Queer Girl City Guide: Los Angeles
Welcome to the first of hopefully many in our Queer Girl City Guides 2.0 Relaunch, which’ll kick off this summer. Whereas the old guides were a hybrid of info on “fun things to do in this city” (e.g., restaurants, parties) and “resources for residents” (e.g., medical clinics to visit, religious institutions to join, sports leagues to sign up for) the new will be more of the former and less of the latter, with special attention paid to businesses owned by women, LGBTQ people and people of color.
This Los Angeles City Guide has been a massive group effort, building off a city guide co-authored two years ago by two incredible Autostraddle readers, Jill and Al. Over the past several months, the guide has been built out by Riese with input from over 20 queer and/or trans friends who are experts in various aspects or neighborhoods of Los Angeles. These blurbs are often a mish-mash of authors and voices, and although it’s impossible to cover it all, we hope we’ve given you a good start to exploring this incredible city! An explanation of which areas of LA are covered here resides under the “Neigh/Gayborhoods” heading.
Los Angeles has been very gay for a very long time. (There’s a great book about it, if you’re interested!) It’s actually been gay since before it became Los Angeles, when Indigenous peoples, including the Tongva and Chumash (from whom the land was ultimately stolen through genoicide and racist government policies), shocked incoming Spanish missionaries and colonialists with their acceptance of same-sex relationships and expansive gender identities. Most of these natives were relocated, dislocated or wiped out by invading settlers. Currently, when including Pacific Islander and Latin American Indigenous Diasporas, L.A. holds the largest indigenous population of any city in the U.S., and the second Monday of October is celebrated in L.A. as Indigenous People’s Day.
In the late 19th century, single working-class and middle-class lesbians from the East and Middle-West came to the rapidly evolving “frontier town” to escape relatives and communities and find employment opportunities not available back home. Many chose to dress and pass as male. In the early 20th century, the movie business — like the theater and vaudeville circuits where most early film actors cut their teeth — was very enticing to people seeking a bohemian lifestyle and a little bit more freedom of expression. Women who desired silver screen stardom were generally ambitious and headstrong, already eschewing the traditional expectations to marry young and procreate. In Los Angeles, anybody could dream that golden dream. Many with the privilege to do so came to Los Angeles because it was a place they could give themselves a new name, establish lesbian social lives with relative anonymity and basically start all over at the Great Frontier’s furthest edge, in a city populated almost entirely by people who came from somewhere else. Then as in now, Hollywood has been a hotbed of lesbian action.
Los Angeles is home to many “firsts” of gay and lesbian history. During World War II, women came to work in factories while the men were away, lured by the chance to wear pants and get paychecks. In 1947, a young lesbian using the code name “Lisa Ben” started the first-ever lesbian magazine, Vice Versa, out of her boss’s office at RKO Studios in Los Angeles. In the 1950s, Harry Hay started the first-ever gay rights organization, The Mattachine Society, in L.A., and ONE Magazine launched as the nation’s first homosexual publication and was consequently involved in the first Supreme Court decision in favor of Gay Rights (One Inc vs. Olesen, 1958). Although many lesbian bars were thriving at the time, most lesbians were laying low throughout that decade, having little political experience or common cause with gay men’s troubles and trying a bit more desperately to remain employed. The 1959 Cooper Do-nuts riot, which involved trans women, lesbians, gay men and drag queens, was the first recorded mention of a gay uprising in response to police harassment.
By 1961, an estimated 140,000 homosexual men and women lived here, and many middle-class LGBTQ folks threw themselves full-tilt into that era’s countercultural scene, like its nascent feminist movement and its thriving progressive political and civil rights activism. Consequently, L.A’s queer culture got more visible and more radicalized. In 1966, L.A. started the country’s first PRIDE organization and its first gay parade (by the ad hoc Los Angeles Committee to Fight Exclusion of Homosexuals From The Armed Forces).The Advocate, the world’s oldest and largest LGBT publication — and the U.S.’s first national gay newsmagazine — launched in 1967. In North Hollywood, at least a dozen lesbian softball teams were regularly duking it out and bars for gays and lesbians were proliferating all over the city. One of them, The Black Cat, was host to what LA Magazine calls “the first time in American history that the gay community laid claim to the right to equal treatment under the law” when an uprising occurred in response to a brutal police raid, two years before Stonewall. In 1968, the first gay & lesbian organization to publicly own property in the U.S. and the first-ever gay church, the Metropolitan Community Church, began its ministry in Huntington Park. ’68 also saw the country’s first Gay-In Festival and the first gay occupation of a police station, both in Los Angeles.
