FEATURES / HIGHLIGHTS

Our Guide to the Westside
Michael Anthony
9/14/2010

If it’s west of WeHo, it’s unchartered territory for many LGBTQers. But the Westside is chock-full of sexy, chic and delicious gems that are beyond fabulous. So get in that BMW of yours and head west, young man! Westside haunts rock—here are some of our favorites.
 
PLAY
 
The Santa Monica Pier, 200 Santa Monica Pier, Suite A, Santa Monica, santamonicapier.org

It’s open 365 days a year, admission is free and all the food is served fried and on a stick. What is this magical land we speak of? Why, the long-standing Santa Monica Pier, of course!

So what makes this pier so unique from other oceanic wooden extensions? Picture a place where seafood dining and kitschy shopping meet insanely talented (and just plain insane!) street performers. An old-fashioned arcade couples with carnival gaming and a historic 1922 Carousel—and there’s an interactive aquarium to boot!

But our hands-down favorite is the amusement park, boasting rides for kids from 3-103. Most notable are the Ferris wheel (which you can see from miles away) and the rollercoaster (which looks innocent but has a surprisingly stomach-churning drop midway through). If you’re looking for a place to eat, play and be merry on a budget, the Santa Monica Pier is surely the place to visit.

Santa Monica Bike Paths, labikepaths.com/SantaMon.html

Television and movies have made them a star—yes, the bike paths along the ocean at Santa Monica Beach are a famous haunt for hard bodies and everyday Joes looking to get their physical on. From blading and rollerskating to biking and jogging (heck, even pogo-sticking!), everyone on the strip is moving at a pro-cardio quick clip against a stunning seaside background.

The path is about 8.5 miles long and runs from north of Washington Boulevard to Temescal Canyon Road. Rental shops dot the trail and most offer up half and full-day rentals for the aforementioned modes of transportation; typically, a credit card and driver’s license are needed. Parking is ample along the trail and access is continuous—so you’ve got no reason not to get out there and sweat with the SoCal oldies and Westside young’uns.

Geffen Playhouse by Michael MullenGeffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., L.A. (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com

Clandestinely nestled away in the heart of UCLA’s Westwood Village is an award-winning theatrical stage: The Geffen Playhouse, an artistic hub where new works as well as celebrated favorites come together on the stage for unforgettable evenings of play.

Arguably one of the most beautiful indoor theaters in the city, everything from classical and children’s to comedic and dramatic theater, gay and hetero-centric alike, are wrestled with here—and done so consistently via A-List talents, dramatic direction and stunning sets.

The Geffen Playhouse also boasts a slew of must-experience signature events with which to see their shows: Wine Down Sundays (drink and watch!), Talk Back Tuesday (where you’ll meet the creative types behind the show), Girls Night Out (sorry, boys!) and Lounge Fridays (where cultural happy hour meets bon appétit).

Santa Monica Mtns. Waterfall Trail, 27200 Winding Way, Malibu

If you said that the Escondido Canyon and Falls hiking trail was the most beautiful in L.A., it’s guaranteed that no nature trekker would argue with you; it’s a 4.2-mile round-trip that culminates under a breathtaking 50-foot waterfall.

Getting there is half the battle, so we’ll give you the down low: “Head northwest on the PCH from Santa Monica for about 17 miles. Just past Latigo Canyon Road, you’ll see the turnoff for East Winding Way where you can park in the well-marked lot. Follow the paved road toward the mountains. It’s a little less than a mile to the end of East Winding Way. You’ll see the entrance of Escondido Canyon Park clearly marked at the end of the pavement.” Got it? Good!

Far less crowded than Runyon Canyon and almost 100 percent dog and kid free, this is a much quieter and more scenic type of city slicker hike.

Will Rogers Beach, 17700 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pac Palisades

Sometimes playfully referred to as “Ginger” Rogers Beach, this stretch of seaside sand is unofficially known as SoCal’s best gay beach. And while alcohol is not allowed on the premises, this locale is perfect for partying and R&R in equal measures. With a great surf rental and snack shop nearby, this is a waterside hangout that you can easily make a day of and never get bored.

On Sunday morning, hard-bodied gay men often take over the volleyball courts. It’s a beautiful sight to be seen—and they often invite newbies onto the team if you get that inner-jock itch (pun intended). And the best part for us? No children for miles around! We love the calm, cool and chill vibe that is Will Rogers Beach—both in and out of the water.

Muscle Beach, 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, (310) 399-2775, musclebeach.net

No pain, no gain! That’s the motto at Muscle Beach in Venice. This locale is famous for producing the world’s biggest and bulkiest slabs of man-meat since the late 1950s (the 1930s even, if you go back to its original beginnings at the Santa Monica Pier): the likes of Brad Hollibaugh, Dave Draper, Larry Scott, Danny Trejo and even the Governator himself (not to mention some of our favorite big daddy gay porn stars).

