Best of L.A.

Best Of 2013

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Japanese Bookstore
Kinokuniya
Photo: Daina Beth Solomon

Since opening in Tokyo 85 years ago, Kinokuniya has brought its Japanese aesthetic to bookstores worldwide, including branches in L.A., San Francisco and Portland. The 6,300-square-foot store in downtown's Little Tokyo district attracts Japanese Americans and American Nipponophiles alike with thousands of manga titles in English and Japanese, dozens of Japanese fashion magazines, and a bilingual book section admired for its array of art, architecture and design volumes. You'll find fiction, too, especially by Japanese and Japanese-American writers, from best-selling novelist Haruki Murakami to L.A. writer Naomi Hirahara. Don't be surprised to find English-language books by Neil Gaiman, Jeffrey Toobin and Sonia Sotomayor alongside cat-themed humor, and don't miss the L.A.-centric bookshelf. Wanna splurge? Browse aisles of pens, notebooks, stickers, greeting cards and origami papers decorated in vibrant designs ranging from cutesy to chic. 123 Astronaut E.S. Onizuka St., #205, Little Tokyo, 90012. (213) 687-4480, kinokuniya.com/us/. —Daina Beth Solomon

123 Astronaut E. Onizuka St., Los Angeles, 90012
MAP
213-687-4480
Best Isolation Tank
Float Lab

If you are feeling at all uneasy about spending two hours floating in water in total sensory deprivation, Crash, the shaggy-haired, flip-flop–wearing owner of Float Lab, will make you feel at ease. Each of his two womblike chambers is filled with body-temperature saltwater and encased in dark, soundproof walls. With nothing to distract, you are free to explore your mind completely unencumbered. During the big isolation-tank craze a few decades ago, it was said that some famed writers came up with their best ideas inside the tanks, and that the mind invented vivid colors and patterns. Stand-up comedian Joe Rogan is a fan and regularly touts Float Lab on his podcast. The popularity and constant waiting lists have prompted Crash's expansion plans, with a new 10-chamber facility on Wilshire in the works. 801 Ocean Front Walk, #5, Venice. (310) 396-3336, floatlab.com. —Jackie Adams

801 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, 90291
MAP
310-255-1905
Best Place to Get Flushed

While colonics might be a daunting thought for some, if one ever requires or desires this purportedly detoxifying treatment, Healing Waters Institute in Studio City is a great place to get flushed. The clean and cozy facility features state-of-the-art equipment that makes colon irrigation mostly comfortable and largely non-invasive. Owner Annabelle Cordova is a sage when it comes to colon health, and she's compassionate and funny to boot, gently guiding clients through the process while explaining exactly what's coming out of you, why it looks the way it does (yes, you can see it), and what you can do to make it look healthier. Foot reflexology and abdominal massage are performed during the session for greater "releases," and the facility also offers a hyperbaric chamber and foot-detoxification therapy. Most folks leave with a better understanding of their digestive system, and a few pounds lighter to boot. 4343 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Studio City. (818) 506-7592, healingwatersinstitute.com. —Katie Bain

4343 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Los Angeles, 91604
MAP
818-506-7592
Best Spa

The Koreatown bathhouse emporium Wi Spa is tricked out with saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms, clay rooms, salt rooms, ice rooms, 200-plus-degree rooms and myriad other methods of detoxifying and refreshing body and mind. The entrance fee is $30 (with a variety of deals and discounts throughout the week), and once inside there's no limit to how long you can stay and soak. The space is divided into men's and women's spas, and a coed area features treatment rooms along with a café and a casual hangout space. There's also free Wi-Fi, a few TVs and an area for napping. Massages, salt scrubs, deep-tissue work, waxing, manicures and more are relatively inexpensive, and the staff does a consistently great job. The place is pristine and open 24 hours a day, making it a prime place to disappear into for an afternoon or unwind at after a long evening. Parking is free, and patrons can even get a car wash. Full service, indeed. 2700 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown. (213) 487-2700, wispausa.com. —Katie Bain

2700 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 90057
MAP
213-487-2700
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8000 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90046
MAP
323-822-9007
Best Place for a Strong Touch
L.A. Sports Massage
Photo: Adam Gropman

The word "massage" can mean a variety of things. There's Swedish massage, Thai massage, deep-tissue Rolfing, and the kind of massage you get at fringe-y parlors that elicit snickering chatter about "happy endings." L.A. Sports Massage offers a targeted and quality-assured service: a rigorous, but not extremely painful, reparative and restorative massage aimed at addressing specific physical ailments common to athletes and other physically active people. LASM says that in many cases, a few sessions in its bright, cheery Culver City space with one of its athlete/massage therapists not only gives relief from muscular or joint pains but can also actually reverse the intrinsic problem. Now that's a real happy ending! 13205 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City. (310) 439-1421, lasportsmassage.com. —Adam Gropman

13205 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, 90066
MAP
310-439-1421
Best Adult Store

If your idea of an adult shop is a shame-inducing hole-in-the-wall with sticky magazines, XXX video booths filled with men on the sex-offender list, and leather accessories worthy of a farm, Pure Delish probably isn't the place for you. It has no videos and no magazines, but, taking a page from Hustler Hollywood, that mall-like boutique for smut and unmentionables on the Sunset Strip, it has lingerie, shoes, lube, condoms and toys. The women who work there dress in candy-striper outfits, which is nice. But here's the thing: Most of the customers are female. The sales staff will happily, without much blushing or giggling, demonstrate the latest in battery-operated technology, too. And the prices are good. Not that we'd know. 10746 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (310) 591-8792, puredelish.com. —Dennis Romero

10746 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 90232
MAP
310-591-8792
Best Parfumerie

