My LA To Z: Madeleine Brand

The native Angeleno and host of KCRW’s newest show, “Press Play” (debuting January 27th), billboards her favorite L.A. hangouts including an old-school roller rink, a secret-ish garden, and where she sates her doughnut cravings
1 El Floradita 

The Colburn School

I’ve spent many a weekend at the Colburn School, a music school downtown. It’s an oasis of beautiful studios with incredible teachers. It feels like a mini-Lincoln Center. Added treat: they have monthly free “rush hour” concerts Thursday nights at 6 p.m. for one hour, plus free wine and snacks.

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2 901 Salon 

Suehiro Cafe

It’s not the best Japanese food you’ll eat, but it’s very comforting—especially comforting to know you can always get a table when the wait for Daikokuya is north of 40 minutes. I like the cold soba noodles. And I love all the drawings on paper napkins by customers on the walls—kids’ and professional artists’ napkins side-by-side.

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Moksha Yoga



This is my go-to museum. There’s always something great to see. James Turrell’s “Perception Cell” blew my mind. Also up now: a mesmerizing video by David Hockney of the English countryside. And LACMA owns a copy of Christian Marclay’s “The Clock,” which I wish they’d show publicly ‘round the clock as L.A.’s Big Ben. Even if my family and I don’t make it to an exhibition, we can check in on Chris Burden’s “Metropolis” or Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” and then get a laugh from the fancy water menu at the outdoor café.

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Abbot's Habit


Moonlight Rollerway

It’s roller-skating, old school style: lace-up skates, a wooden floor, and soggy pizza. For less than $12 dollars, you can spend a happy afternoon re-living the ’80s.

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5 Hal's 

Tacos Villa Corona

The best breakfast burritos. Eggs, cilantro, spinach, homemade hot sauce. Not too fat, not too thin. And just right at $3.

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6 Cafe Gratitude 

The Donut Man

I could eat doughnuts all day, every day, but I restrain myself until I can drive out to Glendora to eat the Donut Man’s sublimely fluffy glazed doughnuts with fresh strawberries and/or peaches. As my mom would say, they are very “more-ish.”

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7 Cerveteca 

Wisdom Arts Laboratory

In Pasadena, this small arts school for children run by Abira Ali is another art oasis. She has a knack for teaching kids in a way that makes them feel like they’re not being taught. They learn to build wooden toys and make tapestries and put on fashion shows out of unusual materials. Every time I go there, I never want to leave her magical courtyard of possibilities.

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8 Venice Beach 


Speaking of magical courtyards, this Italian restaurant has one of the best outdoor seating atmospheres. It is my neighborhood restaurant for a simple yet deeply satisfying meal. The squid ink pasta is ridiculously rich, with the added bonus of turning your mouth black.

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9 Venice Beach 

Cafecito Organico

The coffee made from Central American beans and roasted in L.A. is delicious, not too bitter or jangly. And I like their specially made “cafecito,” a short latte with liquid cane sugar and whole milk. It would go great with a Donut Man doughnut.

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10 Venice Beach 

The Central Library

Who says no one reads in L.A.? Every neighborhood has a library that’s filled with people. In mine, I can choose from three libraries within a 5-minute drive. The Downtown Central is just plain gorgeous. And there’s ALOUD, where you can hear interesting speakers on a range of subjects—”Music, Feminism and Punk”!—for free.

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11 Venice Beach 

El Matador State Beach

I know it’s everyone’s favorite out-of-the-way beach, but that’s for a reason. It’s worth the 100-hour trek up the PCH and the schlep up and down the stairs.

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12 Venice Beach 

Amir’s Garden

Someone (Amir?) turned a spot in Griffith Park into a sub-tropical paradise full of greenery and flowers that have no right to be in chaparral. But who cares? Once you’ve trekked up the hill, it’s a welcome respite. On summer nights, we meet friends for picnics at the tables someone (Amir?) helpfully set up under the boughs.

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Photograph (5) by Jessica Sample, photograph (8) courtesy, photograph (11) courtesy All other photographs courtesy