L.A. is known for its vastness, but in the past decade or two our city's urban design minds have created more than a few walkable districts, many in underdeveloped areas such as Echo Park's section of Sunset Boulevard, DTLA's Chung King Road and even that orchard-turned-outdoor-mall The Grove. But none have quite achieved the same level of chicness as Melrose Place and its adjacent streets of Melrose Avenue and La Cienega. That most L.A. of struggles — finding parking in restricted areas — means this slice of the city is a hangout frequented almost exclusively by locals. But if you're feeling patient and can snag a spot, making it here is worth it.

Sip and Snack

Sweet Lady Jane

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For nearly three decades the European-inspired patisserie Sweet Lady Jane on Melrose Avenue has been the cake maker for boldface names. Jane Lockhart's desserts have become as famous as her clientele, accruing accolades in many publications. This first bakery in Jane and husband Donald's mini-empire at the tip of the Melrose Golden Triangle is the ideal location for an afternoon espresso. The best time to go is after lunch on a weekday, when it’s a real neighborhood gathering spot.

Where: 8360 Melrose Ave.
When: Mon.-Thurs., 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
More info: 3
23-653-7145; sweetladyjane.com

 

Alfred Melrose Place

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As far as independent coffee places go, Alfred is the hottest happening spot to get your latte on. While it's percolated into several other Los Angeles neighborhoods in just a few years, this location is the original. Resident hipsters have turned the tiny, two-tiered space into their office, making this an always-buzzing spot better for a quick drop-in than for unwinding. The Oregon-based Stumptown is what's on tap; the iced coffee delivers a caffeine wallop with a price tag to match ($6 for a large nitro). It’s just as well that you can’t find a seat, because your caffeine high will propel you right out the door. Before you go, buy a candle. Yes, Alfred, a coffee shop, sells branded candles. 

Where: 8428 Melrose Pl.

When: Daily, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
More info: 
323-944-0811; alfredcoffee.com

 

Shop: West Coast Flagships

Bookmarc

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Designer Marc Jacobs is obviously a book lover. In 2010, as independent booksellers were closing, the fashion icon opened his first Bookmarc in NYC’s West Village, curating photography, fine art, music, fiction, pop culture and other hard-to-find titles. Following the success of his Manhattan shop, he opened more in London, Paris, Tokyo and, of course, Melrose Place, directly across from his original L.A. clothing store. Books and other publications are artfully presented, making it a stimulating place for perusing as the caffeine makes its way through your veins.

Where: 8409 Melrose Pl. 

When: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun. noon-6 p.m.
More info: 
323-944-0575; marcjacobs.com

 

Santa Maria Novella

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When you think of Italy's offerings, haute couture, pasta and wine may first come to mind. But the country is also known for its myriad botanical and natural remedies. That's just one reason that Santa Maria Novella is one of the world’s prized luxury brands. Products like fragrances, cosmetics and candles are handmade in a small abbey near Florence by Franciscan monks and nuns. Check out the "ancient preparations," like a 17th-century aromatic vinegar with quite the history.

Where: 8411 Melrose Pl.

When: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
More info: 323-651-3754; buy.smnovella.com

 

The Row

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Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s only retail store on the West Coast features a pool, midcentury furniture and lots of well-structured clothing for women. You can even buy handbags, glasses and shoes, in case you're out. Ostensibly, everything in the store is for sale, including the furniture but not the pool. (It would be too difficult to carry home, anyway.) Fun fact about the location: It was once Neil Diamond’s home. 

Where: 8440 Melrose Pl.

When: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
More info: 
310-853-1900; therow.com

 

Dash

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This trip wouldn't be complete without dipping into the Kardashians’ closet. The interiors of Dash are painted snow white, showcasing the pieces on offer (including items designed by the sisters under their own labels). The store is well curated, with simple, stylish lines and prices that aren’t too out of reach for non-Kardashians. Somewhat surprisingly, there are only two boutiques in the country, in Miami and here on Melrose  but there's a threat of more to come. 

Where: 8420 Melrose Ave.

When: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., noon-6 p.m.
More info: shopdashonline.com

 

Eat

Fig & Olive

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With rosemary growing throughout the wide-open space and towering racks of olive-oil-filled bottles, Fig & Olive is a bright place to grab a Mediterranean snack — think olives, cheeses, charcuterie, flatbread, and lots of roasted meat and vegetables — along with a glass (or bottle) of European wine. Fig & Olive has several locations around the country, but this spot was the mini-chain's first West Coast setting. Should you find yourself in the area late on the weekend, the bar/lounge stays open till 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Where: 8490 Melrose Pl.

When: Mon., noon-3 p.m. & 6-10 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., noon-3 p.m. & 6-10:30 p.m.; Fri., noon-3 p.m. & 5:30-11 p.m.; Sat., noon-3 p.m. & 5:30-11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5:30-10 p.m.
More info: 
310-360-9100; figandolive.com

 

Lucques

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A mainstay of Melrose’s Golden Triangle, James Beard–winning chef Suzanne Goin and sommelier Caroline Styne's first restaurant is approaching its 20th birthday. Since Lucques opened in 1998, Goin and Styne have published several cookbooks and opened several other eateries (A.O.C., Tavern, The Larder), cementing their positions in the international dining scene. In an industry prone to fanfare-heavy openings followed by flameouts, Lucques has become a landmark thanks to its well-prepared food, wine program, sophisticated atmosphere and exemplary service. Yes, boys and girls, this is how you do a restaurant. 

Where: 8474 Melrose Ave.

When: Mon., 6-10 p.m.; Tues.,-Thurs., noon-2:30 p.m. & 6-10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., noon-2:30 p.m. & 6-10:30 p.m.; Sun., 5-10 p.m.
More info: 323-
655-6277; lucques.com

 

Farmers Market

Los Angeles is full of alfresco venues where you can procure organic veggies, including the celeb-chef-frequented ones in Hollywood and Santa Monica. For an experience that's a little different, head to Melrose Place any given Sunday for an outdoor bazaar. Simple, tidy and European in feel, this farmers market makes it easy to pick up your California-grown broccoli, Ojai Valley citrus and bread from local bakeries. Grab a breakfast burrito or a quick pastry and coffee from a vendor and take a stroll, inhaling the aromas of the West Coast agricultural bounty. The other L.A. markets can have their overwhelming crowds  Melrose's Golden Triangle has style. 

Where: 8400 Melrose Ave.
When: Sun., 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
More info: rawinspiration.org


By Brian Garrido

Recently transplanted from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Brian is a marketer and freelance writer with a cooking blog. Having traveled to more than 200 international and domestic cities, he's in the process of writing his memoir about his deep female friendships and women that he's has loved as a gay man. He can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.