Thursday, July 22, 2010

Panini Garden


I have to make this quick, because I've spent all evening walking the streets of Silver Lake to get to a Dodger game and so now it's late and I need to get some good sleep in because I'm going to a Robyn concert right after work tomorrow. What can I say, I live a very busy life. But I wanted to take a minute to tell you about the Panini Garden, because it's one of the best sandwiches you'll ever have.

I used to go there all the time when I worked in Santa Monica, and it always made my day. I went there again on Saturday and remembered all over again why I love it. After I was done, I felt a little drunk. It was just that damn good.

If you choose to eat in, they have a really cute setting in the back that's like a little secret hippie garden. They have a wide selection of paninis and they are all delicious.

My favourite is called the Tacchino. Which is basically a turkey sandwich. I'm also a really big fan of the goat cheese/walnut one. My old co-workers swear by the tuna melt.

Bottom line - give it a shot. You won't be disappointed.

Know before you go:

  1. You have a choice of bread: Rustico, Tramezzino, or Al Forno. Always choose Rustico. It's just so much better, and you can't beat that crunch as you chomp down on your sammie.

  2. If you call in for a pick up, they often get the order wrong, so check it before you leave.

  3. Parking can be a bitch on the weekends, so try to go on a weekday if you can. If not, it's totally worth whatever you pay in parking to get that sandwich.


2715 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405-4007
(310) 399-9939

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Gold Room


The Gold Room is my favourite place for an after work cocktail. Painted a dark, matte black and nestled snug in the ghetto, the Gold Room is easy to miss. It's a little black hole that your eyes skip right over, but you should be sure to keep those eyes peeled for this fun, cheap dive bar.

The thing I like to do is go to the Gold Room when it's still early and really sunny outside. It really adds to the "I'm being swallowed into a dark pit" feeling you get when you walk inside. Because not only is the whole outside painted black, but it's super dark inside as well. When you first walk in, I can almost guarantee that your first thoughts are going to be, "Oh my God, it's so dark," and "It smells like a swimming pool in here."

Yes, it smells like a swimming pool, and the room is oddly decorated in a cosmic theme, but take a seat up by the bar, order a drink, and get some free peanuts. Or some free tacos. Yes I said free tacos.

The bartenders are all bosomy Mexican women, but my favourite is Rosalita. I don't actually know her name, but in my mind she's Rosalita and she's fantastic. (Yeah, I'm a little racist). Rosalita is older, has dyed blonde hair, and barely speaks English. But she can sure make a hell of a michelada. Which is the drink I would suggest that you, dear reader, go and get as soon as you can. I'm not going to tell you what's in it, or you wouldn't order it, but trust me it's delicious. I get mine with Bud Light, because I like my beer to taste like water, but order any kind you like and throw it in the concoction she gives you. It's delicious, filling, and will leave your lips all atingle. And it will only set you back $4.

Or, if you want to be all hipster dive bar douchebag, go ahead and order the Gold Room Special - a beer and a shot of tequila. This is also only $4.

When you're ready for a smoke, head out back to the scary little hallway, where you're sure to run into some fun characters. So far I've talked with a man who came to the Gold Room to celebrate his 70th birthday (He sung me songs in Spanish and talked about the highlights of his 70 years - graduating from Hollywood High and getting Social Security benefits); saw a skinny girl wander around and knock on various windows - I think in search of drugs; and talked with a gaggle of gay hipsters, which, to be honest, was a little weird. I feel like gay boys know better than to look gritty and poor.

And a special treat - even though the Gold Room is most definitely a dive bar, the bathrooms are clean and bright, which is more than I can say for most regular bars.

The crowd will change depending on when you go. If you go after work, you will most likely be drinking alongside older Mexican men (who may or may not strike up a friendly conversation with you). Actually, I think whenever you go you'll be drinking alongside older Mexican men. And there will always be a smattering of hipster to go around. And I recently went on a Saturday afternoon and my friend Ben looked around and said, "I didn't know the Gold Room was a gay bar." I don't know if Saturdays are normally gay days or if there was something going on that I didn't know about, but personally, I like the mix of gays and old Mexicans drinking and watching Telemundo and I Love Lucy on mute together. It gives me hope for our country.