LGBTQ culture began stepping into the light in the 1970s. In 1970, Los Angles hosted its first Gay pride Parade in West Hollywood. 1971, under Jeanne Cordova‘s leadership, the first lesbian social services organization in the country was founded in Los Angeles. She also launched The Lesbian Tide, one of the most influential lesbian publications of all time. In 1972, Beth Chayim Chadashim became the world’s first LGBTQ synagogue.
“There’s not one gay community or lesbian community—there’s communities,” said Judy Sisneros, one of the organizers of the Lesbians to Watch Out For: ’90s Queer Lesbian Activism exhibit, of L.A.’s rich lesbian history. “There’s even in the women of color, in the street activists—there’s the punk, there’s the hippies, there’s the more mainstream. We’re diverse in so many ways.”
Today, Los Angeles boasts one of the largest and most visible lesbian and bisexual women populations in the world and is just below New York City for most LGBTQ residents overall. The Los Angeles LGBT Center is the world’s largest provider of programs and services for LGBT people. As the worldwide headquarters of film and television production, we’re also predictably the location of so many iconic queer films and television shows — like the first network TV show with a lesbian lead (Ellen), the first show focused on a lesbian ensemble (The L Word), the first show with a trans woman lead character (Transparent) and the first reality show about queer women (Gimme Sugar) as well as being the setting for Take My Wife, Vida, and One Day at a Time.
Whatever kind of queer human you are, there’s something in Los Angeles for you!
Los Angeles is … enormous, and what “counts” as Los Angeles is tricky — Los Angeles county contains 158 cities and unincorporated places and 114 neighborhoods, covering 4,000 square miles and encompassing nearly 10 million residents.
Due to this massive chunk of land we’re looking at, we’ve intentionally limited the scope of this guide to specific geographical areas — mostly we’re looking at what this map would call Central L.A., Westside, Eastside and Northeast L.A., as well as some parts of South L.A., Southeast L.A., the South Bay and the San Fernando Valley. Long Beach (population 470k) is not included because it’s become such a hotspot for queer women that it definitely requires its own guide.
Here are just some of the many neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock & East Hollywood
If someone says they’re an “Eastside Lesbian,” they probably live in one of these neighborhoods, even though these neighborhoods are not actually on the East Side — it’s just East of WeHo, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. (This terminology is a key example of “name gentrification“.) It’s actually Central Los Angeles, and there is another neighborhood called East L.A.., which is discussed later in this section.
This area is now known for its artsy queer scene, and has outpaced the West Hollywood of L Word Yore as “where all the lesbians live.” In fact, Generation Q is moving its story to “the east side.” Much of Transparent is set in Silver Lake, known as the city’s “most hipster neighborhood,” and all these neighborhoods have become the preferred settings for quirky indie comedies and prestige dramas in the last ten years.
All have a higher Asian population than elsewhere in the city. Echo Park (the setting for One Day at a Time) is known for its Latinx population and, like Silver Lake and East Hollywood, is majority Latinx. Silver Lake has a storied gay history — from the founding of the Mattachine Society in the ’50s to the Black Cat riots to hosting the ACT UP headquarters to its current concentration of gay (male) bars.
According to Housing is a Human Right; Silver Lake, Echo Park and Westlake, where “lower- and middle-income Latinos, Asians, and whites made up the population,” is the 5th-most rapidly gentrifying area of Los Angeles. These areas were, as one longtime resident put it, “once the stomping grounds for struggling families, not struggling actors.”
Beneath East Hollywood and the aforementioned Neighborhoods we have Koreatown, “LA’s only 24-hour neighborhood,” home to a large Korean and Latinx population as well as lots of small malls, karaoke rooms, incredible Korean food, hip coffee, tea and desert houses and Korean Spas.