Here, anyone can play on a guest pass (about $10) but many come just to watch and relax in the local area, hoping to score the bodybuilder of their dreams; surprisingly enough, there is a pretty equal gay-to-straight ratio in the men who workout there. It’s an outdoor playground with all of the equiptment you’d find at the gym, sans cardio machines; this is truly a place to pump yourself up, not trim that waistline.

EXPLORE

The Getty Villa of Malibu, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pac Palisades, getty.edu

The perfect complement to a Pacific Coast Highway drive, the Getty Villa of Malibu is not to be missed for art-appreciating locals and visitors alike. Beautiful in its architecture and breathtaking with its views, this seaside landmark is an internationally renowned educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.

Here, you will find ancient antiquities arranged by themes, including gods and goddesses, Dionysos and the theater and stories of the Trojan War. Walks through the Villa’s Rome-inspired construction are only enhanced by the gardens, adorned with bronze sculptures, babbling fountains and lush plantings with over 300 plant species that span the globe.

Century City Mall, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (310) 277-3898, westfield.com/centurycity

When the Beverly Center’s got you down and you’ve done the Grove to death, what’s left? Why, the Century City Mall, of course! A far cry from what it once was, the multi-multi-million dollar remodel is a site for a shopper’s sore eyes—stunningly mod and oh-so-Westside posh.

All of the standard high-end haunts are here: Juicy Couture, Boss Hugo Boss, Theory, Louis Vuitton, Coach, Tiffany & Co., simplehuman, Swarovski Crystal—shall we go on? And the sit-down dining is exquisite: Pink Taco, Rock Sugar (our favorite appetizers on the Westside!), Gulfstream, Breadbar and more.

But perhaps our favorite is the world-class AMC theater (with tickets as low as $10 and assigned seating that you can pre-reserve), as well as the food court—yes, the food court! Where else can you get Lawry’s Ribs, high-end sushi, Chicago-style pizza or a Fuddruckers burger on the go?

Ryokan College, 11965 Venice Blvd., #304, L.A., (866) 796-5261/(310) 390-7560, ryokan.edu

What to do when the party ends? Ryokan College in Venice has the answer—change the world through their signature LGBT masters of arts programming for Marriage and Family Therapists. Ryokan has taught psychology for over 30 years, and its program addresses mental health practices focused, primarily but not exclusively, on the needs of LGBT children, adults and families.

Unique in its approach and groundbreaking in its methodology, the college’s 94 quarter unit program runs two years and is offered in two separate tracks: an on-campus track in West Los Angeles and then secondly as an online track using Ryokan’s sophisticated live class, audio-visual process with interactive/collaborative learning and PowerPoint presentations as topics are discussed with students and instructors in real time. If saving the world one therapy session at a time is a secret desire of yours, check out this up-and-coming Westside educational institution.

3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, thirdstreetpromenade.org

What was the first landmark you visited when you landed in Los Angeles? Well, if you’re like most who are new to La La Land, it was probably Santa Monica’s celebrated 3rd Street Promenade.

Here, shopping and dining are a given—all the typical stores abound, from the Gap to Urban Outfitters and Aldo Shoes. Eateries also come heartily—everything from La Salsa to quick pick-up pizza joints, to favorites like the Yankee Doodle and Barney’s Beanery (the relatively new Westside version).

But the Promenade is best known for its people watching—as day turns into night, street performers come out in droves. Singers of all shapes and sizes, contortionists with all types of bendability, magicians, religious fanatics and street dancers—oh my! And Santa Monica Place is now open—a shopping and dining destination—for even more eateries and shopping to choose from (santamonicaplace.com).

Venice Beach, venicebeach.com

It’s where the Beat generation was born, and today, where some of SoCal’s most fringe artistry is created: Venice Beach, an indescribable amalgamation of beachside splendor. Its undiscovered artists selling their watercolor paintings out of a van, fortune tellers begging for your palm and muscleheads strutting down the Ocean Front Walk (Los Angeles’ answer to the Jersey Shore); where acoustic musicians warble for that elusive recording contract and poets rattle off verse in off-rhyme.

Often considered a bit on the seedier side of SoCal, Venice Beach has its charms—trinket shopping, surf lessons around the clock and a slew of basketball/volleyball/shuffleboard courts are always open. So if you’re looking for a fitness-filled afternoon in the sun or a seaside stroll sprinkled with people watching, the often-imitated but never-quite-duplicated Venice Beach is surely the Westside stop-off for you.

