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Where To Find That Small-Town Feeling In and Around Los Angeles

November 3, 2010 1:37 PM

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(credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

(credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

mainst header Where To Find That Small Town Feeling In and Around Los Angeles

(credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Close your eyes and imagine doing errands in a small town. You park your car in one place, and walk to the post office and the bank. You stop in at a little boutique and pick up a pair of handmade earrings, or a small treat for your kids, or you browse at an independent bookstore. Hungry and a little bit tired, you grab a cup of coffee and a scone at the shop on the corner. People are polite and say “hello” as you pass on the tree-lined, quaint little street. Back at your car, you don’t find a parking ticket, and nobody’s hovering to nab your spot as soon as you back out.

Believe it or not, there places like that right here in and around Los Angeles. You just have to know where to look. Each neighborhood has its distinctive look and feel – from the hipster enclaves of Los Angeles to the towns east where time stood still, or at least it looks like it.

Los Angeles

Larchmont Village

Larchmont Village is a collection of shops and businesses along Larchmont Boulevard between Melrose and Beverly. This area serves as a “main street” for the nearby communities of Hancock Park and Paramount Studios. A stroll through this area reveals many large old grand homes. Stop in at Crumbs for the cupcake of the week, and browse for snazzy gifts at Pickett Fences.

Eat: Crumbs Bake Shop
216 N Larchmont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 464-8400
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Shop: Pickett Fences Boutique Clothing and Accessories
214 N. Larchmont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 467-2140
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Los Feliz

The Los Feliz walkable shopping district is bound to the north by Los Feliz Blvd, to the south by Sunset, to the west by Vermont and the east by Hillhurst. There are many little restaurants and cafes that provide outdoor seating day and night. The Alcove Café on Hillhurst serves bakery items, omelettes, big salads, and creative vegetarian fare in its eclectically decorated location under the trees. They just opened The Big Bar for more adult-style offerings. Shops in this area border on hipster cool, so if you’re in the market for a man-purse (Steven Alan Outpost) or a groovy gift for your toddler (Dragonfly DuLou), this is the section of town for you. If leisure is your thing, The Los Feliz 3 is an old-fashioned street-front movie theater complete with little windowed box office that shows a combination of big-budget and independent films.

Eat: The Alcove Café and Big Bar
1929 Hillhurst Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(32) 644-0100
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Shop: Steven Alan Outpost
1937 1/2 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 667-9500
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DragonFly DuLou
2066 Hillhurst Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 665-8448
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Relax: Los Feliz 3
1822 Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 664-216

Silver Lake

Silver Lake Blvd. has a few areas along the road that are hotbeds of walkable shopping and dining and general merry-making. The more small-towny feeling is up near the reservoir, where you can take your dog to the dog park or walk around the lake itself (and sometimes spot a celebrity). Okay, it’s a small town with alt-rock nightclubs and high end design shops. After your leisurely stroll or your sweat-inducing exercise, savor some brunch at Lamill Coffee Boutique, which engineers the perfect hot beverages, and pop into Rubbish Interiors to drink in their lavish minimalist designs.

Eat: Lamill Coffee Boutique
1636 Silver Lake Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90026
(323) 663-4441
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Shop: Rubbish Interiors
1627 Silver Lake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 661-5575
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Eagle Rock

Just over the LA River from Silver Lake, Eagle Rock is one of the older areas of Los Angeles. The giant Eagle Rock is your big landmark here, under which you’ll find a quirky little small town feel along Eagle Rock Blvd. at Colorado Blvd. This area is home to restaurants, trendy coffee shops, eclectic art galleries, hair salons, fashion boutiques, and wine-tasting. Auntie Em’s kitchen serves up fresh seasonal home-cooked meals in its sidewalk-cozy café with a shop that sells a staggering array of cheeses. Nearby Colorado Wine Company invites you in for a glass or two and special wine tasting events throughout the week.

Eat: Auntie Em’s Kitchen
4616 Eagle Rock Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 255-0800
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Shop: Colorado Wine Company
2114 Colorado Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90041
(323) 478-1985
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Evan Mather’s “Eagle Rock, CA” is a short film that profiles this area in a quirky native’s POV. More Info

The Valley

Old Topanga Canyon

While not exactly a “main street,” the villagey feel of Old Topanga Canyon definitely brings one back to a simpler time, a slower pace, and a sense of the proximity of nature. At the intersection of the windey-Topanga Canyon Blvd. and Old Topanga Canyon Road, several shops and galleries are set back in the trees and invite you to come and stay awhile. You can dine in a whimsical woodland atmosphere at Inn of the Seventh Ray, or browse through the art at Topanga Canyon Gallery in a plaza up the street that has other cool shops and yoga and pilates studios.