West Hollywood, or WeHo — home base for The L Word and its reality spinoff — is the most visibly gay neighborhood in the city, where you’ll see rainbow flags outside of nearly ever bar and business, including the law enforcement vehicles and national banks, sidewalks, and recycling bins.
West Hollywood incorporated as its own city in the 1980s when gay and Jewish citizens, both sick of police harassment, banded together with senior citizens who, like the gays and the Jews, wanted rent control; and made their own city.
The Sunset Strip and its environs have long been a focal point of gay and lesbian life in Los Angeles. Today, WeHo is still considered to be an epicenter of gay culture — particularly for gay men — and is very white compared to the rest of L.A. Women tend to be easier to find east of La Cienega, whereas westward is more intensely male-dominated.
Just West of West Hollywood is Beverly Hills, which you’ve probably heard of, and just beneath West Hollywood is the Beverly Grove, home to The Grove, an outdoor mall one visits with a commitment to irony. To the east is Hollywood, Fairfax and Melrose, encompassing the best part of Melrose for vintage shoppers, as well as the Thai Town and Little Armenia neighborhoods.
Go even farther south and you’ll hit Hancock Park and Arlington Heights, and crossing the Santa Monica Freeway lands you in West Adamsor Jefferson Park, which’s right above Leimert Park, aka “The Black Greenwich Village” which is regarded as the cultural hub for African-Americans in L.A.
DTLA (Downtown LA) is one of L.A.’s oldest areas, is also one of L.A.’s newest up and coming gayborhoods (although this seems concentrated amongst gay men), with millions invested in gentrifying, modernizing, and revitalizing the area. The Arts District has a lot of galleries, graffiti and queer people and the Historic/Wholesale District is where DTLA’s three gay bars are seated. The very cool Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A. seems to frequently play host to queer events, large and small, in its gorgeous theater or multiple ballrooms. But all this new development means longtime residents and their businesses are being pushed out of an already overcrowded city —in 2018, Downtown L.A. was named the fastest-gentrifying area in the nation.
The area is adjacent to Skid Row, where gay and trans people started the Coopers Donut riots in 1959. Skid Row is also home to “Indian Alley,” a “mini Indian Country” that has become a place for Native art and healing.
Just east of DLTA is Boyle Heights, the neighborhood brought to life on the Starz show Vida (although due to protests from local residents, who are fighting back hard against gentrification, they ended up mostly shooting in Pico-Union), which has a long rich history in the Chicano Rights movement, as well as incredible Mexican food, street art, a skate plaza and one of the city’s oldest cemeteries. Boyle Heights is right on the edge of East L.A., the setting of East Los High.
North Hollywood & The Valley
Take Laurel Canyon Boulevard from Hollywood through the once-countercultural nexus of Laurel Canyon OR take the 101 past Griffith Park and the Hollywood Bowl and Universal Studios OR take the 405 past the Getty and Bel-Air and you’ll eventually arrive in the San Fernando Valley! “The Valley” was semi-lovingly depicted in both Boogie Nights (as the nexus of the porn industry) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High and is chock-full of television and movie studios.
Although many LA residents despair any commitments that send them to “the valley,” North Hollywood is where many LGBTQ folks have migrated for more affordable housing and, at least for gay men, it “has its own unique and bustling gay nightlife.” The NoHo Arts District is home to L.A.’s version of “off-Broadway.” It’s adjacent to Burbank, home to Los Angeles’ Best Kept Secret: the totally chill Bob Hope Airport, which I highly recommend flying in and out of. Studio City sits on the north slope of the Santa Monica Mountains, home to many actors, musicians and writers and both bougie and vintage shopping.
Santa Monica and Venice
Santa Monica and Venice aren’t gayborhoods, but if you’re visiting L.A., you’ll definitely be heading out this way. It’s where you can find L.A’s most visited beaches, the busy Santa Monica Pier (with its iconic Ferris wheel) and Venice’s storied muscle beach, oceanside bike trails, skateparks and beautiful canals. You may also recall it as the home of our friends Romy and Michelle.
