Sitting in the shadow of the towering Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre is where you’ll find Franklin Avenue, the epicenter of Franklin Village, one of LA’s more newly recognized neighborhoods. Wedged between Argyle Avenue on the west (right off the 101 freeway) and Van Ness Avenue on the east, the Franklin strip is one of those areas that really comes alive after dark. I recently spent an evening here with a fellow writer to check out this zone where cool kids, celebs and comics come out to play. Here’s my list of places both old and new that are worth a visit.
La Poubelle – lapoubellebistro.com
If there’s one place to hit up on Franklin it’s La Poubelle, even if it’s just for a drink at the red-hued bar. The restaurant was opened by French transplant Jacqueline Koster in 1969 and is now run by her daughter Francoise who settled within its remarkable walls after years traveling the world. The cocktails are handcrafted, the vibe is dark and sexy and the food from Chef Johnny is tres bien. It’s just the kind of laidback place celebs love (I can’t name names, but trust, they’re regulars). Come here for the warm service and instant cool factor.
Daily Planet – thedailyplanetbookstore.com
Daily Planet is best known as the newspaper and magazine stand attached to Bourgeois Pig (with tons of imported titles), but if you actually walk inside the space you’ll find it’s brimming with tons of great gifts like books, journals, candles, soaps, jewelry and cool cards.
Bourgeois Pig – bourgeoispig.menutoeat.com
This dark caffeine dungeon on the corner of Franklin and Tamarind is said to be the oldest indie coffeehouse in LA, which might account for why it really does have a certain je nais se quois. The espresso is strong, the WiFi is free, the pool table is popular and the folks who hang out here are overwhelmingly of the shaggy hair and skinny jean ilk. Back in the day I spent many a late night here with friends, hanging out on the cushy chairs in the Moroccan room, Beckett paperback in hand (purchased from Counterpoint, of course). Oh, the 90s.
Birds – birdshollywood.com
This place is for the birds. Or should I say, from the birds. The menu is loaded with chicken options from chicken tortilla soup and chicken pot pie to Caesar chicken wraps and Chinese chicken salads. And don’t forget the rotisserie chicken. Dark. White. Breast. Leg. Half. Whole. Whatever the hell you want. There are also plenty of non-winged options. Pets are welcome on the patio and there’s even a special doggie menu with (surprise!) chicken for $2.
Counterpoint Books – counterpointrecordsandbooks.com
Dusty and musty and oh so crusty. I’ve been coming to Counterpoint for years and I love its old-school, pre-digital-age ethos. The floor-to-ceiling shelves are lined with all manner of used books from metaphysics to classic lit and the bins are stocked with vinyl. The store also buys, sells and trades just about anything else you can read or listen to.
Papilles – papillesla.com
Don’t judge a restaurant by the janky-ass strip mall that it’s in. That’s the lesson I learned when my colleague and I hit up this new joint that’s located a few blocks west of the Franklin Ave hub. Pronounced pa-pee, which means tastebuds in French, Papilles is rustic, cozy and all about seasonally driven bistro fare. The menu changes every week (Chef Tim Carey told me he never makes the same meal twice and goes to the farmers’ market three times a week), so make sure to go online to see what’s cooking.
Native – facebook.com/nativeboutique
Native is the kind of women’s boutique where chances are you’re going to find something cute, sexy, comfy or trendy to wear no matter what your personal style is. They also have a good selection of fashion jewelry–vermeil earrings, leather cuffs, stone rings–as well as belts and scarves throughout the store. (I really like that you can just open the glass display cases yourself.) And don’t forget good sales. The night I was there most of the store was 50% off.
UCB Comedy – ucbcomedy.com
One of the biggest draws on Franklin Avenue is UCB, which has some of the best, dirt-cheapest improv, sketch and stand-up comedy in town. No matter what night (and no matter how late), this place has a line out the door obstructing the entrances to most of the places on this list. I once sat in the audience watching Jeff Garland and BJ Novak onstage while across the tiny room sat none other than Thom Yorke! Blew my mind how one of rock’s most massive artists could actually be the smallest pocket-sized guy I’ve ever seen. How’s that for comic irony?
Franklin & Company Tavern – franklinandcotavern.com
This newcomer to the neighborhood (from the same guys at the Oaks just a few doors down) is where you can stop by for a drink–seasonal cocktails, wine carafes, craft brew from one of the 12 rotating taps–and keep your wits about you with blue cheese tater tots, ahi tuna tacos and even a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.
Oaks Gourmet Market – theoaksgourmet.com
It’s compact, it’s gourmet, it’s a market. It’s the kinda place I’d be found almost every day if I lived in the area. There’s made-to-order wood-oven pizza, all-day breakfast, barista-roasted coffees and pastries, fresh fruit smoothies and old-school milkshakes, sandwiches, salads and a single communal table where you just might find a space to sit. Did I mention the craft beers, boutique wines, small batch liquors, artisanal cheeses, crackers, cigars, olives and all other things that fall under the gourmet category? Ob-sessed.
Locali – localiyours.com
Been looking for the ultimate vegetarian Reuben sandwich? In search of handcrafted greeting cards from artisans in Nepal? Run out of your favorite vegan condoms? Well, then, Locali is your BFF. This pint-sized convenience store packs a punch with lots of organic edibles and eco-friendly necessities along with a deli that will whip up any number of tasty organic sandwiches for you, whether you’re a vegan or an omnivore. Think of it as a micro-mini 7-Eleven for the granola set.