I can’t help myself. Whenever I go anywhere for more than a night, I have to check out my neighborhood and find out the locations of the nearest grocery store, good beer selection and cheap eats.

However, I’ve learned that when I attend conferences, even if I bring a Word doc full of beer and food recommendations, it’s rare that I get to more than one of them. Usually because I’m going along with the flow from sessions to receptions to pre-planned dinners and then convenient watering holes, and my list stays tucked away in its folder. But, I’m always prepared, and now you can be over-prepared too!

Hotel

During #asae10 I’m staying at the Westin Bonaventure in the downtown financial district at 404 S. Figueroa St. The Convention Center is about eight blocks away at 1201 S. Figueroa St. There’s a Ralphs market about six blocks away at 645 W. 9th St. If there is time to venture out of the neighborhood, the 7th Street Metro Center is only two blocks away. I’ve learned that there’s an exercise circuit on the 2nd floor, food court on the 4th, a Subway on the 6th and a revolving restaurant and lounge on the 35th. How retro!

Apparently the hotel is a modernist nightmare that’s worn and in desperate need of renovation. No big deal because there’s a brewpub, Bonaventure Brewing Company on the 4th floor. I haven’t read any decent reviews on the beer sites so I don’t have high expectations. I confirmed with the Director of Operations Suzanne Melson that they have free wifi. Beer? Wifi? My LA office! Happy hour is Monday-Friday 3:30-7:30 p.m. Their current seasonal is a Hefeweizen.

You might have flashbacks when walking into the Bonaventure. It’s where True Lies filmed the chase scene where Arnold rides a horse into the elevator.

 

Coffee & Wifi

If you can’t find free wifi in the hotel, here are some nearby places.

  • Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – 601 West 5th St.
  • Starbucks – 445 S. Figueroa St. (Union Bank), 505 S. Flower St. (Arco Plaza), 444 S. Flower St. and 400 S. Hope St.
  • 7th & Fig shopping center – few stores, several food options, open Sat 10-6, Sun 12-5, M-F 10-7

Beer

There are many sources for beer reviews (Beer Advocate, Pubcrawler and more) but I like Beermapping the best. All locations are plotted on a map so it’s easy to figure out what’s nearby. Their reviews are limited but usually thoughtful.

  • Bonaventure Brewing Company – I found a video of their patio.
  • BottleRock at 1050 S. Flower St., east of and in the same building as the Rivera Restaurant at the corner of 11th and Hope. In addition to their huge wine list, they have an extensive beer list with a dozen microbrews on tap.
  • Yard House at 800 W. Olympic Blvd. They have 100 taps, mainly American craft beer, but also Belgian, German, Czech and others.
  • Library Bar at 630 W. 6th St (6th & Hope, enter on Hope), has a large beer menu.
  • Wurstkuche at 800 E. 3rd St, has 25 beers on tap, mostly Belgian and German. They describe themselves as an “exotic sausage grill located in the downtown historic arts (warehouse) district”. The menu is in fact limited to sausage and Belgian fries, yum. I read that it’s not clearly marked so a little hard to find, but well worth the hunt.
  • If you’re in Hollywood, the Blue Palms Brewhouse is at 6124 Hollywood Blvd.

Eats

It’s true that I am usually thinking about my next meal. Here are some good resources to learn about what LA has to offer for good eating.

I like eating fresh real local food whenever possible, but I’m not against going to places that are city icons, especially when there’s maple bacon donuts involved. I had enough 5-star expensive meals in my earlier years that I’m not really interested in that anymore, something my wallet is happy about. Here are some regular places that caught my eye.

For mid-day eats, the menu at Mendocino Farms looks fantastic. Real local food. There are two locations: one in the California Plaza at 300 S. Grand Ave. (open 11-3 Mon-Fri) and one in the Citibank building at 444 S. Flower St. (open 11-7:15 Mon-Fri).

Wurstkuche, mentioned above, is on the short list too, open 11 to midnight (Sundays open at 12).

The French Dip sandwich is an LA invention. Two places claim to have invented it and have been serving it for about 100 years – Phillipe’s and Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet. Cole’s is closer to the hotel at 118 E. 6th St, a 17-minute walk according to Google.

If you have time for breakfast, The Pantry, at 9th and Figueroa, is another local institution that’s been around since 1924. Reviews are very mixed, but everyone agrees the sourdough toast is the best in town.

Redwood Bar & Grill at 316 W 2nd St., off Hill St., is said to be a bar with character and good food at reasonable prices. It used to be a Los Angeles Times hangout and still has a red phone that used to be connected to the City Desk.

How can you not want to go to a place that looks like this?

Clifton’s Cafeteria

Another LA institution, Clifton’s Cafeteria at 648 S. Broadway (near 7th) is open everyday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. It’s not “pay what you can” like it was during the Depression, but like all cafeterias, it’s cheap. And what an ambiance!

Wood Spoon is a Brazilian restaurant at 107 W. 9th St. (between Broadway and Main) that’s “not to be missed” but it’s closed Sunday and Monday.

You’re still wondering about those maple bacon donuts, huh? They can be found at the downtown Nickel Diner at 524 S. Main St., open 8-3:30 and 6-11, but closed Mondays.

One last food stop is the Grand Central Market where, in addition to the usual market fare, you can find all kinds of amazing Mexican street food. I found these directions from my hotel. Exit the hotel on the 6th floor overpass toward the YMCA, walk past the Y across Hope St., then upstairs (or escalator) across Grand, and downstairs past the water plaza to Angel’s Flight for 25-cents funicular ride down to the market’s doorstep. He recommended Maria’s Seafood’s fresh fish tacos as “the stuff of dreams.”

The Amateur Enthusiast blog recommends the intersection of 6th and Main as the place to go when you haven’t decided on anything specific but want a lot of choices. Sounds like a group from a conference, right? Cole’s of French Dip fame is there as well as a bunch of other restaurants and bars, including

  • The Varnish, 118 6th St. – he calls it the “home of the best cocktails in downtown.”
  • The Association, 110 E. 6th St., next to Cole’s – his “favorite after work spot,” and with that name, shouldn’t it be ours? It has an unmarked door that’s a replica of 10 Downing St.
  • The Edison, in an alley off 2nd near Main, has the “most dramatic setting of any bar in the entire city, and the best and most varied live entertainment in downtown.”

That should be more than enough to get you started. If you’re checking out any of the beer or food places, send me a DM or @, if I’m free, I’d love to join you. Don’t forget to check in on Foursquare so we can ask you about it later. Remember the hashtag for the conference is #asae10. Tweet out any other good finds so we can all make the most of our time in LA.

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