Less Douchebags, More Parking

I love the valley! I could scream it atop the highest of Mullholland mountains!

If you are a Westsider for life, let me try to persuade you. I mean really y’all, there is more to the valley than people shooting porn- there are also a lot of people watching porn (probably because its so hot they can’t leave the house).

But I digress…

What is more “in” than being not “in”? Literally nothing. Nothing says trendy like being somewhere that isn’t trendy. Why do you think all the Kardashians and Biebers live in Calabasas where old retired people who ride horses live? Well The Valley is not a trendy Westside, reservation required, valet only, overpriced apartment, small portioned bougie-organic-grass-fed and placed in a golden box for 28 hours and massaged ’til tender and then served to you on a cut slab of rock for $54 a pop, clothes store (I have no idea what that is, I just got mad and this is what my fingers typed- I even like organic and grassfed but it just sounds stupid to request *).  The SF Valley is easy to navigate, everything is accessible, it caters to families and old people so it’s designed around comfort, you don’t have to worry about crowds, there’s a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy (stay tuned for my post on the best nature in the valley), there is endless shopping (upscale and thrift), and most importantly there are less douchebags, more parking.

There are several food and drink places strung across the valley that perfectly align with the SF Valley’s (unwritten) mission statement  of being casual & comfortable.

The Spotperfect for after 1am

17200 Ventura Blvd, Encino

The Spot is a hookah bar & lounge that is open until 3am on weekdays and 5am on weekends. Hidden in the back of the Encino Commons complex between Louise and Balboa, it is one of the original Encino hangs (it has been around for 10 years). They don’t serve alcohol so it is perfect for after hours & late night drunchies since they serve delicious appetizer sampler plates (onion rings, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks), over 40 flavors of hookah, and fresh cut coconuts to rehydrate you and take the ache out of that next day hangover.

Surly Goatperfect for date night

17337 Ventura Blvd #100a, Encino

The sister bar to the West Hollywood pub, Surly Goat Encino opened 2 years ago and is more calm in comparison to the sardine packed Friday Night situation at the WeHo location. Some nights I have been there and it is pretty slow and other nights it’s very crowded and hard to get a seat (especially when there is live music). There is pool, shuffleboard, a photo booth, Karaoke on Tuesday starting at 9pm, bar eats like tots & sliders, and reasonably priced cocktails with a wide bourbon, whiskey, & beer selection (good for date night). There is an outside enclosed patio which is nice for a daytime drink or those nighttime smokers.

Crave Cafeperfect for casual lunch

14504 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks

I’ll just say I crave the options. If your friends are never able to agree on a food genre, well Crave is open 24 hours, and has pizza, waffles, quiches, bagels, milkshakes, sandwiches, boba, burritos, salads, crepes, cakes, burgers, paninis, and even sushi (we get it – you name it they have it). They don’t serve alcohol, and it gets very busy around meal times so avoid the rush by going for a late lunch or late dinner. The salads are huge and the pizza is made fresh. You can lounge inside on couches or outside on the Ventura boulevard patio. This is the heart of Sherman Oaks so there is a lot of shopping and restaurants if you are looking to walk off your BBQ Chicken Pizza and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

El Torito Cantinaperfect for taco Tuesday

14433 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks

Taco Tuesday- duh. Every Tuesday from 2-10pm. They recently expanded their Taco Tuesday bar to include more appetizers and sides, all for the low price of $3 a ticket (which you trade in at the taco bar). On Taco Tuesdays they have karaoke in the bar, and the DJ will literally bring the mic to your table and you can sing while you stuff your face with chips and guac (it’s kind of my thing there).  At least three times I have yelled “I LOVVVE SHERMAN OAKS” to the tune of “I Love Rock & Roll” after consuming 3 v-strong cadillac margaritas.

tip: this location is huge so it is perfect for large birthday dinners and it is always a loud and fun environment

HQ Gastropubperfect for dinner & drinks on the weekend

20969 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills

This place is amazing, which is why its called HQ (“High Quality”). Designed around a music memorabilia collection & state of the art A/V equipment, this sports bar/ gastropub/ lounge opened about 2 years ago. It has a great menu that is very affordable, good music, a plethora of TV’s, great staff & service, an outdoor patio, and private rooms for events. It is also located within walking distance of three other bars, perfect for a casual bar hop.

