Bread Lounge, 700 S Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles (Produce District), CA 90021

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Carbs as far as the eye can see…baked onsite at Bread Lounge. The breads are handmade. The cases are filled with goodies: loaves of bread, pastries, borek, foccacia, croissants, Danish, cinnamon roll, banana bread, rugelach, etc. Sandwiches ($6.95 and up) and soups are listed on the menu board. They also have cookies, crackers and granola in clear tubs on shelves. Order at the counter and they’ll bring the food to you (for dine in orders).

Bread Lounge has its own parking lot behind the building. There’s a valet there at certain times.

* Feta crackers: Crispy thick crackers, lightly salty, good but plain

* Carrot ginger soup ($7.50) comes with slices of multigrain bread. The soup was perfect: hot, thick, gingery, fresh. The bread was thick and soft with a chewy crust studded with sesame seeds.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Stumptown Coffee, 806 S Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles (Produce District), CA 90021

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Thank you Portland for bringing your coffeehouse to DTLA. It’s a stylish place in a gritty area that hipserts like. You can actually find parking nearby. There isn’t much seating but it’s a gorgeous space with high ceilings, wood counters and chalkboard menus. You can sit at a counter and watch them roast coffee.

It’s a gritty area (Produce District) so it’s perfect for a hipster coffeehouse where you should be able to find parking. The pastries in the display case all look tempting (croissants, cookies, Danish, kouign amann, cookies). The food options are limited to pastries.

* Kimchi spam musubi croissant ($4): Delicious and unusual, with delicate thin layers topped with sesame seeds and nori plus a salty spicy meaty layer of spam with kimchee filling.

* Latte: My nonfat latte had foam art of course and a rich, complex, balanced flavor

Free wi-fi but no power outlets and limited seating. Coffee and coffee accessories are available for sale.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

LACMA Store, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036

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For a museum as large as LACMA, the museum store is surprisingly small. But, it is worth a look as it carries artsy items you won’t find elsewhere. For example, Wear LACMA is a high-end line of clothes and accessories by different artists like Esquivel and Clare V. Artist tees commissioned by LACMA are $36 each.

The shop is filled with books, jewelry and assorted gifts (e.g., scarves, ceramics, decorative plates, trays, pencils, clocks, decorative boxes, toys) for all ages. Anyone can shop at the LACMA Store (a ticket is not required). LACMA members get a discount.

Shop online at http://thelacmastore.org/

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N Highland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90068

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If you’re visiting LA, a concert at the Hollywood Bowl (an outdoor amphitheater) on a summer’s night is a must see. It’s a magical, romantic place at night with the Hollywood Hills in the background. I’m surprised by how quiet it is up there and how dark (very few lights can be seen). The Hollywood Bowl is the summer home to the LA Philharmonic and also hosts many other types of concerts (rock, jazz, world music). Sometimes they have fireworks.

The acoustics are quite good so there isn’t a bad seat in the house. They also renovated the seating so that even the cheap seats aren’t uncomfortable (they’re wood benches now, they used to be metal bleachers). You can rent seat cushions for $1 or bring your own. Escalators take you up the hill or you can opt to take the stairs.

There are gift shops and snack bars on every level. You can get beer, wine, popcorn, cookies, ice cream, burgers, hot dogs, etc. Most people bring their own food though. There are picnic areas and you can eat during the concert too.

Programs are $1. The classical music concerts don’t start right on time. Large screens help you see the performers on stage and also have useful information about upcoming performances, the Hollywood Bowl app etc. You can text a number with a courtesy issue/complaint. I did that because people were smoking in the nonsmoking area. Someone responded right away.

The crowd was mature and quiet…no crying babies. They were also quiet on the shuttle ride to and from the parking lot. Most of them seemed to be regulars. There were plenty of vacant seats so we could spread out and get comfortable.

Getting to the bowl isn’t easy. Parking is limited. But they do offer shuttles ($5 round trip) and park and ride options ($6 roundtrip). LA Phil concert tickets are as low as $11/concert. Night concerts at the Hollywood Bowl are the best.