Venice, created as a Venice-Italy-inspired resort town, has a storied countercultural history but is witnessing a shift as Google and other tech companies move to the area. Abbot Kinney Boulevard remains an eclectic Venice shopping destination. In the ’70s, Venice Beach was home to the lesbian-spearheaded Westside Women’s Center, which published the feminist newspaper Sisters.
Restaurants, Coffee Shops & Cafes
East Central Los Angeles
Mohawk Bend // 2141 W Sunset Blvd // Echo Park // $$
Lesbian hipsters are amongst the many who keep this spacious, aesthetically pleasing spot — located in a former vaudeville theater — popular for its fresh, locally-sourced brunch, lunch and dinner. Its menu of pizzas, salads and “elevated pub foods” feature many options for vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters and they’ve got one of the best stocks of local beers in the city.
Sqirl // 720 N Virgil Ave, Ste 4 // Silver Lake // $$ // women-owned
Innovative takes on “peasant food traditions” at this beloved and still-buzzy breakfast + lunch spot include the rice bowl with ricotta and fermented hot sauce, a number of rice porridges and house potato pancakes called “flat tots.” Owner Jessica Koslow has a few cookbooks under her belt and locals cite her restaurant as “the birthplace of the ingredient-driven, fresh and healthy, grain bowl and avo-toast-centric dining scene.”
4648 Hollywood Blvd. // Los Feliz // $$ // queer + women owned
Queer chef Sarah Hymanson is one of the two Jewish women behind Kismet, which evolved out of their casual falafel shop Madcapra in the Grand Central Market. Their restaurant is one of the city’s most popular new spots, with “a commitment to refined, restrained technique and top-quality farmers market produce” and a fantastic “Turkish-ish” breakfast.
Friends and Family // 5150 Hollywood Blvd. // East Hollywood // $$ // woman-co-owned
This seasonal restaurant, bakery and marketplace creates a market-and-produce driven menu and also bakes up a variety of artisan breads and pastries every day under the supervision of Roxana Jullapat and her partner Dan Mattern.
Semi-Tropic // 1412 Glendale Blvd // Echo Park // $$
Serving brunch, lunch, dinner and a lot of really cute drinks — during the day, it’s a laptop-friendly zone with coffee and pastries and at night, have some “casual hearty fare” for dinner with a craft beer or cocktail at their bustling bar.
Fred62 // 1850 N Vermont Ave // Los Feliz // $$
A memorably retro green-and-yellow painted diner on Brittani’s “restaurants I always see at least four lesbians at” list has standard diner foods like their signature Juicy Lucy burgers, Mac-n-Cheese balls, Thai Cobb Salad and Bossa Nova Waffles. A great post-bar spot that stays open til 3:15 AM. Plus — 62 gluten-free options!
710 N Heliotrope Dr. // East Hollywood // $$ // queer + women-owned
Los Angeles’s only LGBTQ-focused coffee shop, Cuties was founded by Virginia Bauman (she/her/hers) and Iris Bainum-Houle (they/them/theirs) as a safe place for everyone in the queer community (and allies) that isn’t centered around alcohol, dating or nightclubs. Serving Counter Culture Coffee and other tasty treats, this “daytime darling of L.A’s queer social ecosystem” hosts deliberately inclusive events like “Fab Femmes Fraternizing,” “Spoonies, Crips and Cuties with Disabilities,” and “Friday Flirts.”
The Black Cat // 3909 Sunset Blvd // Silver Lake // $$
This tavern played a significant role in the 1960s LGBTQ Civil Rights movement, when it was a gay bar often subject to police raids. Now it’s a gastropub serving up elevated American comfort fare and classic cocktails in an eclectic space featuring photos of the original iteration of this historic landmark. Great for dinner or late-night cocktails.
porridge + puffs // 2801 Beverly Blvd // Historic Filipinotown // $$ // woc-owned
Asian-inspired porridges like duck stock poached mochi and braised winter melon along with beignet-like puffs you can get savory or sweet, served at a communal table and labeled a “solo dining safe space.”
