One of L.A.’s Oldest–And Once Fashionable–Neighborhoods Is Blowing Up Again

Why is West Adams suddenly seeing a resurgence?
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When it was first developed in the late 1800s, West Adams established itself as one of L.A.’s distinguished addresses. Delighting in its proximity to downtown, wealthy businessmen built grand Victorians and stately Craftsman houses on its wide streets. Then, in the 1940s, the demographics shifted as white residents headed west and notable African Americans such as Gone with the Wind Oscar winner Hattie MacDaniel moved in. Construction of the Santa Monica Freeway in the 1950s, though, ripped the thriving area in half and led affluent Black families to emigrate to Baldwin Hills and beyond. Decades of economic decline followed.

But in recent years, West Adams has seen a resurgence, thanks to its beauty, its central location, the expansion of the subway system, and, until recently, its somewhat reasonably priced homes (houses that listed for $600,000 just a few years ago are now $1 million-plus). The neighborhood’s gentrification has been cause for concern for decades, but some longtime locals embrace it. 

“Gentrification can be positive if you improve the neighborhood and don’t want to change it,” says Terrell Tilford, who owns the Band of Vices galleries, which focuses on the work of Black artists. Restaurateur Bill Chait, known for hits Bestia and République, is betting big on the area: he recently opened the noodle bar Mian on the neighborhood’s bustling thoroughfare, West Adams Boulevard, and has plans to soon debut an outpost of Tartine there. “It’s a rebirth,” he says. “It’s now all about the south of the city.” Check it out.

Johnny’s (pictured above)
In 2020, wunderchef Danny Elmaleh reopened the 60-year-old icon Johnny’s Pastrami, which had closed in 2015. The menu still features plenty of greasy pastrami, but now it comes on Tartine bread. The good times continue at the adjacent bar, and, between the structures, there’s live music on Friday nights.
» 4327 West Adams Blvd., johnnys­westadams.com.

Alsace L.A. (pictured above)
This 48-room boutique hotel, opened in September, features a pool, a stunning courtyard destined to be a favorite among media types on the make, and chic design throughout, courtesy of Brooklyn’s Home Studios. A ramen bar from the enterprising Elmaleh, who owns and runs Mizlala down the street and the nearby Johnny’s, is on the horizon.
» 5170 West Adams Blvd., alsacehotella.com.

Photographed by Wayne Nathan

 

 

Runway Boutique
Fatima Dodson describes her aesthetic as “Afrocentric, carefree, bohemian fashion-forward goodness.” She curates a delightful mix of new and vintage items, from cool costume jewelry, vintage handbags, and one-of-a-kind hats to giant sunglasses, headwraps, and flowy linen dresses.
» 4755 West Adams Blvd., shoprunway­boutiquela.com.

Photographed by Wayne Nathan

Miàn
This offshoot of Chengdu Taste in the San Gabriel Valley has a menu packed with spicy, tongue-tingling Sichuan delights. “The peppercorns numb your mouth like cocaine,” says Bill Chait. Chill out with a glass of cold, sweet mung-bean tea.
» 5263 West Adams Blvd., miantaste.com.

Photographed by Wayne Nathan

Kneeland Co. Rarities
Joanna Williams’s home-goods store is rife with treasures from her travels—Bulgarian bowls to jewelry from India’s Gem Palace. “The important thing,” says Williams, who has consulted for several international fashion brands, “is to show pieces by artists and craftspeople that are not widely accessible.”
» 4767 West Adams Blvd., kneelandco.com.

Photographed by Wayne Nathan

Band of Vices
Opened last year, Terrell Tilford’s 4,800-square-foot, pink-hued gallery is all about inclusiveness, from artists to buyers to viewers. The last show, “C₁₁H₁₇N0₃”—the chemical compound for mescaline—featured 26 artists, some local, some from as far away as Ghana. “It’s about the relationship,” says Tilford. “I want this neighborhood of predominantly Black and brown people to come in and see reflections of themselves.”
» 5351 West Adams Blvd., bandofvices.com.

Photographed by Wayne Nathan

n/soto
Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama’s two-Michelin-starred n/naka has long been one of L.A.’s most coveted reservations. Now the chefs are  expanding with the more casual n/soto. “Carole and I always entertained doing an izakaya but never really wanted to jump in because n/naka takes so much from us. But we came across this wonderful location,” Niki Nakayama says. “It just felt like everything was a little meant-to-be.”
» 456 W. Washington Blvd., n-soto.com.

Photographed by Alicia Cho