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BEST FOR GAY-POPULAR VALUE
With the name Koo Koo Roo (8520 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-657-3300; $6-10), this local chicken chain probably wouldn't be on this list were it not nearly adjacent to the 24-Hour Fitness gym. The location, though, means hotties chowing on actually quite decent, subtly spicy chicken, wraps, burritos, and sides.
The formula at Pinkberry (868 Huntley Dr; 310-659-8245; around $4) is simple: tart and tasty frozen yogurt in tart and tasty settings a la Philippe Starck. The results are explosively popular, spawning dozens of locations around SoCal and, recently, New York City. Our favorite toppings are kiwi and mango; other offerings include Fruity Pebbles and Cap'n Crunch.
BEST 4: COFFEEHOUSE/CAF? SOCIETY
L.A.'s caf?s provide a haven for actors, models, and beautiful people who have their days free and need to do something other than work out. They're also the province of writers and other creative types, camped out with laptops and books for hours on end.
Though it may not be obvious as it careens toward world domination, the Abbey (692 N. Robertson Blvd; 310-289-8410) began as a coffee house, and some of that vibe survives, at least on weekdays during the daytime. Order coffees and impressive baked goods from the counter, and there's a popular menu of pastas, sandwiches, and more.
On the sidewalks of Santa Monica Boulevard, two Starbucks (8595 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-659-1856; and 8949 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-274-1074) and the local alternative chain Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (8735 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-659-8207) offer great views of passing foot traffic, and bicep, bust, and butt traffic, courtesy of nearby gyms. The Coffee Bean's blended vanilla drinks have supplanted the frappucino for many an Angeleno.
Further east, lower-key Cafe Marco (8200 Santa Monica Blvd; 323-650-7742) is popular with a younger, artsier crowd, not least for free wi-fi. The menu is mostly muffins, granola parfaits and a small selection of sandwiches.
At Buzz Coffee (8000 W. Sunset Blvd; 323-656-7460), enjoy the delicious eye candy escalating up to and down from Crunch Gym, from fresh-scrubbed Hollywood wannabes just off the turnip express to established stars (everyone from Al Pacino to Madonna has been spotted here).
BEST 4: HOLLYWOOD
Decided on the dates for your L.A. visit? Pick up the phone now, and book your reservation at Osteria Mozza (6602 Melrose Ave; 323-297-0100; $17-29). Even well in advance you'll be lucky to get a table at this hot new Italian collaboration between celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton. At Pizzeria Mozza (641 N. Highland Ave; 323-297-0101; $10-18; www.mozza-la.com) next door, you can choose a counter seat to watch precision-cooked pies come steaming out of the brick oven.
Providence (5955 Melrose Ave; 323-460-4170; $35-48) Chef Michael Cimarusti is a veteran of Downtown's famed Water Grill, and the cool, elegant setting beautifully sets off fabulous seafood. Pamper yourself with oysters or caviar, or order some homey "chowda," en route to fresh catches, adventurously prepared. The nine-course tasting menu is $105.
Much less of an ordeal, Lucy's El Adobe Caf? (5536 Melrose Ave at N. Beachwood Avenue; 323-462-9421; $15-$30) is a classic near Paramount Studios for healthy and freshly prepared "interior" Mexican food. You won't find heaps of guacamole and mounds of salsa, but you will enjoy simply prepared specialties ranging from bean soup to enchiladas and other traditional fare. Live piano music livens up some evenings, as does the occasionally celebrity-studded crowd.
There's often a line out the door at the Griddle Caf?; (7916 Sunset Blvd at Fairfax Avenue; 323-874-0377; $5-$12), located near Crunch Gym and Virgin record store, one of the best breakfast/brunch/lunch spots in town. Try Mom's French toast and enjoy the organic maple syrup -- it's on every table at no extra charge!
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