Casita del Campo // 1920 Hyperion Ave // Silver Lake // $$ // woc-owned
Open since 1962 and popular with Eastside gay men (who also might be checking out their alt-performance space Cavern Club Theater, which runs “dynamic drag shows” like Chicas in Space and a drag-cast edition of The Facts of Life). Try the Crab Enchiladas, Carne Asada and fresh guacamole, surrounded by original Latin art, a very well-placed glittery rainbow flag and “West Side Story” memorabilia (the now-deceased husband of the couple who launched the restaurant played a Shark in the movie), washed down with a handmade banana margarita.
654 N Hoover St. // Silver Lake // $$ // qwoc-owned
Chef Jasmine Shimoda and her wife Sharky McGee combined their talents for the plant-based restaurant Jewel, where you can enjoy grain bowls, pasta, salads, pizza or items like the L.G.B.T. (lettuce, guacamole, Shimoda’s house-made tempeh “bacon” and heirloom tomatoes on gluten-free seed bread), a vegan Philly cheesesteak called “L.A. Phil” as well as cold pressed juices and vegan doughnuts.
Flore Vegan Cafe // 3818 Sunset Blvd. // Silver Lake // $$ // woman-owned
You can BYOB to Flore, which serves breakfast til 1pm as well as whole-leaf tonics, tempeh meatloaf, pizzas with soy cheese and cornmeal crust, jicama tacos and vegan cupcakes.
Pine & Crane // 1521 Griffith Park Blvd. // Silver Lake // $$ // woc-owned
Check out the “Three cup chicken,” dan dan noodles, wontons, beef roll and scallion pancakes at this Taiwanese-Chinese fast-casual restaurant owned by Vivian Ku, who learned to cook from her grandfather, and Moonlynn Tsai. They source produce from their family’s local Asian vegetable farm.
Salazar // 2490 Fletcher Dr // Frogtown // poc co-owned
Built on the grounds of an old converted auto body shop, Salazar’s big outdoor patio by the LA River is a very chill place to enjoy margaritas, tacos, meat plates and margaritas. You can even watch tortillas being made in what The Infatuation calls “a case study in how creating an environment people are actually excited to be in suddenly takes the pressure off of how good the next bite has to be”
Botanica // 1620 Silver Lake Blvd // Silver Lake // $$ // women-owned
A vegetable-forward, hospitality-driven all-day-cafe operation with a side market started by two writers serving beautiful organic dishes like Turkish Eggs, Chicken Congee and Green Tahini Tartine Toast. The aesthetics are so on point that you might be tempted to subscribe to their companion magazine.
FrankieLucy Bakeshop // 3116 W Sunset Blvd, Suite 1/2 // Silver Lake // $ // woc-owned
Kristine de la Cruz prepares Filipino treats like sweet and savory custards alongside delicious brownies, bread pudding and lemon bars. Anne Choi serves up classic espresso drinks from Found Coffee as well as more adventurous fare like vegan horchata and bourbon vanilla lattes. The food menu includes stratas, quiches and sandwiches.
Honey Hi // 1620 W Sunset Blvd // Echo Park // $$ // woc-owned
Serving “craveable, sustainable comfort food” like pancakes made from gluten-free nutrient dense flours, sipping broths, smoothies with names like “no fomo” and “merman,” as well as matcha, grain bowls, curries, salads, and gf pesto avocado toast.
Cafe Jack // 508 S. Western Ave // Koreatown // poc-owned
A Titanic-themed restaurant owned by a psychic where you can get great Asian Fusion menu AND Tarot readings all at once! Inside the boaty building decked out in maritime decor, you’ll find “a maze of private rooms, karaoke rooms, patios, snugs, and communal tables.” (Be aware however that there is no bar)
Yamashiro // 1999 N. Sycamore Ave // Hollywood Hills // $$$
Who doesn’t remember when Shane fucked Nikki on the balustrade of Yamashiro in the Season Five Finale of The L Word? I personally will never forget. But perhaps most memorable of all was how stunning the space itself is — a hilltop Japanese mansion offering spectacular views, ornate rooms and a gorgeous courtyard garden. Yamashiro was once an exclusive club for Hollywood’s biggest stars, and now is regularly rented out for film and TV shoots. The menu features mostly overpriced sushi as well as dishes like Wagyu burgers and orange soy-glazed sea bass. Be aware, however, that it embodies “a dizzying combination of cultural appropriation and authenticity.”