Know before you go:

  1. You have to ask for the free tacos. I personally like to stick with just the free peanuts (which they will put in front of you upon arrival), but if you're a bit peckish just tell them how many you want.

  2. Parking can be a bit of a bitch, but there is a yellow loading only spot out front. A little secret - you can park in these spots after 6:00 pm unless the sign says otherwise. Be warned - you're only allowed to do this in the yellow loading zones. The white ones are still off limits.


Yeah, that's a homeless dude sitting out front.

The Gold Room
1558 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026-3332
Open Weekdays 11am-2am; Weekends 8am-2am

Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy Hour.


I just got a tip on a great website on Happy Hour deals. This should help you wade through the millions of choices.

My personal choice for a Friday afternoon is The Gold Room in Echo Park. Their special is a shot of tequila and a Pabst for $4, but I get the incredibly delicious micheladas (also only $4). But more on the Gold Room later...

Now go get your drink on!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

k9 Connection


So I just got a bad ass photograph of Santa Monica beach from 1932. I won it at the k9 Connection Softball fundraiser. Go me!

This would not be the first thing I've gotten from volunteering. I mean technically I paid for this, because I bought raffle tickets to win it, but over the years I've gotten more free food than I could begin to weigh, tons of free alcohol, an iPod touch, a giant flat screen television, conversations with Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, and Sally Field, a dance and a rose from Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Korev, even a trip to Chicago - all free, all from volunteering. If Richard Simmons is the best kept secret in LA, volunteering is the best kept secret in life. Organizations often have to beg people to help, when really, they should be turning people away due to overflow.

Take for instance k9 Connection. My favourite nonprofit. In their own words:

    k9 connection brings the magic of dogs and kids together. At-risk teens ages 14 to 18, train homeless shelter dogs in basic obedience, assisting the dogs to develop the skills to become adoptable.

    k9 connection empowers at-risk teenagers to apply the lessons they teach the dogs to their own lives: to develop an awareness of the risks of uncontrolled and impulsive behavior, and to believe in the power of positive reinforcement as an alternative to force and violence.

    k9 connection aids teenagers in becoming responsible community members by focusing on goal setting, personal accountability, and personal motivation.

My personal commitment to k9 has really just been raising money for them each year. But they have lots more volunteer opportunities. What they usually need is for people to walk the dogs. There are several reasons volunteering at k9 will enrich your life:

  1. Your standard warm and fuzzy "I'm helping" feelings.

  2. Dudes. Trust me when I say this. Dogs are chick magnets. We cannot stay away from them. I guarantee if you take one of these dogs out to a park, at least one hot chick will come and talk to you. AND, you already have a built-in conversation starter, because the dogs wear these ridiculously cute orange vests that say "Adopt Me" and you can tell the hot chicks how you're sensitive and caring and you help homeless dogs. If you're at least halfway decent looking and a have a dash of hutzpah somewhere in your bones, I bet you could get at least one date per dog walking experience.

  3. Sometimes they have other events. Like this one time I volunteered and ended up spending the evening in one of those really cool and expensive houses right on the beach in Santa Monica that I never would have gotten the opportunity to see otherwise. I drank free wine and ate free gourmet hors' d'oeuvres and got a millionaires view of the ocean. Pretty sweet.

  4. The annual softball fundraiser. I like to go all out and get money and pay to be a player and buy raffle tickets and such, but if you don't want to do that, $20 will get you a seat at a game, the best frickin' tacos ever (I should mention this is UNLIMITED tacos. Unlimited tacos!), unlimited drinks and dessert, and tons of cute dogs to fawn over.

  5. You can take the dogs to training classes (free to you) and learn mad skillz. These could be used for a dog you already have, a future dog, or maybe to embellish your resume to get that dog walking gig in Beverly Hills.

  6. New friends! Tired of meeting people at bars? Meeting people who are volunteering automatically pushes you past that awkward "I don't know anything about you, you could be a serial killer" phase, and into the slightly less awkward and much less dangerous,"Hey, I don't know much about you, but I know you're out doing good in the world, and you're working for a cause that we both believe in" phase. I'm not saying serial killers don't volunteer, or that everyone you meet will be well-adjusted. The bat-shit crazy are out and about too. I'm just saying you're chances are better.

