THE title-role star of HBO’s new Sunday night show “John From Cincinnati” is Austin Nichols, and he’s from Texas, not Ohio. You might have seen the mysterious teaser for the series, in which a surfer runs up onto the sand, and as he’s drying off, rises about a foot off the ground. “I’m not the guy who’s elevating,” explains Nichols. “I’m the reason he’s elevating.” He’s far less cryptic about his weekends.
On a Friday night I like this newish Mario Batali joint in Hollywood on Highland called Pizzeria Mozza. The food is really creative and the atmosphere is kind of different -- I just feel like I’m not in Los Angeles. I’d order the pizza with asparagus, pancetta and a fried egg. I like to sit at the bar, but there’s also a cool back room for small parties.
Because I’m a real billiards man, I might stop off at an actual billiards hall, but more likely I’d just go to one of my favorite dive bars, the Joker on Pico in Santa Monica. They’ve got about three pool tables, and it’s the best place in the world.
After that, there’s this other place I’ve got to tell you about for the best in late-night street meat -- Cactus Taqueria in Hollywood on Vine. They’ve got a sign that says, “No. 1 Taqueria,” and I’d have to agree. I get all kinds of tacos -- carne asada, chicken and al pastor. And I usually get them with avocado and this amazing cheese. And there’s this weird Parking Lot Jesus sort of character who wanders around with a Tecate and shouts out things like, “I’ve been born a hundred times in the past and the future.”
The last time I was there he offered me a keyboard if I would buy him a taco.
On Saturday mornings, because I’m surfing a lot for the part in “John From Cincinnati,” I’ll get up about 5:30 a.m. and go to Malibu and surf. There’s something very therapeutic and healing about it. And there’s this place nearby called Lily’s, where all the surfers and construction workers go for breakfast burritos. Service is slow because it’s so popular, so as soon as I get out of the water I’ll call ahead and order the Big Boy -- eggs, beans, bacon cheese and this green, nine-alarm salsa you can put on that will destroy your tongue, but it’s my favorite.
Later I might infiltrate some hotel and steal some time in its Jacuzzi.
Then I might catch a double bill at the New Beverly Cinema, which runs a lot of rare, out-of-print stuff or theme nights -- a couple of on-the-lam movies like “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Getaway.” It’s a niche kind of crowd there, but it’s not a small niche.
‘Beauty of life’
On Sunday I’ll get up and go to breakfast at a nice, relaxed place on Highland called Ammo, sort of upscale American cuisine. They have this great blood-orange juice, which is my favorite drink in the whole city.
After breakfast, I’d drive out to the Watts Towers. I went for the first time a few years ago and was so awestruck that I often go back and just lie on the grass and read a book. Then I might head for this barbecue spot called Jordan’s Cafe. The first time I went there I felt as if maybe I didn’t belong because everybody was so not white -- and then everybody’s really nice and you’re so glad you’re there and you think, “This is the beauty of life, man.” It’s that kind of place.
-- Mark Sachs