West Central Los Angeles
Real Food Daily // 414 N La Cienega Blvd // West Hollywood // $$ // woman-owned
Serving vegan, organic and plant-based food since 1993 —soups, salads, build-your-own bowls, build-your-own burgers, and lots of juices, smoothies and milkshakes.
E.A.K. Ramen // 7455 Melrose Ave // Fairfax // $$ // poc-owned
This irreverent, trendy space on Melrose with a dog-friendly patio serves the very-hard-to-find-in-the-U.S. “lekei” style ramen (much thicker noodles and a saltier broth) has an expansive and innovative slate of ramen options and also serves fried rice, buns and gyoza.
fonuts // 8104 W 3rd Street // Beverly Grove // $ // women-owned
“Enlightened donuts” that are baked, not fried, with flavors like banana chocolate, rosemary olive oil, strawberry buttermilk and blueberry earl gray, served with Lamill coffee. Vegan and gluten-free options abound.
8905 Melrose Ave // West Hollywood // $$ // woman-co-owned, non-binary executive chef / founder
Gracias Madre serves entirely organic, plant-based Mexican cuisine, mixes great custom cocktails and is the perfect place to come for charm, class, and a little bit of romance. Chef Chandra Gilbert, who’s extensive resume includes making cheese at lesbian-owned Cowgirl Creamery, heads up the place with the team behind Cafe Gratitude and a small batch mezcal and tequila-focused bar. The restaurant has ample seating, with a dining room inside and a gorgeous outdoor patio that can accommodate large parties or intimate tables for two. On a breezy evening in Los Angeles, a seat outdoors underneath the warm glow of string lights is the perfect way to enjoy your meal.
Swingers // 8020 Beverly Blvd // Fairfax/Beverly Grove // $
A reliable classic-retro diner option for breakfast, lunch or dinner — or all of those things at once, any time of day. Lots of vegan and organic options as well as shakes and smoothies. Swingers made quick appearances in Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion and the TV show Insecure.
Pura Vita // 8274 Santa Monica Blvd. // West Hollywood // $$ // woman-owned
Chef Tara Punzone grew up on hearty Italian cooking in Brooklyn and adapted her favorite recipes for this vegan wine bar, serving vegetable antipasti, pastas, vegan tiramisu and a nut cheese-and-vegetable lasagna.
Lucques // 8474 Melrose Ave // West Hollywood // $$$ // women-owned
This is where you splurge: a charming converted carriage house with a leafy patio, serving refined California- Mediterranean menu with an exceptional cocktail and wine list. The first of many restaurants that eventually became the Lucques Group, run by (James Beard Award winning chef) Suzanne Goin and Carolyn Styne.
El Carmen Tequila & Taco Bar // 8138 W 3rd Street // West Hollywood // $$
Encarnación Elias Gomez, the widow of General Arnulfo R. Gomez of Mexico, opened this taqueria in 1929 and quickly saw it become an immediate hit with Hollywood heavyweights. Today, it still boasts one of the best tequila selections in Los Angeles and very good guacamoles and quesadillas inside a deeply red-lit, campy tunnel-like space popular for movie shoots.
634 N. Robertson Blvd // West Hollywood // $ // qwoc-owned
A café, retail and community space that serves pastries and sandwiches and uses coffee as “an invitation for people to gather and engage in meaningful exchange and conversation.” They deck out the store for Pride, display work from local artists through their artist-in-residence program and sell books and plants.
Canter’s Deli // 419 N. Fairfax Ave // Fairfax // $$
Shelly Pfefferman in Transparent has a standing order at this iconic Jewish delicatessen, open since 1931, serving a mean Ruben, matzoh ball soup, top-of-the-line lox and everything else you’d expect from *the* classic deli. Open 24 hours!
