The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

A dozen places in L.A. to feel like a star

South Florida Sun-Sentinel


1. The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows

Still lording from its leafy roost in pink and green. Even if you don't stay here, you can stroll the halls, admiring the photographs of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford (who lived up the street), Will Rogers, Marilyn Monroe and a young Elizabeth Taylor visiting her father's art gallery in the hotel. You can also have a bite in the famous Polo Lounge. Very friendly staff,

9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-276-2251; A tuna nicoise salad at the Polo Lounge for lunch is $19.

2. The Standard hotel Rooftop Bar

This downtown hotel is not the in place it used to be, and probably hasn't been since the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard was renovated. They no longer project movies onto the wall of the neighboring building, and the people gathered on couches look like whatever L.A.'s equivalent of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd is. But, with the sparkling skyline Picasso-ed in your glass, it's still a heady place for a drink.

550 S. Flower (at Sixth Street), 213-892-8080, A cocktail goes for about $10.

3. Runyon Canyon

They say you can see celebrities walking their dogs in this 130-acre park just blocks from Hollywood Boulevard. (The best time apparently is the middle of the day, before the working stiffs arrive with their pets.) But who needs celebrities when you have stunning views of the city, stretching from the Hollywood sign to downtown to, on a clear day, Santa Catalina Island? And everything's free. Follow the fire road, or take one of the more challenging trails.

Off Mulholland Drive;

4. Dodger Stadium

It's not just the Lakers who attract the big names. Remember Larry David picking up a prostitute so he could use the HOV lane to get to the ballgame on time? If you don't spot George Clooney in the stands, you can still see Juan Pierre gracing centerfield and hear -- on your way to buy a Dodger Dog -- the silken voice of Vin Scully calling the game.

Chavez Ravine, Game-day tickets start at $10 for top deck and go as high as $225 for baseline VIP.

5. Chateau Marmont

As famous for the people who died on its premises -- John Belushi, Helmut Newton -- as for the people who stay on them. The hotel rises, Loire-like, just off Sunset Boulevard, and has a cool, dark, almost monastic interior. (Not the kind of surroundings you immediately associate with Bluto.) The bungalows are off limits to visitors, though you can have lunch in the sun-dappled garden.

8221 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; 323-656-1010; A "Damn Good Burger, Homemade Ketchup, Fixings n' Things" (now that's more Belushi-like) is $16.

6. The Ivy

The rich, the powerful and the beautiful still come here for lunch, on warm days sitting in the white-fenced front yard with its white parasols and green wrought-iron chairs. Set back from the street, the restaurant's red brick is indeed softened by ivy. Call a day in advance and about all they'll have for lunch are seatings at 11:30 or 2:30. Unless, of course, you're somebody.

113 N. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-274-8303; A caprese salad (appetizer size) is $13.75.

7. Pizzeria Mozza

A small restaurant started by Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery fame. (Leave it to L.A. to have celebrity bakery owners.) There are creative toppings -- squash blossoms, fingerling potatoes -- but, as you'd expect, it's all about the crust, which kind of dominates the pies and is, well, stellar. This past spring a dozen people stood outside waiting for the doors to open at noon; when they did, those without reservations had to sit at one of two bars, one of which offers an excellent view of the pizzamaking counter.

641 N. Highland Ave. (at Melrose); 323-297-0101, Pizzas range from $9-$17 (for one with littleneck clams, oregano, Parmigiano and pecorino). The menu also offers antipasti, salads, panini and plates of the day.

8. 7 Grand

This downtown whiskey bar has the beguiling decor of an upscale hunting lodge with a sense of humor. The hip, ironic vibe has no effect on the wait staff, who are friendly and gracious. A few nights after the opening in April, one of the waitresses was seen talking to two customers using sign language. In addition to an impressive collection of whiskeys, there is Chimay, an excellent Belgian beer, on tap. There is also a pool table. If you see no stars here, it's because you're cooler than they are.

515 W. Seventh St. (between Olive and Grand); 213-614-0737.

9. Farmers Market

An L.A. institution since 1934 (well, probably later, since nothing's an "institution" when it opens), the market is now appended to a fabricated street mall sporting all the requisite chains. (Though, this being the land of artifice, it is done quite well.) But the market is the real thing, and it's more about takeout, or eating in (tables fill two patios), than it is about fruit and vegetable stands. Korean sits catty-corner to Cajun, while long-established butchers and bakers help it retain its market status. Executives from the nearby CBS studios are said to enjoy breakfast at Du-par's, which anchors one end.

Third & Fairfax; Open every day. A bibimbap (spicy mixed vegetables with fried egg and rice) at La Korea goes for $6.99.

10. Dolce Enoteca e Ristorante

It's not easy to spot celebrities in a place so dark it's hard to read the menu. Which is perhaps why they come here. Or maybe it's for the signature dish, Milanese: osso bucco with saffron risotto.

8284 Melrose Ave.; 323-852-7174, The Milanese is $32; a forest risotto (with porcini and portobello mushrooms) is $17. Half price (on food) every Monday.

11. The Dresden Lounge

This place is so uncool it's hip. The ageless duo Marty and Elayne were featured in the movie "Swingers," but fame didn't go to their heads; they still belt out the standards -- he on drums (sometimes bass), she on piano (sometimes flute) -- every day but Sunday from 9 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. The room -- stone wall, leather banquettes, chandeliers -- strikes a vintage, "Playboy After Dark" chord.

The Dresden Restaurant, 1760 N. Vermont Ave., Hollywood, 323-665-4294, A Blood & Sand, the lounge's signature cocktail (rum and secret ingredients), sells for $8.

12. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

The improvisational troupe picks people from the audience and has them call up their MySpace profiles on a computer. One or two of the members ask questions, poking mild fun (anything cruel would discourage volunteers). Then the foils return to their seats and the troupe performs anarchic skits based on the information received. So a life made public becomes even more so, only ludicrously (and sometimes X-ratedly).

5919 Franklin Ave., 323-908-8702; The MySpace comedy show is Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $5. A schedule on the Web site lists all the other shows.

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