Get Out of Town!
Downtown LA Exploration To Go
February, 2021 - Issue #196
courtesy of shutterstock
courtesy of shutterstock

As a father of two teenage daughters with busy schedules, it's not often I get them all to myself. But a day off school for them and work for me gave us the perfect excuse to go exploring in LA.
Brooke can't handle surprises, which makes them fun to plan, and is why I didn't tell her or Laurel what I had in mind. Brooke peppered me with questions as we headed south on Interstate 5. As we neared the 110 interchange, Grand Central Market looked like the obvious destination.
But then I went north, away from Downtown, confounding her best guesses. Our destination was The Juicy Leaf in Highland Park, a plant store showcasing the talents of owner Felix Navarro. This stop was for Laurel, whose room is turning into something of a greenhouse.
Since his Figueroa Street storefront is open only by appointment, Felix met us in the alley, opened the gate to his parking lot and led us inside for what turned out to be a private visit.
It was a treat to have the store to ourselves and admire the creativity on display without being rushed or distracted by other customers.
"Since his Figueroa Street storefront is open only
by appointment, Felix met us in the alley, opened the gate to
his parking lot and led us inside for what turned out to be a
While Laurel and Brooke browsed, I asked Felix how he adapted to keep his business thriving during the pandemic. Each week he posts a step-by-step assembly video of a new arrangement on Instagram via @thejuicyleaf. Customers order kits with all the elements to recreate the displays at home. Corporate wellness and team-building workshops also keep him busy, with some events requiring him to assemble and ship dozens of kits so participants can gather online and follow along with this live demonstration.
We bid farewell to Felix, and from there, I had no real plan for our outing, other than seeing where the day might take us. It led us next to Donut Friend a few blocks away on York Boulevard.
With so many choices of over-the-top donuts and unique flavors, it's hard not to order one of everything. We took a half-dozen to go for dessert that night. I can definitely recommend the Youth Brulee, filled with Bavarian cream and topped with bruleed sugar, as well as the Fritter Seems Forever, which is an apple fritter with apple pie filling mashed into the dough. You also need to sample the X-Ray Speculos - a halved donut stuffed with cookie butter and topped with chocolate glaze and sea salt.
Now it was time for Grand Central Market. Since we each wanted something different for lunch - and that dizzying array of to-go choice is the fun of Grand Central - we went where our individual cravings led us and regrouped outside.
Brooke found a margherita pizza, Laurel opted for ramen and I went for Belcampo Meat Co.'s signature grass-fed burger with a side of duck-fat fries. We shared bites and traded tasting notes with my fries and Brooke's pizza sharing the honor of consensus favorites.
The Last Bookstore is a must-do on our DTLA itineraries and this day was no different. We walked off lunch on our stroll down Broadway to the shop on 5th Street. Between its mammoth collection of used books and the latest new releases, we never leave empty handed.
It was now late enough in the day to justify ice cream. So, it was back to Grand Central Market for to-go scoops of McConnell's. It's been called the best ice cream in the world and I won't disagree.
It was a sweet ending to a day of fun with my girls, made even sweeter by Laurel's assessment: "I got plants. I got books. I got ramen. My day is complete."
Eric Harnish is planted in Castaic but willing to drive most anywhere for a good burger.

Exploring Downtown
The Juicy Leaf
Donut Friend
Grand Central Market
The Last Bookstore
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