5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Santa Monica Pier, 200 Santa Monica Pier, Ste A, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Good old fashioned family fun at the pier. Santa Monica Pier is the home to Pacific Park, SoCal’s only free admission amusement park, as well as an aquarium, restaurants, and shops.

Wear practical shoes because the pier is built from big planks of wood (it’s an old whart with an uneven surface). Also parking is expensive ($12, no in and out privileges) so you’re better off trying to park at the mall or parking lots near the mall (90 minutes free) and walking over. The mall is only a few blocks from the Pier (less than a mile).

Pacific Park is small and the half of the rides are meant for young kids. They do have one small rollercoaster, plus an impressive ferris wheel (so pretty at night), carousel/merry go round, etc. The rides are $4-$6 each or $24.95 for an adult unlimited ride wristband. There’s a video game arcade and games where you can win prizes. Shops offer cheesy touristy items. Street performers add to the lively, crowded atmosphere.

A couple of food trucks were parked by the pier. The restaurants include sit down seafood restaurants and more casual places to get burgers, fries, and frozen custard. You can find funnel cakes, cotton candy and churros. The ice cream parlor (it’s called Soda Jerks and they serve Fosselman’s Ice Cream) housed in the hippodrome has a cute old fashioned feel. Plus they have those cute old fashioned coin operated games in the hippodrome, the ones that tell your fortune or tell you something about yourself for a quarter.

Pacific Park and Santa Monica Pier have appeared in many movies and TV shows. Free historic walking tours are offered and they have a live music series called Twilight Concerts. This place is very crowded.

3.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Treats Frozen Yogurt & Ice Bar, 1700 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405

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Fro-yo girl here. And the cutest froyo shop entrance award goes to Treats. Loving the colors (white and sky blue) and décor (modern and bright) at Treats…also the treats are made for you with care. It’s not self-serve but the customer service is what makes Treats better. Portions are generous and prices reasonable. The employees are skilled at swirling. Each cup of froyo comes with a tiny chocolate straw, a cute touch.

Treats has California snow (shaved ice) with different flavors and the option to add drizzles and froyo. The fro-yo is available in a cup or cone with or without toppings (fresh fruit kept on ice, popping boba, cookie dough, candy, mochi, nuts, cookies, chocolate chips, graham cracker crust, sprinkles). Hot toppings are available and they try to use organic fruit. Homemade waffle cones are available.

Fro-yo flavors of the day:

  • Vanilla
  • Salted caramel
  • Peanut butter: creamy, very peanut buttery, can’t taste the yogurt
  • Chocolate
  • Treatberry tart (original/plain tart): thick, smooth, creamy, kinda citrusy, nice texture but not the cleanest/most flavorful
  • Strawberry
  • Praline NSA
  • Chocolate fudge sorbet
  • Coconut banana crème pie
  • Annabel’s mint chocolate chip

I like how they add toppings in the middle and on top and the toppings are applied with care so each cup looks nice and you don’t run out of toppings as easily. Froyo cones come with complimentary sprinkles.

Fro-yo prices: Small $3.75/ Medium $4.25/ Large $4.75/Pint $6.50/ Quart $8.50. They also had pre-packed quarts and pretty froyo pies in the freezer case.

Treats also sells cute games, candles and things. It’s extremely popular with parents and young kids (it’s located across the street from a park and a middle school). Earn free froyo with a Treats bonus card.

On the corner very friendly across from park and middle school.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Stan’s Donuts, 10948 Weyburn Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024

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Stan’s Donuts has been serving up super fresh donuts from this corner of Westwood Village since 1965. It’s a humble tiny little shop with a ton of donut varieties. It looks like they share a space with Flame Broiler. We stopped by one Sunday morning and saw the founder, Stan Berman, hanging around.

As for the donuts, there are so many varieties to choose from, cake, raised, filled pockets with fresh banana, Nutella, cream cheese, and peanut butter, fritters, cinnamon rolls, etc. Some donuts had cute names like the Simpson donut, Ina donut, and the Huell Howser donut. The standard donuts are smaller than average ($1). Fancy donuts are $2 each. Coffee, good for a donut shop, comes with free refills.

* The Bruin: A glazed raised donut with blue and yellow sprinkles. The donut was tender, soft, and fresh. The thin glaze wasn’t too sweet. A nice, quality donut without an oily aftertaste.