Eat: Inn of the Seventh Ray
128 Old Topanga Canyon Road
Topanga, California 90290
(310) 455.1311
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Shop: Topanga Canyon Gallery
120 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Suite 109
Topanga, CA 90290
(310) 455-7909
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West Side

Santa Monica – Main Street

If you don’t mind sharing street space with tourists, Main Street in Santa Monica between Pico and Marine is a nice spot to window shop, eat, and people watch. There are metered parking lots as well as street parking. This strip is lined with restaurants, pubs, boutique stores, and familiar chain storefronts as well, making it comfortably familiar with some unique finds to reward your visit. Stop in for a pint at the Library Alehouse, an American beer pub and restaurant decorated like, you guessed it, a library. Ritual Adornments is a funky bead shop where you can get supplies for making your own jewelry, or pick up some handmade baubles or folk art.

Eat: Library Alehouse
2911 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 314-4855
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Shop: Ritual Adornments
2708 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 452-4044
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Venice – Abbot Kinney

Abbot Kinney Boulevard between Venice Blvd. and Westminster is one of those long stretches of small businesses and restaurants with a unique neighborhood flavor that is distinctly Southern Californian. The air is laid-back, charming, and kind of wacky. Art galleries, eateries, clothing boutiques, and gift shops share the ‘hood with the local flavor. Watch out for bicycles in this area, if you are a pedestrian. Parking can be frustrating here, so make sure you read the signs. Once you’ve worked up your appetite, don’t miss Abbot Pizza Company’s New York Style pies – the best I’ve ever had on that side of town. And I know my pizza. Later you can indulge your sugar cravings by treating yourself to some gourmet chocolates – works of art, really – at Jin Patisserie. You’ll find lots of places to dig for treasure, such as the gift shop Firefly, just like Anthropologie but without the clothes.

Eat: Abbot’s Pizza Company
1407 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 396.7334
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Jin Patisserie
1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 399-8801
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Shop: Firefly
1409 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-6288
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Beach Cities and South Bay

Manhattan Beach

After a long day in the sun on Manhattan Beach, leave your car in the day lot and take a stroll up the hill around the neighborhood on Manhattan Beach Blvd. between the shore and Morningside Ave. The Kettle, with its landmark Kettle on the roof at the intersection of Manhattan Beach Blvd. and Highland Ave., serves up a wide variety of dishes all day long, and might be a good place to meet up with friends because it’s easy to find. Save room for dessert at Manhattan Beach Creamery, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that can even help you design and produce your own flavor of ice cream. Beach-friendly stores and gift shops dot this area, and a major bank for re-loading your wallet right in the middle of this section.

Eat: The Kettle
1138 Highland Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-8511
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Manhattan Beach Creamery
1120 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 372-1155
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Shop: Trance Boutique
310 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 379-5700
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Old San Pedro

On 6th and 7th streets between Pacific and Harbor in San Pedro, the shops, restaurants, and galleries are nearly wall-to-wall. There is so much to do and see here that you could be eating and shopping for days. Every first Thursday of the month there is a volunteer-led art walk where people can visit three art galleries and then go have dinner. Cafés and bars host live music. Old San Pedro is reminiscent of a bustling harbor village. Stop in at Williams’ Book Store which has been around for 100 years and is the only independent bookstore in the area that carries first-run titles. Quench your thirst at the British pub The Whale and Ale. Grab a sweet or savory after-meal treat at Mishi’s Strudel Bakery and Café.

Eat: The Whale and Ale
327 West 7th. Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 832-0363
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Mishi’s Strudel Bakery and Café
309 West Seventh Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 832-6474
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Shop: Williams’ Book Store
443 West 6th Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 832-3631
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San Gabriel Valley

South Pasadena

In South Pasadena the “main street” vibe is found along Mission Street from the train tracks at Meridian to Fremont Blvd. With a pseudo old-fashioned barbershop at one end, and a plethora of kid-friendly stores and activities on the other, this little enclave is a Sunday afternoon dream. Kill a few hours with the kidlets at Amy’s Indoor Playground or even get their haircuts done there. Then shop at the various little boutique stores. Hit Buster’s for a cup of coffee and an amazingly delicious ice cream cone, and you can walk off the calories by strolling along the streets of this neighborhood to see what else you can discover.

