Post Academic

The Post Academic Guide to L.A. for MLA: Part 1, Downtown

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on January 6, 2011
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In an effort to be helpful without being (too) snarky, we at Post Academic want to offer up a semi-local guide to L.A. for MLA.  We’ve been following the #mla11 tweets about folks grabbing food between sessions, and we wanna make sure you’ve got more choices than the monstrosity that L.A. Live apparently is.  A couple of caveats: One, I’m pretty much allergic to alcohol so I’m not much help with bars, though I’m guessing most of MLA’ers are subscribing to the tradition of the hotel lobby drink and the cash bar circuit.  Two, I’m not super-familiar with Downtown; for more recommendations, check out the LA Weekly restaurant guide.  Three, you could just do the typical touristy stuff if you have time–like find your way to the beach, go see Hollywood, Beverly Hills, etc.–and that would be fine too.

"Walt Disney Concert Hall" by Carol Highsmith (Public Domain)

But like I said, I think we can come up with some more choices than L.A. Live or room service, even if it means you need to take a cab or bum a ride.  We’ll start with downtown now, then cover some sites of interest that’ll definitely require a car tomorrow, once you’re starting to feel a little stir crazy stuck at the convention.  For exact locations, click on the links to the sites’ sites.

Stuff within Walking-Shuttle-Short-Taxi Distance

Mexican Food!: There are two Los Angeles institutions within walking distance.  If you’re staying at the Bonaventure or up that way, there’s Border Grill’s downtown outpost.  Foodies will know that Border Grill is a pioneering gourmet Mexican food.  Closer to the convention hub is El Cholo, which specializes in hearty, greasy, yummy Mexican classics.  You know, just what you want right before an interview or giving a paper at a session.

Downtown Walking Tour: After eating the heavy Mexican food, you could check out some of the interesting architectural sites downtown, from the Bonaventure (made theoretically famous by Jameson’s Postmodernism) to Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.  In particular, walking around/through/inside/on top of Disney Hall is really fun, actually better than taking in a performance, since the seats feel tight and the decor looks 80s.  Plus, you can feel like your on the set of some of your favorite L.A. movies, whether it’s L.A. Confidential at City Hall or Blade Runner and Die Hard near the deserted skyscrapers or the random greenspaces of (500) Days of Summer.

Chinatown: You won’t be able to walk there and it can seem quiet after dark, but L.A. Chinatown is a nice combination of kitschy and hip.  You can grab on-the-go pastries and Boba tea at various bakeries or take some time and have dim sum.  Phoenix Bakery has always looked pretty cool, though I’ve never been there.  Late night, there’s a fun live-band karaoke bar called Grand Star Jazz Club.  And if you don’t want Asian food, nearby is Philippe’s, The Original, the self-proclaimed home of the French Dip!

Little Tokyo: A little bit closer to convention central, but probably not all that walkable is Little Tokyo.  The blocks around Little Tokyo are really walkable and offer up lots of good food choices, like sushi, ramen, and lots of frozen yogurt.  There’s also some two great museums worth spending some time at: the Japanese American National Museum and the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. (There’s also the main MOCA across the street from Disney Hall on Grand, but the Geffen Contemporary is more fun, I think.)  The Japanese American National Museum includes the must-see internment camp barrack, along with interesting permanent and rotating exhibits.  The Geffen Contemporary houses a lot of hip exhibits — in the past, it featured the big Murakami show and Gregor Schneider’s Dead House U R installation.  And apparently there has been a big brouhaha about some graffiti art that was commissioned by MOCA, only to be whitewashed.

Food Trucks: What would a trip to L.A. be without sampling its latest, greatest food innovation, the food truck.  And as luck would have it, the grandaddy of all food truck, Kogi truck, will be serving pretty close to MLA at 9th and Hope for Friday dinner, 6:30 PM to 8:30.  Unfortunately, some of my other favorites — Grilled Cheese Truck and reality show stars Nom Nom Truck — aren’t headed to downtown.  But a lot of trucks congregate in the same area, so maybe you’ll find some others near Kogi.  Otherwise, check out the Roaming Hunger LA site, which has a real-time map of where the trucks are, provided you’ve been able to figure out the downtown landscape well enough.

Tomorrow, we’ll give you some suggestions for some fun destinations you can head to, if you can spare a few hours away from MLA or if you want to celebrate finishing your interviews.

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