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Q & A: Karaoke Question, Best Place To Belt It Out?

By Nora Zelevansky / February 25th, 2009

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(M. & P.S. Bring Down The House Echo Park-Style)

Question:  (posed by Connor via "Ask Lifestyle Questions"–02/18)
Hey Nora, what's the best place to go for group Karaoke?  Where you can rent a room for a large group?  Or maybe a bar with karaoke?
I love your blog!  Hugs, Connor

Answer:  First of all, I'm afraid you're only permitted to read this answer if you agree never to karaoke Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back.  Hearing people drunkenly karaoke that song is like watching people dance to I Will Survive at weddings.  IT MUST STOP.  TOO MUCH.

Now that I've said my piece: I feel I'd be remiss in answering this question without first addressing the above photo.  My friend M. is the Karaoke Queen.  And, as anyone who has had ample karaoke experience knows, her royal highness fits the "unassuming" profile.  It's always the quiet, demure ones, no?

Anyway, M. not only transforms from adorably awkward, proper lady to maniac crooner at the first sign of an old school Britney or Destiny's Child ballad, but she also works serious dance moves.  It's truly a sight to behold.

Lucky for us, I have pictures:

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ANYWAY, here are some of my favorite places in LA, where I've watched M. go nutty:

EAGLE ROCK (and M. rocks too):

Okay, I know that All Star Lanes is TECHNICALLY a bowling alley and a trek, but bear with me.  First of all, they have bowling AND karaoke AND a bar on Saturday nights (double check cause the schedule changes).  Second of all, you're like blocks from Casa Bianca, so–for my 29th birthday for example–I had a bowling party, followed by drunken karaoke, followed by eating our weight in crazy inexpensive yummy Italian food at Casa Bianca (they take reservations for parties over six, I believe).

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(Bowling at the 29th in Andrew's Glasses and Then At Casa Bianca With My Prizes NOT For Birthday, But For My Impeccable Bowling and Karaoke Skills–YUP)

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(Yum, Casa Bianca that night too . . . )

HOLLYWOOD (and so would M.):

AMAGI is a bar situation in Hollywood.  I'm not sure about private rooms, but their karaoke area in intimate enough not to feel intimidating, so . . .

BRASS MONKEY is an old standard for locals; they've actually been open since 1971.  This is a great option if you want drinks AND snacks, as they're actually a cafe too.  Every night of the week!

LITTLE TOKYO (and big M.):

OIWAKE in Japanese Village Plaza is always festive and you can eat sushi and drink sake while you sing.  I just really like the Little Tokyo karaoke scene cause I get it feels authentic.  Apparently, City Cat Karaoke has private rooms, but I know a bunch of the Little Tokyo spots do.

Metromix offers some other options and City Search did a "Best Of" LA Karaoke for 2008, which lists some Sawtelle and Korea Town options. 

I know K-Town has some great spots, but I haven't experienced anything except Zip for cocktails.  Same with Sawtelle.  So, if anyone can recommend some good Korea Town and west side spots, then please "comment" below and let us know!

Also, it's hardly a private room scenario, but bars like Barney's Beanery and Guys (sorta underground star-studded) totally do weekly karaoke nights.

Kinda makes you want to sing.  And dance.  Right, M.?

xo – N.

Q & A: Itinerary Question, LA Pastimes For Less Mobile Guests

By Nora Zelevansky / January 27th, 2009

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(Image of BCAM elevator by Michael Robinson Chavez, The Los Angeles Times)

QUESTION:  (posed via “Ask Lifestyle Questions!” by Rachel on 1/26)

We have guests coming into town and we are looking for fun LA actives that don’t require too much walking. Is there anything you can recommend, that for this type of LA visit?


ANSWER: Usually people consider LA’s car culture a drag, but, in this case, maybe we found a silver lining. See? I knew there was a good reason for all that traffic.  Well, you know . . .

Anyway, as a food lover, I have to point out that trying unusual/new restaurants in lesser known hoods is always a good sit-down activity.  In LA, odd or new neighborhoods are never exhausted and just sitting oceanside in Malibu or in towns like Manhattan Beach can feel like a visit to the beach for someone who might not otherwise get to go.  Is that really obvious?  Probably.  But, even in an area like Silverlake, Echo Park or Eagle Rock, A. & I will often grab Sunday lunch and then go for a drive in the hills; the houses are beautiful and most people from outside LA don’t even really know about the east side.

But, anyway, for non-food related suggestions (which will inevitably include food references because I can’t help myself), most institutions supply wheelchairs.  (Obvious again?  Sorry . . . ). The new BCAM building at LACMA is a great destination, for instance, because your less mobile guest can hop in a chair and get pushed around this amazing new contemporary art space.  And, actually, the large central glass elevator is the site of a Barbara Kruger piece (so you can be transported and experience art at once).