Moon Juice // 8463 Melrose Place // Melrose // $$$ // woman-owned
“As far as stupid fucking juices go, Moon Juice is the motherland and probably the reason we hit Peak Juice a few years ago,” wrote Kayla Kumari in her famed For Your Consideration column.” You’re gonna just have to trust me and drink a Cosmic Matcha Latte and a Gingered Lemon juice and then transcend to a different plane of existence for approximately 27 minutes. They literally refer to their Cilantro Celery Punch as “newage Gatorade.” It is profoundly dumb, and I’m a sucker. I love this stupid fucking juice.”
My Two Cents // 5583 W Pico Blvd // Mid-Wilshire // $$ // qwoc-owned
This incredible black queer owned health-conscious soul food spot is so beloved that Solange and Issa Rae stepped in with a fundraiser when chef Alisa Reynolds needed help keeping it open after a legal conflict with former backers. Check out the savory shrimp and grits, fried catfish and mac and cheese.
Mauro’s Cafe Fred Segal // 8122 Melrose Ave // Beverly Grove // $$
According to Alice on The L Word when she sees Dana at Fred Segal Cafe, it’s “the biggest lezzy hangout in L.A.” Is it though? Regardless, it certainly does serve breakfast, lunch and “homemade pasta with a side of celebrity sightings,” according to Bon Appetit.
Crumbs & Whiskers – Cat Cafe // 7924 Melrose Ave // Beverly Grove // $$ // woc-owned
Al believes that “THIS CAT CAFE IS LITERALLY A DREAM COME TRUE: a magical land of adorable snuggles, jingle collars, cold brew vibes, animal rescue emotions, and general euphoria.” Reservations, which come in 75-minute time slots, cost $22-$25/person and are strongly recommended (they maintain a strict human to kitty ratio at all times), as is arriving 10 minutes early to put in your drink order (which is fetched from an affiliate cafe, nothing is made in-house) and sign necessary waivers. Although it’s perfectly acceptable and common to enjoy the company of the cats in residence with no strings attached, Crumbs & Whiskers’ main objective is to facilitate adoptions for needy kitties. Over 300 cats have been adopted through the efforts of the super-friendly hosts!
EP & LP // 603 N. La Cienega Blvd. // West Hollywood // $$$
One of LA’s largest rooftop decks, serving clever custom cocktails under the stars, awaits you after your dinner in the cavernous pan-Asian restaurant that serves cuisine from Thai, Vietnamese, Fijian and Chinese traditions.
8225 Beverly Blvd // Beverly Grove // $$$ // queer + women owned
Out lesbian chef Suzanne Tracht has quite the CV, including many appearances on television and every award one could imagine. Here you can find some of the best steaks in Los Angeles and, according to Zagat, Jar “is stil lthe spot for contemporary spins on classic foods, great martinis and family celebrations.”
Yogurt Stop // 8803 Santa Monica Blvd // West Hollywood // $ // lesbian-owned
Out lesbians Marta Knittel and Shoshana Joseph own this shop for pump-it-and-top-it-yourself frozen yogurt, where you can find Stumptown coffee, candy, acai bowls and CBD-infused goodies as well as yogurt flavors with names like Lezbionic Tonic and Harvey Milk Chocolate. Some of it is vegan!
Hamburger Mary’s // 8288 Santa Monica Blvd // West Hollywood // $$ // gay-owned
A gay restaurant chain sounds like something destined to fail, but Hamburger Mary’s, originally launched 17 years ago in San Francisco, plugs on, offering a “flamboyant dining experience,” drag brunch with RuPaul’s Drag Race stars and juicy burgers with names like Buffy The Burger Slayer and the Barbara-Q Bacon Burger.
Nickel Diner // 524 S. Main Street // Skid Row // $ // lesbian-owned
In the middle of Skid Row, a lesbian couple built their dream diner, making everything from scratch but keeping it affordable, like their famed Maple Bacon Donuts (using brioche dough that takes three days to rise), a “gay pop tart,” home-made ding-dongs and entrees including burgers, chili, mac-and-cheese, salads, sandwiches and a Stuffed Avacado Quinoa Salad, “We feed people. That is our goal. You want to call it art? Fine,” chef Monica May told LA Weekly. “But if I want art, I’m gonna go to a fucking museum.”
