5 Reasons To Visit Los Angeles

A Mexican-American Chef Shares Where He Spends His Days Off

Ray Garcia

Chef & Restaurateur

Growing up in Cypress Park, a largely Latino neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles, Ray Garcia didn’t realize how diverse his native city was. “My whole experience was just being surrounded by people who spoke Spanish,” he recalls. “It wasn’t until college that I met Asian, Indian, Caucasian, and all kinds of people. It was an eye-opening experience.” When he landed a job at a highly acclaimed restaurant in Beverly Hills, he relished the opportunity to learn about Mediterranean food and European fine dining. Later, at the helm of another restaurant in Santa Monica, he delved into seasonal California cuisine. Armed with a wide-ranging culinary knowledge, Garcia eventually returned to his roots, opening B.S. Taqueria (now closed) and Broken Spanish, a restaurant that took the L.A. dining scene by storm with its progressive Mexican menu.

Chef Ray Garcia has taken the L.A. dining scene by storm. Photo credit: Dylan + Jeni.

Sugerencias locales

Experience LA with native Angeleno, chef Ray Garcia.

Although he was born and raised in Los Angeles, Ray Garcia didn’t fully explore his surroundings until he left his parents’ house in Cypress Park to go to college in Westwood. Now married and with a young son, the acclaimed chef takes his family all over town. We share his favorite spots in the sprawling, cosmopolitan city he calls home.

Cafes In LA

“I love coffee,” says Garcia. “When I worked in hotels, where there was alway a pot brewing, I’d get myself in trouble having up to seven cups a day.” Lately, he’s become more moderate but no less enthusiastic. Garcia is a fan of the “mad scientist” philosophy behind Endorffeine (727 N Broadway #127; www.endorffeine.coffee)) a coffee bar helmed by former biochemist Jack Benchakul, who personally prepares every drink poured behind the sleek counter. Garcia goes to G&B Coffee (317 S Broadway; +1-213-261-0622) a stand within LA’s Grand Central Market, the excellent brews made by a team of champion baristas and for the lively scene of the space. “You really get to tap into the downtown energy,” he says. “There are bakeries and barbecues, and all sorts of things going on around you.”

G&B Coffee at the Grand Central Market. Photo courtesy of G&B Coffee.

LA Museums To Check Out

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA (5905 Wilshire Blvd.; +1-323 857-6010) is by far the biggest structure on Museum Row—it spans the equivalent of three city blocks—and one of the most important cultural institutions on the West Coast. Its encyclopedic collection includes Asian art, Latin American art, Islamic art, European art, and more than 100,000 objects representing 6,000 years of history. “The space is beautiful, both indoors and outdoors,” says Garcia. “You can spend the entire day there.” He also likes to take his son to the Natural History Museum (900 W Exposition Blvd.; +1-213-763-3466), housed in a 1913 Spanish Renaissance building that has been renovated and expanded over the years. There are multiple halls dedicated to gemstones, birds, mammals, and insects, yet none can compete with the Dinosaur Hall, a mammoth-sized exhibit featuring a unique T. rex growth series (baby, juvenile and adult) that fascinates kids and adults alike.

The Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Photo courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Garcia's Favorite Places To Eat In Los Angeles

Downtown’s Bavel (500 Mateo St.; +1-213-232-4966), helmed by Ori Menashe, has a modern look and creative Middle Eastern menu consisting of mostly local and organic ingredients. “They make the best shrimp I’ve ever had in my life,” says Garcia of a dish of grilled prawns served with a harissa marinade, cured zucchini tzatziki, herbs, and lime. For a truly authentic taste of Mexico, he heads straight to Los Cinco Puntos (3300 East Cesar E Chavez Ave.; +-1-323-261-4084) in East LA This plain corner grocer and lunch counter is known for its corn tortillas, made by hand right before your eyes by a team of dexterous ladies. “The tacos are delicious,” says Garcia.

Independent Bookstores In Los Angeles

Tucked into a buzzy food mall in Chinatown, Now Serving (727 N. Broadway, Unit 133; +1-213-395-0627) is a stylish little shop stocked with cookbooks, food magazines, and a curated selection of kitchen products like hand-carved knives. They also host readings, book signings, and screenings of food documentaries. The Last Bookstore (453 S Spring St.; +1-213-488-0599) is one of the biggest and most charming bookstores in California—and surely the most ironically named. Housed in the pillared atrium of an old bank, the 22,000-square-foot space is filled to the brims with new and used books from every imaginable genre and era.

Inside the Last Bookstore. Photo credit: James Martinez.

Griffith Park Hiking

When it comes to outdoor pursuits, people associate Los Angeles with beaches and palm trees instead of woodlands and hiking trails. But Griffith Park (4730 Crystal Springs Dr.; +-1-323- 644-2050), a 4,000-acre verdant sprawl just 20 minutes away from downtown, has more than 50 miles of trails along its rugged hills. The area’s flora and fauna includes oak, walnut and mahogany trees, deer, foxes, coyotes, and more than 200 species of birds. “Griffith Park is huge but people don’t really think about it as a place to have fun,” says Garcia. “There’s a zoo, an observatory, a merry-go-round, and much more.”

Griffith Park hiking trails. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism.
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