Word of Mouth Los Angeles: Arts District

The Ace Hotel, an indoor bouldering gym, new restaurants and more spaces opening up downtown


The Arts District in downtown Los Angeles, east of City Hall and Little Tokyo, has long been known as a haven for artists and creatives. The industrial buildings mix multi-use living and working spaces with bars, food, factories and all kinds of businesses. On the east side, three bridges span the LA River connecting downtown to Boyle Heights.

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Now as the Ace Hotel readies to open its doors downtown, less than two miles east on Broadway complete with renovating the historic United Artists Theatre, the Arts District neighborhood—a destination for shopping at Apolis and Poketo and drinking coffee at Handsome Coffee Roasters—has welcomed a slate of new spaces and businesses increasing the number of offerings in the already diverse creative community.

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The Unique Space

Opened by Sonja Rasula—the angel of artists and crafters since she began Unique LA more than five years ago—the Unique Space is an 18,000 square foot multi-use office, co-working, and event space including an open beam ceiling, a state of the art kitchen, roof deck, and soon to open basemen yoga studio. At the Unique Space, Underwood Letterpress, Dapper Diction handbags, and The Essential Man are among some companies offering shopping and services hours daily or by appointment. Check out the Unique Space website for flexible co-working options and upcoming events that are open to the public.



Located in the magical dining room and bar area of the 2121 Lofts, Chef Ori Menashe’s Bestia serves up multi-regional Italian dishes including house cured meats, fresh baked sourdough, Napoletana-style pizzas, fresh pasta, as well as seafood, pork chops, and steaks. The menu features marrow bones, offal, sea urchin, and 60 varieties of charcuterie. Known for her al dente rice pudding made with acquarello rice, Menashe’s wife and pastry chef Genevieve Gergis also contributed to the design of the space by converting vintage oil drum spouts into lighting fixtures. The space has industrial design elements, but feels both cozy and seductive.


Stumptown Roasters

Since Handsome Coffee first claimed the Arts District as the ideal location for their roastery, the Arts District has quickly become the go-to neighborhood for coffee roasting. Verve Coffee (who we recently gave a shout out in our espresso blend round-up) from Santa Cruz, California will soon set up their roasting operations and Portland’s Stumptown Coffee recently debuted their first LA outpost. Located close to Bestia, next to Retna’s studio, Stumptown’s new facility houses a 60-kilogram coffee roaster with a massive afterburner, a training room, operations space, with a cafe and retail in front on South Sante Fe Avenue.


Urban Radish

Christened by Father Gregory Boyle (who was happy to have several employees hired who had been trained at his Homeboy Industries) Urban Radish fills their aisles and shelves with produce, products and prepared foods for a neighborhood that previously had no local grocery options. Several electric car-charging stations line the parking lot with picnic tables set up in front of the store. Inside McConnell’s ice cream fills the freezer, as well as locally grown fruits and vegetables. Even a smiling butcher waits at the ready in this local market stocked for customers to be able to buy enough ingredients to cook a meal without having to venture out of the area. A chipmunk painted by Belgian street artist ROA flanks the exterior of the building. Recently Ron English also painted his new Urban Bigfoot mural across the street making Urban Radish not only a destination for food shopping, but for viewing street art too.


Hammer and Spear

Interior designer Kristan Cunningham and her husband Scott Jarrell opened their shop in the Arts District after living and working in several other LA neighborhoods. Their hunting and gathering prowess frequently take them to auctions. Cunningham and Jarrell haul their unique vintage finds in a 63 Chevy with the goal of making pedigree pieces accessible at Hammer and Spear. The shop has a warm inviting atmosphere with treasures around every corner. They were the first stockists for several of their favorite companies including Saint Rita Parlor eyewear and photographs by Jonathan Ventura of Anon.Y.Mouse. They also carry Triumph and Disaster grooming essentials and Headlands Handmade leather goods along with vintage Glen of California credenzas, Dansk wood pieces, and Percival Lafer leather furniture.


LA Boulders

LA Boulders houses the largest indoor bouldering gym in Southern California with a climbing terrain of more than 12,000 square feet. There is only bouldering—meaning no harness and no ropes—on colorful walls in a diversity of sizes and shapes on handholds designed by climbers for climbers, with a daily “Intro to Climbing” class as well as fitness, yoga and indoor cycling classes. For a neighborhood full of warehouses and lofts finding exercise options like drop in or monthly sessions at Rec Center Cross Fit and day passes or memberships at LA Boulders make it easy for both locals and visitors to find a place to work out.


Alchemy Works

Just steps from Apolis, husband and wife Raan and Lindsay Parton have teamed up to open a concept gallery, retail, and events space, Alchemy Works, which features art, contemporary design, and vintage finds. Inside, a 1959 Fiat Abarth 750 Spyder sets the scene for the type of surprises they have in store. Also available for purchase are Almond longboards, bronze cube tables by Tim Campbell, Weiss field watches, Faribault Swiss Army blankets, Stephen Kenn dopp kits, glassware and vintage brass pieces.

Lead photo by Julie Wolfson, Bestia restaurant image courtesy of Wutzwhat photography, Stumptown Roasters image courtesy of Amparo Rios, Hammer and Spear image courtesy of Beth Herzhaft, all others courtesy of respective companies