My LA to Z: Joel McNeely

The Emmy Award-winning maestro, who composed the music for Seth MacFarlane’s new flick <em>A Million Ways to Die in the West</em>, talks L.A.’s music scene, making time for family, and the restaurant he considers a “meat-lover’s paradise”
1 El Floradita 

Sunday Evening Concerts by the L.A. Chamber Orchestra at Royce Hall

Their series runs between September and May, and it’s a wonderful small orchestra. They play a wide variety of music, from classical to modern, and it’s led by Jeffrey Kahane. One of my favorite things to do in conjuction with seeing a concert is shoot down to Westwood to Tanino, a great Italian place—it’s a cool combination for a great night out. My favorite performance this season was their season finale: they finished off with an evening of piano pieces. It was spectacular.

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Moksha Yoga


The Upper Las Virgenes Space Preserve

This is a nature conservatory near my home in Hidden Hills, and when we first bought our house, we didn’t have any idea that it was there. There are many, many thousands of acres of open space where you can hike or mountain bike. You can go on for miles and not see a powerline or any sign of civilization. It’s hard to believe it’s in L.A. because it’s so immediate and gorgeous.

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Abbot's Habit


Chi Spacca

This is my most favorite, relatively new restaurant. It’s part of the Mozza group with Mario Battali by Chef Chad Colby, and it’s absolutely extrodinary in its uniqueness. It’s a very tiny place, and they specialize in large cuts of meat that they butcher themselves. They’re one of the only places in L.A. that make their own salumi. You can get a 50 oz. steak or a big tomahawk pork chop, and it’s fun because you go there with a bunch of people and you cut up your meat and serve it family style. It’s a meat-lover’s paradise, really. My must-haves are the beef and bone marrow pot-pie and the 50 oz. steak.

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4 Hal's 


Living in SoCal on and off my whole life, I started going to Disney when I was a small kid. My wife and I now take our two kids regularly. It’s a wonderful place to cement family memories. I’ve been working for Disney for 20 years, and one of the ways that I work there is to produce music for the theme parks. We’ll be wandering past Space Mountain and we turn the corner and I can hear this music blasting that I wrote. It’s a nice touchstone.

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5 Cafe Gratitude 

The Little Café

My wife and I have ben going here for more than 10 years. It’s open for breakfast and lunch, but it’s real home cooking. It’s like going over to somebody’s house for breakfast. They’re like family there. It’s nothing pre-prepared, they make everything from scratch. They have sandwiches and salads and soups, but what I love about it is that nothing comes out of a can. It’s made right there with really fresh ingredients.

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6 901 Salon 

LA Galaxy Games

My son Josh has been a member of the Galaxy Academy since he was 15, so we have a long history of supporting them. We’re big soccer fans, and we love to go to the games at the StubHub Center in Carson as well as the games they have in the summer at the Rose Bowl. That’s when the European teams will come over, and they have friendly matches. 

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7 Cerveteca 

Largo at the Coronet Theater

They have regularly great indie music acts as well as comedy. I love to go hear a pair of musciaians who play there monthly—Noam Pikelny and Gabe Witcher—who are from a band called Punch Brothers. They just recently moved to L.A. and they have famous friends like Jon Brion and Chris Lee come and play with them sometimes. You never know who you’re going to hear. It’s a guaranteed good night of music.

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8 Venice Beach 

The Factory Kitchen

It’s built in an old factory, as it’s name suggests. It’s a wonderful Italian restaurant with a woodfire grill. They make all these incredible baked, light pizza dishes and have light bread baked in the oven as well as some amazing pastas. It’s just a wonderful new spot in L.A.

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9 Venice Beach 

West Side Connections

My wife, Margaret Batjer, is the concert master of the L.A. Chamber Orchestra, and she curates a series of concerts at the Jerry Moss Theater in Santa Monica called West Side Connections. It’s a series of concerts where they pair a yearly theme with guest speaker in conjunction with music. For example, the next season is about architecture, so they’re going to have some very well-known architects speaking and then pieces of music that relate in some way will be played. In the past there have been themes like music and food, or music and poetry.

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Photographs courtesy (in order): (1),(2), (3-4,6-9), (4), (5)