Events

9 Normal-ish Things We’re Looking Forward to Doing This Year in LA

New restaurants, the return of outdoor dining, IRL concerts and more.

We can all agree 2020 was a dumpster fire of a year and we’re more than ready to turn the page. We’ve watched every TV series on Netflix (twice), we’ve attempted to bake every kind of bread (keyword: attempted), and we’ve visited places in California we never knew existed (hello, Los Alamos). LA, in particular, has been a city that is being hit hard from COVID and has had a ripple effect on everyone from healthcare workers to small businesses and everyone in between.

We may not know exactly when things will re-open or how it will look, but after a year of surviving Murphy’s Law we’re looking forward to all the good things to hopefully come with the new year. We're approaching this list with cautious optimism, with the understanding that things are far from predictable in this pandemic. But when things do re-open, LA will rise from the ashes and we can all go back to celebrating what makes it one of the greatest cities in the world.

mazal platter
Photo by Shelby Moore for Mazal

Dining indoors (and outdoors) at new and returning restaurants 

We want restaurants back. We’ve had more Jon and Vinny’s pizzas from our couch than we care to admit and we can’t wait to crowd around a bar, dine in large groups, and break bread together again. In the meantime, neighborhood haunts like The Serving Spoon in Inglewood, The Sherman, Vanilla Black coffee shop in Echo Park and every other mom and pop and independent restaurant in LA are in dire need of our support by ordering takeout or donating.

A few restaurants were brave enough to open during COVID such as Grain Traders, the healthy food market on Fairfax Avenue that’s like the best of Erewhon’s prepared foods section but with a more international flair. Mazal, the family-run, vegetarian Israeli spot quietly opened on the Eastside, and Ospi in Venice, serves Italian cuisine with a California twist. Sushi Tama opened on Robertson Boulevard, known for it’s high-quality, traditional sushi helmed by chef Hideyuki Yoshimoto who brings over ten years of experience from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. The Barish, an Italian-style steakhouse and chef Nancy Silverton’s latest LA debut, is expected to reopen inside the legendary Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, after being temporarily closed since late November. 

Chefs and partners Katianna Hong and John Hong, hailing from Napa Valley, are expected to open their own restaurant in the DTLA Arts District called Yangban Society in spring 2021. Their American Korean deli incorporates Jewish influences—a nod to the classic New York delis that Katianna frequented as a child. 

Chicago steakhouse star Danny Grant will make his LA debut in April with the third location of etta, inside the Shay Hotel at Ivy Station in Culver City. A wood-fired oven will be the centerpiece of the upcoming venue, and the menu will feature popular items from their two Chicago locations, such as wood-crisped focaccia with ricotta-honey and truffle, seasonal pizzas, and handmade pastas.

YESS Aquatic, an experimental seafood truck, has landed in DTLA’s Arts District, helmed by Japanese chef Junya Yamasaki, and with a focus on sustainably sourced SoCal fish. After closing his London restaurant, the trained zen master relocated to LA where he learned how to free dive and fostered relationships with local fishermen. While Yamasaki had to hold off on plans to open a brick-and-mortar location, YESS Restaurant and the accompanying YESS Café and Wine Bar are slated to open early this year. The cafe and wine shop will focus on natural wines and sakes, along with a more rugged cooking technique that best compliments their flavors. 

While Boyle Heights native Mario Christerna’s Brooklyn Avenue Pizza Co. is already busy churning out pies below the historic Paramount music venue, the chef also has plans to open Poblador—which translates simply to “townsperson”—a sit-down restaurant that pays tribute to Alta California cuisine as well as LA's indigenous roots and the LA River’s native ingredients, which were utilized by the city’s first founders, just next door in 2021. 

Rumors abound about popular Parisian restaurant Mr. T’s, making its way to the streets of Hollywood thanks to a new sign near Tartine Bakery on Sycamore Ave. Eater LA confirmed that the restaurant does have plans to open an LA location, but there’s been no word otherwise on menu items or which chefs will helm the new space. The Paris location serves typical French fare including salads, rich entrees, and lots of wine.

Just around the corner from Mr. T’s cheeky new sign, construction appears to be finished at the third location of the modern Israeli favorite, Mizlala. Led by chef Danny Elmaheh, the restaurant quickly expanded to West Adams after a successful 2017 launch in Sherman Oaks. While no launch date has been announced for their upcoming Hollywood location, diners can almost certainly look forward to a first quarter opening.

Also on the docket, is the now-delayed opening of the Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge complex in Studio City. High-end grocery Erewhon is at least one of the confirmed tenants in the $100 million dollar remodeling project along with outposts of restaurants like HiHo Cheeseburger, Sugarfish, and Uovo. Opening date is TBD.

Going to see live music at actual venues and festivals

Remember concerts? We can’t wait to be immersed in a stadium filled with 18,000 screaming fans. Fortunately, venues like The Hollywood Bowl have artists already tentatively scheduled for their 2021 season, including acts like Halsey, Alanis Morisette, Andrea Bocelli, and Steely Dan, which means summers at The Hollywood Bowl are in your future. Other venues like The Greek Theatre have an impressive lineup with performances by Alicia Keys, John Legend, David Gray, and the return of The Gipsy Kings for their lively shows that get sold-out crowds to dance and sing all night long.

On the festival circuit, the Barcelona-based Primavera Sound is scheduled to arrive for the first time at Los Angeles State Historic Park from September 18-19, after a yearlong delay. The lineup is still TBA.

Having a drink at a new LA hotel 

Sure, we miss hopping on a plane and traveling to an exotic destination, but we also just miss checking-in to check-out, even if it means booking a staycation until borders gradually open up again. Luckily Los Angeles will be debuting a ton of swanky new hotels in 2021 with scenic rooftop pools, cool library lounges, and private social clubs so we can pretend we’re on vacation again.