EAT

Mastro’s Steakhouse, 246 N. Canon Dr., Bev Hills, (310) 888-8782, mastrossteakhouse.com

If the boss or a soon-to-be sugar daddy offers up “Dinner? Your call!”, Mastro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills should be the number one choice on your list. The mixed ambience of old Hollywood and Rat Pack elite meeting today’s biggest films execs and TV’s top twentysomething stars is reason enough to go. From the fresh and fabulous to the well-aged and infamous, you never know who you’ll see in this refreshingly refined eatery.

But the biggest draw is most definitely the food. Long hailed as the best steakhouse in Los Angeles (and we agree, hands down!), no slab here is left uncooked to non-perfection. With grade-A cuts of beef ranging from six ounces to a whopping 33 ounces, all carnivores, from the petite to mucho grande, will surely be sated.

Side parings include such treats as truffled cream spinach, Maine lobster mashed potatoes, twice-baked gorgonzola macaroni and cheese, a signature sorbet trio—and that’s not even including the daily specials. Need we say more? Utterly mouth-watering and well worth every moderately priced penny.

Moonshadows, 20356 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, (310) 456-3010, moonshadowsmalibu.com

It’s one of the last haunts along the PCH in Malibu, a true gem that has yet to be discovered by the L.A. mainstream: Moonshadows.
Literally on the ocean and boasting all the charm of an old-world beach cottage, the view is only paralleled by the food itself. Perfect for a weekend brunch, the menu is comprised of traditional breakfast-meets-lunch fare with a unique Cali/Nuevo/almost-French twist. On the perfect afternoon, a must-request is seating at an outdoor canopied table—and if a hearty, high-end meal is not your fancy at the moment, the deck comes alive with music, flowing champagne and the eclectic hottie elite (gay and straight beachgoers abound in equal measures) every afternoon.

Additionally, romantic first date or long-term anniversary dinners here are a must, especially during sundown; it’s one of the best undiscovered locales for an unforgettable evening—and a surprisingly reasonable price.

Overland Café, 3601 Overland Ave., L.A., (310) 559-9999, overlandcafe.com

Where I-10’s Overland exit dips down into Culver City sits a charming little diner playfully referred to as “the best high-end IHOP in Palms.”
An eclectic staff (surprisingly not all actor/model-wannabes) set the scene for a fun vibe, while the often raved-about food (mostly classic American comfort, with healthy options available if you’re into that sort of thing) makes the experience grade-A+. Reminiscent of an off-the-beaten-path San Fran eatery, we just love the O-Café—the food is more than reasonably priced and vegetarian options abound.

But the absolute best thing about this mom-and-pop haunt? AYCD champagne during Sunday brunch—yes, folks, ALL YOU CAN DRINK for about $5! So, if you’ve got a lackadaisical Sunday on the books, one for a hearty breakfast chased with surprisingly great tasting bubbly, the Overland Café is a must dine.

Café Del Rey, 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, (310) 823-6395, cafedelreymarina.com

Find out where the locals dine and you’re guaranteed to unearth a culinary delight—Café Del Rey is no exception to that rule. Long a favorite of the boaters, dockers and other local seafaring folks, this fine dining restaurant is truly seasonal Mediterranean cuisine at its best—especially when paired with its unparalleled wine and beer list.

Helmed by Executive Chef Jason Niederkorn, Pacific Rim meal favorites include Kumamoto oysters in a citrus-ponzu sauce, steamed mussels in a butter pesto, seared ahi chirashi rice, a prawn/lobster “black spaghetti” and their most raved about truffle pizza. And don’t underestimate their steak and meat selections—the best you’ll find in the marina—all at reasonable “nice sit-down dinner” prices. An elegant gem with a rockstar staff, the Café Del Rey is culinary artistry at its most delicious with a waterscape view to match.

Diddy Riese Cookies, 926 Broxton Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-0448, diddyriese.com

For the first time ever, poor college kids have got it right! Serving the Westwood area since 1983, the small Diddy Riese Cookies storefront has been sating sweet-tooths with a delectable smile. With mouth-watering cookies coming at a mere three-for-$1 and three-layered ice cream sandwiches at a bargain $1 (yes, that’s one single dollar!), the line out the door is perpetually long—but well worth the wait.

Ten varieties of freshly baked cookies meld with twelve flavors of Dreyer’s Premium Grand ice cream in a “make your own sandwich” sort of sweet-treat heaven. But never fear, anti-cookie lovers (if any of you actually exist out there)—a brownie menu and brand-new Hawaiian shaved ice selection (all offered a la mode) are whipped up fresh and ready to go.

