For years, it seemed as though the Purple Line would remain stunted, never reaching a Westside terminus. That's starting to change, as construction is under way to ultimately bring the underground line across Wilshire on its course to Westwood.
In the meantime, though, the Purple Line heads from downtown to Koreatown and back. From Union Station to Wilshire/Vermont, this train and the Red Line hit the same stops. That can be confusing to first-time riders, particularly since the trains are virtually identical. Make sure you pay attention to the destination signs before boarding.
Since there are only eight stops on the Purple Line, any jaunt you take will be fairly quick, and the cars tend to be less packed than those on the Red Line. The Koreatown leg of the journey is the fastest, as the stops are walking distance from one another.
When you ride the Purple Line, take some time to check out the attractions on this list. Whether you're looking for food, art or music, you'll find something interesting.
1. When at Union Station, eat at Philippe's (and try the breakfast)
I had long heard about Philippe's amazing breakfast from my family elders, but it wasn't until I moved into the neighborhood that I was (occasionally) able to get myself out the door early enough to try it. Philippe's serves breakfast only until 10:30 a.m., and it's a good way to start your day. The doughnuts that my dad swore were the best in L.A. are wonderful. They're cake donuts – nothing too fancy or too big – that are baked in the morning and can sell out before breakfast is done. The French toast is good too, as are the biscuits, which you can get as a side with an egg dish. If you have a hankering for a French dip sandwich, though, don't worry. Even at 10 a.m., there are people who've driven out from the suburbs to order theirs “double-dipped” as they talk about how they've been coming here since childhood. Philippe the Original, 1001 N. Alameda St., downtown. (213) 628-3781, philippes.com.
2. When at Grand Park/Civic Center, explore the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Don't let the exterior fool you. From the freeway or from a variety of streets, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels looks like a high school or a hospital. Once you enter the grounds, though, you'll see that L.A.'s Catholic cathedral is spectacular. Outside there's a sculpture garden, a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a large fountain and massive, intricately designed bronze doors that open up to the church. Nearly every corner you turn will reveal something fantastic, be it a showpiece of an organ, an ornate statue of Our Lady of the Angels or a retable that dates back to the 1600s. There's even an art gallery here. When I stopped by, the exhibition featured works by students from local Catholic high schools.
Make sure you head down into the mausoleum, where Gregory Peck is among the interred. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Mausoleum prides itself on a populist approach to burials. While you don't have to be a VIP to be buried here, there are tombs or memorial plaques for bishops with high schools named for them and other significant religious figures. It's a relatively quiet place; the sound of your shoes squeaking against the floor echoes through the labyrinth of crypts. It's also home to the gorgeous stained glass windows that once adorned the city's former cathedral, St. Vibiana. Make sure you check out the St. Vibiana chapel as well. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., downtown. (213) 680-5200, olacathedral.org.
3. When at Pershing Square, visit the Jewelry District
Forget Rodeo Drive or any other ritzy shopping destination in the L.A. area. Downtown's Jewelry District is the best place to browse. With scores of wholesale jewelers working out of multiple buildings around Hill and Sixth, the Jewelry District glistens from the sidewalk. The bling is so blinding you'll want to wear shades.
St. Vincent Jewelry Center is a must-visit stop on a Jewelry District tour. It's easy to get lost in the maze of vendors. In the back of the bottom floor, you'll find a small coffee shop with a door that leads to an alley decorated to look like a quaint, French strip of sidewalk cafes. If you've ever scoured downtown to find Middle Eastern food, look no further than St. Vincent's food court. St. Vincent Jewelry Center, 650 S. Hill St., downtown. (213) 629-2124, svjc.com.
4. When at 7th St./Metro Center, take a walk to Lethal Amounts
If you're down to go on a good walk, exit the Seventh St./Metro Center station on the Figueroa side and walk down Seventh away from downtown's core. You'll cross the 110 freeway and pass those hideous Medici Apartments and eventually land at Lethal Amounts. The boutique/art gallery is open only on weekends (make an appointment if you want to stop by during the week) and is a go-to spot for people interested in the intersection of music and art. Previous shows here include a collection of photographs from Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, art by Daniel Ash (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets) and an exhibition of Cramps memorabilia. Aside from art, you can find books and lots of T-shirts here.
Lethal Amounts also hosts two weekly parties at nearby bar the Monty. Friday is Pure Trash, which frequently features underground/alternative rock icons on the decks and was named the Best Bar to Watch Rock Stars DJ in L.A. Weekly's 2015 Best of L.A. issue. On Saturday nights, it goes goth with Sado Maso Disco. Lethal Amounts, 1226 Seventh St., Westlake. (213) 265-7452, lethalamounts.com.
5. When at MacArthur Park/Westlake, grab a bite at Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe
Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe is a teaching restaurant that often works with people from the local “informal economy” (i.e., street vendors and people who cook and sell food out of the home). They also make really good tamales.
The menu here is derived from various Latin American traditions and the tamales menu changes daily. Depending on when you stop by, you might be able to try a bean and herb tamal or a Oaxacan-style variety filled with potato, cactus and mole. It's a spot with options for both meat eaters and vegans, and they cater as well. Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe, 2124 W. Seventh St., Westlake. (213) 487-7474, mamastamales.com.
6. When at Wilshire/Vermont, stop by Galleria Market
Galleria Market is more than a grocery store. The front section of the Koreatown one-stop shop, part of a local chain, boasts kiosks and small boutiques selling a variety of items. Check out the makeup and skin-care stalls for products that range from budget-friendly facial masks to skin creams that can set you back more than $100 (sometimes much more).
If you're looking to grab take-out for dinner, Vons Chicken Oven has meaty, sinus-clearing spicy wings that are easy to carry back home via Metro. Cake House is hard to avoid. It's filled with cotton candy, Rice Krispies pops and other tempting treats. Some of the desserts are almost too adorable, like the Piggy, which is a fruit-and-cream cake in a cup that's frosted to look like a little pig. If you're looking for a coffee spot, Tom N Toms is located in the front of the complex. Galleria Market, 440 S. Vermont, Koreatown. (213) 427-6266, galleriamarket.com.
7. When at Wilshire Normandie, grab a drink at HMS Bounty.
Stop by HMS Bounty in the afternoon and you'll forget all about the beautiful, sunny day outside. Heavy doors lead into a dimly lit, old-school bar bedecked with nautical decor.
Signs that note bar phone fees and state that “prices are determined by customer attitude” might lead you to believe that this is a surly joint, but it's not. Instead, you may hear lots of friendly conversations between the patrons and bartender. The big special here is the Wise Man, which is a beer-and-whiskey-shot combo available for $5.50 between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. HMS Bounty, 3357 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown. (213) 385-7275, facebook.com/thehmsbounty.
8. When at Wilshire/Western, buy K-pop gear at Music Plaza
Located on the bottom level of the Koreatown Plaza on Western Avenue near James M. Wood Boulevard, Music Plaza has a fairly eclectic selection of CDs; you can find anything from Aphrodite's Child to Adele in the bins. The store's specialty, though, is K-pop, and the stock goes far beyond Sistar CDs.
For fans of Korean pop music, there are plenty of items to show off your dedication to your favorite group. The shelves are lined with small pillows adorned with the images of Korea's currently hot pop stars. You'll also find items like Girls' Generation and G-Dragon note pads and paper doll versions of the members of Seventeen. Some items, like the “official light stick” for Winner, are designed to take to concerts. Others, such as a Big Bang coffee mug, are best left in your home or office cubicle. Music Plaza (inside Koreatown Plaza), 928 S. Western Ave., #107, Koreatown. (213) 385-4725, music-plaza.com.