THE Lesbian Guide to West Hollywood
Whether by sun or searchlights, everything seems brighter in West Hollywood. Though they do their best to play it cool behind their designer sunglasses, the lesbians in this legendary Los Angeles gayborhood spend just as much time scoping the eye candy as an average Jo visiting from near or far.
And what eye candy it is, especially in this city where it’s easy to eat healthy, stay fit, and constantly soak up sunny vitamin D while never really needing to work on a tan — it happens automatically. But for a sprawling city like Los Angeles, West Hollywood pulls off the charm of a localized, walkable neighborhood filled with familiar faces, happening nightlife spaces, and altogether friendly places.
Eat, Drink and Be Shopping
So where to begin in West Hollywood? Probably on Santa Monica Boulevard, WeHo’s central artery (and Pride parade route, every early June) where you’ll consistently find a bevy of lovely ladies shopping, eating, strolling, and generally decorating the strip. So while you’re inspired, duck into the Pleasure Chest (7733 Santa Monica Blvd., pleasurechest.com), the first “boutique” style erotic shop — and of course the go-to for queer fore-foreplay — that opened in WeHo in 1975. While you’re on that east end of modest, 1.9-square-mile WeHo, kick back on the patio of lesbian-owned Marix (118 Entrada Dr., marixtexmex.com) for some delicious Tex-Mex and icy margaritas. Or if you’re in the mood for variety, head around the corner to the same owners’ other restaurant, Basix (8333 Santa Monica Blvd., basixcafe.com), where friendly staff dish out American and Italian-inspired brunch, lunch and dinner.
Kick up your heels with some quality drag queens one block over at Hamburger Mary’s (8288 Santa Monica Blvd., hamburgermarys.com/weho)—still a great time, and the flirty gay boys are sure to welcome their visiting lezzie sisters and maybe even buy you a card for weekly Wednesday “Legendary Bingo” night.
If you prefer somewhat stylized Mexican, tempt your tongue with novel takes on south-of-the-border dishes like lobster enchiladas with tomatillo-truffle sauce (yes, it is as mind-blowing as it sounds) at gay-owned Tortilla Republic (616 N Robertson Blvd., tortillarepublic.com). Nearby, T.R.’s co-owner also serves up Taste on Melrose (8454 Melrose Ave., ilovetaste.com), a versatile bistro with open-air seating, fabulous cocktails and exceptional food for a weekend brunch or romantic dinner. One of the local hotspots of the moment does offer reservation, but that doesn’t keep lines from forming nightly for its innovative local, seasonal fare: Laurel Hardware (7984 Santa Monica Blvd., laurelhardware.com). Occupying a former hardware store, expect to dine at a communal table, and try to resist the temptation to sneak bites of your neighbors’ dishes.
For something a little different, swim over to the super-new (in June 2013) Connie & Ted’s “seafood shack” (8171 Santa Monica Blvd., connieandteds.com), where you can indulge in authentic oysters Rockefeller, chowder and lobster rolls. But this is L.A. — what trip would be complete without sushi? You can’t throw a rock in WeHo without hitting a sushi restaurant, but there’s a reason why The L Word characters frequented Ari-Ya (8730 Santa Monica Blvd.): fresh, sizable slices of premium sushi and sashimi. Don’t let the joint’s modest décor fool — you’ll be hard-pressed to find such inventive rolls and combos at even the fanciest sushi bar.
True to its glorious gayness, WeHo is filled with queer-owned establishments and haunts. The lesbian-owned Yogurt Stop (8803 Santa Monica Blvd., yogurtstop.net) invites you to pump your own healthful fro-yo, choosing flavors that are practically their own stand-up routine—like Lezbionic Tonic, Touched By My Angel Food Cake, and I’m Comin’ Out Cake Batter. Duck into the Urth Caffé (8565 Melrose Ave., urthcaffe.com), where you can use their well-steeped organic tea or coffee as an excuse to park yourself for the parade of lesbians who file through regularly.
Within the WeHo borders, you can’t miss the West Hollywood Design District (avenueswh.com). Formerly known as “The Avenues,” the area fills the blocks between and
around Melrose and Beverly Avenues with upscale and designer retailers, as well as the gleaming new West Hollywood Library, home to the one of the country’s largest LGBT collections — and completely worth a visit if only for the architecture and design. If you’re more interested in book shopping, don’t miss the renowned Book Soup (8818 W Sunset Blvd, booksoup.com) for your L.A. lit fix.