For an alternative to overpriced, alcohol-based perfumes, there's Bismillah Imports and Oil Shop. Owner S.M. Farasat Ullah's ample supply of scented and exotic oils is great for your skin. The oil absorbs right in, leaving you smooth, while lingering like a lovely melody — no reapplication necessary. Even better, there's no need to brave those department store perfume ladies attacking you with spray to determine the fragrance you want. Instead, like a sympathetic bartender, Ullah listens, has you sample and test, and then concocts a signature scent just for you. If you already have a fragrance you can't live without, there's a massive folder with names of designer perfumes he can re-create from his supply of imported oils. For a matching moisturizer, just pick out one of Ullah's homemade body butters and watch him make magic. If anointing yourself with oils is not your thing, Bismillah Imports also provides natural remedies for personal care to help soften, heal or nourish skin. 1170 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 91106. (626) 791-1455, facebook.com/oilshopstore. —Orly Minazad

1170 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 91106
MAP
626-791-1455
Best Affordable Pet Service

Finding the right vet for your fur family is terrifying. The vet might be a hack, the office might rip you off — maybe both. But have no fear. The much-beloved Highland Park Animal Hospital offers reliable vets and a friendly, attentive staff at a reasonable price. The facility is clean, the patient rooms are fairly private, the vets are good at their job, the staff is super-knowledgeable on options for both specialists and rescues in the area and, most importantly, everyone seems to genuinely care about the pet patients. Tuesdays and Thursdays feature happy hour with half-price shots — and they're not talking Jäger but those more expensive shots called vaccines. Even though the place is always fairly busy, you'll be in and out faster than facilities with a fraction of the patients, even when you show up as a walk-in. 5210 York Blvd., Highland Park, 90042. (323) 254-6868, highlandparkhosp.vetstreet.com. —Diamond Bodine-Fischer

5210 York Blvd., Los Angeles, 90042
MAP
323-254-6868
Best Place to Buy Designer Clothes

Many high-end stores will leave you feeling like a not-so-pretty woman, with sneering clerks everywhere and no Richard Gere in sight. At G*Star on Melrose, you get none of that crap. The entire staff is both friendly and beyond competent; everyone seems genuinely excited to help you find what you seek. Unlike the spartan floors of so many designer shops, G*Star is filled with options, yet it's not cramped. The racks of modern urbanwear are flanked by walls of apparel, including an entire wall lined with bins that might double as an altar to the denim gods. New-product parties feature in-house manicures and entertainment from the likes of Dallas Cornell and Nick V (formally known as DJ duo The Spys). G*Star on Melrose has found the perfect blend of upscale and down-to-earth. 7966 Melrose Ave., Beverly Grove, 90046. (323) 658-6028, g-star.com. —Diamond Bodine-Fischer

7966 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 90046
MAP
323-658-6028
Best Streetwear Shop
Diamond Supply Co.
Photo courtesy Diamond Supply Co.

Fairfax Avenue is crammed with streetwear shops that all sell pretty much the same things: snap-back baseball caps, T-shirts, sweatshirts, skateboard decks, maybe some colorful socks, all with a soundtrack of hip-hop. Diamond Supply Co. has those things, too, but with one big difference: The folks working here will actually acknowledge you. The spot started by selling skating hardware, but it's now known primarily for its duds featuring a stick-figure diamond logo, and its goods have become hot the world over. It even functions as a hangout for A-list rappers like Curren$y. While workers at Diamond's competitors seem to go out of their way to make sure you know they're too cool for school, the staff at Diamond doesn't make you feel like a loser who doesn't belong. In fact, associates will go so far to ask you if you would like any help. Imagine that! 451 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax District, 90036. (323) 966-5970, diamondsupplyco.com. —Ben Westhoff

451 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 90036
MAP
323-966-5970
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7909 Rosewood Ave., Los Angeles, 90048
MAP
323-230-7421
Best Bookstore Chain

Move over, Barnes & Noble. Keenly aware of the opportunity presented by the death of Borders, two years ago Goodwill Books made its move, renting nice storefronts and stocking them with top-condition hardbacks and paperbacks. The books are costlier than at Salvation Army, say, or Out of the Closet, but they're helpfully arranged by author and subject, and they include hard-to-find fiction and nonfiction titles. Plus, these shops have extremely solicitous managers. Two great shops in the San Fernando Valley are the West Hills store, in an upscale strip mall, stuffed with hundreds of biographies and autobiographies, and the Woodland Hills store, on Oxnard Street, which offers a nifty children's room and a hardback reading room. On the Westside, try the Culver City shop on Sepulveda Boulevard, which has an excellent selection of best-sellers. goodwillsocal.org/shop/store. —Norm Jenssen

Best Thrift Store

L.A. has spectacular thrift stores, but National Council of Jewish Women Thrift Store in Studio City stands above the others because of the high level of fine art that washes down to Ventura Boulevard from the elite canyon enclaves above. On a recent foray, we counted 100-plus pieces, the majority of them originals and seemingly carefully selected (even, dare we say, curated). The ladies behind the counter sometimes ask not-thrifty prices that are as high as $450, but many of these pieces are signed, sometimes by listed artists. You won't see a painting you like every time, but if you enjoy the hunt, you'll eventually score a fine piece for $25 or $40 — and we don't mean one that matches the sofa. Don't miss the Best of the Best sales, held roughly quarterly, of items that the ladies squirrel away in the back. 12203 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 91604. (818) 505-1924, councilthrift.com/locations. —Norm Jenssen

12203 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 91604
MAP
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8905 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, 90034
MAP
310-845-9327
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817 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, 90036
MAP
323-931-5239
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Best Japanese Bookstore: Kinokuniya

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