PARTY

Q’s Billiards, 11835 Wilshire Blvd., West L.A., (310) 477-7550, qsbilliardclub.com

All gayed out? Well, check out one of our favorite Westside hetero haunts: Q’s Billiards. As the namesake hints, pool playing is offered up in droves—but there’s also a great neighborhoody dinner menu (think Cheers with a deep-fryer) and an insane number of TVs, all playing various sporting events. Open late, week nights are pretty chill, while the weekends are extremely packed. If you don’t like drunk UCLA sorority girls on the hunt for their next big mistake of a man, avoid this hotspot Thursday through Sunday.

Perfect to host a that’s-so-not-gay dinner or event, or just a great place to get away with your honey and play solids and stripes, Q’s is truly Westside play at it’s most hetero-heavy yet gay-friendly.

The Dolphin Bar, 1995 Artesia Blvd., Redondo Beach, (310) 318-3339, thedolphinbar.com

A gay bar in Redondo Beach? Yes, it’s true—The Dolphin is a haunt that mostly only locals know about, yet is a stellar time worth sharing with all. It is best known for its Karaoke Thursdays and Sundays. As we found out on a recent trip, the resident DJ downloads any karaoke tune you’d like from iTunes on the spot—so whatever your musical fancy, it’s probably on the shuffle.

The charmingly seedy drinkery brings in a mixed gay male crowd: from jock beachgoers in for the weekend to delicious old-school locals. The bar is split into two areas, an indoor section for the singing and dancing and an outdoor patio for heavy smoking and debaucherous drinking. Much more Silver Lake than WeHo, but still SoCal enough to trump Middle America, The Dolphin Bar is a good time when you want to go where no one knows your name!

Roosterfish, 1302 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 392-2123, roosterfishbar.com

Considered one of the only “real” L.A.-adjacent gay bars outside of WeHo and Silver Lake, this charming dive is beachy enough to make for a great change of scenery, but also fabulous enough for a gay ol’ time.

With a pool table, dart board and eclectic jukebox, Roosterfish is somewhat reminiscent of a small town Midwest watering hole but populated with manly men and the occasional gaggle of wayward WeHo twinks; the small haunt is packed on weekends and generally well-attended most week nights as well. Located in the party-centric Abbot Kinney district, the drinks come strong and the prices are anything but “typical gay bar”—rock bottom, some as low as $3. Just how we like it!

TAKE TO THE STREETS

The 2010 Abbot Kinney Festival is fun, fabulous and FREE!

To eat, drink and be merry; it’s our god-given right! But most of the time, that deserved revelry comes at a pretty penny. Not this time of year—once again fun comes fabulously free at Venice’s 26th annual Abbot Kinney Festival on Sunday, Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Long a favorite event of Socal-ers far and wide, it is one of the area’s most popular community events, a grassroots tradition with artistic and eclectic flair. Held along a one-mile stretch on the well-partied Abbot Kinney Boulevard, this year’s festival reaches to new heights and is set to include over 400 arts and crafts exhibitors; everything from jewelry to home goods, clothing and high-end pet must-haves will be up for sale. If you’re a shopper that’s simply got to have the latest in bohemian stylings, this is one-stop consumerism not to be missed.

Three live music stages are set to entertain, spanning a wide range of harmonious tastes: Dam-Funk & Master Blazter, Voxhaul Broadcast, Abe Vigoda, Kenneth Pattengale and Crystal Antlers—as well as 16 other acts and counting. New bands are constantly being added to the roster—so, who knows—your favorite indie rockstar may be making an appearance!

Food and drink are a must-indulge at events like these, and the Abbot Kinney Festival does not disappoint. Not one or two, but three food courts are on hand with award-winning local fare, and two beer gardens are opened and ready to intoxicate, featuring Fat Tire and Hoegaarden. All complement the eclectic mix of over 100 boutiques, coffee houses, restaurants, salons, art galleries and nightclubs located along the Boulevard.

Also, new this year is the hot-off-the-press KidsQuad and Food Rendezvous. At the Quad, healthy snacks for the young’uns will flow aplenty while promising an afternoon of entertainment overload; there will be an exotic wildlife mobile exhibit, children’s gardening station, jewelry making and Tot Lot, a performance/activity area just for toddlers.

To explore a new area with adult flair, the Food Rendezvous promises to pack a culinary punch. This gathering of chow lovers features tastings, demos, displays and talks by local artisans, chefs, farmers and food writers, some of which you surely know and love either by face or byline. And to end the day with a gay twist, the infamous watering-hole Roosterfish is clandestinely nestled on the Abbot Kinney strip—right in the middle of the action!

Whether it’s eating, drinking, craft shopping, dancing, getting physical or just plain people-watching, one thing is for sure—the 2010 Abbot Kinney festival is a fun, fabulous and free way to spend your Sunday afternoon!

Abbot Kinney Festival, Abbot Kinney Boulevard (between Venice Boulevard and Main Street)
Sun., Sept. 26, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. — Free admission, all ages welcome.
abbotkinney.org

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