Lakeside Cafeperfect for brunch on the weekend

16817 Ventura Blvd, Encino

This is the brunch spot of the valley (though many don’t know it). Right there on the corner of Balboa and Ventura, is a hidden gem. You can sit outside by a natural springs that is shaped like a giant guitar. It is built on Los Encinos State historic land, where some of the original structures still exist (there is a museum you can visit after lunch or while waiting for a table). A description of what was once the Fernandeno Indian village was recorded as part of the 1769 Portola Expedition, so it is full of history, and what a better place to appreciate  history than drinking endless mimosas for $14. The food is great and they have happy hour everyday from 3-6pm.

The Standperfect for casual lunch or dinner (family friendly)

17000 Ventura Blvd, Encino

A block down from Lakeside, is The Stand (which is a block away from The Spot- could we get more creative guys?) It is a “hotdog” stand in that they specialize in hot dogs (over 8 types or you can DIY), but they have everything from burgers & sandwiches, t0 salads & loaded fries. This is a peaceful place to sit outside in the shade (it’s very Austin TX with the picnic tables and string lights). They have a good craft beer and wine selection and it’s super cheap.

tip: try the fireflies they are ta-die for (warning: you will probably self combust)

The Federal– perfect for brunch or dancing on the weekend

5303 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood

The Federal bar is in an old building that used to be a security bank in the late 1800s (I am a sucker for history). They have hip hop upstairs on Thursday, and it usually turns into a pretty crazy dance party on the weekends. There is usually a $5 cover to get upstairs, but if that irks you, then the downstairs saloon is a two-bar, live music, prohibition style speakeasy which is always very busy.  My fave thing at The Federal is their “One Entree & Bottomless Mimosa” brunch which is only $20. I guess you can dance all night, and sleep in your car and come right back for brunch if that is your style (PS if it is your style, you are a real trooper and A+ for being in public at all).

I will continue to update this list as I discover more no fuss, easy going valley hangs. These are just a few of the places that I suggest when people ask me, “Wuz good in the valley?”

*Footnote- I also do love the Westside, I am just a born & raised valley girl so I definitely feel the need to defend from the haters

Hidden Philly: The Non-Touristy Guide to the OG Forefathers City

Philadelphia is one of the best kept secrets and underrated cities the US has to offer. Usually when people are going on vacation from the Best Coast, they go to NY, or Hawaii, or Florida. No one goes to Philadelphia. Why? My family is from Philadelphia, and I have been going since I was a child. I have converted many a friend into Philly Lovers, and you will be converted too if you follow my list.

Of course there are the basic touristy things to do, you have to go to the Liberty Bell, and see where the Declaration of Independence was signed. You have to run up the Rocky Steps to the Art Museum. You must go to the Franklin Institute and do a walk through of the human heart and catch an IMAX…. but Blah Blah Blah, after you do that the first day you get there, there is so much more that is kept under wraps that the normal tourist wouldn’t even give a second thought to. Here are the best things to do in Philly that the average tourist would ignore:

 Mutter Museum

Mutter

American Horror much? The new season Freak Show is based off of this oddities museum. The old antiquated display cases contain some of the freakiest and disturbing abnormalities from conjoined twins to the worlds biggest tumor. Also, part of Einstein’s brain is there as well as a wall of about 200 skulls. If you are not easily disturbed and like getting creepy vibes, go here. This is one of the best hidden gems the city has to offer. It is also where they performed separative surgery on the famous conjoined twins, Chang and Eng.

Barnes Museum

Barnes

This is not your average museum. The beautiful architecture contains an EXACT replica of Albert C. Barnes personal collection (down to the millimeter). He collected the pieces of work done by famous artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Monet (among many others), that were not well received, and now they are on display in this beautiful modern building.

Tip: Check out the documentary about Barnes called The Art of the Steal  to give you an appreciation before visiting!

Reading Terminal

Reading Terminal

If you can navigate this without going around and around in circles, props to you. On a busy day, the lanes and avenues of food shops located inside the giant old train terminal can get overwhelmingly confusing if not claustrophobic. Some cities have one signature food or good, but Philly is famous not only for Cheesesteaks, but also Italian Ice, Soft Pretzels, Water Toffee, and Italian Food. Check out Thrillists Best Terminal Food to get the idea…

Tip: Most places offer samples, you can fill up on these and get a taste of everything!

Eastern State Penitentiary 

Eastern State

Definitely one of the creepiest spots, this old dilapidated prison that was operational from 1829-1971, housed famous inmates such as Al Capone. Styled like a fortress or a castle, the dark, cold prison was built to be inescapable yet over the years people found peculiar ways to flee.

Tip: Visit during Halloween, they turn it into a haunted prison!

