Best of L.A.

Best Of 2014


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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Bike Workshop for Women
Bicycle Kitchen
Photo: J Swann

If you've ever dreamed of fixing your bicycle's flat tire, loose chain or squeaky brakes but don't have the slightest idea where to start, Bicycle Kitchen is here to help. The East Hollywood nonprofit offers full-service bike repair with a catch: You've got to do it yourself. For a suggested donation of $7 per hour, the "cooks," aka volunteers, will equip you with all the tools and skills you'll need to jazz up your ride or even build a new one from used parts. Monday is ladies' night, which means the shop is open only to women and transgender cyclists. Known as Bicycle Bitchen, Monday's weekly three-hour workshop is the best place to get your hands dirty while learning bike maintenance and mechanics, without any men around. At the most bitchin' bike party in town, you can crank up the tunes, turn up the good vibes and put the pedal to the metal. —Jennifer Swann

4429 Fountain Ave., E. Hlywd., 90029. (323) 662-2776,

4429 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 90029
Best Barber Shop
Vinny's Barber Shop
Photo: Nick Pell

Vinny's Barber Shop has a sort of unofficial slogan: "It's a haircut." And indeed, it is that. In a world where a million salons try to pose as the real McCoy, you need look no further than this East Hollywood spot for an old-school barber shop with a modern, contemporary vibe. At Vinny's, the five chairs are almost always full, with good tunes playing in the background. While you're encouraged to grab a beer while you wait, or have some coffee, beverages aren't a gimmick to cover up for substandard quality. Gents chew the fat about sports, work, dogs and cars — everything but politics and religion, which are expressly forbidden. Proprietor Omar Romero just happens to be the finest rockabilly recording engineer in the world. The tattooed gentlemen on his staff take the utmost pride in their work, doing everything they can to make customers look their absolute best. It's a haircut? Sure. And a '68 Chevelle is a car. —Nicholas Pell

852 N. Virgil Ave., E. Hlywd., 90029. (323) 426-9536.

852 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, 90029
Best Antique Shop
Metropolitan News
Photo: James Bartlett

Open just a few hours a week (Wednesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.), this dusty, signless storefront is easy to miss. But if you glance through the window, you'll see an ancient wheelchair and crutches, old cans and bottles, and a selection of shiny silver toasters and waffle makers. Inside Metropolitan News, the mix is even more eclectic: a rocking horse, old maps, pins, plates, photos, car manuals, typewriters, wall phones, sheet music, desks, coffee cans and Edison wax cylinders. There are mysterious personal effects, too. Who is Nana Sterling, "the deep-breathing beauty"? These retro relics came largely from a crowded, chaotic amateur museum based in tiny Aguilar, Colorado, obtained by shop owner and history conservationist Jo-Ann Grace, whose office is next door. Get down there and get hunting — before the Beverly Hills antique dealers beat you to it. —James Bartlett

214 S. Spring St., dwntwn., 90012. No phone, no website.

214 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, 90012
Best Bookstore, Westside
Angel City Books & Records
Photo: Max Bell

The paucity of bookstores on the Westside can be disheartening, but Santa Monica's Angel City Books & Records has been a sanctuary for book-buying locals since 1998. Though small and narrow, the store is easily navigable and feels more cozy than cramped. Filled with a meticulously curated selection of used books, the store's range and specificity are staggering. A trove of Beat literature is just steps from a section devoted to Santa Monica history. Turn from the long shelf of poetry and plays and find yourself faced with a superb reserve of pulp fiction paperbacks. If you're looking for signed and/or first editions, see the glass case behind the counter. Angel City sells an equally excellent, albeit occasionally pricey, selection of vinyl, and whether you're looking for tomes or tunes, amiable owner Rocco Ingala is here to help. Call and he'll check the shelves for whatever you're after. Better yet, swing by and browse as he plays records over the store speakers. You may find something you didn't know you needed. —Max Bell

218 Pier Ave., Santa Monica, 90405. (310) 399-8767,

218 Pier Ave., Santa Monica, 90405
Best Spa
Chuan Spa
Photo courtesy Chuan Spa

The Langham Huntington's new, 11,000-square-foot luxury spa, Chuan Spa, combines advanced skincare methods with Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, techniques — in fact, it's the only global spa brand based on TCM. That means a focus on yin and yang, the meridian system (jing luo) and the five elements (wu xing), plus more than 20 signature treatments with the guidance of an in-house TCM doctor. Try the Chuan Yu facial — meridian points on your face are stimulated with a massage featuring real jade, known for its healing qualities. Or how about the caviar and pearl facial, which incorporates protein-rich caviar and real pearl powder? The spa has a palate of soothing earth tones, incorporating wood, water and fresh flowers, with influences that include both the Chinese architectural and Pasadena's Arts & Crafts traditions. And did we mention the water beds? After your treatment, you are taken to the Dream Room, where you can melt into a heated water bed under a silk coverlet while you are brought a cup of tea that jibes with your constitutional type (wood, earth, metal, fire or water). Top that, anywhere. —Samantha Bonar

1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena, 91106. (626) 585-6414,

1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena, 91106
Best Vintage Eyewear

The first thing optician Van de la Plante asks customers when they walk into his tiny eyewear boutique in Echo Park isn't about their eyesight — it's whether they'd like a glass of Scotch and a seat on one of two tattered, turn-of-the-century armchairs. The Scotch, poured from a beveled glass decanter on a wooden side table displaying biographies of Houdini and Tesla, is all part of the macho, vintage Americana lifestyle peddled by Gentlemen's Breakfast. Housed in a one-car garage off Sunset Boulevard, the anachronistic hideout specializes in original, 1960s dead-stock frames from Europe and Japan, all of which can be custom-fitted with either prescription or sunglass lenses. The glasses range in price from about $150 — for thick, nylon "prison glasses," which were distributed to prisoners in the 1960s because of their pliable and nearly indestructible frames — to upwards of $1,000 for 100-year-old Japanese welding glasses with rose-colored lenses. —Jennifer Swann

1101 Mohawk St., Echo Park, 90026. (323) 306-6766,

1101 Mohawk St., Los Angeles, 90026

Best Bike Workshop for Women: Bicycle Kitchen


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