And that's just one organization. Los Angeles is full of places to volunteer! Find something you're interested in, and go donate your time to a worthy cause. You will get so much more out of it than you put into it.

For more information on k9 Connection, click here.

For more information about volunteering, and finding a good match for you, try Volunteer Match or Idealist.

And to see what my fav organization is all about, watch this:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


It's nearly impossible to give Disneyland a rating. I mean, everyone should go to Disneyland at least once. It's Disneyland. If you were like me, and couldn't afford the Disney channel growing up, D-land isn't necessarily going to be as magical as it is for some people. But I'm sure most of you (at least most people who would be reading this blog) have seen all of the Disney classics and have a special place in your heart that gets all warm when you hear "When You Wish Upon A Star."

So, I will leave Disneyland rating-less. It's just too hard. The entrance price is ridiculous, and the food tastes like asshole, but there's fireworks every night, and a parade every day, and oh my God they brought back Captain EO.

Captain EO was by far my favourite ride. I hadn't heard of it before I went, but apparently it was a big thing back in the 80's. I was told that Michael Jackson was involved, so I was all for seeing it, but had no idea what I was in for. Turns out what I was in for was a short film about Michael Jackson as the captain of an alien spaceship and his muppet crew. They go to some outerspace junkyard land that is ruled by the Supreme Leader that looks like the alien from Alien mixed with Medusa, except with snakes for legs instead of hair. Then MJ's rainbow shirt lights up and he turns the Supreme Leader's evil guards into backup dancers with his special Care Bear Stare. They dance and sing then MJ gives the Supreme Leader the ultimate gift - he turns her into Anjelica Huston. So basically what I'm saying is that it was the best movie I've ever seen. AND, it was in 3D so Michael Jackson dances, like, ON your face. Worth the entire trip to Disneyland.

I'm also a big fan of Space Mountain.

So, go to Disneyland if you haven't been. Watch Captain EO and buy a big gay rainbow shirt in the store afterward. Ride Space Mountain. Give your kids nightmares by taking the time to go to Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki House (as my friend put it, "You sit in this room and fake birds sing at you for 8 minutes." - It was exactly that, but I will add that it is terrifying and that outside is one big slightly offensive Dole commercial).

Know before you go:

  1. Avoid the Pizza Port. I'm assuming anywhere else you decide to eat would be a better choice.

  2. Lots of people in Los Angeles work for Disney. These people can get you in for free. So check with your friends before you go to avoid having to sell a limb to gain entrance.

  3. Check each ride to see if they give out single rider passes. You will be able to avoid most of the line, and often end up riding with your party anyway.

For your enjoyment, I'm including a video of part of Captain EO. It's not in 3D and isn't the whole show, so you may want to hold off and just see the real thing. But just in case you're dying to see it (as you should be), here it is:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Neptune's Net


Neptune's Net gets 5 Smiles, despite the fact that the bathrooms are port-a-potties and that the fried seafood offerings aren't really that tasty. Everything else about this place is awesome.

Oh, Net, how I love you. Let me count the ways.

  1. The drive there. The Net is in Ventura County. If you live somewhere in central LA, you'll have to drive 30 miles up the coast. Normally, I'm kind of a 5 mile radius or bust kind of girl, but this ride is on the PCH, a road which makes me fall in love with Los Angeles all over again every time I'm there. The trip is best taken on a motorcycle or in a convertible, so you get the full effect of the cool ocean wind and the smell of salt.


  2. The wall of libations. Once you get in line to order your food, you walk past a whole wall of drink options, alcoholic and otherwise. If you like beer, this is a great place to get a cold one. They have random sissy drinks too, like Mike's brand margarita in a bottle, and 40 oz. bottles of Smirnoff Ice.

  3. The amazing bbq pork sandwich with cole slaw on top.

  4. Bitchin' people watching. The Net is basically a biker bar. You don't have to be a biker to go here (although it does enhance the experience), but you will see plenty of them. Harley's, crotch rockets, scooters (well, I've never seen a scooter other than mine, but whatever), old biker men and their old biker babe passengers, wizened, leathery skin, leather pants stretched tight over bulging fupas, and yellowed Wilford Brimley mustaches. If you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the old biker babe hairdo, which is basically a ponytail that's held down by several layers of scrunchies, often multi-colored.