When you’re done, consider a treatment at charming Gendarmerie (9069 Nemo St., thegendarmerie.com), a gay-owned (and also partly owned by LL Cool J, who loves their proprietary fragrances) spa so warm and welcoming you may feel like you’re hanging out at someone’s home…where there just happens to be a massage therapist in residence.
Sure, WeHo remains a bastion for the gay boys, but the ladies make their own scenes especially by night, when they come out in force for a handful of long-running and new parties that redefine go-go. The Abbey (692 N. Robertson Blvd., abbeyfoodandbar.com) is at the top of the list, anchoring the local club scene. Logo TV once named it “best gay bar in the world” for its diverse male-female mix and extra-spacious layout—in a way it feels like four bars in one, including a sprawling outdoor patio and roomy dance floor. Every Wednesday night, check out the no-cover Girl Bar (girlbar.com) to be dazzled by the array of ladies donning everything from mascara and high heels, to neckties and jerseys.
If it’s a giant club full of well-clad women you’re after, head to Here Lounge (696 N. Robertson Blvd., herelounge.com) for the cover-free Friday Truck Stop Girlz party (herelounge.com/nights/friday). Lipstick ladies and their dapper dates will find no shortage of gorgeousness here. You can also slip across the street for the fairly new Fantasy Fridays party at Robinson (665 N. Robertson Blvd., robertsonweho.com), with a little more of a hip-hop vibe — and a nice change of dance pace that draws pretty, mixed crowd. Saturdays, check out Juicy at Rage (8511 Santa Monica Blvd., theragenightclub.com, $5 or $10 cover) for a pumping dance scene.
There are also a few bars on Santa Monica Boulevard, like Revolver (revolverweho.com) or Eleven (eleven.la), that switch up their gay-boy scenes from time to time with fun lez parties. For the latest tips on where, what and who, visit LosAngelez (http://www.facebook.com/MyLosAngeLez), or the way-gay West Hollywood Visitors Bureau website (visitwesthollywood.com). Or consider something a bit different by checking out the latest plans from Lesbians Attack, a new group that picks an establishment to overrun with sisters for a night (check facebook.com/groups/lesattack, or email [email protected] for upcoming details).
This is the heart of L.A. tourist country, which means hotels for every budget litter the surprisingly hilly landscape. Most line Sunset Boulevard, including the high-end and celebrity faves like The London, The Standard (remember the Sex and the City episode in L.A.?), The Mondrian, and Sunset Towers (home to the annual Vanity Fair Oscar
party). These glitzy spots are sleek and gorgeous, so consider a cocktail by one of their poolside or rooftop bars even if you’re not enjoying their high-styled accommodations.
Right next door to the famous Sunset Towers is the humble Best Western Sunset Plaza (8400 Sunset Blvd., bestwestern.com), with its views and patios looking over the WeHo valley, and relaxing pool surrounded by lush greenery. The Ramada Plaza West Hollywood (8585 Santa Monica Blvd., ramadaweho.com) is another well-located, more reasonable option, with hip, loft-inspired layouts.
The Hollywood Scene
It’s easy to get your bearings along WeHo’s grid of streets, but where can you catch some good Tinseltown gossip and glamour? Look no further than Bikes and Hikes L.A. (8743 Santa Monica Blvd., bikesandhikesla.com) for fabulous bike and walking tours of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and other ’hoods. (They also rent bikes, if you’re not feeling the Los Angeles car culture.)
A little outside of the official West Hollywood district, and outside of the usual old stargazing tours, consider catching a unique history of the film industry with delightful, entertaining (and gay) Philip Mershon’s “deep dish Hollywood history” walking tour (felixinhollywoodtours.com).
Of course, in a happening place like West Hollywood, there’s virtually no end to things you can see and do. In fact it’s easy to visit WeHo for a week or more and still never check out any other neighborhoods — though FYI, queer-friendly Silverlake and Los Feliz, and the sunny shores of Santa Monica and Venice Beach are absolutely worth a visit too.
But the bottom line is that WeHo is a sort of magical place where some of the best worlds have collided to form a delicious, exciting, remarkably happy gay global capital. And you’re invited to the party.