This must be Mid-City
The 3.5-square-mile neighborhood — extending from Robertson Boulevard on the west to Crenshaw on the east, Pico Boulevard to the north and the 10 Freeway to the south — is centrally located, diverse and walkable. Not only does it take about 20 minutes to get anywhere from Mid-City but the parking is plentiful, unlike other parts of L.A. (looking at you, K-town).
Get to know Los Angeles through the places that bring it to life. From restaurants to shops to outdoor spaces, here’s what to discover now.
Where else can you walk to two different Targets, multiple grocery stores and several fitness studios all within a 3-mile radius? (And that’s just on Mid-City’s stretch of La Brea Avenue!)
The historically Black and Latino neighborhood features notable L.A. landmarks including the world’s first LGBTQ+ synagogue, Beth Chayim Chadashim, and the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, which was built on the grounds of the former Ebony Showcase Theatre. The local post office is named after Ray Charles, who had his recording studio and offices in the neighborhood. And many of the area’s popular businesses, including Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken, Pip’s on La Brea and My 2 Cents are Black-owned.
Located midway between downtown L.A. and the Pacific Ocean, Mid-City was a key junction of the electric railways until service ended in 1963. The notoriously redlined neighborhood began to gentrify in the early aughts, though efforts to revitalize the area, buoyed in part by the construction of the Midtown Crossing shopping center, were hard-won.
Many now-defunct Mid-City businesses live on in the hearts of its residents: World on Wheels, the skating rink once saved by Nipsey Hussle, closed its doors for good during the pandemic. Jewel’s Catch One, the iconic Black LGBTQ+ disco, changed owners in 2015. And the long-standing Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n Waffles outpost on Pico Boulevard closed its doors and moved down La Brea to a new location.
Today, Mid-City continues to evolve as the neighborhood’s plethora of auto body shops and strip malls give way to luxury high-rises. In recent years, a shopping center was erected on La Brea between San Vicente and Pico boulevards, housing a Target, Michael’s and Sprouts Farmers Market. And with the new Wilshire/La Brea Purple Line station, slated to open next year, the area will be more easily accessible than ever.
In a place like L.A. where convenience is at a premium, more eyes are turning to Mid-City. And for good reason.
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What's included in this guide
Anyone who’s lived in a major metropolis can tell you that neighborhoods are a tricky thing. They’re eternally malleable and evoke sociological questions around how we place our homes, our neighbors and our communities within a wider tapestry. In the name of neighborly generosity, we included gems that may linger outside of technical parameters. Instead of leaning into stark definitions, we hope to celebrate all of the places that make us love where we live.
Catch a groove at the C Spot
The studio also hosts pop-up workshops — including a recent “Thriller” choreography workshop taught by Kim Blank, one of Michael Jackson’s original backup dancers — and a wild-card offering called Feature Friday, in which novice instructors are given an opportunity to teach and admission is just $5 for students.
Owner Susan Seletsky, a former lawyer for the U.S. Department of Labor, opened the C Spot following the loss of her partner of nearly 30 years. “Her death was devastating, and the COVID isolation made it even worse,” she said. “Dancing kept me going.”
Whether you’re a seasoned dancer or looking to try it for the first time, the C Spot has a class for your level and interest. “There are classes designed especially for adult beginners or people returning to dance after many years,” said Seletsky, who recommends Broadway Baby, Dance 101 and Hey, That’s My Jam for newbies. And aside from dance choreography, the studio offers dance-based follow-along fitness classes like Plyojam, Dance It Out and Cardio Dance Fusion for those who want more of the cardio and less of the memorization.
I took an open-level ballet barre class with instructor Angelina Meany and, despite having something of a dance background, I was sufficiently humbled. My tendus weren’t quite on time, but it was an intriguing challenge and one I found worthy of dedicating more practice to.
Pro tip: Whatever class you come for, stay for a bite at Tacos La China, the taco stand that sets up shop just steps from the studio’s front door.
Fill up on sides at Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
The Memphis-style chicken is hand-breaded and made to order from a 60-year-old recipe originated by Napoleon “Na” Vanderbilt. He and his wife, Maggie, first began serving their signature fried chicken to the small community of Mason, Tenn., under the name Maggie’s Short Orders in 1973. The business was eventually inherited by Na’s son Vernon “Gus” Bonner, who renamed it Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Fried Chicken in 1984 and expanded to include locations across the Deep South and Midwest.
Served with a slice of white bread, Gus’s fried chicken is most notable for its thin batter. Rumored to be cornstarch-based, the thinner batter assumes a texture more akin to a potato chip than the Colonel’s crispy flour crust.
While the fried chicken at Gus’s gets all of the praise, the restaurant’s sides are just as noteworthy and delicious. The sweetness of the sides (including mac and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and collard greens) is designed to offset the spiciness of the chicken. Just be sure to save some room for dessert: The pie selection includes chess, chocolate chess, sweet potato, pecan and coconut chess slices.
