bustling dining scene indoors. You can't go wrong with much on the menu, including wood fire pizzas and inventive pastas.

Guisados. This family-owned taco restaurant makes tortillas by hand every morning, and the rich, braised sauces are heavenly. Find it in Boyle Heights, Echo Park, and Downtown. For more tacos, also try Escuela Taqueria on Beverly. With fantastic salsa, a slow food philosophy, and eclectic decor, it's perfect for a late Sunday afternoon lunch. (Bonus points for being walking distance to the LA Heath Ceramics outpost, and the newest location for Sweet Rose Creamery.)

The Golden State. They only make one burger, and they make it well. Current front runner for best burger in town.

The Tripel. A cozy bar-scene in Playa del Rey. Come prepared to get to know your neighbors (and maybe share the fried gigante beans with your new friends.) The inspired menu comes courtesy of Top Chef competitor Brooke Williamson, who recently opened Playa Provisions down the street, also worth a stop, steps from the beach. While you're there, walk to the back to check out Tripli-Kit. You'll be hard-pressed not to walk away with something special for your kitchen. 

Superba Food & Bread. Nestled on a a busy street in Venice, Superba's airy dining space is a refuge. With menu items ranging from the week's seasonal jam dripping on toast with ricotta to perfectly composed salads, it's a favorite place to linger for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If you're in South Bay, there's also a location in El Segundo. If you're closer to Hollywood/Silver Lake, head to Sqirl for a similar experience.

Superba Food+Bread Ricotta Toast

Gjelina. Another Venice hotspot, Gjelina sits on bustling Abbot Kinney (a dangerously wonderful street for shopping and eating), and offers an almost overwhelming selection of seasonal dishes to choose from. Get a pizza and a few other things to share, and if you're early, wander into some nearby shops to pass the time.

TREATS

Sprinkles. This iconic cupcake store now has a 24-hour ATM at its original Beverly Hills location. Of all the cupcakes I've tried, Sprinkles still has my favorite combination of tender cake and creamy frosting.

Kreation. Need to counteract all the sugar you just had at Sprinkles? Head down the street for an organic pressed juice. Or three.

Huckleberry. This breakfast and lunch spot in Santa Monica also tempts with handmade desserts, breads, and baked goods. It's my favorite bakery in Los Angeles. They also make a mean kale caesar salad, too. 


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Nicole's 5 Favorites


1. Favorite bookstore. I have to go with Book Soup. I love that the shelves go from floor to ceiling.

2. Favorite place to write. My dining room table. Or Alfred's Coffee.

3. Favorite museum. The Getty. It's hard to find a better view in the city. The Getty Villa in Malibu is also stunning.

4. Favorite coffee shop.  Lately I've been enjoying Intelligentsia on Venice's bustling Abbot Kinney. For a lavender cappuccino fix, I head to BrewWell in Korea Town.

5. Favorite thing about LA. There's always a new restaurant to try, museum to visit, or neighborhood to explore. LA is very neighborhood-focused. Once you settle into yours, there's no better place to be. The weather isn't bad, either.