* Chocolate cake donut: Fresh, tender but not very chocolatey.

* Buttermilk bar: Moist with real buttermilk flavor

Stan’s will ship their donuts overnight to anywhere in the U.S.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

New York Bagel Co., 11640 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles (Brentwood), CA 90049

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Brentwood, which seems like a low carb kind of place, actually has great bagels. New York Bagel Co. is a bustling busy place on the weekend. There’s a separate takeout line if you just want to grab some bagels. The place is so crowded that there’s almost no room to stand and wait for your order. When you walk towards the counter to place your order you’ll see bagels, the cream cheese (comes in several flavors), deli salads and the kitchen. The menu includes omelettes, pancakes, French toast, eggs, Mexican specialties, sandwiches, soups, salads and sides.

There’s a huge replica of the Empire State Building hanging from the ceiling and photographs of musicians.

Bagels: Plain, poppyseed, sesame, rye, egg, onion, garlic, salt, whole wheat, rosemary, pumpernickel raisin, cheese, chocolate chip, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, everything, bialy. Regular bagels are $1.10 each, fancier bagels are $1.25 and toasted bagels are $1.35.

* Rosemary bagel with jalapeno cream cheese: The bagels are big and thick. I liked the dense chewiness and the cornmeal on the bottom. They’re generous with the cream cheese. The rosemary flavor was nice – just enough that it’s noticeable without being overwhelming. The jalapeno cream cheese featured plain cream cheese with big chunks of chopped jalapeno – plainer than I expected but still good.

* Pumpernickel bagel: Chewy, dense, pumpernickel flavor wasn’t too strong, very good

Their coffee is quite good and definitely goes with their bagels.

Valet parking…NYBC will validate.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

21 Choices Frozen Yogurt, 460 W 1st St., Claremont, CA 91711

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Fro-yo girl here. 21 Choices does things differently. It’s not self-serve. Instead, they offer made to order custom froyo mixes with friendly service. When you walk into the shop, the array of mix-ins is impressive. They’ve got cookies, candy, sprinkles, cheesecake, cereal, brownies, nuts, chocolate chips, Twinkies, fruit, etc. Choose your froyo flavor and toppings and one of the associates will mix them together on a cold marble slab (yes, like Cold Stone Creamery).

If you don’t feel like creating your own mix, you can choose one of the six flavors of the day, some of which already have mix-ins.

Fro-yo flavors of the day:

  • French vanilla: bland (not a strong/prominent vanilla flavor) but clean aftertaste
  • Old school chocolate
  • Strawberry mango colada
  • Coffee, coffee, coffee: Strong coffee flavor, icy, sweet
  • Chunky peanut butter: Made with peanut butter and peanut butter chips, the frozen yogurt was rather icy though not watery and it tasted just like peanut butter chips, the yogurt flavor was lost
  • Double chocolate brownie

21 Choices frozen yogurt tends to be icier but if you love toppings and you love frozen yogurt that tastes like toppings, you will likely be a fan.

Prices (no mix ins): Small $3.75/ Medium $4.75/ Large $5.75

Visit website for the day’s flavors. This location accepts Claremont Cash. Primarily a spot for takeout, I didn’t see any tables or chairs inside.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Chung Seng Food Manufacturer, 115 Commerce Way, Walnut, CA 91789

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When you want good tofu and soy products, you go to the source. In this case, that’s Chung Seng, a Chinese tofu factory located in an industrial park in Walnut. There is no sign on the door or on the building but you can go in and you’ll find a small retail area with few refrigerators filled with soy products (tofu, soy milk, tofu pudding, fried tofu). They also have a small snacks and produce section.

* Plain tofu ($2.50). I didn’t see this in the fridge but I asked about it and they went in the back to get a slab. It’s medium firm (that’s the only firmness they have). Mr. Tofu praised its soft and creamy texture. He said it wasn’t chalky but he wished the bean flavor were more prominent. It’s more expensive but fresher.

* Stinky tofu (they call it pickled tofu). Comes in 2 sizes? It’s plenty stinky and hasn’t been fried. Tastes like stinky tofu though the flavor isn’t that strong.

Cash only.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.