Grammys: Where to Eat, Stay, Shop and Party in Downtown L.A.

The city's “it” neighborhood readies for awards madness with a new Ace Hotel (with one of the “most spectacular theaters I’ve ever seen,” says Moby), high-end boutiques and culinary hotspots.
The Ace Hotel's United Artists Theater
Spencer Lowell

Downtown L.A. is no longer simply reviving. It's full-blown thriving, with more exciting things happening right now per block than the rest of the city combined.

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WHERE TO STAY

Twelve years after the arrival of the Standard hotel in the Financial District, downtown finally has another boutique lodging worthy of its remarkable transformation, and it's going to be the hip hub of Grammy weekend. Opened just two weeks ago and located a few blocks east of the Staples Center, the Ace Hotel (rooms from $199 per night, 929 S. Broadway) is the sixth outpost of the idiosyncratic hospitality company and the first to bow in L.A. On Grammy night, the spot will host Universal Music Group's afterparty, with nominees Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Imagine Dragons dropping by.

The 13-story restored Spanish-Gothic pile -- built by Mary Pickford as United Artists' headquarters in 1927 -- is a musically inclined place, where the 182 rooms come equipped with guitars and turntables. Its restored adjoining 1,600-seat theater is being programmed as a performance space with cred-dripping acts. (Cult band Spiritualized sold out a pair of Valentine's Day weekend shows in minutes.) "Even if you aren't staying at the Ace, you owe it to yourself to look at the theater, as it's one of the most spectacular I've ever seen -- and after 25 years of touring, I've seen a lot of theaters," says Moby. He, Drake and Jared Leto attended the opening soiree on Jan. 11.

The building has been irreverently reimagined with a mix of everything from midcentury to Mayan touches by design firm Commune (Ace Palm Springs). It features a rooftop bar, called Upstairs, as well as a lobby restaurant, L.A. Chapter, run by the team behind Brooklyn's trendy Five Leaves, which offers haute hangover cuisine. It's covered in wry illustrations of the likes of Michael Jackson and James Dean by Simon and Nikolai Haas -- twin brothers of actor Lukas and currently darlings of the art world.

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WHERE TO EAT

Located across from the Ace, the tasting-menu-only Alma (952 S. Broadway), run by chef Ari Taymor (nephew of director-choreographer Julie Taymor), was crowned Bon Appetit's best new restaurant in America last year. It's now a near-impossible reservation.

Expected to debut within weeks is Mabel's (314 W. Olympic Blvd.), a farm-fresh and fancified fried chicken and waffles hangout from Jason Harley, the former private chef to American Film Institute chairman Bob Daly. "It's Kentucky Fried Chicken modernized for our time," Harley says. Nearby, Adam Fleischman, who dreamed up Umami Burger, has announced the launch of his own fried chicken concept involving chocolate as a key component. Investor and Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal recently tweeted: "Whoa. Got first taste @EatChocoChicken today. Details to follow but it works."

Also new nearby: dumpling den Peking Tavern (806 S. Spring St.) and L.A.'s second Terroni pizza parlor (802 S. Spring St.), plus two dueling omakase spots: Sushi Zo (334 S. Main St.), brother to the acclaimed Westside original, bowed just prior to Q (521 W. 7th St.), whose chef pursues a traditionalist Edomae style, eliminating sugar in the rice.

Meanwhile, longtime culinary crossroads the Grand Central Market (317 Broadway) is transforming into something akin to San Francisco's Ferry Building. It has welcomed new-school barbecue Horse Thief, juicer Press Brothers, yolk joint EggSlut and fromagerie DTLA Cheese. On the horizon: sustainable Northern California butcher Belcampo.

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For late-night carousing, Honeycut (819 S. Flower St.) capitalizes on this year's comeback of Giorgio Moroder's brand of synth noir with its packed disco floor, while bare-bones bar Wendell (656 S. Main St.) is at the former address of Charles Bukowski dive Craby Joe's. It's named after the late Wendell Green, a beloved Sunset Strip nightlife fixture.

WHERE TO SHOP

At the base of the turquoise terra-cotta Art Deco Eastern Columbia Building -- where Johnny Depp keeps a penthouse pied-a-terre -- Swedish avant-garde fashion company Acne Studios (855 S. Broadway) has opened a 5,000-square-foot boutique. "I live in Echo Park -- much too close to the store for my own good!" says actress Nathalie Love (Palo Alto) of the structured-yet-slouchy line. "I just love the shape of their clothes."

Australian skin care line Aesop is about to bow across the street, next to incoming Portland leather shop Tanner Goods. Nearby is a new Urban Outfitters (810 S. Broadway) that's inhabiting the neon-lit former Rialto Theatre. Men's label Daniel Patrick (1039 S. Broadway), worn by will.i.am, opened several months ago down the street. And Gant, APC and Oak NYC are said to be circling the neighborhood.

WHERE TO GALLERY HOP

While the neighborhood waits for billionaire Eli Broad to finish his Grand Avenue museum this year, downtown's art scene continues its ascent. Night Gallery (2276 E. 16th St.), The BOX (805 Traction Ave.) and 356 Mission Road (356 S. Mission Road) -- from A-list NYC gallerist Gavin Brown and painter Laura Owens -- are all buzzed-about arrivals. Nonprofit art space Mistake Room (1811 E. 20th St.) -- OWN's senior vp business and legal affairs Tina Perry is on the board -- unveiled its first show on Jan. 18, spotlighting rising painter Oscar Murillo, who's been bought in-depth by Charles Saatchi.

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"This part of the city is the most interesting," says gallerist Francois Ghebaly. "It's where the artistic and creative core of L.A. lives and works." His 12,000-square-foot eponymous space (2245 E. Washington Blvd.) debuted on Jan. 18, too.

Additional reporting by Maxwell Williams.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.