Best Of :: West Adams/ Crenshaw/ Baldwin Hills
Best Labyrinth: Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens
Navigating Los Angeles often can feel as if you're in a labyrinth of the mind-numbing sort. But the actual labyrinth behind a Beaux Arts palace on West Adams Boulevard's mansion row is the kind that helps to quiet the surrounding chaos. Follow the stone-carved path to the center and out again, and you'll have the rare opportunity to travel quietly into your head — and to reach your destination without the distraction of calculating a left on red or the aggravation of a laggard who won't let you merge. The entire compound, known as Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens and maintained by the nonprofit Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, is a magical and mysterious place to spend the afternoon. Reservations and a brief tour are required, but entry is free — and a blissful, uncrowded setting is guaranteed. The lush, cascading gardens and the home's architecture bring to mind a Tuscan villa, which is fitting: The 100-year-old home was commissioned by an Italian immigrant who built California's largest winery.
The pizza at Delicious Pizza lives up to its name, but this West Adams compound is built on more than superb pie. Founded by father-son duo Fred and Travis Sutherland and brothers Mike and Rick Ross (no, not that Rick Ross), the pizzeria is crafted from the same ingredients that made Mike Ross' 35-year-old hip-hop label a success: forward thinking and good taste. Like Delicious Vinyl (which released records by artists including Tone Loc and The Pharcyde), Delicious Pizza is a headquarters of cool. The edgy, lively space hosts arts shows including a recent J Dilla photo exhibit, performances by the likes of Vince Staples, music video screenings with established and up-and-coming directors, dancehall reggae parties, jazz brunches and, over Labor Day weekend, the inaugural West Adams Block Party, at which hundreds of attendees flooded the streets to nosh on pizza and take in sets by Talib Kweli and Doug E. Fresh. This isn't just one of the best restaurants in one of L.A.'s most exciting and under-the-radar neighborhoods — it's the best party there, too.
Real Southern country cooking isn't necessarily celebrated for its low calorie content, and healthy soul food may seem like a contradiction in terms. But since 1984, Simply Wholesome has offered veggie and vegan preparations of scrumptious down-home delicacies, including vegan collard greens, mac 'n' cheese and Jamaican patties, right alongside its traditional meat options. A combination health food market and restaurant, this popular neighborhood spot is located in a cool, space-age Googie building designed in 1958 by the legendary Armet & Davis architectural team, creators of many of L.A.'s best-known midcentury coffee shops. With its sloping roofline, river-rock exterior and a jaunty spire pointing toward the heavens, Simply Wholesome will satisfy your history fix while simultaneously satiating your craving for cornbread, candied yams and black-eyed peas. A visit here can be a soul-enriching experience on many levels.
Originally a planned community built in the 1920s, Leimert Park has since become the epicenter of African-American culture in Los Angeles. It's also home to a beloved independent bookstore that's been around since the late 1980s, owned and operated by James Fugate and Thomas Hamilton. Eso Won Bookstore occupied four other locations before landing in Leimert Park in 2006; by all appearances, it's here to stay. Offering a browsing soundtrack of soothing jazz, the shop specializes in both legendary and up-and-coming African-American writers and poets, with books on everything from the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Panthers to cookbooks, children's books and graphic novels. Eso Won takes its name from the African spelling of the city of Aswan, Egypt. Roughly translated, it means "water over rocks," representing the continuous flow of knowledge over a firmly established community — just like the one that's come to define Leimert Park.
The World Stage is more than just one of the most vibrant jazz clubs in Los Angeles. It's also at the literal and figurative center of the Leimert Park arts scene, a crossroads and nexus point of African-American culture that includes poetry readings, drum circles, jazz and writing workshops, and wildly open-ended, high-level jam sessions. Since poet Kamau Daáood and the late drummer Billy Higgins opened the small performance space/gallery in 1989, such stellar musicians as Bennie Maupin, Rose Gales, Rickey Woodard, The B Sharp Jazz Quartet, Tiffany Austin, Charles Owens and vocalist/World Stage executive director Dwight Trible have shared the club's tiny stage, which is wedged into an old storefront next to a painting of the solar system that inspires even more freewheeling flights of words and sounds. The World Stage's entrance is actually through the back patio, where people gather outside at tables to play chess and listen to the rich variety of music spilling out the door.