Play: Amy’s Indoor Playground
1115 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA 91303
(818) 799-0304
More Info

Eat: Buster’s Ice Cream and Coffee Shop
1006 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA 91030
(626) 441-0744
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Shop: The Dinosaur Farm
1510 Mission St
South Pasadena, CA 91030
(626) 441-2767
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Groom: Reedy’s Barber Shop
1108 Mission St.
South Pasadena, CA 91030
(626) 441-9607
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Sierra Madre

East of Pasadena off the 210 freeway lies a seemingly normal part of the LA sprawl, but delve a little bit further into Sierra Madre and you will find the small town “main street” of your fantasy. Along Sierra Madre Boulevard at Baldwin Ave. the buildings are packed together, the street is small and quaint, and people know each other. Every year this little area, known for its wisteria proliferation, has festivals and parades, and the businesses have unique flair. For example, the Jailhouse Inn is a bed and breakfast that was once the town jailhouse. You can do some food-themed shopping here, where there is a good old fashioned butcher shop and a trendy gourmet food store. At the local tea room you can relax, chat, and dine on dainty little sandwiches and delight in the tea selection.

Eat: Four Seasons Tea Room
75 N. Baldwin Ave.
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
(626) 355-0045
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Shop: Taylors’ Ol’ Fashioned Meat
14 E Sierra Madre Blvd.
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
(626) 355-8267 ‎

Savor the Flavor
11 Kersting Court
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
(626) 355-5153
More Info

Stay: Jailhouse Inn
55 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
(626) 355-1927
Enter on Windsor Lane
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Glendora

Glendora is east of Sierra Madre, also reached via the 210 freeway. Its bustling center is along Glendora Ave. at Foothill Boulevard, another one of those places where the police department, the public library, and other civil services are blocks away from quaint shops where everyone knows your name. If you live there, of course. While looking for that villagey feel, you might as well stop in and shop at Village Book Shop, which always has something going on – book signings, open mic nights, etc. Then there’s Village Kitchen Shoppe, which sells gourmet cookware and supplies, and hosts cooking classes. Down the street is a curious place – Perfect Tyme – a real live clock store. (They have those?!) Finish off your excursion at Classic Coffee, a blended drinks and gelato bar that has politely put out hitching posts for dogs.

Eat: Classic Coffee
148 North Glendora Avenue,
Glendora, CA 91741
(626) 335-3313
More Info

Shop: Village Kitchen Shoppe
147 N Glendora Ave.
Glendora, CA 91741
(626) 914-7897
More Info

Village Book Shop
123 N. Glendora Ave.
Glendora, CA 91741
(626) 335-5720
<a href="http://directory.losangeles.cbslocal.com/directory/listing//341414-Village-Book-Shop">More Info

Perfect Tyme
100 N. Glendora Ave. Suite 101
Glendora, CA 91741
(626) 852-4797
More Info

San Dimas

In downtown San Dimas many of the storefronts along Bonita Ave. between Cataract and Walnut were designed to look like shops in the Old West. A specific part of this area is called Frontier Village. So it’s natural then that this neighborhood is home to several antique stores, a barbershop, and San Dimas Grain, a feed and pet store that also sells candles and soap. Skip the Starbucks and head in to Sweet Savory Café and Bakery, where happy hour is at 2:00! Keep that spirit alive by partaking in a tasting at San Dimas Wine Shop and Tasting Room. You can almost forgive San Dimas for having a Starbucks here, because they have a model train shop for hobbyists and little imaginations called The Train Stop. A little bit further east and you have the post office, the city hall, the chamber of commerce, and the public library all within a block of each other.

Eat: Sweet Savory Café and Bakery
138 W Bonita Ave # 103
San Dimas, CA 91773
(909) 305-9738
More Info

Drink: San Dimas Wine Shop and Tasting Room
225 W. Bonita Ave
San Dimas, CA 91773
(909) 971-9425
More Info

Shop: San Dimas Grain
142 W Bonita Ave
San Dimas, CA 91773
(909) 599-5518
More Info

The Train Stop
211 W. Bonita
San Dimas, CA 91773
(909) 599-2602
More Info

Did we miss a “Main Street” area that you love? A Mayberry you’ve discovered? Leave a comment and let us know!

Kim Tracy Prince escaped the valley to live in a small town in Los Angeles County. She is the managing contributor of CBS Local Los Angeles Best of LA Family and the founder and blogger of House of Prince.

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