Some of you might wonder what the fuck an Andy-venture is. Most of you probably don’t care. It’s basically an ongoing travel column, where I’m normally stuffing my face with awesome food, better beer, ignoring the sights, and end up making a fool of myself in some way by the end of the night.
Oftentimes, I’m on my own, and that’s fine by me. If I waited for my friends to do something, or only did activities that appealed to them, I’d likely never get out of the house. Ever since I crumpled my acceptance form to the University of Washington, merely 15 minutes away from home, and took on the sojourn to an unknown, tiny town in upstate New York for college, many of my best times have come from my willingness to do exactly this. To just go, and see what my whims or instincts, or Yelp’s, Guy Fieri’s or Rick Steves’ instincts, will carry me into.
This random Saturday (Feb. 8th) in Los Angeles was one such day. I had a meeting for work (that I’m not at liberty to discuss at this time), and found myself in Hollywood on a sunny, glorious afternoon with nothing to do. The kind of conundrum people in Boston and NY wish they had right now.
I could bus back home (I’m one of the only LA residents who actually uses the infrequent, plodding and frustrating Metro system), or I could walk.
Because I didn’t really bother zooming in on the Google Map of my phone, and because I had all the time in the world (a wonderful feeling), I decided it was time to make a Joss Whedon-tinged pilgrimage, and see what happens. That led to a roughly 4.3 mile jaunt down Vine (then Rossmore), then east on Wilshire, arriving at 4121 Wilshire Blvd, hoping this location still existed.
En route, I basically stumbled through one of the richest parts of LA, including past the infamous El Royale Apartments (above), erected in 1927 by William Douglas Lee, and keeping people erect until today. Check out the view and the inside:
Here are some other neat, massive apartment buildings likely filled with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s illegitimate children. Is it me or does the first one kind of look like an insane asylum, or a corporate building owned by Max Schreck or something? The day time maybe doesn’t sell that thought.
I sped past the Wilshire Country Club, keenly aware that I was the only one walking around (and not in a luxury vehicle). I also realized that I probably shouldn’t be snapping pictures at private homes, especially since many of them have legitimate security guards watching the house 24/7. I did anyway. Here are a few places I’d settle to live in:
For whatever reason, my recurring daydream involved bumping into Seth Rogen and smoking a blunt with him. I don’t even smoke. Not sure why it didn’t include a hot older woman who was antsy at home, like a Michelle Pfeiffer type. But I’m weird.
I also imagined actually living in a house like these, and while I liked some of the architecture, even if I could ever afford it, I just don’t think LA is where I’d want to live. Of course, if I ever find myself in that position, I’d likely sell out faster than I’d last during a sexual experience with Jennifer Garner (circa ALIAS days).
If this photo wasn’t taken from an iPhone, maybe it’d look more impressive. This is the view from Wilshire. Can it get any more Hollywood than this picture? Well, add droves of tourists, an empty tour bus, a hot dog stand and a dude dressed up as a Transformer, and you’d pretty much have it.
But enough of this shit. Finally, after a long ass walk, I reached the Hyperion Hotel, the sweet exterior location of Angel, Cordy, Gunn, Fred and Wesley’s base for seasons 2-4 of ANGEL.
The base was described by production designer Stuart Blatt as “an old hotel, something [the writers] could use to evoke the past of Los Angeles and some of Angel’s history, something kind of creepy and spooky but not too dark because they didn’t want something depressing…” It certainly fit the bill, and became the most iconic location on the show, aside from Cordelia’s chest. Clearly it stuck with David Boreanaz, as the hotel was even mentioned in a season 2 episode of BONES. It also got talked up in another Whedon classic, DOLLHOUSE.
In 1999, the apartment building, the Los Altos Apartments, was listed on the National Register of Historical Places. It was built in 1925 and was used as a luxury apartment and hotel for Clara Bow, Bette Davis, Mae West, Douglas Fairbanks and a little guy named William Randolph Hearst. I mean, they’re no Angel or Fred, but impressive nonetheless. AND YOU CAN STILL LIVE IN IT. RIGHT NOW.
While I was there, soaking all this in, a guard popped out and asked if I lived there. The guy’s either an idiot (I was a sweaty dude wearing a backpack taking pictures), or more likely, was using this question to get me off the property. I left pretty soon after, instead of staking the bastard, or claiming that I used to live in the house….fifty years ago. Either way, the nerd inside me was tingly all over during this experience.
If you want to live in such esteemed company, it’s only $1,850/month for a studio. A 2 bedroom apartment could be had for up to $3,600/month. What a steal.
I thought about turning around and going back the way I came back up to Hollywood, but thankfully I wasn’t a moron, and wandered toward Koreatown (or K-Town, if you think that’s cool to say).
In the heart of it, it appeared to be only hair salons and restaurants. My afternoon’s success called for one thing: BEER.
And that’s when I stumbled upon one of the best places to get beer and fatty foods in LA: Beer Belly.
Beer Belly is one of those “nice” places that serve craft beer and “classy” ways to ingest macaroni and cheese, pulled pork and french fries. I love these places, even if they’re overpriced.
I had the Duck Fat Fries, served with Raspberry Mustard (awesome), their “Frankenstein” ketchup (maybe even better) and a couple great beers. The fries were far too salty, but still fantastic, though I couldn’t help but want more duck than the duck skin cracklins and the duck fat oil the fries were drenched in. That probably means I’m getting Death by Duck next time, which is the duck fat fries with duck confit on top. Holy hell.
