By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
BEST LIFE-CHANGING SALON
Sisters Lydia and Vanessa Arce of Beauty Box give their customers gorgeous hair and fresh makeup. But for the gals of Homeboy Industries, a downtown gang intervention program, the Arces makeup and haircutting services are free. Vanessa was a teen mom but managed to graduate from beauty school and start Beauty Box from scratch. On one Tuesday a month, they close the shop and along with childhood friend Erica Guevara, they each give one girl a makeover with subtle color and a more approachable look. After their Beauty Box transformation, the homegirls are ready to look for work. Often when they get a job, the girls return and pay full price to show their appreciation for their new looks. On October 1, a new, bigger location will open near Chinatown, offering natural manicures and pedicures. 1515 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. (213) 250-1515.
BEST JAPANESE GROCERY THAT’S ALSO A KOREAN GROCERY
Despite all the foodie hand-wringing that went on when Korean supermarket giant H Mart took over the Little Tokyo space of Mitsuwa, The Little Tokyo Marketplace (in the Little Tokyo Shopping Center) is a welcome addition to the downtown community. The market carries fresh fish, Korean BBQ cuts, sushi (hand rolls while you wait) and pan-Asian noodles, complete with assorted prepared banchan (Korean side dishes). There’s a wide variety of produce, including certified organic, but at these prices, don’t expect Gelson’s A+ quality: Buy today, eat today is the rule. Organic flour, flax meal and other health-food faves share space with bottled teas, imported and domestic beers and a decent selection of wines and sake, as well as esoteric beverages, like Red Stag — a black cherry–flavored bourbon. The Sakura Noodle Bar offers soba, udon and ramen, at $4 to $5 for largish portions. Personal-care items include cult favorite Naïve from Kanebo, as well as Weleda for less than anywhere around. Park for two hours in the garage, with market validation, and an outdoor lot has entrances off Alameda and 4th; there is a free shuttle bus, too. 333 S. Alameda St., dwntwn. (213) 617-0030. (Closed weekends.)
BEST CONSCIOUS CONVENIENCE
L.A.’s first conscious convenience store, Locali, quietly opened its doors earlier this year to a resounding “Thank God” from the neighboring Beachwood/Bronson Canyon community. The tiny Franklin storefront is stocked with beverages, organic snacks, prepackaged veg, vegan and raw meals, and a better-than-decent selection of natural body-care products, as well as a sampling of natural home remedies, essential oils, holistic wellness supplies and superfoods. Find organic wines, micro-brewed beers, and a kombucha selection that’ll have your intestinal flora jumping for joy. In addition to the array of organic, unprocessed on-the-go fare, Locali has healthy convenience-store offerings, from agave-sweetened slushies and brewed organic iced teas to sprouted hemp bagels, vegan bakery treats and tofu hot dogs. Sandwiches can be made to order, and are served with some tasty vegan tamales, made locally, of course. The Locali folks are dedicated to supporting local vendors, farmers and community initiatives, and are themselves operating as a green business — with solar lighting, energy-efficient appliances and compost and recycling bins. They encourage their customers to consume responsibly by offering various supplies for the progressive sustainable household, as well as reverse osmosis water on tap for those talk-walkers who carry their own vessels. 5825 Franklin Ave., L.A. (323) 466-1360.
BEST LOCAL SURFBOARD MAKER
Getting a sleek, high-performance surfboard off the rack from brand-name shapers like Al Merrick and Rusty Preisendorfer can make you look cool on the sand but not necessarily on a wave. Those boards require the light-footed skills found on the pro tour. Guys and girls who don’t have yoga bodies and a lifetime on the water shouldn’t go near these blades (yet, they do...). The way to avoid looking like an oaf is to go custom. Venice’s Guy Okazaki can size you up — height, weight and skill level included — to shape a board that will work well for you. Because Okazaki is a Venice shaper, his boards are at home at area beach breaks, the most-common waves locally. So, while a Channel Islands board will work great if you’re Kelly Slater in Fiji, it might not be right for Joe Sixpack at three-foot El Puerto. Okazaki’s work has been seen under the arms of some Southern California’s best riders. Otis Chandler even rode “Guy O,” as locals call him. You can get a custom Okazaki board, with your name sketched on it, for less than the price of an off-the-rack performance board from Merrick or Preisendorfer. Guy Okazaki retailers: Ocean Echo, 23 Washington Blvd., Venice. (310) 823-5850. Also at Horizons West, 2011 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 392-1122. Guy Okazaki direct: (310) 823-3359, firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEST ANTIQUE TOOLS AND GARDEN IRONWORK
There’s an afternoon drive around long-dry Chatsworth Reservoir that gives you a hint of what L.A. was like when Indian trails were in use, stage coaches ran through and ranchers had not yet carved up the Valley. The route north from the Ventura Freeway along Valley Circle Drive (don’t take the unattractive route south from the 118 freeway) takes you along the vast, fenced meadows and hillocks that once encircled the abandoned reservoir. The undulating drive turns east, where a bright-red house touts firewood for sale, and the miniature white-brick Lake Manor Chapel advertises “God will wipe away every tear.” Soon you’ll reach Log Cabin Mercantile Company, a log cabin jammed with a strange jumble: well-priced vintage jewelry, cleverly potted cacti, and, unexpectedly, a small rack of designer European clothes priced like a Loehmann’s backroom sales event. Seen on recent visits: a powder blue leather motorcycle jacket for $120, and taupe linen shorts for $25. But the place is best known for its ironwork and sculptures outside: garden benches, outdoor etagères and lovely stands with just the right amount of rust; at $40 to $200 the items are priced at half of what you’d pay in Santa Monica. Adorable garden “animals” made from potato-sized river rocks have nutty, iron-wire legs, whiskers and wings, many going for less than $40. The grounds are a junk museum strewn with an antique foot-powered grinder, a human-drawn iron fire-hose wheel, and a carved, iron-strapped bridge said to have been used by elephants. 23300 Valley Circle Blvd., Chatsworth Lake. (818) 812-8034. Open weekends only.