It’s 2am on a Tuesday and I’ve just eaten the best goddamn cheeseburger of my life. Some mad genius has decided to put smoked pork on an already-decadent patty, and the pairing is so good I want to kiss them on the mouth.
I’m at Alma – the chic 24-hour diner downstairs at my hotel – and that genius is chef Ari Taymor, who recently took over all food and beverage here at West Hollywood institution The Standard. This is the place you stay when you want to immerse yourself in the West Hollywood – or WeHo – lifestyle. And for the next 48 hours that’s exactly what I’ll be doing, except without any of the bikes, hikes, celebrity spin classes, or $150 massages I endured on my last visit here in 2013. This time it’s all about the four Bs: booze, burgers, barbers and bands. In other words: all the bulls**t your basic bearded bloke likes.
Burgers & Booze
Starting my day poolside at The Standard is not the worst decision I’ve made here. It may be tiny (by resort standards anyway), but what it lacks in meterage it certainly makes up for in people-watching. It’s at The Standard – or the nearby Mondrian, with a pool deck you might recognise from Entourage – where you encounter some of the most Hollywood people to ever Hollywood.
Like the two Instagram influencers taking selfies non-stop for 45 minutes on one of the pool’s coveted pink lilos. Or a heavily tattooed glamour model and her handbag boyfriend posing poolside, and taking selfies. Or a group of the most impossibly good looking tourists from the UK playing table tennis, and taking selfies.
The menu here is inspired by the classic American country club, and while table service – from some of the coolest waiters you’ve ever seen in your life – takes forever, their take on the classic Mai Tai is suitably tropical and best served with some kimchi nuts.
For more people watching, head over to The Butcher, The Baker & The Cappuccino Maker in a very fancy section of West Sunset Blvd. Here you’ll find house-made pastries, house-roasted coffee, lite house music, and a Michelin starred chef. Grab one of the outdoor tables on their street-facing patios and you’ll see West Hollywood’s elite in full flight, generally accompanied by a dog. Another thing you should know about WeHo: Every dog is cute and shoved in a bag – even the ugly ones.
It’s 11am and I should really be ordering something from the breakfast menu, but I’m a bearded bloke so YOLO. I order the crispy chicken burger, which is nicely spiced, extremely fattening and topped with a super sweet slaw. If you’re after a more healthy, plan-based lunch option, Gracias Madre on Melrose satisfies vegans, carnivores and cocktail lovers alike. Its Mexican-inspired menu features meat substitutes like tempeh chorizo and coconut bacon that will make you forget what the OG versions tasted like.
If you’re heading to Gracias Madre for lunch, spend some time taking in all the galleries and expensive furniture stores WeHo’s design district has to offer. A short walk from Gracias Madre is Art Angels, a contemporary gallery that has regular exhibitions and inventive and unique art you can maybe afford. Just down the road is Leica, with a camera shop downstairs and an exhibition space upstairs that’s open to the public and free. And of course there’s the world famous Pacific Design Centre, a design mecca, which houses showrooms, gallery spaces and restaurants.
Books, Barbers & Boatloads Of Records
The best way to get around West Hollywood is Uber – or you could just walk and take in the towering billboards that dot Sunset Blvd. Just a short walk up Sunset is WeHo institution Book Soup, which has a wide and eclectic selection of books lovingly curated by staff. This is especially great for bearded blokes – who appreciate “authenticity” and “tangibility” in an increasingly digital and disposable world. Which brings me to another thing bearded blokes like: Records.
While Amoeba – just a few blocks further down Sunset – is technically outside WeHo’s borders, do not let geography get in the way of LA’s ultimate record buying experience. From the second you walk into this vinyl paradise, you’re hit in the face with the musty scent of thousands upon thousands of records catering to any weird musical kink you may have.
For a more contained recording buying experience head to The Record Parlour on Selma Avenue, which has a great selection of rock, jazz and soul. Mr Musichead on Sunset isn’t a record store, but a gallery devoted to iconic rock art and photography.
And where else but West Hollywood can you get your haircut on the site of a club that once featured The Doors as its house band? Like A Gentleman – housed in the former London Fog nightclub – is a slick and serviceable barbershop that’s pretty proud of its storied rock past.
Booze, Bands, More Burgers & Bed
There’s a pretty high turnover for restaurants in WeHo, primarily due to the fickle nature of a clientele obsessed with being on-trend. That said, Night + Market has found an inventive way of bucking that trend. Spoiler alert: They changed their name.
Chef Kris Yenbamroong is still churning out the authentic Thai delicacies of his family restaurant Talesai, but with modern touches like an eclectic wine list, clever twists on old favourites like pork satay cooked in condensed milked, and a Spiked Tea cocktail with Kraken rum. Added bonus: LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy is a frequent diner here.
If you’re after something more hip, but less authentic, head to The Church Key, with its playful take on fusion food; or Laurel Hardware, a chic “new American” restaurant hidden behind the façade of an old hardware store.
For post-dinner kick-ons you’re really spoilt for choice. The remnants of West Hollywood’s sordid rock past are still alive and kicking on the Sunset Strip – and you can see LA’s best up-and-coming acts and touring indie bands most nights at The Troubadour, The Roxy, The Whiskey A Go Go, The Rainbow and various other places you’ve read about in Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt. The Troubadour, with its black leather booths and an intimate 300-person capacity, is still one of the best places in LA to see a band.
After something a bit different? Head to the famous Comedy Store, right across from The Standard on Sunset, where literally every comedian worth their salt has played. This is the place where David Letterman and Jay Leno would test their material and that tradition continues to this day. It’s an ordinary Wednesday night and I’m watching Community’s Joel McHale and Chappelle’s Show co-creator Neal Brennan top a bill of young comics for $5USD. (OK, so there’s a two drink minimum here, but you were going to order two drinks anyway, right?)
While last drinks are usually called in LA around 1.30am, late night dining options are endless. You can head to a revamped Mel’s Drive-In for all-day breakfast or a plate of short-rib sliders, or head back to Alma for your second cheeseburger in 48 hours, washed down with a kimchi bloody Mary that you just barely snuck in before 2am. This bearded bloke needs bed.
(Lead image: Visit West Hollywood)
Some of the author’s costs were covered by Visit West Hollywood.