The luxury Downtown LA Proper Hotel upgrades a historic landmark in the Broadway Corridor into a 148-room destination with two restaurants led by James Beard Award-winning chefs Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne. In Culver City, The Shay is a chic, 148-room boutique hotel that invites guests and locals to work from the outdoor courtyard or the rooftop pool with panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains. 

The soon-to-be Thompson Hollywood is opening in the heart of Hollywood in the Vinyl District, and the Sunset Strip lands another highly anticipated hotel, Pendry West Hollywood, which will be home to yet another, members-only club called The Britely. Other amenities include a rooftop pool and bar, a multipurpose live entertainment venue, a screening room, bowling alley, state-of-the-art fitness center, and food and beverage concepts driven by world-renowned chef Wolfgang Puck.

Getting cultured at museums and art exhibitions 

2020 might have been canceled but it’s not getting in the way of future art and culture experiences. LA Art Show, the contemporary art fair which is normally held in January and known as the kickoff for LA art season, will return to the LA Convention Center with new dates in the summer (July 29-August 1). Wisdome LA in DTLA is tentatively planning a new exhibit called Mystic Universe that features six styles of immersive art (visionary, fractal, comic, mediative, installation, and 360-degree projections) from internationally-acclaimed artists. 

On September 30, 2021, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will finally open its doors with an exhibit called Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971 that looks back at the African American filmmakers that shaped American cinema. And the ultra-hip, (free) biennial exhibit known as Desert X finally takes over the Coachella Valley again with 10-12 outdoor installations spread across the desert. Name a cooler socially distanced experience, we’ll wait. 

More out-of-town weekend trips

2020 naturally became the year of road trips. We spent time outdoors immersing ourselves in nature in beautiful places like Big Sur, Yosemite, and Sonoma to name a few. We also explored less crowded but charming destinations like Paso Robles, Ojai, Solana Beach, and Los Alamos

After a drab year that felt like Groundhog’s Day everyday, even visiting Las Vegas sounds exhilarating. With plenty of new hotels springing up like the high-tech Virgin Hotels Las Vegas which opens this month, Circa Las Vegas, the new adults-only gaming resort in downtown, and Resorts World Las Vegas which is the first resort to be built on the strip in over a decade (opening in summer 2021), we might not even recognize Sin City anymore.

We also won’t forget nearby destinations like Napa Valley which overcame the fiercest California fires we’ve seen. We can all use a weekend of day drinking in wine country, tasting vintage wines, and eating stinky cheese. We’re also excited to get a first look inside the brand new Four Seasons Napa Valley luxury resort in Calistoga that is opening early 2021.

Getting back into our gym routines

Call it the pandemic 15 or Netflix and chilling for nine months too long—we’ve never wanted to break out into a sweat so bad. When it is safe to do so, you can bet fitness classes in LA will be harder to get into than the Coachella ticket queue. Fortunately, West Hollywood got a slew of new studios that “opened” in 2020 including Sweat Yoga, Speir Pilates, Made by Pilates, and AARMY, co-founded by former SoulCycle instructor and one of the most prominent spin instructors in LA, Angela Manuela Davis. Davis, also known as the Chief Motivational Officer, brings her massive cult following (*cough* Jay-Z and Beyonce) and contagious energy to every boot-camp-style class which is often described as “church on a bike.” Sign. Us. Up.

Getting our caffeine fix and working from our favorite cafe patios

We won’t blame you if you missed the news of Issa Rae’s Hilltop Coffee opening its third location in Eagle Rock in November of last year, but don’t sleep on their Bangin’ Breakfast Sandwich, Smoked Salmon Droptop toast, beignets, or churros—not to mention coffee drinks that include a Black Rose Latte and an Almond Turmeric Latte in the new year. 

Our favorite trendy coffee chain Alfred Coffee is expanding to Venice’s Abbot Kinney this month, so look forward to parking your beach cruiser on their patio while you snap IG stories of their artfully foamed matcha lattes. In South LA, caffeine guzzlers can look forward to Oakland-based Red Bay Coffee finally opening its doors across the street from Harold & Belle’s in Jefferson Park.

Lounging in bookstores and listening to in-person author readings

Books have been one of the many pastimes that got us through 2020 but nothing compares to walking aimlessly through the stacks at The Last Bookstore, checking out a book signing at Book Soup, or listening to live music on the patio at Stories Books and Cafe. Independent bookstores have been on the brink of extinction even before COVID and we’d like to keep them alive. You can support by ordering your books directly from indie bookstores or donating to the ones that need our help to survive the pandemic like Stories Books and Cafe which set up a GoFundMe page. Bibliophiles on the Westside will be thrilled to know that after struggling earlier in the pandemic, Malik Books recently opened their second location in the Fox Hills Mall.

Watching a movie on the big screen 

And don’t even get us started on movies. We are so tired of watching movies from the couch. And our bedrooms. On our phones. And even our spin bikes. We just want to sink in the plush seats of a movie theater, stick our hands in a bucket of buttery popcorn, and hear a collective laugh from an audience when the punchline of a comedy hits. Movie theaters feel like a distant memory but we’re hoping to watch the highly anticipated films of the year like Top Gun Maverick, The Eternals, and Mission: Impossible 7 on the big screen at *some* point this year. Until then, we’ll be pulling up to the drive-in theaters at Rooftop Cinema Club.

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Leila Najafi has spent the year in quarantine checking off many firsts, including growing an herb garden, baking bread, and finally learning how to cook Persian food. Follow her on Instagram at @LeilasList for more quarantine-firsts.