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Studio City

Studio City: The Best Things to Do in LA’s Hidden Gem

By / September 10, 2018
   
   

Nestled on the northern side of the Hollywood Hills, Studio City was given its name by developers who sought to attract big movie studios to the area in the 1920s. While the gambit didn’t lure as many Hollywood bigwigs as they would’ve liked, the neighborhood has retained a waiting-on-my-call-sheet, sunglasses-and-sweatpants glamour that provides a relaxed counterpoint to both West Los Angeles’s extravagance and East LA’s eclectic atmosphere.

If you still associate the Valley with Alicia Silverstone in Clueless or Pauly Shore in Encino Man, it might be time to take a little drive on the 101 and see what you’ve been missing out on.

The vibe

Studio City’s main drag is Ventura Boulevard, a bustling strip of vintage stores, juice joints, strip malls, and bars that always attracts a crowd. On weekends, it’s buzzing with expensive SUVs, caffeinated Instagrammers, and fashionistas trawling the boutiques for bargains. On the back streets, you’ll find a leafy oasis full of Spanish-style houses and neat, tree-lined streets that wouldn’t be out of place in Hancock Park or the Pacific Palisades.

 

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Where to go

Hike the north side of the Hollywood Hills

Less well-known — and therefore less busy — than the popular trails of Griffith Park and West LA (think Runyon Canyon), Studio City offers some excellent hikes on the northern side of the Hollywood Hills. Top of the list is Fryman Canyon Trail, a recently renovated dog-friendly trail that takes you up through a residential area behind Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Mulholland Drive to some incredible views of the Valley. There’s also the LA River-adjacent North Valleyheart Riverwalk or the slightly more challenging Dearing Mountain Trail.

 

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Universal Studios

Everyone needs to make the trek to Universal Studios to hang out with Homer Simpson and ride a few roller coasters at least once in their lifetime. Of course, it’s usually packed during summer and on the weekends, so if you’re an Angeleno, plan to go during the week or in the off-season, and check out the local resident discounts.

 

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Drinks and dancing

Studio City’s nightlife vibe is more intimate wine bar than frenetic club scene, but you can still dance all night at venues like A Simple Bar, which is hidden away in a strip mall near Universal Studios. The beautiful people huddle in their cabanas at Firefly until the DJ arrives. For something a little more subdued, try Augustine Wine Bar (a project by the owners of Covell in Los Feliz), noted for its impressive list of rare and imported wines and exceptional cheese boards.

 

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What to do

Studio City Farmers Market

Open every Sunday from 8am to 2pm, Studio City Farmers Market is a great place to pick up your weekly supply of organic fruits and vegetables, with the added bonus that you may bump into a celebrity or two. If you’re hungry, stop in for a snack — you’ll find vendors selling everything from French pastries and coffees to home-style burgers.

 

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Trudy’s Underground Barbecue

If you’re in the mood for an adventure and some delicious Texas-style smoked brisket, Trudy’s Underground Barbecue is well worth your time. Located in a secret location in Studio City, the only way to get your hands on these tender meats is by messaging the cook your order on Instagram, then swinging by on Saturday to pick it up. Don’t expect tables, chairs, or even cutlery, though — this is most definitely a hit-and-run affair.

 

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Pinz Bowling Center

While you can pop into Pinz any time after 9am, the lanes really heat up after dark once the patrons have downed a few drinks and even more gutter balls. If you love to bowl or just have a competitive streak that won’t let you rest, note that Pinz is open until 1am on weeknights or 2am on weekends. This being Studio City, the lanes have also been featured in many low-rent reality TV shows, like Celebrity Rehab and Botched.

 

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Where to shop

Sherman Oaks Antique Mall

Located a little farther down Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, this charming antique mall is the perfect place to kill a few hours on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Even if you don’t walk away with a mid-century modern lounge suite, there are plenty of bizarre, beautiful, and baffling objects to keep you entertained, from rare records to vintage toys to jewelry and clothing.

 

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Wasteland

Ever wondered what all those rich and famous Angelenos do with their designer outfits after they’ve worn them once? They sell them to Wasteland. Inside this upmarket vintage clothing store, you’ll find racks full of used high fashion and avant-garde brands like Comme des Garçons, Margiela, and Rick Owens. If you can handle the haughty staff, the prices are pretty reasonable too — well, at least compared to what you’d pay for new clothes.

 

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Iliad Bookshop

There’s a Barnes & Noble right in the middle of Ventura Boulevard, but there’s absolutely no reason to go there when one of LA’s best second-hand bookstores is located only 10 minutes away. If you’re the kind of person who loves digging through dusty stacks for overlooked gems and rare editions, then the Iliad is a must-visit. As a bonus, there are numerous cats roaming the store to keep you company while you browse.

 

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If you can eat at only one restaurant

Katsuya

In recent years, Studio City has seen an influx of gastropubs and upmarket barbecue joints, but if you can eat at only one place, then you should honor the neighborhood’s hobnobbing Hollywood roots with a trip to this famed sushi joint that has hosted many producers’ lunches. Katsuya is now a global brand, serving sushi from Las Vegas to Dubai, but it all started here in Studio City.

 

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If you can drink at only one bar

Laurel Tavern

This local favorite is known for its casual, unpretentious atmosphere, satisfying sandwiches, and rotating selection of craft brews. Happy hour runs from 3pm–6pm on weekdays, which is right about the time you’ll find it buzzing with locals who just got off work.

How to get there

If you’re coming from another part of LA, your best bet is to rideshare. Otherwise, the Metro Red Line runs from Downtown LA through Hollywood to Universal Studios, where you can pick up the 150/240 bus route that runs along Ventura Boulevard.

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By

Matthew O’Shannessy is a writer living in Los Angeles. He grew up in Tasmania, Australia and moved to LA via Melbourne where he joined an art collective and worked for the Melbourne International Film Festival. His work has been published in various magazines and he’s currently co-editing an arts anthology. He lives in Echo Park, but you can often find him scouting out the San Fernando Valley.

More articles by Matthew O'Shannessy

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