Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Gold Line (Part 2)
East Los Angeles is a heavily residential area, and the Gold Line's Eastside extension was built to allow residents easier access to Downtown and the rest of Los Angeles. That being said, East Los Angeles has some amazingly good food. Hence, this guide is very restaurant heavy.
Getting to the Gold Line isn't difficult, but it will likely require some transfers. The easiest access point for most who don't live in the San Gabriel Valley or on the Eastside is via Union Station, where the Gold Line has a stop and connects with the Metro Red and Purple lines. Westsiders can take the Metro Expo Line into Downtown, where they will connect with a Red or Purple Line train to Union Station. Valleyites, Hollywooders, and others along the Red or Purple lines can ride those trains directly to Union Station. Once at Union Station, the Gold Line occupies tracks one and two, closer to the Alameda side of the station. Grab a $5 dollar Day Pass ($6 if you don't have a TAP card yet) to ease the transfers from train to train.
Metro has a useful map of its rail network on its website, including information on parking locations throughout its transit network and station locations.
Below are some of the sites along seven of the Eastside Extension's eight stations.
A sampling of Little Tokyo and the Arts District (Photos by Matthew Tinoco)
LITTLE TOKYO/ARTS DISTRICT STATION:
Less than 15 years ago, this neighborhood was a blighted district of old industrial warehouses. Since then, however, the neighborhood has undergone a dramatic transformation into the beating heart of Los Angeles' contemporary art scene. The district includes a slew of galleries, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants far to numerous to list here, but I'll include some of my favorites. The Bread Lounge is a properly good bakery, and makes some amazing sandwiches to boot; Urth Caffe is the site of those red angel wings you see all over Facebook; and Wurstküche Restaurant is perhaps the most hip place in the entire city.
The district is highly bicycle-friendly, offering lots of routes, lanes, and parking for cyclists. Traffic is light throughout the district, too.
Directions: I have no directions to offer other than to take your time. The district is very walkable, but you're better off exploring on a bicycle simply because it is still relatively spread out. Street art is everywhere, so if you're out to see some of it, I'd really encourage cycling throughout the district (just be careful on Alameda!). The intersection of 3rd and Alameda is a good place to start exploring, and it's located just two blocks south of the Gold Line Station (at 1st and Alameda).
As one would expect from the name, Little Tokyo is the center of Japanese culture in Los Angeles (and incidentally the largest Japantown in the United States!). The Japanese American National Museum finds its home here, as well as the Japanese Village Plaza. Village Plaza includes a diverse arrangement of shops and stores, ranging from tourist stops to a bakery that makes great cakes. Of special mention is the Nijiya Market, a fully stocked Japanese Grocery Store that has a full arrangement of Japanese food items, complete with Japanese labeling that this writer doesn't understand.
Also in Little Tokyo, adjacent the Japanese American National Museum, is MOCA's Geffen Contemporary campus, which is currently holding an exhibition of Urs Fischer's work.
Directions: Exit at the Little Tokyo/Arts District station and cross Alameda Street. Walk towards Downtown (West) on 1st Street. After about a minute of walking, you'll be in the heart of Little Tokyo. The Japanese American National Museum is located at 100 North Central Avenue. Check the museum's hours here.
Two summers ago, a filmmaker named Nirvan Mullick visited Smart Parts in Boyle Heights looking for a new door handle for his car. By chance he met 9-year-old Caine Monroy, who had spent the better part of his summer building an elaborate arcade out of the various cardboard boxes used to ship parts to his father's auto parts store. Mullick played the games and thought it would be a good idea to make a film about Monroy. He also learned that he was Monroy's first and only customer all summer.
Mullick decided to use the organizing potential of the Internet and surprised Monroy with a flashmob of more than 40 people. As the Caine's Arcade website says, "words can't describe Caine's response - so watch the film."
But the story doesn't end there. Mullick's video went viral, achieving almost 4 million hits on YouTube, resulting in thousands of people contributing to a $250,000 scholarship fund for Monroy. Monroy himself became the youngest person ever to speak at the USC Marshall School of Business.
Caine's Arcade is still in business, and you can visit him at his father's store most Saturdays. A Facebook page is kept current and updated frequently with the arcade's operating hours. You'll have to be quick though, Caine's Arcade is going to be shutting down on August 3 (Monroy's birthday). Monroy has decided to enter the bicycle business and will be opening up a shop in the near future.
Directions: Exit the Gold Line at the Pico/Aliso station. Walk towards the L.A. River, but before crossing over, turn right onto Mission and head north towards the 101 Freeway. You'll cross under the freeway and Cesar Chavez Avenue. Smart Parts, the storefront Caine's Arcade is based under, is located at 538 North Mission Road. The store is about a 15-minute walk from the Gold Line station through a primarily industrial area, but visiting Caine is completely worth it.