Stop for a miso-glazed salmon bowl at Paper or Plastik
The family-owned business, led by husband-and-wife duo Anya and Yasha Michelson and their kids Marina and Max, is open daily between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and features a rotating menu of seasonal specials alongside regular sandwiches, salads, bowls and breakfast plates. Grab a seat on the mezzanine and people-watch as you nurse a Golden Pot, the cafe’s turmeric elixir featuring almond or oat milk.
The cafe also offers signature breakfast beverages including lavender, rose, matcha, maple and vanilla bean lattes, as well as your standard coffee fare. Early risers, check out the cafe’s croissant breakfast sandwich, which features chile oil and avocado atop scrambled eggs and bacon. In the mood for lunch? The miso-glazed salmon bowl is a treat at any hour.
Get a massage you'll be dreaming about for days at Sparadise
The nondescript massage parlor, which has been in operation since 2010, offers one of the best deep tissue massages in the city for under $100. Not only do the masseurs take their time to get out every knot but they also incorporate deep stretching, nimbly popping joints for a sensation that hurts so good and leaves patrons feeling absolutely refreshed.
In need of gentler healing? Sparadise also offers signature, Swedish, Thai, hot stone, aromatherapy, combination and CBD oil massages. Even better, the massage parlor (which operates daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.) offers walk-in appointments for those in need of some post-work(out) recuperation.
Sample inventive teas and French toast bread pudding at Undergrind Cafe
Owned by Cordon Bleu-trained chef Rachel Sazon and her husband, Ron, the restaurant favors a Pepto Bismol-esque hot pink hue that adorns its walls, lids and drink sleeves.
The best cafes are equally adept at crafting small plates as inventive beverages, and Undergrind is no exception: With an expansive breakfast menu encompassing breakfast burritos, scrambles and sandwiches as well as a lunch menu full of melts, wraps and salads (not to mention gumbo and mac and cheese offerings), there’s something for everyone.
Opened daily until 4 p.m., Undergrind is the perfect place to stop by for a quick snack and sip. Check out the Purple Rain tea latte made with lavender tea and vanilla bean. Have a sweet tooth? The restaurant’s French Lover breakfast plate features French toast bread pudding with an option to add on fresh seasonal berries.
Enjoy a show at the intimate Nate Holden Performing Arts Center
The professional Black theater company was founded in 2007 by Mid-City native Wren T. Brown and has produced plays like “A Raisin in the Sun” (directed by Phylicia Rashad), “Crowns,” “The Gospel at Colonus” and a staging of “Paul Robeson” starring Keith David. ERT also has presented productions featuring local dance companies such as JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble, Contra Tiempo and Viver Brasil.
The $8-million theater’s mission is to “create, develop, nurture and sustain a world-class professional theater rooted in the experience of the African diaspora,” said Gayle Hooks, the company’s managing director.
Built on the site of the historic Ebony Showcase Theatre, which was irreparably damaged in the 1994 earthquake, the NHPAC features a 400-seat theater along with restaurant and retail spaces. David Letterman has appeared on its stage, as have Jay-Z, George Clooney, Vice President Kamala Harris and Mayor Karen Bass.
Devour carne asada tacos and a coconut horchata at Sonoratown
The restaurant’s mesquite-grilled carne asada tacos, served on freshly made flour tortillas handmade with lard on a special press brought over from Mexico, have been featured on an episode of Netflix’s “Taco Chronicles” series. “They are diaphanous, ephemeral things, intended to be eaten right away,” said Feltham in an interview with L.A. Magazine.
Last year, Sonoratown — named in homage to L.A.’s historic Mexican neighborhood that once stood near present-day Chinatown — expanded to include a second location in Mid-City at the intersection of San Vicente and Hauser. Whichever location you choose, be sure to pair your order with an agua fresca — the coconut horchata incorporates four types of coconut (cream, milk, water and meat) for a result that’s as refreshing as it is tasty.
Browse the shelves — and expand your knowledge of the Spanish language — at La Librería
The store’s catalog, thousands of books strong, features imported books from Latin American and Spanish publishing houses. The store’s mission is to help libraries, school districts and individual schools across the country beef up their Spanish-language book collections to make them more accessible to kids. “The majority of our business right now is supplying bilingual and Spanish books to dual immersion programs across the country,” said employee Maria Guerra.
La Librería’s shelves are stacked with pre-K through 12th-grade-level books for children and young adults along with YA classics and contemporary stories by authors such as Gilles Barraqué and Amaia Arrazola. “The high-quality editions in our catalog reflect the rich culture and history [as well as] the ethnic and linguistic diversity of Spanish-speaking countries and communities,” reads the store’s website.
“I studied Chicano studies at UCLA, so I know the history of Spanish being prohibited as a functioning language in the U.S.,” said Guerra. “For me, this is a big part of reclaiming Spanish and promoting its value.”
The store also hosts cultural events with writers, artists and musicians and partners with organizations aligned with promoting Spanish literacy in America.
On weekends, don’t expect to find a quiet corner to curl up with a book; the store caters mostly to families. “The store does cater to younger audiences,” said Guerra. “But we’re also seeing a lot of young adults and a lot of people who are reclaiming Spanish as a heritage language.”
