Sometimes, Omaze co-founder Matt Pohlson goes to India (see above -- sweet hats, right?). Sometimes, he revolutionizes the way charity and sweepstakes work through a model where folks donate money to various causes in order to become eligible to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Like glassblowing classes! Just kidding. More like riding in an RV to the Breaking Bad premiere with Walter White, or playing Battleship against Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen. We asked Matt to tell us who in LA impressed him the most with their own fearless innovation. Here’s what he came back with.
Innovative Dining Experience: Shunji
"I would define this as more of an experience than a restaurant", says Matt of the establishment led by a chef who began his career 30 years ago under none other than Nobu Matsuhisa himself. "They have all the skills for curation that typically define a great sushi spot, but in addition they serve dishes I’ve never seen anywhere else." For example? "They offer a tomato served Agedashi tofu style, which may not sound appetizing, but will blow your mind. They also offer a sake that Shunji devised that you can only get there." One thing that doesn't stand out about Shunji: "Like all great LA sushi restaurants, it's located in a nondescript strip mall in West LA."
Innovative Beach Ride: Solé Bicycles
"Solé not only pioneered combining bolder color combos, they figured out how to make the fixie affordable" says Venice resident Matt. His favorite? The Foamside, "but I'm only writing that in the hopes that someone who works there will read this and want to send me a free one".
Innovative Parlor Gamer: Parvez Taj
Besides conducting stunning mixed media assaults on reclaimed barn wood using photographs, water-based paints, and ultraviolet inks, this LA artist also makes tiny animal skulls, and "the coolest ping-pong tables you will ever see". Seriously, these are the coolest ping-pong tables you will ever see.
Innovative Live Performer: Justin Willman
"Justin’s Magic Meltdown is the best live show of any kind I’ve seen in the last couple years", says Matt of the spectacle that'll resume at Meltdown Comics in September. "He doesn’t do the whole 'I am bending the laws of physics and nature you should be wowed by me' magician thing. It’s more like the most innovative variety show you’ve ever seen, where magic fits together perfectly with the musical acts, comedy, and Justin riffing with the crowd. He’s one of those guys you see once and know he'll have his own TV show one day."
Innovative Workout: Sweat Garage
"What I love about this place is that the work out kicks your ass and flies by", says Matt of the N. Fairfax facility whose hybrid class of running, weights, plyometrics, jump rope, and tabata training typically last just an hour. As for what the hell tabata is: "I’m not really sure, but they tell you that you're doing it, and it sounds cool."
Innovative Outside Seating: Little Next Door
"For having the best weather of any major city in the US and maybe the world, LA does not have enough outdoor cafes. Little Door has a beautiful outdoor patio, great French food, and excellent coffee. You almost feel like you're in Europe when you're hanging out there."
Innovative Hunger Buster: This Bar Saves Lives
"I live off snack bars, and these are the best I've ever tasted." But it's not just the taste, it's that for some, these things are more valuable than a 100 Grand: "For every bar you buy, they give a life-saving packet of food to someone in the developing world. Being in the cause space, one becomes a little wary of companies using the one-for-one model strictly for promotional purposes, but these guys are the real deal. They invest a huge percentage of their proceeds to combat hunger and work with the top non-profits in the space."
Innovative Gear: Topo Ranch
For truly unique beach style, stop by their Abbot Kinney brick & mortar. For truly unique friendliness in a world where so many can be cold and uninviting, hit up their First Fridays parties.
Innovative End of the World: The Tasting Kitchen
The brunch (see above) is spectacular, but this place also serves Matt's favorite drink of all-time: the off-menu Apocalypto, which is bolstered by "some ginger magic" by Justin Pike, who's won more "Best Bartender" awards than Tom Hanks has Oscars.
One of the most exciting developments to ever hit LA's Japanese cuisine scene, Shunji's blackboard menu proffers unique eats like a martini glass filled with noodles made from ground snapper and purple mashed potatoes. "Bottoms Up" isn't just for drinking anymore.
Sweat Garage is your kitchen-sink workout destination, combining all manner of cardio and strength training into an hour-long high-energy marathon that'll have you running, lifting, jumping rope, and doing both plyometrics and something called "tabata" -- by then you'll be too tired to care that you don't know what it is.
The weather in sunny LA makes for plenty of year-round outdoor dining, and some of the best is at Little Next Door, with its extremely tranquil patio complete with fountain and pond. And if that's not extremely tranquil enough, they also have over eighty-five wines by the glass.
This sustainable Venice-based company's got a schload of fresh, ultra-soft tees sporting designs like a throwback beach scene, an amplifier fitted w/ devil horns, and a bear/deer hybrid they call "The Beer", which you will need if you ever see a bear/deer hybrid.
Offering New American cuisine that will make your mouth foam, The Tasting Kitchen's eclectic offerings range from tempura-fried green beans to an unbeatable brunch featuring bacon- or sausage-stuffed waffles. Beyond the carbs, you'll also find one of LA's most award-winning-est bartenders, Justin Pike.