My LA to Z: Michael Voltaggio

The prolific chef behind ink. and new star of Travel Channel’s <em>Breaking Borders</em> (premiering March 15) talks tattoo artistry, Candy Crush, and the best falafel you’ve never had
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Solstice Canyon

faison2I like hiking Solstice Canyon down by Malibu because they’ve got all those ruins of old houses—the big estate that burned down. But if you hike up the creek and keep on going pretty much as far as you physically feel like you can go, you end up in this meadow that is like a giant postcard. And Solstice Canyon changes throughout the year with the seasons, so for me, it’s one of the craziest places. I’m a fan of Runyon for exercise, but there are the obvious smells and traffic that come with it. This place seems like a hike outside of L.A. It’s a destination hike as opposed to a daily life hike.


Joe’s Falafel

faison2I love to eat chef food. I could sit here and drop all my chef names, friends’ restaurants, and go through the usual suspects, but I think there are a lot of interesting things that people don’t know about. There’s a place on Ventura—Joe’s Falafel. When you go in there, the guy making your food is Joe, the Joe behind Joe’s Falafel. We filmed Breaking Borders recently in Israel, so I’ve tasted hummus and falafel right from the source—and this guy really takes a lot of pride in doing that. He built the store with his own hands, and it’s his business. He’s such a humble guy. I hate saying this because it’s probably going to make him get bum-rushed with business, but he deserves it because his food is delicious. And he caters, too.


Dave and Buster’s

faison3I like to do touristy things in L.A., too, like going to Hollywood Boulevard sometimes. This is embarrassing, but the the reason why I brought up Hollywood is because they opened a Dave and Buster’s over there. I know it’s probably the most awful thing I could say. But, like, my buddies that are actors—I won’t even tell you the people I go to Dave and Buster’s with—but the ability to go and win tickets and drink beer and nerd out on Candy Crush and the Kung Fu Panda game is so awesome. If you want to do one thing in L.A., go play the Kung Fu Panda game in Dave and Buster’s at Hollywood and Highland and see how many tickets you can win.


The Spare Room

faison4 I think people forget about it because it is a great bar and it’s got great cocktails, but there’s actually a bowling league there. I was in it for a while, and I got to the point where I looked forward to bowling night. I started blocking Monday nights out because I knew it was my bowling night. I didn’t go until midnight—that was my team’s time to bowl.


Chequered Flag and Heritage Classics

faison5I’m an old car guy. I have a ‘55 Chevy Bel-Air that I restored, so one of my hobbies in L.A. is going to some of the old car places. There are tons of really cool restored cars in L.A. I’ll go to Chequered Flag on Venice Boulevard and Heritage Classics on Santa Monica and just walk around and look at the old cars.


Neptune’s Net

faison6I love driving up the PCH and ending up at Neptune’s Net with my car to eat some fried seafood—and they’ve got ceviche. It’s more than just going to a restaurant because you can walk across the street and watch the surfers. I think that’s a quintessential Southern California experience. If you live in town, that can remind you of the beauty of Southern California. Look at the people surfing, and enjoy the fried seafood and the drive itself. People drive that strip every day and forget to go a little bit further north and just see how fucking amazing it is up there—you have to do that, you know?


Tattoo Lounge and Shamrock Social Club

faison7Obviously I could tell you about a couple of tattoo shops. One of them is Tattoo Lounge on Venice Boulevard. It’s nothing fancy, but all the artists are really, really good. I get tattooed by Jason Stores. These are some of the best tattooers in Los Angeles, and they’re just guys that tattoo because they genuinely love the art of it. And then, obviously, Dr. Woo up at Shamrock on Sunset. He’s the one that does a lot of the little intricate black and gray things. He’s a close homie of mine, and he’s a really, really good tattooer.


The Proper Barber Shop

faison8For the barbershop experience and maintaining my hair, I’ve got to throw a shoutout to Vinnie and the guys at Proper Barbershop. It’s an experience to just hang out and get a haircut—sitting there, listening to the gossip, listening to the stories. It’s a bunch of dudes—tattooed, huge gauges, funky haircuts—sitting around talking about hair and fashion. Don’t even get your hair cut! Just go sit on the couch and be a fly on the wall and listen to the shit that comes out of Vinnie’s mouth. It’s like going to a show. But the haircuts there are legit, and the guys are really, really good. It’s a cool experience.


The Hundreds

faison9I would definitely throw some love to all the streetwear guys on Fairfax. Streetwear has become its own subculture, and it’s worldwide now. People often forget that Fairfax is where it all started—with Ben and Bobby at The Hundreds and all those little galleries and pop-up shirt shops. If you want to take it down to the street art level and the streetwear level, that strip of Fairfax between Melrose and down to Beverly—there’s so much to see over there. Go down there and get lost.

Photographs courtesy (in order): (1) flickr.com/Eric Chan (9) properlabarberscom; All other photographs courtesy facebook.com.

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