Magic Gardens

Magic Gardens

I stumbled upon this when I was walking down Southstreet during one of my visits. Throughout the entire city of Philadelphia you might catch a sparkling glimpse of mosaic street art installation. It is done all by the same man, Isaiah Zagar who uses all different materials from glass ware and mirrors, to urban findings like wood and bike wheels. The mothership of mosaics is brought to life with a giant walk through mosaic maze like garden that is probably one of the most mind blowing pieces of art  I have ever seen.

Tip: The artist is usually on site and you can meet and greet (he’s awesome).

Church

Church

Step inside ANY Church- there are hundreds and they are the oldest buildings in the city… Almost always open, and the architecture is awe inspiring.

NIGHTLIFE

Nightlife

Speakeasies/ Underground Clubs/ Dive Bars-

Philly has some great nightlife (but only if you know where to go)

Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. 

FM

Hidden underground speakeasy that is very small and exclusive but serves awesome drinks and “Punches” (giant bowls of alcohol) that originate in the 1920s-40s.

G Lounge

philly

Lingerie clad dancers and a 50 Shades of Grey vibe, more of the guys club, but if you get a table you are sure to have a good time.

Mac’s Tavern

macstavern

Opened by It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s own Mac (RobMcElhenney), the bar has references to the show and might even be considered a mock of  Paddy’s Pub. Located on Market street, there are plenty of bars to walk to if you do want to do some more touristy style bar crawling.

Tip: The door when you walk in says “Pirate” just like on the TV show

Dirty Franks

Dirty Franks

More of a locals bar if you want to see what that is like, cheap drinks and a version of the the city special is offered here for like $2.50 (7 oz. beer & Kamikaze shot). The City Special is a shot of Jim Beam and a PBR for $3, here is a list of the city’s bars that offer it.

Pulse (open til 4am)

Pulse

One of the late night clubs that is open til 4am, the intimate two story dance club is always fun for after hours.

Voyeur (open til 4am)

voyeur-nightclub

3 Story dance club, arena style on the top floors and pub style on the second floor. Lots of strobes, & lots of stages, smoking friendly.. Just a good time.

Tip: They usually have free hot dog stand on the lower level- a nod to their very gay friendly vibe (it is pretty much a gay dance club).

The best thing about this city, is it is a museum in itself. The whole city is populated with signs that will tell you what historical noteworthy place you are standing near. I recommend popping on some sneakers with a backpack and just follow the signs, and follow your instincts. You will understand why it is really the best city to mAdventure.

 

[This list represents not even 5% of activities there is to do- check out these other sites for more helpful info on where to go!]

Discover Philadelphia

Visit Philly

 Philly Fun Guide

The Rise and Fall of the Valley Bar Scene

I have been super happy about the new generation of lounges, bars and cool hang outs that have started to repopulate the boulevard- mainly in Sherman Oaks. Murphs, The One Up, The Woodman, Tipple and Brine, Tunnel Bar, Bow & Truss, to name a few. Actually all of these places are WONDERFUL, but as gastropubs only.

The Problem

What happened to the grungy, out all night, meeting fun people, going to a house after party, valley scene? For the most parts, these bars close down by 1am, sometimes even midnight. I talked to a manager at one of the spots who said that as soon as they have hit their goal profit for a night, or have had a good night- they close.

I get it, it eliminates the late night drunks and shenanigans that come with that (cops, puke, fights, yelling), but come one guys, what about the people?? Who remembers Smiles? That place was as close to Anything Goes as you could get… no wonder it got shut down.

The Pros

– A more mature crowd- less drunk idiots and creepers

– Delicious and well made food and drinks

-Parking that is more convenient than over the hill

-A slew of bars near each other for hopping

-GAMES! Most places feature games, either board games like at Bow & Truss, actual arcade games like at The One Up, or pool tables at Brickyard in North Hollywood

The Cons

-These places are catered to already formed groups, it seems harder to meet new people. Most bars are not set up for cross mingling and feature secluded tables or couches

-Early closing time- Most people don’t leave their house until 10 or 11 so that doesn’t give much time.

-Every bar is the same- same hipster look and same vibe (the majority)

-No dancing… forget about it- head to Skinnys for that

So boo hoo… now we have to settle for good drinks, and good food- and an early night. These hipster bars and speak easy’s that used to be a dime a dozen a few years ago now seem to be the norm. I guess we will have to get our kicks elsewhere- but I am also not 21 any more, so maybe I should just accept a more mature atmosphere and good conversation over a Moscow Mule and a Grass Fed Beef Slider Trio.

[PS This does not put an end my continual quest to find the best night adventures LA and the valley have to offer]