Zipping between Fairfax Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard, you may mistake the road for any other thoroughfare. But for more than a decade West 3rd Street has functioned as an open-air mall of independent boutiques and neighborhood hangouts (people walk from store to store, not just to their cars). Need a stylish birthday gift or a quick gourmet bite? The strip is fail-safe. (There’s a reason New York’s Magnolia Bakery opens here this month.) The recession struck a blow to the area, but recent arrivals are giving it a face-lift. We focused on the stretch near the intersection of South Orlando Avenue.
1. Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya
Book a reservation at this popular restaurant, or you’ll be watching others devour small plates from a menu of Japanese pub fare. Try some of the best sushi in town or dishes like foie gras on Kobe beef, sautéed Japanese kabocha, and miso cod. » 8420 W. 3rd St., 323-782-9536.
2. Le Labo
We didn’t plan to spend our weekly grocery budget on a candle at this Parisian-style apothecary, but the stripped-down aesthetic, hand-hewn sensibility, and understated cool of the East Coast-based brand can be seductive. Eleven fragrances, including the in-store exclusive “Los Angeles” scent, are displayed on cast-iron tables and made to order. » 8385 W. 3rd St., 323-782-0411.
3. Elaine Kim
The cement floors and whitewashed walls of this modern women’s clothing shop, a recent addition to the block, create an ambience that’s more art gallery than retail outfit. From her back room studio, designer-owner Kim turns out only a few pieces at a time—the equivalent of limited-edition prints. Menswear-influenced tailoring and unexpected juxtapositions (supple leather bands running the length of body-hugging, draped chiffon dresses) make for a quietly sexy and instantly covetable collection. » 8373 W. 3rd St., 323-937-0355.
If the Marni label launched a kids’ line, this boutique, which stocks clothes for little ones up to age six, would sell it. The goods are sophisticated (muted colors, Euro labels) but not precious and will have all customers—not just the teething ones—drooling. » 8365 W. 3rd St., 323-658-8882.
5. Traveler’s Bookcase
At this bookshop there are guidebooks and maps for virtually every destination, along with literature set in far-flung locales. The husband-and-wife owners, who have traveled to more than 100 countries, pick up items you won’t find elsewhere. They also carry the hyperlocal À la Carte maps—beautifully illustrated insider primers on well-trod cities. » 8375 W. 3rd St., 323-655-0575.
6. Polkadots & Moonbeams
Thrift-store denizens have been visiting this repository of midpriced vintage clothing since 1982. They’re still on the prowl (read: you’d better grab that A-line dress before Mad Men’s costume designer does). Contemporary clothing at a second location can be had a few doors down. » 8367 W. 3rd St., 323-651-1746; 8381 W. 3rd St., 323-655-3880.
7. Magnolia Bakery
The decadent bakery that Carrie Bradshaw et al made famous comes to the neighborhood this month. Now you can see what all the fuss was about while quelling butter cream frosting urges. » 8389 W. 3rd St., 323-951-0636.
The utilitarian quality of plastic informs the colorful selection of well-designed home and office goods. Other materials are represented, too, such as canvas in totes from France and cotton and linen in Marimekko tea towels from Finland. » 8405 W. 3rd St., 323-655-1051.
9. Joan’s on Third
With its black-and-white decor, array of prepared foods, and stainless steel shelves full of gourmet products, this larder is L.A.’s version of San Francisco’s Boulettes. It’s been a fixture for more than a decade, but nabbing a seat during the lunch rush can still be trickier than finding weekend beach parking. The cafeteria-style setup makes the ever-expanding offerings seem inexpensive (with “seem” being the operative word). A new menu of hot dinners, available from 3 to 8 p.m., gives us an excuse to visit twice a day. » 8350 W.3rd St., 323-655-2285.
Photographs by Mindee Choi