When it comes to seeing the actual neighborhood of Hollywood, most visitors wander the boulevard, stare at the sidewalk stars, browse the cheap souvenir shops, take a sightseeing tour and miss the heart and soul of the place entirely.
It is possible to experience it like the locals do, but visitors must avoid the slow-moving sea of humanity on Hollywood Boulevard. Here are five places to skip the tourists and crowded sidewalks, and become a part of the local crowd.
Finished in 1914 as a private residence and showplace, Yamashiro has been, through the years, a mansion, a boys’ military school, a members-only club for golden- age Hollywood elite and today sits as a restaurant and hotel. While tourists eat sushi at a high-end joint on Hollywood and Vine and pay too much for an upscale name, you’ll be gazing at the koi in the garden pond that mixes nicely with the Hollywood Hills set. If nothing else, head up for a drink and the vista. With its crowning location at the tip-top of the hill on Sycamore Avenue, it offers enchanting views of the Los Angeles basin.
2. The High Tower Stairs
The Hollywood Heights micro-neighborhood of High Tower Court is perhaps best known for its role in the film The Long Goodbye. But for residents, it is known as a serious workout.
One of a few hill neighborhoods in Los Angeles inaccessible to cars, it is a maze of pedestrian streets and stairs that the primary architect, Carl Kay, said was modeled after hillside-clinging Positano in Italy. Kay built the private elevator — the High Tower — circa 1920 because his wife got tired of climbing all the stairs. Meanwhile, tourists will be at Runyon Canyon, the park to the east that is open to dogs, where it’s crowded, noisy with chatter and smells of doggy waste.
3. Mashti Malone’s
Don’t let the questionable exterior of the grungy two-story strip mall scare you it does most tourists; the ice cream served at Mashti Malone’s is the perfect treat for a hot day in L.A. The franchise was launched 30 years ago when two Iranian brothers — one named Mashti — bought an ice cream shop on La Brea Avenue called Mugsy Malone’s, but couldn’t afford to replace the whole sign. With flavors like saffron, orange blossom with pistachios, lavender and rosewater, the place is a favorite local destination for a cool taste of the Middle East.
4. Tiago Coffee Bar
Admittedly, you will find a couple of tourists in Tiago Coffee Bar + Kitchen. But they’re only the European ones who’ve sniffed out the best coffee in the neighborhood — perhaps in all of Los Angeles. Owned by an Argentine who really knows his beans, Tiago prides itself on handcrafted, authentic coffee, often in the European style, that comes in just one size option. Even a regular cup of joe is made to order, so don’t be impatient. But do try a cappuccino — it’s one of the best outside of Italy.
5. The Musso & Frank Grill
The lack of tourists in Musso & Frank on an average night is perplexing because of its location right on Hollywood Boulevard. Perhaps because it is on the end of that famous stretch that caters to local nightlife and not the busloads of tourists down the street staring at the Chinese Theater, it is essentially a neighborhood hangout.
Opened in 1919, the Grill has seen every incarnation of Hollywood, both the neighborhood and the “biz.” It is still possible to sit in Charlie Chaplin’s favorite booth and watch — discreetly — as modern A-listers slink in through the back door. Much of the staff have worked there for decades, and if one is old enough, the martinis are tops. Just don’t ask the bartender to shake it.