Best of L.A.

Best Of 2009


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Bars & Clubs

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People & Places

Shopping & Services


Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Thai Herb and Spa

It's probably no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of Thai massage parlors in L.A., and it's tough to know which are legitimate and which are, well, hand-job specialists. The storefront entry that leads into Thai Herb and Spa, which is located in a Hollywood mini-mall, looks like a Bangkok pharmacy transported to California, replete with unpronounceable secret lotions, herbs and back-bending devices. However, the backroom is an oasis, with a small, babbling brook and a dozen or so curtained but communal massage rooms. It's on a very busy section of Sunset, yet the only disruption might be the occasional oaf who can't keep his (perfectly legal) groaning to himself. It's easy to be lulled into a trancelike state by the small, tinkling waterfalls and cheesy but restful Thai elevator music. All guests don a gargantuan-sized massage shirt and pants, and are then ushered to one of the comfy rooms. Your personal masseuse luxuriously cleanses your feet with hot, steamy towels before beginning an exceptionally reasonable $40, hourlong massage that also includes a lot of vigorous stretching, pulling and cracking. All of the masseuses are pretty darn good, but our favorite is Noe, a tiny, grandmotherly Thai woman with a grip like Killer Kowalski. Once guests are completely relaxed, they're given a little plate of fresh fruit and a cup of tea. Ultra-relaxing. 5231 ½ W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. (323) 661-7086.

—Christine Pelisek
5231 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90027
Jet Rag

Nothing gets a bargain shopper's adrenaline going more then the flying elbows and flying fabrics that is the experience of the legendary Jet Rag parking-lot dollar sale. Every Sunday, hung-over hipsters, aging drag queens, and clothing dealers get on their knees among piles of colorful clothing to fight over polyester disco dresses and vintage bowling shirts. Some of my finds over the years have included antique saris, a brand new pair of Joe's jeans, and handmade silk scarves. Get there early and hang around; they open up bags and bales of clothes hourly. Oh, and they only take cash. Bring 10 bucks and find a whole new wardrobe. 825 N. La Brea Ave., W. Hlywd., (323) 939-0528. Sun., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

—Elizabeth Bernheim
825 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, 90038

The cozy Native boutique is in Franklin Village right next to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and Birds, and directly across from the Church of Scientology Celebrity Center. You'll like this funky store if you shop the fashions at Melrose Avenue's Jigsaw or Planet Funk. For shoppers on a tight budget, though, there are some great finds on its outdoor rack — many really cute items for $20. Every week there's a new sidewalk selection, often including flowery, Gypsy-style tops, summer halter dresses and formal, shiny, evening gowns. We saw one shopper pick up a sweet fuschia-colored gown for just $20. The location is handy to the Hollywood Freeway (Gower exit), although it can take a bit of patience to find parking. They're open late so if you're in a crisis, facing a last-minute date or party and need something great but quick, one of the friendly staffers can set you up. Our preferred tactic is to shop, then gorge nearby at one of the the French, Japanese or Italian restaurants. 5915 Franklin Ave., Hlywd. (323) 962-7710. Open daily.

—Christine Pelisek
5915 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles, 90028
King of Cuts

A two-block span along Crenshaw Boulevard is almost exclusively home to barbershops, and if you're a young or an old man, or a woman who wears her hair cropped close, there's at least one establishment on Barber's Row that will scrape and/or shape the stuff growing on your cranium. The best and most unique of these is known alternately as King of Cuts and Magic Shears. Located in the same spot since 1982, it's bright and well-lit, has parquet floors and comfy chairs. It's a contrast to many of its competitors that provide a whiff of edgy danger, when what you really want is good, basic grooming. King's barbers are both male and female — some are even siblings — who toss each other playful back-and-forths with a warmth that's catchy. "This is a Christian establishment," explains owner Chris, whose bald head, gold teeth and tattoos belie his mild-mannered mien. "There's no cursing allowed in here, especially taking the Lord's name in vain, and no open containers allowed." You can get the trash talk elsewhere on Crenshaw with your haircut, but for a reasonably priced, competent cut or shave with a smile, this is the spot. 4283 Crenshaw Blvd., L.A. (323) 299-8459. Open daily.

—Juliette Akinyi Ochieng
4283 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, 90008
Log Cabin Mercantile Company

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.

—Jill Stewart
23300 Valley Circle Blvd., Chatsworth, 91311
Heath Ceramics

When Sausalito-based Heath Ceramics recently opened an L.A. store, the hearts of midcentury American design-lovers rejoiced, but their pocketbooks groaned. They knew they'd have to make that eternal choice: cheap but disposable, or costly but well-made. Heath is known for its clean-lined, warmly minimalist clay bowls, plates, cups, casseroles and pottery. Yes, $42 for a plate and $27 for a mug is exponentially more expensive than 50 cents for the mass-produced cheapo stuff at Ikea. But Heath's steeper prices reflect the cost of producing substantial, beautiful products in a socially and environmentally conscious way. The company is run by artisans in a globally outsourced world run by megacorporations. Heath's classic, simple — and above all supremely functional — tableware is designed to resist trends and last a lifetime. 7525 Beverly Blvd., L.A. (323) 965-0800,

—Gendy Alimurung
7525 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 90036

BEST THAI MASSAGE: Thai Herb and Spa


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