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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Top 10 Charming Downtowns of Los Angeles County

A friend of mine just posted a link to an article about the 10 most charming towns in Southern California.  It's a good list (I only take issue with Temecula which, with it's overcrowding and price gouging tasting rooms, has lost it's charm with me) and it got me thinking...can I come up with a list that's much closer to home?

Let's see what I can do...this will be in alphabetical order.

Belmont Shore - Actually a neighborhood of a very much larger city, this section of 2nd Street in the southwest corner of the county, between Long Beach and Seal Beach, combines the charming walkability of a village and a day at the beach.

Numerous restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops line the street.  We bought our bikes at Jone's Bike Shop near the south end of the strip.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the street at the end (Bayshore Avenue) is closed to traffic during the day, making a pedestrian friendly access to the quiet and friendly beach here on Alamitos Bay.  The big aparment building at the ocean end of Bayshore Avenue is quite popular with singles and gives this part of the beach its locally well-known nickname, 'Horny Corner.'

Claremont - at the eastern edge of the county, this premiere college town is one of our guaranteed good time spots. The village at the heart of the city eschews most of the chains so you get some very unique shopping spots such as the Folk Music Center with it's eclectic selection of musical instruments, the bookstore in the Packing House that serves as a charity for prisoner services, the last outpost of Rhino Records, and even a guy who will custom build a violin for you.

If you're hungry for a great burger, two of the very best are found on the same block. Eureka!, which serves what we consider the best burger in Southern California right now and the Back Abbey.  Pizza lovers will want to try Pizza 'n Such or Union on Yale which are practically next door to each other on Yale Avenue. Aruffo's and Tutti Mangia are great for Italian but save room to go to Bert and Rocky's (also on Yale) for some great housemade ice cream and candy when you're done.

In between, you can catch a movie at the Laemmle Theatre on Indian Hill Boulevard, right next to the Back Abbey (behind the theatre).

Claremont is a stroller's paradise with it's many shady trees, parks, and five college campuses to roam through adjacent to the village. You can easily reach it on public transit, too, as Metrolink has a station here in the heart of the village that's also served by the buses of Foothill Transit.

Photo by BikeSVG

Covina - It's not just a place on 'My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' (actually, that's West Covina, but still...), Covina has a lovely downtown stretching from Badillo and San Bernardino Road halfway between the 10 and 210 freeways.

Pubs, restaurants, the Covina playhouse reside here. Back in the day...before it burned down...the Covina Theater was our place for midnight showings of  'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.'

On the side streets, you can find Claro's, one of the best Italian Delis and markets around, and the City Grill...very good restaurant with an equally good happy hour.

Metrolink stops here and you can easily spend an evening bar-hopping and browsing.

Culver City - Along Culver Boulevard, you'll find another worthy entry to this list. It's very movie centric with a couple of very major movie studios in the neighborhood ('Gone With the Wind,' 'The Wizard of Oz,' and 'Jeopardy' were or are filmed here at the Sony Studios, formerly MGM).

It's not uncommon to see familiar faces about or to see some poor production assistant coming in to a local restaurant to pick up a big order for the crew back at the studio.

At the end of the street is the Culver Hotel, famous for housing the actors playing the Munchkins in 'The Wizard of Oz.' It's a great place to pick up a drink in the bar.

The other end of the neighborhood houses the Sony Studios along with the Henry Fonda Theatre, where live performances are staged.  Great restaurants here include Ford's Filling Station and, our favorite place for Southern fried chicken in Southern California, Honey's Kettle.

Courtesy of Wikimedia
ilpo's soujourn via CC BY 2.0 license

Glendale - A stroll along Brand Boulevard, just south of the 134 Freeway, reveals many iconic spots.  Damon's tiki styled steakhouse, and the Alex Theatre.

Keep walking south and you'll come across the Americana at Brand, a large, outdoor shopping mall where you can ride a trolley from one end to another.

The biggest highlight here, though, is the most crowded.  The long lines at 315 North Brand will tell you you're at one of the very best...and most popular...bakeries in the world.  Porto's draws 'em in with a dazzling and dizzying array of sweet baked goods. They also sell Cuban sandwiches and other light snacks.  Be prepared for a crowd and a wait, though.

Courtesy of Wikimedia
in saphho we trust via CC BY SA 2.0 license

Glendora - Another favorite for film producers, downtown Glendora on Glendora Avenue and Foothill Boulevard by the Civic Center, is a quiter version of a charming downtown district.  There's no movie theater or college to pull in the visitors so you won't get the crowds that sometimes descend on Old Pasadena or Claremont.

Shoppers will like the Kitchen Shoppe, the clock store, boutiques, candy shop, and more.  Diners will like Kara's Korner for Jewish deli-inspired comfort food (their Matzoh ball soup is what I crave when I have a cold), Domenico's for pizza, the Vault for breakfast, and another version of T. Phillips.

Larchmont Village - In the heart of the city, just south of Hollywood, lies this little neighborhood of shops and restaurants. Village Pizza is a great place for hand made pies.

After browsing the shops and having a cup of your favorite coffee, nearby is the Original Farmer's Market, which can host a day of browsing all by itself.

La Verne - Another college town, downtown La Verne covers a mere three blocks between Bonita Avenue and Arrow Highway. The adjacent University of La Verne provides a lot of shady, grassy walking areas, with occasional performances in its theaters and auditoriums. An NCAA Division III school, there is also a full slate of college sports so you can catch a thrilling game.

The fully stocked library invites the public to come in and browse, as to the art galleries on campus.

D Street, the main drag, houses an array of restaurants from budget Asian bowl take out to full-blown sit down gourmet. One of the Inland Empires legendary pizza houses is here, Warehouse Pizza, that has sustained many a college student for over four decades.

Drinkers can also carouse at the handful of bars here and Miss Donuts, on the corner of Bonita and D, is one of the best of its kind.

Monrovia - Our hometown's core has a restored old town section on Myrtle Avenue. About five blocks north of the Monrovia Gold Line light rail station, Old Town Monrovia is several blocks of shops, restaurants, pubs, and a movie theater.

The Krikorian Theatre pulls in the crowds who then dine at a feast of multi-ethnic restaurants on the street. You have Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, French, Vietnamese, British, Spanish, Cuban, Italian, Thai, Mediterranean, and good old American food represented at over two dozen fine restaurants. Our four Friday night rotation restaurants are all here...The Monrovian (solid Greek diner), Rudy's (great Mexican food and bar), T. Phillips (72 tap ale house with decent pub food), and Belasera (fine Italian dining).

Shoppers can browse jewelry stores, the library's used book store, a fishing store, cookie shop, shoes, clothing boutiques, candy shops, and more in a very relaxing and charming setting.

You'll be forgiven if you think you've been here before...being close to L.A., you know Hollywood will come calling and Old Town Monrovia has been used as a set for literally hundreds of movies, tv show, commercials, and music videos.  A few you may have heard of are 'Legally Blonde,' 'Grosse Point Blank,' 'The Goldbergs,' and 'Beethoven.'

Sierra Madre - One of the few cities in the county (maybe the only one?) that does not have a streetlight within the city limits.  It's getting a little trendier and more popular over the clubs use it as a destination for their weekend rides and the 'Only Place in Town' diner is no longer compliant with truth in advertising in it's name.

The second outpost of the wildly popular Luck Baldwins pub is here as is some great ethnic restaurants ranging from Italian, Spanich, and Greek to French, Argentinian, and Belgian.

Sierra Madre Playhouse puts on some very entertaining live theater in the middle of town and the only lodging is a converted jail cell that is now a bed and breakfast.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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