  5. Outdoor seating. Watch the waves while you eat!

  6. The view. After lunch, walk across the highway and take in the waves, surfers, and occasional dolphin sighting.

Know before you go:

  • As I said at the beginning, there are only port-a-potties, so pee before you leave home.

  • You'll kind of look like a pussy if you show up in a car, so try to get a friend with a motorcycle to take you. I mean, don't not go if you don't want to get on a motorcycle, but know that I will judge you, even if nobody else does.

  • Unless you happen to live in Malibu or Ventura County, going to the Net is kind of a deal, so make a day of it. Go to the beach, or check out one of the many fun hikes around the area. I would suggest Solstice Canyon. You can also head up Topanga Canyon for some hippie fun at Hidden Treasures or for a margarita at Abuelita's.

  • Apparently they sell seafood that you can take home to cook (lobsters, etc), and also frozen custard. So go grab a beer, and then take some lobsters home for dinner.

  • On a nice day the crowd can get pretty spectacular, so try to get there before noon to avoid the rush

  • If you really aren't going to go on a motorcycle, try to avoid Sundays. The Sabbath is like Harley Heaven for some reason.



42505 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265-2221
(310) 457-3095

Friday, July 2, 2010

Nickel Diner - Downtown LA


Nickel Diner is a solid 3 Smile diner. The food is decent. The atmosphere is a mixture of hipster and old people (and a bunch of anime convention attendees with brightly colored wigs - but I think that's only because the Anime Convention was in town). The noise level was a bit loud for my taste; it's a good place to take someone you don't really want to talk to. Overall, I've had better, I've had worse.

Well, then why bother writing about it at all?

Because the serve bacon donuts.


Yes, those are donuts with real bacon sprinkled on top.

When my lunchmate finished her lunch she said, "I'm fattened and happy," and then she started pawing at the air with her hands. I asked if she was kneading like a kitten, and she said, "Yes, in anticipation of bacon donuts." Girl knows how to prepare.

Anyhoo, the donuts were delicious. I think an improvement would be some maple icing smeared on top, but I'm not going to complain.

And I didn't try it, but the waitress mentioned a dessert called the Irish Car Bomb, which involved some sort of Guinness goodness outside and Jameson goodness inside. Any place that puts bacon and bourbon in their desserts gets a thumbs up from me.

524 South Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013-1422
(213) 623-8301
Open Tue-Sat 8am-3:30pm, 6pm-11pm; Sun 8am-3:30pm

Richard Simmon's Slimmons


Working out with Richard Simmon's is definitely a "5 Smile" rated activity. Since I initially wrote the piece below, I've worked out with Richard several more times, and my opinion remains the same: Best kept secret in LA.

This is a must-see/must-do if you spend any time in Los Angeles. Let me be clear. I hate working out. And I'm especially bad at cardio. You may be too. You may be 500 pounds and out of shape. You may be 90 pounds and in the best shape of your life. It doesn't matter. It is still the most fun thing you'll ever do.

Know before you go:

  1. You may want to call first and check that Richard will be there. He normally teaches Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays. I suggest going on a Saturday for the full experience. 310-275-4663

  2. Bring water!

  3. One class is only $12. Cash is quicker, but they take credit cards.

  4. Fill out the medical form before you get there, because it's a pain to do in the lobby, which quickly becomes FILLED with people. You can find Page 1 here and Page 2 here.

  5. Show up a little before 11:00.

  6. Pee before you come.

  7. When he tells you to get weights - trust me, get the 3 or 5 pounds, not the 8's. I know you think you're strong, but trust me, you want the lower weights.

  8. Bring a camera.


I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to accurately describe what happened this morning. I just don't think I can do it justice. But hopefully, you'll read this post and be inspired to do this yourself. Only then can you understand the fun, the excitement, the hilarity...

...of working out with Richard Simmons.

