It sure doesn’t have a fancy or fascinating name, but it does the trick. Mid-City is indeed a very central neighborhood in Los Angeles, bordering Arlington Heights and Culver City, and close to places like Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire, and Downtown LA. This dense and diverse area boasts many historic single family homes, Ray Charles’ former recording studio (now a historic landmark!), and about 55,000 people (almost 40% from Mexico and El Salvador).

Pico Boulevard, once home to nothing but auto body shops, is now a funky and inviting place to find Pilates studios, vegetarian restaurants, and homey cafes. Plans to put in landscaped medians show further signs to encourage pedestrians – in a neighborhood much less congested than most corners of LA.  You get the sense that you’re on the edge of something in Mid-City, wandering into an art studio or burger joint that’s either been enjoyed by locals for decades, or just popped up and has yet to be discovered by the masses. In any case, you’ve probably just stumbled upon something good.

Stop 1: Paper or Plastik Cafe

Paper or Plastik Cafe is a cool and cozy neighborhood joint, family-owned and brimming with artists, writers, dancers, and regular ol’ locals jonesing for their (excellently sourced) coffee drinks. They also offer REALLY tasty bites (all local and seasonal ingredients, of course) – we just about died over our brunch special of Shakshuka with its perfect eggs and flavorful tomato sauce. We settled in with our food and several chai lattes (one with soy milk, the other with almond milk – both equally delicious) and took in the exposed brick, the community tables, the hanging plants and the industrial lighting. We can’t wait to head back for their new soju cocktails!

(5772 W Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles)

Stop 2: Enamel Diction

We walked into this nail studio with some seriously sad nails – chipped, dull, and begging for some love. This bright space (complete with a living wall of succulents, cacti and moss) has been open just over a year, but it’s already making waves in the neighborhood. With a self-described “disruptive approach” to nail art (and a very cool Instagram page!), most of the women in the salon look straight out of a fashion blog, but down to earth enough to bring their well-behaved mutts to their nail appointment. We chatted through ideas for our mani nail art, including color and design, and once we settled on something with our nail technician, swapped tips for best carne asada fries in town. Find us here every Saturday from now on.

Insider’s Tip: Make appointments online. Cost for manicure with two art designs was $16 with Yelp check-in discount)

(5405 W Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles)

Stop 3: Shopping Along Pico Blvd.

Sure, Los Angeles is swath with vintage and antique boutiques. But everyone is shopping on Melrose, honey. To get something truly different, head on over to Pico Boulevard – shops like Deja Vu Boutique, Pinky Rose and Brainworks Home boast mid-century furniture, vintage hardware, funky jewelery, and colorful dresses. There’s also a new “Third Thursday” along the boulevard, with music performances, art, and lots of in-store sales.

Stop 4: Sky's Gourmet Tacos

Tacos are easily one of our favorite LA foods, and we are loyal to our tried-and-true taco joints. Sky’s has been one our go-to spots since we moved to Los Angeles, and their “Mexican with a splash of soul” approach to tacos is perfect for the neighborhood. We ordered a sampling of shrimp, filet mignon and carnitas tacos – the warmed corn tortillas, juicy meats and the sweet “Sassy Sauce” made for one mouthwatering lunch. We washed it down with a sorrel lemonade (a blend of hibiscus and lemons) and enjoyed the lively chatter and 90s R&B playing in the background. The crawfish tacos are next on our list!

(5408 W Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles)

Stop 5: Cultural Interiors

“This smells like my favorite yoga studio,” said Ashley as we walked in. It’s true – this beautiful and colorful home store has the earthy smell of incense and essential oils, creating the same peaceful feeling you get just before a yoga class. We loved the mix of African, South American, Caribbean and Indian pieces throughout the store (handmade dolls, wooden windchimes, eye-popping table cloths, beaded jewelry) and the warm greeting from the store owner.

(5406 W Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles)

Stop 6: Mateo's Ice Cream and Fruit Bars

Who knew that it was National Ice Cream Month?! (Well, we did!) We decided to stop by one of LA’s best, Mateo’s Ice Cream and Fruit Bars. It was over 90 degrees outside and PACKED inside, and it was hard to choose with all the amazing fruit bar flavors (guava, pineapple, watermelon, coconut and on and on…). We eventually settled on the mango and mango chili, which included chunks of fruit in both (the spice of the mango chili made it our personal favorite!)

Insider’s Tip: cash only!

(4234 W Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles)

The Details:

Mid-City is only about three square miles, so it’s very walkable. The Metro Crenshaw Line should eventually have a rail transit stop in Mid-City.

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