Best Of :: West Hollywood
Best Dispensary: MedMen
The typical Los Angeles pot shop experience includes being buzzed past heavy security gates and being watched closely by surly security guards. Interiors are often small, malodorous and impersonal. Cash transactions are quick and uncomfortable. It's an improvement from the back-alley black market, barely. West Hollywood's MedMen, which opened last year, found the right time and place for a better way. Daniel Yi, director of communications at the dispensary, says most other shops follow a "deli model," where customers ask a budtender to weigh out an amount, pay and leave in short order. The 2,100-square-foot MedMen collective in West Hollywood was set up like the Apple Store. Patients can browse strains and prices on iPads. Special sanitary containers hold samples of bud if connoisseurs want a whiff. "We want you to come in and browse and learn," Yi says. The airy, wood-lined store — there's no security gate or buzzing in — sells more than 1,000 products, mostly different strains of cannabis that have been lab-tested for pesticides and contaminants. "This is where marijuana retailing is headed in the future," Yi says. But anyone planning to bite MedMen's style should know that it recently opened a location in Santa Ana and is working on a new store in Venice. It's an expanding brand. And, with legal recreational marijuana sales scheduled to start next year, MedMen West Hollywood hopes to open its already welcoming doors to everyone older than 21.
At first glance, Michael Olajide Jr. — with his silver metal eye patch, superhuman-strong wiry frame, tight red Spandex and sneakers with giant silver-and-black wings — looks more like a cyborg than a fitness coach. His new Aerospace La Brea studio, with sleek all-white walls and high ceilings, feels equally futuristic. But Olajide, who runs boxing-inspired exercise classes, is no man from our (maybe dystopian) future. He has been in the fitness and athlete world for decades — and his get-you-in-killer-shape classes are unstoppable. Olajide is a former champion pro boxer who conceived of Aerospace after he injured his eye in a boxing match and found himself having to shift his career. In the early 2000s, his Aerospace classes took off in New York City, attracting the likes of Sean "Diddy" Combs, 50 Cent, Adriana Lima, Demi Moore and Mark Wahlberg. Now Olajide and his partner, former ballerina Leila Fazel, have brought their ab-defining high cardio, machine-free techniques to West Hollywood with energetic jump-roping, jabbing and bag-punching that's a hit among exercise-loving Angelenos. Whether you are a new boxer, seasoned athlete or supernaturally strong, Aerospace's sophisticated training methods make you feel ready to fight any doom the future may hold.
Mexican chef Diego Hernández is best known for his restaurant Corazón de Tierra in Baja's Valle de Guadalupe, which has racked up admirers and accolades, including a ranking of No. 39 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants of Latin America. Hernández recently made his much-anticipated L.A. restaurant debut with Verlaine, taking over the old Dominick's space in West Hollywood. After a rocky start, Verlaine has become just as thrilling as we all hoped it would be. For proof, look no further than the unassuming, dark red, oily liquid that comes alongside the ceviche of the day. The ceviche itself, generally made with Hiramasa yellowtail, is vibrantly fresh and lightly flavored with cilantro and lime. It comes with house-made tostadas on the side, and two ramekins, one with mayonnaise and one with that red stuff, a "matcha" sauce made from fried guajillo chilies and scorched peanuts. It has a dark smokiness, the edge-of-burnt peanuts presenting a radical kind of nuttiness. If the matcha sauce is indicative of Hernández's ability to present beautifully intricate flavors, his grilled oysters showcase an opposite talent, one in which simplicity is king. It's tempting to use some kind of Eurocentric comparison to sum up Verlaine, something along the lines of how Hernández's talent for burnt peanut sauce is just as impressive as the skill of a chef who has mastered sauces with cream or butter at their core. But that would undercut the newness of this food and the history that came before it. At his best, Hernández delivers some of the most thrilling food I've eaten in L.A. this year.
Past the Hindu deities, past walls painted the color of the seven chakras and adorned with framed images of bearded gurus, is a heated room vibrating with positive energy as Solange plays softly in the background. This classroom is the epicenter of Russell Simmons' 8,000-square-foot yoga fortress, Tantris, where regulars return every Friday for transcendental meditation sessions paired with an end-of-the-work-week moment of reflection that is led by the meditation swag master himself: Simmons. Here, a post-yoga, blissed-out Simmons leads talks about the magic that comes from stilling your mind and how to "light that shit up" and become more present by developing a meditation practice. His enthusiasm, which is peppered with thoughts on how meditation makes you better at work — and in bed — is infectious. At a recent session he ended the evening with the words: "Go out and focus on the infinite." Then he looked at his Friday night guests, many of whom looked as if they'd just stepped off a runway or out of a boardroom meeting, and said with a joking smile: "Now go out and do some cocaine!" Sure, it's a mixed message, but for Simmons, life is a party at its most metaphysical.
The Chapel is like the twinky little brother of the Abbey. Both were conceived by high-profile nightlife daddy David Cooley, and while little baby Chapel may lack the size and clout of his elder sibling, there is an undeniable familial resemblance. Replacing the ultra-modern decor of HERE Lounge, the longtime gay watering hole, the Chapel has the same pseudo-Gothic elements that adorn the Abbey: cast-iron gates, religious statuary, stained glass windows. The two establishments share the same aesthetics, with the biggest difference in the menu — or lack thereof. "It's your neighborhood bar but without the food," Cooley concisely explained during a soft-opening event for the Chapel back in October 2016. In a neighborhood of carb cutters, this omission is considered a plus. Another advantage this gayby has is that it lacks the irritating drama and tourist glut generated by its big bro's reality series What Happens at the Abbey. The Chapel delivers a streamlined, old-school, Abbey-esque experience without all the narcissism. It's like dumping the popular jock to go out with his sweet kid brother.
Runner-up: Felix Trattoria
Runner-up: Leo’s Tacos Truck