It turns out Richard teaches aerobics classes (called "Sweat" class) in Beverly Hills three times a week. I don't know why there aren't billboards advertising this and spotlights shining and parades going by. I don't know why there isn't a wait list to get in the class. He's a legend to anyone who spent time in the 1980's. After the class, my friend Ari and I were driving on Melrose and we saw a slew of paparazzi and fans at Kitson for Nicole Ritchie. Ari goes, "Really? All of this for Nicole Ritchie? We saw Richard Simmons today!!" My thoughts exactly. How can you stand in line for Nicole Ritchie and not get excited for Richard Simmons? This studio is the best kept secret in LA.

According to his website, Richard was moved by an experience he had in the 70's when an overweight woman was denied access to a gym. Their excuse was insurance risk, but basically, she wasn't hot enough to work out in their fancy LA gym. Richard was indignant and said to the woman, "I saw what happened inside, Ma'am, and it just was NOT right! Here's my card. I intend to open my own exercise studio, and, I promise, you will be welcome there, any time!" And so was born Slimmons.


In case you maybe got dropped on your head when you were a baby and can't figure out why the studio is called Slimmons, Richard kindly spells it out for us (um, literally) on his site: "I took my own last name, "Simmons," and added the "L" to make "Slimmons."


Here's where the description is going to get kind of dodgy. It's impossible to explain his energy. I walked in, early, as I thought I might make a trip to the bathroom before we started. Unfortunately, everyone else had that idea too, so I was waiting in line, trying to be respectful of the class he had before the Sweat class I was going to (it was a discussion class - they were all sitting on the floor taking about being positive and such), when he stands up and yells, "Let's sweat!!"

Just at that moment the disco ball started spinning(did I mention there's a disco ball?), the doors opened, people flooded in, and Britney Spears' "Circus" started pumping through the speakers.

Circus indeed.

A girls dance troupe had come from out of town, so it was me and my friends, several older women (one lady had to be in her 70's), some skinny people, some heavier people, a smattering of men, and a bunch of these young dance girls in turquoise shirts.

There was no welcome, no introduction, no agenda laid out. We all just scrambled for a spot and started doing grapevines with Richard Simmons.

It. was. awesome.

I was about to describe all the fun dance moves and laughing and singing, but I just remembered I never mentioned that he was wearing short shorts and a tank top with a glittering bird on it.


I think it's important that you get the visual. Packed room, turquoised children, heavy older women, disco ball, glitter. Got it?

Ok. So we're grapevining, and walking like Egyptians, and clapping, and jumping invisible rope, and there are arms everywhere, and we're stretching and bumping into strangers, and all of the sudden the whole room is singing along to "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and we're crossing ourselves, and Richard is telling us to do it pretty or he'll turn off the lights and close the doors and make us play Anne Frank, and by this time it's pretty clear he has a crush on my friend Ari, and then we all get in a circle and Richard starts pulling people out to do dances down the center, and he starts "Love shack" over again because we were working out too hard to sing it well and he thought it was insulting to the B-52s, and then there's a scramble for weights and we were toning and then we're on our backs thrusting into the air and doing push-ups and we're sweating and sweating and sweating...

I've never had so much fun. My friend Ari said it best, "I had a smile on my face the entire time."

It was outlandish and crazy and everything someone who is averse to working out needs. I have to give props to Mr. Simmons for the energy and heart he puts into helping making other people healthy. He is truly something special.

Class is over at this point, but then he sits us all down so we can watch the dance troupe that came do a routine based on Richard Simmons. Here's a picture of Richard watching the dance-girl Richard:


We clapped and cheered and Richard told us he loved us and would stay for pictures. Which, of course, we got:


We thanked him and he thanked us and I was trying to tell him how amazing the class was (I have never ever before enjoyed working out and I have the belly to prove it and it was really nice to exercise and have a fun time and get cheered on), but he was busy talking to Ari and telling him to come back or it would break his heart because he had a crush on him. (I knew it!)

Honestly, it was the best $12 I ever spent.


9306 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210
310-275-4663 or 310- A SLIM ME

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Smile, You're in Los Angeles.

I love LA. Which makes no sense if you know me, but I do, I love this town. And I try to make the most of every day that I'm here. So, I decided to start a blog chronicling the random things I do here and the things that make this city great (or the things in this city that make me laugh, of which there are many).

This is that blog.