Some restaurants around Mariachi Plaza
MARIACHI PLAZA STATION:
Very much like its name implies, Mariachi Plaza is a great place to find Mariachi music. Although I've only been to the location once when a band was playing, bands may be found in the vicinity. It seems to happen spontaneously or with the promise of a generous tip.
The surrounding neighborhood of Boyle Heights is also populated with several great food options. Check out Un Solo Sol Kitchen, a great place for a Mexican lunch. If you're looking for a sit-down-style dinner, La Serenata De Garibaldi is your place. Located one block north is Thai Deli, a highly reviewed Thai/Asian food establishment. Speaking to Thai Deli personally, I have made the three-metro line trek from Exposition Park to Boyle Heights just to have some of Thai Deli's amazing and college student budget-friendly, Teriyaki Chicken Double Mac.
Directions: The station exit places you right into the center of Mariachi Plaza. Un Solo Sol is located at 1818 East 1st Street. La Serenata De Garibaldi is located at 1842 East 1st Street. Thai Deli is located one block north of the station at 1835 East Cesar East Chavez Avenue. Walk North on State Street to get to Thai Deli.
Raspados! (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)
The Original Snow Cone Factory:
Although I'm no urban planner (yet), the Indiana station's location was likely dictated a necessity by the adjacent Ramona High School (similar to the Farmdale station on the Expo Line).
But that's not reason enough to discount the entire stop, because also adjacent the station is The Original Snow Cone and Funnel Cake Factory. Although I can't confirm any claims of the establishment's originality, it doesn't matter because the treats they produce here are savory.
If funnel cakes and snow cones happen not to be your thing, try some fried Oreos or Twinkies instead! The location has a Yelp page with lots of five-star reviews.
Directions Exit at the Indiana station and walk just south to the intersection of Indiana and 3rd streets. The establishment is on the northern corner. Address: 3557 East 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90063.
King Taco (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)
Alright, so this may be a bit of a cop out on my part since there are King Taco locations all over the Eastside, but the restaurant is just too delicious to not mention. Yelpers from all over agree that this location produces some properly good Mexican grub.
Honestly, order anything and you'll be satisfied. The only warning that I have is that the tacos can run a little bit on the small side. The meats are seasoned with a tasty lime marinade, and the establishment's horchata can be, as one Yelper described, "addicting."
I should note that, although King Taco restaurants are not rare throughout the Eastside, they are all but nonexistent on the Westside, in the Valley, or in South L.A. If you're out exploring the Eastside, you must get the full experience with King Taco.
Directions: Exit the station towards the 710 Freeway. This King Taco location is located directly south of the station. Address: 4504 East 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90022.
Belvedere Park (Photos by Matthew Tinoco)
EAST LA CIVIC CENTER:
Sitting right between the East L.A. City Hall and a county sheriff's station, Belvedere Park is a gorgeous work of public infrastructure. The park includes ample shaded lawn, great for a picnic outing, and a large lake. The northern side of the park includes a children's playground, exercise equipment, and a well-equipped skatepark. Towards the southern side (closer to the station), an amphitheater exists for frequent public events.
Directions: Exit the station in the same direction as the trains headed towards the Atlantic Station (East). The park is located north of the station, just east of the library.
Some East L.A. Murals, and The Hat. (Photos by Matthew Tinoco)
East Los Angeles Murals
Similar to Lincoln Heights in last week's Gold Line Part 1, East Los Angeles is teeming with murals just waiting to be appreciated. Although East L.A.'s main streets are less bicycle-friendly than other areas in the county, most of the mural work may be found on side streets and in alleyways, reducing the need to cycle on main streets like Atlantic Boulevard.
Also like Lincoln Heights, the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles provides a database of murals throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area. You can choose "East LA" under location, which will list about 10 pages of murals in East L.A. alone.
Directions: Exit at Atlantic atation and head south on Atlantic Boulevard. Murals are everywhere if you're looking for them. Generally, they tend to be on churches or schools (use those smartphones), but they often can be found on businesses adjacent main streets and even just in alleyways that have a de facto purpose for public art.
If it's good old American comfort food you're looking for, The Hat is the place to go. Their menu offers a selection of burgers, fries, and hot dogs that can comfort any craving. The highlight, however, are their pastrami sandwiches, which are fantastic.
The style differs from deli sandwiches from, for example, Langer's (just off the Red Line, the next installment), instead offering a more Italian style. The salty, thinly sliced pastrami leaves nothing desired, and the dip is every bit as crucial as the crunchy pickles. Be wary though, you'll likely be full before you can get to the largest order of chili cheese fries known to humans.
Check them out. Yelpers usually love the place, as does the acclaimed East L.A. poet Sesshu Foster, who has given The Hat a shout out in two of his poetry books. But come hungry. You'll need all the appetite you can for this one.
Directions: Exit the Atlantic station, cross over to the eastern side of Atlantic Boulevard, and head north (left from the station's exit) towards the Pomona Freeway. After you go under the freeway, you'll very quickly see the restaurant at the corner of Atlantic and Riggin Street. Address: 2300 S Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park, CA 91754.