by Jeremy Lemos
For a long time there's only been one place I've stayed while on tour in LA, and that's West Hollywood's Le Parc Suite Hotel. Bands have been staying there for years, and for good reason. It's nestled back a couple of blocks from the intersection of La Cienega and Melrose, so most people would never know that, say, a couple of movie stars were staying there, or see the two tour buses. Your suite has a bedroom, a balcony, and a fireplace, there's easy laundry (important), and the roof has a tennis court and a pool. The first hotel I ever stayed in that had free Internet! (Remember in the early 2000s when wireless was still kind of weird? To this day I carry a cat-5 cable in my travel bag from when we first started staying there.)
I was doing my laundry at this place years ago and saw an amazing yellow motorcycle whose rider had a matching outfit—this was before Kill Bill—and he pulled up right beside me. "Wow, who is this dude?" I thought. "He is really pulling off that look!" It was Peter Fonda. He gave me the nod as he walked by while I was folding my socks. Another time I checked in at 3 AM right before a gentleman who by all appearances was a pimp whose services had been engaged by Snoop Dogg. Yes, he had a bunch of young girls with him in the lobby.
One of the best things about this hotel is that you can walk to two of my favorite restaurants in LA: Real Food Daily and Urth Cafe. Mexican-inspired breakfast and lunch. My two go-to dishes are the towering taco salad and the cheese tamales. More than one meat-eater has preferred my cheese tamales to their chicken.
Because I grew up in the midwest, this place is pretty wild to be around—it's so very Hollywood. Some folks get really dressed up to eat eggs, and actual famous people (Queen Latifah) might be walking around in sweatpants. Eric Bana looked really good, though, when I saw him standing behind me a couple of years ago. It's worth coming over and having an espresso (excellent) just to sit in the sun and watch the strange and wonderful people.
Mark Ibold, Pavement's bassist, is really into one of the food critics from the LA Weekly, and he's usually our guide to the city. This led us to a Oaxacan joint that's supposed to have the best molé in town. I'm vegetarian, so the food wasn't that interesting to me, but I bet your carnivore friends would like it.
Mark also read about Elf Cafe in Saveur magazine. I think he seeks out more places like this when I'm around, and for that I'm grateful. It was a really small dark place (too dark to take any pictures), but not that busy, with one table outside. The owners are indie rockers (their Web page is on MySpace), so they were pretty excited when Pavement walked in. We got to try a bunch of things, and the most memorable were the Mediterranean lentils (a little crock of lentils with a big mushroom and onion in there, super good), tahini avocado puree (it was like hummus, but with avocado instead of chickpeas), raw kale and avocado salad (strangely a good pairing with the avocado puree), and the spanakopita, which came poking out of another little crock pot.
But maybe the best thing was getting to be in LA for the United States Barista Championship (a subject the Reader has covered before). That weekend the music world may have been thinking about Coachella, but everyone in the coffee world had their eyes on Anaheim, where every good barista in the country was competing. My friend Liz Clayton, who always seems to be where the action is, picked me up from the hotel and happened to have two of the six competitors from the Great Lakes region in her car—Scott Lucey and Colin Whitcomb, both representing Alterra Coffee in Milwaukee—and wanted to take me to one of the two Intelligentsia Coffee locations in LA. Who am I to say no? The LA Intelligentsia isn't as nice to hang out in as the one on Broadway in Chicago, but this place seems built for speed. Five machines around the room and almost all of them were being used. Macchiatos ensued.
Too bad for Scott and Colin, they were eventually defeated by this guy, but that's like losing a bike race to Lance Armstrong.
I love LA.
Jeremy also posts on Twitter and is probably on the road right now. . . .