Gucci was onto something with its “Love Parade” runway show — Hollywood is L.A.’s most glamorous place to hang out this summer.
Once the embarrassment of the city, with seedy streets and down-on-their-luck costumed characters, Hollywood was a place that made tourists scratch their heads, and say, “Is this all there is?” But the neighborhood is finally living up to its glittery reputation as a destination actual stars want to see and be seen in thanks to buzzy new hotels, first-class restaurants, rooftop bars and private clubs, all near where Netflix and Paramount have leased office space.
On most nights women in bandage dresses, designer handbags and heels, and guys rocking Dior Jordans, can be seen sliding out of slick cars, ducking into restaurants, waiting on line for bars and sneaking puffs off of vapes.
Much of the action is centered off the seedier Hollywood Boulevard, on the side streets bordered by Cahuenga Avenue on the east and Wilcox on the west. The area is also known as the Vinyl District because of its history of recording studios, one of which is preserved as the Grandmaster Recorders restaurant.
Mama Shelter was the first new hotel to plant a flag on Selma Avenue in 2016, launched by Paris-based hotelier Benjamin Tragono, followed in 2017 by The Dream from real estate firm Relevant Group, which has put $1 billion into projects in Hollywood and downtown L.A.
“Hollywood has a unique history in the annals of L.A., and we thought if we could curate a really unique set of hotel and dining experiences we could attract a wide ranging, multigenerational and multicultural demographic,” says Dan Daley, chief executive officer and cofounder of Ten Five Hospitality and a partner at Relevant Group, which also developed The Thompson and Tommie hotels, with their popular restaurants Mother Wolf and Ka’Teen, and rooftop bars Bar Lis and Desert 5 Spot.
The Prospect Hollywood, designed in Hollywood Regency style by Martyn Bullard Lawrence, and the Godfrey Hotel are also new upscale lodging destinations.
The epicenter of the culinary scene is Mother Wolf, chef Evan Funke’s take on Roman cuisine, where the fiori di zucca fritti and tonnarelli cacio e pepe shine as bright as starry diners like Michelle Obama, Jay-Z and Beyonce, and Jens and Emma Grede.
Located in a chic, renovated Art Deco building that once housed the Hollywood Citizen News, the 10,000-square-foot restaurant is massive by L.A. standards and on weekend nights really hums.
“A lot of Los Angeles restaurants are small, quaint, chef-driven; this is very much a New York, London-style restaurant with the grandness and opulence and size of the room,” says Funke, an L.A. native who trained with Wolfgang Puck before moving to Italy to master the art of making pasta, and opening his first restaurant, Felix, on Abbot Kinney in 2017. “I knew in my gut we were going to make some noise.”
In the Thompson, chef Lincoln Carson’s French-meets-farmer’s market brasserie Mes Amis is another delicious spot, with a crudité plate that’s a work of art, a terrific raw bar and French onion burger. Cocktails with names like “Some Like It Hot” (gin, lemon, strawberry and Lo-Fi Dry) play off the glam old Hollywood black-and-white photos on the walls. Upstairs, the rooftop Bar Lis has a Côte d’Azur-inspired vibe, and a burlesque night on Wednesdays.
Around the corner at Ka’Teen, guests enter through an Instagrammable tunnel made from branches into a jungle-like oasis with a thatched roof, wicker light fixtures and plentiful palms. Chef Wes Avila serves up Yucatan-inspired fare, including tuna aquachile, vegan birria, banana leaf-wrapped heritage pork, and stiff mezcal drinks, including the Witchdoctor, which comes with its own smoldering sage stick, for a cocktail that’s also a spiritual cleanse.
Tommie’s rooftop Desert 5 Spot brings the spirit of “Stagecoach” to Hollywood, with a cowboy hat-wearing neon cactus sign beckoning, country rock inside, and a boots-and-bikinis weekly Sunday afternoon party at the pool.
On Cahuenga, Grandmaster Recorders is a rooftop bar, restaurant and the sexy Studio 71 disco rolled into one, where Anya Taylor-Joy hosts monthly dance parties. The entrance delights with boom boxes, 8-track tapes and other rock ‘n’ roll relics of the circa-1971 studio where David Bowie, Mötley Crüe, Foo Fighters, Kanye West and many more recorded.
The casual, 4,500-square-foot rooftop serves views of the Capitol Records Building, DJ beats, pizza and drinks. And the warehouse turned 5,000-square-foot dining room, helmed by chef power couple Monty and Jaci Koludrovic, features nouveau Italian food, including a Petrossian caviar cannoli appetizer that’s as decadent as it sounds, and a tiramisu made to look like a GMR vinyl record, just waiting to be cracked open. Cocktails are named after songs (“Shake Your Money Maker,” “Hard to Handle Now”).
“It’s one of those come for a meal stay for a night venues…you start on the roof, end up in the restaurant, then the Studio and you’ve done three things in one night…Or now you can start here and go to the Thompson, go to Bar Lis. You want that camaraderie and it’s all walkable,” says Grandmaster Recorders co-owner Grant Smillie.
