My LA to Z: Darren Criss

The breakout star of <em>Glee</em> will once again become part of your world next week: He plays Prince Eric in the live version of <em>The Little Mermaid</em> at the Hollywood Bowl (June 3, 4, and 6). Here he talks churro French Toast, his love of magic, and the music venue that has restored his faith in humanity

Venice Canals Walkway

rh1After years of living in Los Angeles, I only recently made it out to the canals. I’ve since learned that my reaction was very much the same as everyone else’s who had never been before: “Wait, this exists?” It’s crazy to think that all this time, while you were cruisin’ down the Venice Boardwalk taking pics of that dude with the dreadlocks playing electric guitar on roller skates, that this picturesque little gem was just two blocks away. Maybe roller-skating-dreadlock guy lives there.

Trois Familia

faison2I make it a habit to try every buzzy new restaurant when they open up in L.A. If not for the food, then certainly for the adventure, and especially for the bragging rights of having made it there before my foodie friends. And I rarely go to the same place more than once. Trois Familia has been open for less than a year, and I’ve already lost track of how many times I’ve been back. It’s one of the best restaurants in L.A. I love French cuisine. I love Mexican cuisine. Put-’em-togther-and-what-have-you-got? How ’bout a Galette crepe with chorizo and “avocado milk,” or some churro French Toast? Be prepared to wait for an hour or two during brunch hours, or, if you’re savvy enough, maybe summon the power of TaskRabbit. As for my out-of-work actor pals with a pension for hip food: go on a weekday when they open at 10 a.m. No line! It’ll almost make you want to never book a job.

The Hotel Cafe

faison2The Hotel Cafe had only been open for a decade when I moved to L.A., but it was already a place where a lot of my heroes had started (and, I had heard, where they still hung out). Getting to be a part of that scene was a goal. Now, many years since my first pilgrimage, I’ve had numerous shows there. I feel very lucky to be part of its wonderful community of singer-songwriters. I highly suggest going on a random night at a random time when you don’t even know the artists. Maybe you’ll hear something you love or be the first to discover an artist before the rest of the world. They’ve also just opened up a new, smaller stage where you will hear what is a rarity in any venue nowadays: nothing but the music. Just the artist, the songs, and a listening audience. It’s where people give a fuck about music. And it gives me faith in humanity.

Little Tokyo & Sawtelle Japantown

faison4I’m not going to say I’m pretentious about Japanese food, but I’m pretentious about Japanese food. So I love Little Tokyo on the east side & Sawtelle Japantown on the west—my favorite cultural getaways depending on what side of town I’m on. Los Angeles has no shortage of truly amazing Japanese restaurants between these two hubs, but if it’s an authentic Japanese vibe you’re looking for, take a stroll through Japanese Village Plaza or wait in line outside of Tsujita for an hour. And if you’re a Japanophile like me looking for real deal, fish-‘n’-rice sushi (sorry to all my sauce-‘n’-crunch friends), the omakase at Sushi Gen should do the trick. Sure, it’s no walk down Pontocho Alley, but it’s the closest thing to Kyoto without having to make a stop at LAX first.

The Magic Castle

faison7It’s very simple: Magic is awesome. Especially if you have to get gussied up for a whole evening of it at a legitimate castle. The Magic Castle is a members-only (plus their guests—including me) restaurant, bar, and private club. The history of the building alone is fun, but if that doesn’t spark your curiosity, perhaps tricksy bar stools and haunted—er, excuse me, enchanted—pianos will. Arrested Development fans might recognize the large stage (actually called the Palace of Mystery) from Gob Bluth’s gig at the similarly titled “Gothic Castle.” There are two other stages inside: one is a mind-blowing close-up magic room for sleight of hand card tricks, and my personal favorite: the Parlour of Prestidigitation (I know! It just keeps getting better!). The parlor is awesome because, to me, the more old Jewish guys telling dad jokes with handkerchiefs and rubber chickens, the better. If you go at the right time on a Sunday, you can catch a champagne brunch and a show at each of the three stages all in one visit. That’s the only magic trick I have to offer.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid runs June 3, 4, and 6 at the Hollywood Bowl. Get tickets here 

Photographs courtesy (in order): (2) yelp/Trois Familia; all other photographs are courtesy

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