MEET THE WRITER
Wilder Shaw is an LA native who writes about food and lifestyle for a variety of publications, but you probably know him from when he played "Trick-or-Treater No. 2" on an episode of The Nanny.
When was the last time you were in LA?
I’m a native and local -- I was born here, went to college in San Francisco, and moved right back home afterward.
What’s something about LA that people don’t understand if they’re not from there?
I think people feel like the most exciting parts of LA are the beach or the Hollywood Hills, but there is so much more to the city than that. Every neighborhood is practically its own city -- the sleepy stretches of Eagle Rock, the chaotic energy of the Santa Monica tech scene, the steadily prospering South LA -- and each one is home to things a lot more interesting than the Venice Boardwalk.
Number one can’t-miss recommendation?
We’ve got great places to eat just about every type of cuisine you can think of, but above all, you need tacos. Tacos are LA on a plate. Ideally you’ll be eating them on the street, too, out of a truck or from a cart. This doesn’t mean that every single taco truck in LA is perfect, of course, but you’re more than likely to stumble across something great, especially if you’re on the east side. Multiple fresh salsas, homemade tortillas, and (sigh) long lines are all indicators of a great truck, so enjoy the hunt, because discovery is half the magic.
What’s a low-key LA hidden gem that visitors don’t usually consider?
I cannot state this strongly enough: Just because a small, strip-mall restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, chances are high that it’s a banger. One of my favorite restaurants has a sign that says just one word: “Cuisine.” I can't tell you what it is because the owner would kill me.
What’s your best tip to a visitor?
First of all, this place is big. Like, really big. Our public transit, while reliable if you’re taking it to the places it runs, simply doesn’t cover enough ground. Because of this, you can either rent a car (ew), or prepare to spend some bucks on Ubers and Lyfts. This is a far better option, as it offers relief from the hellbeast that is parking in LA, as well as the chance to imbibe as you please. Another tip: Make as many reservations as possible. A lot of these places simply won’t be able to accommodate walk-ins.
Next big trip in 2020 that you're excited about?
I’ve been to Austin, Texas, twice, but both times were for Austin City Limits Music Festival. I didn’t really get a sense of what the city is really like, since it was so full of tourists. This year I’m heading back to do it right -- that means talking to locals, eating at more places than just Torchy’s Tacos, and exploring a lot more neighborhoods.
Ultimate bucket list that you're dying to go to one day?
Japan is firmly rooted in my number one spot.