I’m also a huge fan of Huntington Gardens, where I know you can rent a chair. It’s beyond beautiful there (and it’s LA, so it’s actually warm enough to be outside–MIRACULOUS for cold weather dwellers). Also, you can make a reservation to have high tea at the restaurant there, which you gotta love.

Also, maybe this seems too average, but I think Arclight’s Cinerama Dome is the best movie theater I’ve ever visited–don’t you?  And this is Hollywood, after all.  If you can grab a movie there, you’ll also be in the vicinity of Thai Town (including Palms Restaurant and the famous Thai Elvis impersonator).  Now that’s LA.

xo – N.

Q & A: Art Question, LA Gallery Tips

By Nora Zelevansky / January 24th, 2009

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QUESTION: (posed via “Ask Lifestyle Questions!” by anonymous, 1/24)

Can you give me some tips on good LA galleries? I’m coming to LA soon and would love to scout a few for fun…Thanks.

ANSWER: Okay, I LOVE this question because–not only will I give you some gallery tips–but I’ll indulge my crazy obsession with shops and food too and tell you what else to check out, while you’re in each area.  I’M INSANE, but whatever.  Tonight (Jan. 24)–BTW–happens to be an “Art Night,” where a bunch of galleries stay open late for openings etc.

First, they offer a relatively comprehensive guide–although not complete–to LA galleries at www.artcollecting.com, so you can definitely check that out.  But clearly you’re not going to hit every space in la la, so I would recommend three major contemporary gallery clusters: Chinatown, La Cienega (Culver City) and Bergamot Station.

1. CHINATOWN–A box of Botan rice candy from any of the traditional Chinese bauble shops is a must for me, while wandering in and out of contemporary galleries on Chung King Road and Gin Ling Way.  (Yes, you can eat the inside wrapper).  If you wander the Gin Ling Way courtyard past bakeries and the famous wishing well, you’ll uncover even more spots.  Some of the original settlers and biggies: Sister, China Art Objects, Chung King Project, Flux Gallery and new addition Cottage Home.  On designated Saturday evening “Art Nights” (which are generally indicated on the Chinatown website), a bunch of galleries have openings simultaneously and serve beer and wine and people in skinny jeans and distressed boots just sort of mingle on the cobble streets–so fun!  If you hit the galleries on one of these nights and happen to get hungry, head to Yang Chow on Broadway (the closest to NYC-style Chinese food in LA, I think) and never mind the (fast moving) long line.  For drinks, art sceners tend to travel between Mountain Bar (which is a sight to behold in all its red glory) and, across the courtyard, divier Hop Louie.  If you prefer to check out galleries sober and without so many peepes, come during the day and grab dim sum at Empress Pavilion (shrimp & green pepper in black bean sauce–yum).  I always check out shops like Welcome Hunters (for lesser known designers–often European–and a sale right now), Lion’s Den (for limited edition sneakers and also graffiti art etc.) and Ooga Booga for artist books and local (often art world) designers.***

2. LA CIENEGA (BELOW VENICE)–This Culver City (adjacent?) stretch has come up more recently even than Chinatown, but some of the old Chung King Road and Santa Monica faves have already moved and set up shop here (like Peres Projects and Blum & Poe).  I got married recently at a new eco-event space called Smog Shoppe across the street (literally a converted auto shop with vertical succulent gardens–so amazing) and actually just interviewed the owners about the burgeoning neighborhood’s best spots for this month’s issue of C Magazine.  But I can definitely tell you that Mandrake is this hood’s Mountain Bar with a great indoor/outdoor thing and that the Smog Shoppe folks love–at a short driving distance–the miso soup at nearby Beacon, beer at Father’s Office (actually famous for their burgers) and wine at Fraiche (everyone is crazy for this more upscale spot).  Also, check out Royal/T‘s cafe, shop and exhibition space.  My father swears that the blueberry muffins are crazy good.

3. BERGAMOT STATION–So, this Santa Monica complex is the largest grouping of galleries in LA and is also home to the Santa Monica Art Museum.  Bergamot Station is like an outdoor enclave onto itself, where they sometimes host–not only openings–but large scale events and parties.  The cafe here serves totally decent lunch chow and the galleries are a bit more established and “known” than in the other spots.  Also, the BEST SANDWICH PLACE IN ALL OF LA (sorry for caps, but I mean it) is a five minute drive from here on Lincoln.  Head to Bay Cities Italian Deli and do not under any circumstances miss the meatballs or cannolis.  I always get some salt & vinegar Kettle Chips to go with my sandwich and spicy eggplant pasta too.  YUM.

One other spot I’ll mention because its good for a celebrity sighting is Beverly HiIls’ Gagosian (also found in NYC, Rome, London and Hong Kong).  I once saw Pamela Anderson perusing here.  Who knew?

xo – N.

***The Solway Jones show on Hill Street turned out to be the best last night, so definitely don’t miss that gallery, if you head down to Chinatown.