Stock up on pro-level cooking gadgets at Surfas Culinary District
Founded in 1937 by Les Surfas, the family-owned and -operated company (now led by Les Jr. and his wife, Diana) began as a food service industry supplier operating out of an abandoned DTLA garage. The business would expand to include gourmet products, specialty ingredients and an in-house cafe.
Over the past 40 years, Surfas has bounced around several Culver City venues before settling into its current digs in Arlington Heights (a second outpost is located in Hot Springs, Ark., where Diana is from). The 12,000-square-foot Washington Boulevard showroom has offerings to suit everyone from restaurateurs to more casual foodies. And its test kitchen regularly hosts cooking lectures, lessons, book signings and food program filming.
But Surfas is worth visiting for its cafe alone: Order a sandwich (the Diestel turkey panini is a particular favorite) and a coffee and enjoy the sunshine in the outdoor seating area. Or peruse the cafe’s new burger menu. With Kobe beef, lamb, turkey and veggie offerings, there’s something to suit every diet and preference.
Grab dinner at My 2 Cents LA (which counts Obama as a fan)
Reynolds, a classically trained chef (and rare Black woman host of a food travel series with Hulu’s “Searching for Soul Food”), got her start in the industry in the late 1990s with her first restaurant, Silver Lake Italian bistro Paio. Her second outing is a “hub of love” that features perhaps the best shrimp and grits in all of L.A.
“As an L.A. native, I knew my locals loved flavor, conscious comfort food and a vibe,” she said in the final episode of her Hulu series. “This is how my concept of evolved nostalgia took shape. I called it My 2 Cents because it’s my opinion. Plus when I got the spot, I only had two refrigerators, no money, no credit, but a whole lot of vision and belief.”
Today, the 10-year-old restaurant counts President Barack Obama, Lena Waithe, ASAP Rocky and other celebrities among its fans. In fact, in 2017 when the fate of the restaurant was jeopardized by a pricy legal dispute with Reynolds’ former business partner, Solange Knowles and rapper Earl Sweatshirt held the music fundraiser “Wind and Grind” to support Reynolds’ case.
With offerings including oxtail tacos, quinoa mac and cheese and grit fries, My 2 Cents specializes in remixed soul food classics. Just be sure to save room for dessert (overseen by Reynolds’ sister, executive pastry chef Theresa Fountain): The crack cake (made with brown sugar and caramel), triple strawberry cake and gluten-free vegan peach cobbler are particular standouts.
Dance it out at Catch One
The subject of a 2016 Netflix documentary, Jewel’s Catch One changed hands in 2015 due to dwindling crowds. Five years later, as the pandemic brought nightlife to a standstill, new owner Mitch Edelson transformed Catch One into a ghost kitchen and leased its parking lot to other businesses.
Today, the event venue — which continues to pay homage to its former owner with two dedicated rooms — hosts weekly concerts and parties, filling out five event spaces simultaneously.
The rotating events calendar features nightlife events for adults 18+ ranging from a K-pop club night to a furry rave. And with a dedicated on-site parking lot, all you have to worry about is securing a designated driver.
Work the pole at Evolve Pole & Dance Studio
When most people think of pole dance, their first thought goes to the strip club. And while some studios and classes emphasize unlocking one’s inner sexiness and sensuality, many pole dance classes more closely resemble a gymnastics or aerial yoga class.
Pole dance is the ultimate strength builder and stress reliever, and it all happens through dance, one of the most cathartic and beneficial ways to improve brain health. Studies have shown that dance helps people reduce stress, increase serotonin levels and develop new neural connections.
Lani Henderson opened Evolve in 2008, making it one of the oldest pole dance studios in L.A. When she discovered pole dance, it “encompassed everything I was seeking — acrobatics, stunts, learning the splits — all while increasing feminine energy and getting a total body workout,” she said. “I learned that pole dance is truly something everyone can learn, so I created a space for nondancers to come to begin a new journey.”
In addition to offering tricks, dance choreography, strength and flexibility and floor work classes, Evolve offers wellness services including private infrared sauna sessions, perfect for a post-workout cooldown.
Lose yourself in a jazz oasis at Pip's on La Brea
Owner Derrick Pipkin has been operating Pip’s alongside Argentina-born chef Luis Carrizo Salvat since 2009. While the clientele skews toward a certain age (read: aunties), the combination of live jazz and American comfort food appeals to people of all generations. Order Salvat’s signature empanadas made with ground chicken, sauteed peppers and chimichurri sauce as a starter before moving on to the signature churrasco steak. No matter how the date goes, you’ll go to bed happy.
End the night with no regrets at Leo's Tacos Truck
The epitome of L.A. tacos (which has made appearances in Bad Bunny’s “Ojitos Lindos” music video and Netflix’s “Taco Chronicles” series), Leo’s Tacos Truck has served the community since 2010 across 10 locations including Wilmington, San Pedro, Arleta and Panorama City. Its original La Brea and Venice Boulevard location frequently attracts huge crowds that snake through the adjoining gas station.
Pair an order of the famous al pastor tacos with an agua fresca; the marinated, seasoned pork is carved from the trompo and topped with a slice of smoky pineapple. Or grab a burrito and asada fries, piled high with sour cream and cheese.