Beelman’s // 600 S. Spring St. // Downtown // $$ // woc chef
The innovative menu of plant-based pub food at this sports bar earned its Vegan Filipino chef, Caroline Concha, the award of Best Female Chef in Los Angeles.
Clifton’s Cafeteria // 648 Broadway // Downtown // $$$
Enjoy some overpriced sliders and overpriced cheese plates within an unforgettable space that inspired Walt Disney’s vision for his first theme park. There’s a giant redwood tree bisecting the multi-level building, with a differently-themed bar on each floor and tons of taxidermied animals. The Tiki Bar on the top level is accessible by secret mirror door, and is the coziest spot for a very kitschy romantic date. Honestly I love this place. Clifton’s is one of LA’s oldest restaurants, launched originally to feed the hungry during the Depression. Now it feeds those who are hungry for a real unique, windowless experience!
445 S Figueroa St // Downtown // $$ // queer + woman owned
Border Grill operates restaurants in LA and Vegas as well as a few L.A. food trucks. Owned by out chef and host of Food Network’s Two Hot Tamale Susan Feniger, and her long time friend Mary Sue Milliken. You can find contemporary Mexican food and a wide range of cocktails, including their famous margaritas.
Nightshade // 923 E 3rd St, Ste 109 // Downtown // $$ // woc-co-owned
Chef Mei Lin and her partners draw from Lin’s personal culinary history — helping her family run Chinese restaurants in Detroit as a child — to put together the elevated nostalgia sharing menu for this aesthetically pleasing spot. Fill up on oysters, curry, shrimp toast, scallops and a memorable squid ink tagliatelle with cuttlefish Bolognese and gochuijang.
Sonoratown // 208 E. 8th Street // Downtown LA // $ // poc-owned, woc-co-owned
Buzz came quick for this taco stand which expanded in 2018 to have dining room seating, a wine list and dinner hours. The simple menu of tacos, burritos and quesadillas, served on homemade flour tacos, pay homage to the small border town in Mexico where co-owner Teodoro Diaz-Rodriguez, Jr grew up.
Sari Sari Store // Grand Central Market @ 317 South Broadway// Downtown LA // $$ // woc co-owned
“Margarita Manzke’s Filipino rice bowls introduced us to atsara (pickled papaya relish) and we’ve never looked back,” writes the pineapple collective of this Filipino concept from the James Beard nominated chef, also noted for “making the best coconut pie in the city.”
Venice, Santa Monica, Palms & Culver City
Gjusta // 320 Sunset Avenue // Venice // $$ // woman-co-owned
“I would say Gjusta is like the platonic ideal of an LA restaurant at the moment,” says Kayla, who writes for Eater in New York City. “So many people are trying to re-create it here.” This all-day and very sceney deli/bakery spot usually has a long wait but might be worth it for what the Infatuation calls “the nicest deli or bakery you’ve ever been into, multiplied by ten.”
Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen // 2011, 1119 Wilshire Blvd // Santa Monica // $$$ // woman-co-owned
Enjoy farm-to-table Californian small plates, an extensive wine bar, and tasty craft cocktails in this intimate (read: reservations necessary) dining room.
3455 Overland Ave // Palms // $$$$ // qwoc-owned
One of L.A’s only female sushi chefs, Niki Nakayama and her wife and sous chef Carol lida-Nakayama have created what Zagat calls “one of the most lovely, but subtle restaurants in Los Angeles,” offering Japanese Kaiseki dining — you may recall it from Season One of Chef’s Table —a many-coursed meal of small dishes focused on seasonality and simplicity. You’ll have to get a reservation well in advance for a chance to experience one of its limited seatings.
Vinovore // 616 N Hoover // Silver Lake // woc-owned
Sommelier Coly Den Haan got into wine retail after finding success as a restaurateur and decided after the 2016 election that her shop would only carry wines by women or multi-gender partnerships. They’ve also got a good selection of books by women authors and their insta is full of inventive wine/book pairings. It’s really cute y’all.
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