Pico-Hauser

Thanks to an influx of businesses, an aging neighborhood has been transformed into a lively hub
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As with many other nondescript thoroughfares in Los Angeles, the proliferation of liquor stores and auto body shops that line this stretch of Pico Boulevard has rendered it the equivalent of a flyover state. But lately a new generation of independent boutiques and restaurants have been popping up next to longtime businesses, injecting life into the strip. Don’t get us wrong: This area isn’t Montana Avenue (although a shrub or two could spruce things up a bit), but now at least there’s good reason to put some coins in the meter.

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Photograph by Elon Schoenholz

1. Sky’s Gourmet Tacos
You won’t find taco-truck authenticity at this light-drenched lunch counter. Still, we’re partial to alternatives like mahimahi, salmon, and tilapia stuffed into delicate corn tortillas and topped with chopped salad. Wash it all down with ice-cold lemonade in a mason jar. » 5408 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-932-6253.

2. Pico Modern
Here, midcentury and Hollywood Regency furniture, sculpture, and art from names like Eames and Wegner shoulder up against anonymous treasures. Owner Don Sanfrey prices to sell, and his monochromatic displays of glassware and ceramics lure such customers as designer Kelly Wearstler. Don’t expect to trawl early: The place opens at noon. » 5449 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 818-480-8800.

3. Bloom Café
This neighborhood favorite—an oasis of blond wood, Technicolor chairs, and brushed cement floors—serves fresh takes on classics, using mostly organic, seasonal, and locally grown ingredients. We love the lemon ricotta pancakes, even more so because they’re served until 4 p.m., like all of the breakfast dishes. If you’re just stopping by for takeout, free Wi-Fi makes the wait more palatable. » 5544 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-934-6900.

4. El Mercado
The men’s and women’s streetwear boutique stocks special runs from such well-known labels as Reebok and Stüssy along with denim, tees, jackets, and hats from hard-to-find brands like 3sixteen, Casette, and Coup de Grace. » 5374 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-931-4085.

5. The Comedy Union
The city’s premier venue for black comedy features stellar performers—many of them regulars on Comedy Central, HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, and BET’s Comic View—and crowds who keep them on their toes. Check out Friday or Saturday late shows, when stars such as Chris Tucker and Damon Wayans make occasional appearances. » 5040 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-934-9300.

6. City Spa & Health Center
We shvitzed, we swam, we slapped ourselves with eucalyptus branches at this men’s health club (it’s coed Wednesday and Saturday afternoons). From the robe handed to us—we swear it was swiped from the 1974 Beverly Hills High production of Godspell—to the alter kockers mainlining fried chicken and Jack D., we can’t get enough. » 5325 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-933-5954.

7. Black Dahlia Theatre
With only 30 seats, this theater may be small, but its ambitions are not. Deft stagings of works by established and emerging writers consistently win raves. » 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-525-0070.

8. Roscoe’s House of Chicken ’n Waffles
This outpost of the soul food chain is shorthand for all that is right about L.A. Check your arteries at the door: The gravy-and-syrup-smothered namesake is a religious experience. » 5006 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-934-4405.

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Photograph by Elon Schoenholz

9. La Maison du Pain
You’d never know that the friendly Filipina sisters who run this cheerful neighborhood boulangerie patisserie have no formal training. The ten varieties of baguettes and loaves are warm and crusty, while stuffed and plain croissants achieve new heights of flakiness (they tend to sell out by noon). Rich cakes, mousses, and tarts are dinner-party showstoppers. » 5373 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-934-5858.