Further west on Sunset Boulevard, in the former site of old Hollywood favorite Ye Coach & Horses pub, the modern Cal-French Horses restaurant is emerging as a next-gen Les Deux Cafes, Michelle Lamy’s ’90s Hollywood hot spot where one could go every night.
Stylist Elizabeth Saltzman is one of the regulars at Horses, which is helmed by another chef power couple, Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian, who serve a spectacular smoked salmon and caviar lavash, endive Caesar salad with breadcrumbs, Cornish game hen with warm dandelion panzanella, a Sunset Mess dessert and plenty of Vesper cocktails.
To the east, on Fountain Avenue, chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis of Bestia and Bavel fame just opened Saffy’s, a jewel box of a casual Middle Eastern eatery designed by Nicky Kaplan, in an Art Deco building in the shadow of Hollywood’s Scientology Celebrity Center. Now open for dinner, and soon during the daytime with a next-door coffee, tea and pastry shop, too, it’s the kind of place to stay awhile nibbling on shishito peppers, hummus and a knockout shawarma plate, while downing tequila-spiked cherry limeade or orange wine.
Hollywood, like the rest of L.A., also can’t get enough members’ clubs. Revamping the historic CBS radio building, Neuehouse was the first, opening in 2015. Now there are more.
On Aug. 1, David Bowd, a hospitality veteran of London’s Chiltern Firehouse, New York’s Mercer and L.A.’s Chateau Marmont, will open The Aster with his business and life partner, Kevin O’Shea, as part of their Salt Group hotel collection. This is act three for the building at Hollywood and Vine, formerly SBE’s Redbury Hotel and Paul Allen’s h club.
Bowd may have been trained by Ian Schrager, who helped usher in West Hollywood’s ’90s nightlife heyday with The Mondrian and Sky Bar, but he is positioning The Aster differently, as a hybrid 35-room hotel and club that will try to be a good neighbor to the area’s unhoused by providing excess food from its Lemon Grove restaurant to the Hollywood Food Coalition, and employment opportunities for people in transition.
“We want The Aster to be inclusive and diverse from an employment and members point of view,” he explains of the approach, which lets guests have a membership while they stay, and will emphasize programming, from volunteering to wellness. Also in keeping with the times, the rooftop restaurant and bars will have a large nonalcoholic program.
Rooms start at 700 square feet and feel residential, with dining areas and dressing rooms, which the founders envision stylists using around awards season, as well as an onsite recording studio and screening room.
On La Brea Avenue, German fitness conglomerate RSG Group, which also owns Gold’s Gyms, just opened its first upscale fitness concept club, Heimat, in a 1928 building. Across 58,000 square feet and five floors with playful California modern interiors, original artwork and graffitied staircases left over from when the building used to host raves, there are state-of-the-art fitness facilities, co-working rooms, a juice bar, spa, pool deck, and healthy Michael Mina restaurant Mother Tongue.
“L.A. is the birthplace of bodybuilding and physical fitness with Muscle Beach,” says Sebastian Schoepe, president of RSG Group, of selecting the location for the first Heimat (which means “home,” or “belonging” in German). “We wanted to create a space that changes the mind-set of ‘I have to go to the gym’ to ‘I want to go to the gym.’
“Growth has been moving east from West Hollywood and Beverly Hills because everything is pretty much done there…We saw Prizma’s apartment building going up, CIM Group building in the Sycamore District,” he says of the real estate firm developing an eight-story headquarters for Sirius XM.
One street over from Heimat, the Sycamore District on Sycamore Avenue is also home to the newish French brasserie Gigi’s restaurant, Tartine bakery, the Hideaway cocktail bar and multibrand fashion and art-filled concept store Just One Eye.
And the momentum isn’t stopping anytime soon.
On Sunset Boulevard, a $500 million, 22-story office building dubbed The Star is in development, with a curvilinear, sci-fi-looking silver dome construction that would play off the area’s other landmarks, including the Capitol Records Building and the Griffith Observatory.
After closing in 2021 because of the pandemic, the Arclight Hollywood movie theater and landmark Cinerama Dome have taken another step toward reopening by receiving approval for a liquor license.
Will retail follow in the area, meaning stores that aren’t selling souvenir T-shirts, sex toys and bongs? It could.
Opened along the Walk of Fame in 2001, the Hollywood & Highland shopping center once welcomed 25 million annual visitors. Earlier this year, it was purchased by DJM Capital and renamed Ovation. A $100 million renovation is slated to be completed by the end of August, with a new public space and new “local-driven” tenants to follow.
Mother Wolf, 1545 Wilcox Avenue, Los Angeles, motherwolfla.com.
Mes Amis and Bar Lis, 1541 Wilcox Avenue, Los Angeles, mesamisla.com; barlisla.com.
Ka’teen and Desert 5 Spot, 6516 Selma Avenue, Los Angeles, kateenla.com; desertfivespotla.com.
Grandmaster Recorders, 1518 Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles, grandmasterrecorders.com.
Horses, 7617 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, horsesla.com.
Saffy’s, 4845 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, saffysla.com.
The Aster, 1717 Vine Street, Los Angeles, theasterla.com.
Heimat and Mother Tongue, 960 N. La Brea, Los Angeles, heimat.com; hellomothertongue.com.