I’ve been having discussion déjà vu lately on the subject of Downtown LA. “Downtown is becoming the next Brooklyn,” I keep hearing, (although according to popular opinion, it will have to share that title with Oakland). “You’re having $15 cocktails at a speakeasy and you turn the corner and you’re on skid row!” or some variation on that platitude is another recurring theme. Ok, so I may be guilty of entertaining these discussions—even fueling them with my own aphorisms borrowed from KCRW stories on our most up-and-coming district. I think we can all agree that Downtown is a “developing” area; it’s not quite cool yet, not with most dining options still closing at 8pm and entire sections that look like tent cities, but there are areas where one could definitely spend an afternoon, probably even participate in some twee Portlandia-esque activity like a guided food crawl with a “food Sherpa.” These things exist. The Arts District is quickly becoming one of those sickeningly cute neighborhoods, still feeling undiscovered and raw, but with specialty shops, artisan coffee and hidden cafes popping up left and right. Right now, in fact, I am enjoying an alfresco dining experience in an adorable ivy-covered brick alley off of Industrial Street, sitting at a rustic wooden table, under a blue umbrella and a string of exposed light bulbs. I had a sandwich on olive bread with purple potatoes, a house made veggie patty, ancho chile jam and buratta in it. I struck up a conversation with a lifestyle blogger from Montreal. There is wifi. I even parked for free. Daily Dose is the perfect embodiment of the new wave in the Arts District—tucked away with only a wooden sign guiding you in its direction, you don’t happen upon this place. It is not yet an area that generates foot traffic. You come here because you are looking for this casual and lovely lunch or brunch spot, where you can eat outside, where you enter through creaky screen doors and order artisan sandwiches off of a simple menu that warns they may run out of ingredients around 2pm. It’s a cute place. And they do a nice job of combining flavors—a crunchy baguette with Serrano chiles, akawi cheese (a soft white Middle-Eastern cheese), avocado, arugula and sauce verte provides a fresh and filling lunch. My Farmer sandwich was heartier, more dangerous—who would think that a veggie patty topped with not only purple potatoes but two kids of sauce, avocado, creamy cheese and heirloom tomato would be delicious? But it was—sweet and savory, soft but not mushy, with a bite of salt from the olive bread, a perfect marriage of flavors. One sandwich provides an ample lunch for even a hungry 6-foot college student like my brother, and will only run you $9-11.
And then there’s the neighborhood. You can wander down the street, past the original bearer of gentrification here, the excellent bistro Church and State, and across to Urban Radish, a painfully adorable specialty market, where I personally want to buy every single item for my (imaginary) home larder. Dark chocolate bars with crunchy bits of honeycomb inside; short-seasoned produce like stinging nettle and watermelon radish; gourmet frozen burritos; brightly colored kitchen utensils; duck Nduja from the charcuterie counter. Nearby you can take your pick of artisan roasted coffee, at either my favorite Portland/NYC transplant, Stumptown, or the Downtown stalwart Handsome Coffee Roasters, which was recently purchased by San Francisco’s Blue Bottle, the progenitor of the artisanal coffee movement. And of course there is LA’s hippest new food truck, Guerrilla Tacos, an Alain Ducasse-trained chef’s constantly rotating take on street food, which parks outside of Blacktop Coffee most days during lunchtime. Apparently after Blue Bottle bought Handsome, Handsome's founder set out to create another community-oriented coffee shop--a brief origin story of Blacktop, of and Guerrilla Tacos' move from their former parking spot outside of Handsome.
This part of LA still has the charm of feeling somewhat unexplored, and at least for now, Daily Dose is pleasantly uncrowded on a Friday afternoon at 2. So catch it while you can—as with all good, things, the masses are sure to descend upon it shortly. It will be featured on the Food Network and you’ll have to wait an hour for your sandwich and Kombucha. Soon afterwards, Brooklyn will be declared as dead as Pittsburg and Watts will be the new Austin. Maybe.