Their beer menu changes daily (the bathroom had a chalkboard advertising a keg opening on a Sunday, with deals occurring until the keg ran out), and after sampling a watery Irish Red from TAPS (of Brea, CA), I settled on the Holiday Spruce Ale from Craftsman Brewing Company based in Pasadena. As one might expect, it was like sipping on a Christmas tree, and that somehow translated into me calling it a smooth, easy drinking beer in my notes. I need help.
I followed that up with Modern Times’ Lost Horizon, a double IPA from the holy land that is San Diego. The beer itself was on the verge of being one of those IPA’s that’s just hoppy as hell because it’s supposed to impress you, without much in the way of flavor, but it skated by that potential catastrophe, thanks in large part to smelling like happiness. For more of my thoughts on beer, check out Untappd.
Beer Belly would’ve demanded future visits if only for the beer….but the food. I must try their Grilled Cheese, which has 4 kinds of cheese (Asiago, Gruyere, Cheddar, Goat Cheese), topped with bacon and a heaping portion of maple syrup. I could smell it all over the place, which made me hard and disgusted at the same time.
Bree, my delightful server, also recommended the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and the beer & chipotle braised short rib. I almost came on the spot, and somehow managed to resist ordering EVERYTHING on the menu. They have deep fried pop tarts, people. Bree also bought my second beer for me, so I was in love/tricked into tipping more to make up for the “savings.” One of my other notes about the place: “I want to be inside all the waitresses.” Real classy Andy. Beer Belly rules.
Before I had settled upon Beer Belly, I discovered another place for future reference. While I said earlier I’m fine going almost everywhere alone…this demanded company. This demanded a whole night dedicated to its revelry. This demanded Leonardo DiCaprio. Check out…
CAFE JACK. I don’t know where to begin with this place. It’s been themed after the TITANIC since 2007, merely TEN years after the movie came out. But that’s better than never to put a kitschy boat in a sketchy parking lot, where one buys coffee and sushi (they have a “Jack and Rose” sushi roll). It’s gotta be a stop on a Bachelorette party, or an ironic date with a game partner, or a place to get plastered at. It need to be on everyone’s itinerary.
The reviews are mixed, as one might expect, but that hasn’t deterred me from telling everyone I know about this place, in hopes that it can kick off a bizarre bar crawl.
With a spring in my step, I walked past Biergarten, then turned around and stared at the bar for a moment. I wavered on whether or not to grab another beer, or continuing on back up to Hollywood (I had an improv show to go to)…but it was that kind of day, and I sauntered in after a few moments hesitation. Plus I past this guy, who made the decision for me:
Within moments, I realized that while trekking up Western, I had stepped in pungent dog shit, and I mistakenly brought it in with me to Biergarten. I quickly ordered a beer, and then stomped my entire body on the parking lot outside, rubbing my soles against the grass, to no avail. From there, I went to the bathroom and wiped the poop off of my shoes with paper towels, while the server was confused if I was staying or leaving. I still haven’t been able to get all of the poop off those shoes.
Needless to say, it was a fantastic entrance to a bar, let alone a Korean/German hybrid sports bar with one of the better beer menus I’d seen in LA. They have German fried rice, drunken chicken, and peanut butter sliders, apparently, but this was a beer-as-dinner sort of day.
I went with the Hop Tanker, a 9% double IPA, and it felt like heaven. If heaven gives you a hangover, an empty wallet and was from El Segundo. It had some great citrus and fruit on the tongue, while still remaining a kick in the pants.
Because I’m an idiot (and brilliant), I tried The Dudes’ Brewing Company’s Juicebox Series: Blood Orange, based out of LA (seen above). It was strong, overly sweet and thick, like the Big Lebowski fanbase, but it also kind of tasted like sweat. I was not a fan, but there wasn’t anything that I disliked about the concept.
Then I was off, to make it up to Hollywood. I got there in plenty of time to spare for the Doctor Who themed improv show that awaited me at iOwest (alumni from the entire iO program include Pete from 30 ROCK, Stephen Colbert, Andy Dick, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Dave Foley, Neil Flynn, Jon Favreau, Dave Koechner, Lutz, Jack McBrayer, Seth Meyers, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Mike Meyers, Danny Pudi, Key & Peele, Vince Vaughn, Jason Sudekis, Adam McKay, Eric Stonestreet, Glenn from THE WALKING DEAD and many more).
I started off with the aptly named Blitzen (from Faction Brewing of Alameda, CA), which was what made the Doctor Who Live! so much better than it really was. My quote for the beer: “Hell yes this is dangerous and hell yes I want all of it inside me.”
I followed it up with one of their own beers, the Blue Palms IPA, which was as bland and lame as any IPA you’ve ever had. Firestone apparently doesn’t care when there name isn’t on it. It was impressive that I could even distinguish anything at this point, but the bucket of salty pretzel balls surely helped (a bucket of salty pretzel balls ALWAYS helps, even if they burn your hand off). I was told to order the Truffle Burger next time I was there.
(Note: the next day I would randomly find myself back at the Blue Palms Brewhouse, and sampled their esteemed Truffle Burger, which was as rich and over-the-top as you might’ve expected. Not sure how much I truly loved it, but it was great.)
I finally arrived at iOwest, where I believe I had another beer while waiting for the show to start (because it was late), and talked football (GO HAWKS) at the bar with a couple folks, including a Minnesota Vikings fan and (gasp) a woman (no idea what team she was into).
I’d be lying if I said I internalized most of the show, but I still had a blast, and enjoyed the festivities, likely more because of the concept than many of the jokes. Crafting a new doctor, new companions and getting a different time period or locale every show highlights how the real show has lasted 50 years, and how an improv show based on it can last just as long.
Afterwards, it was time for another beer. Kidding: I took the bus and went sweet sleepy time. But before I did, I took a picture of the most important star on Hollywood Blvd: