WESTCHESTER

Westchester is more than just a drive-by location en route to the airport. Sure, it’s best known for its proximity to LAX and being the home to LMU, but it’s a low-key Westside neighborhood with much more to offer.

The neighborhood is sandwiched between Playa Vista, Inglewood, and Culver City — once an agricultural area, it was then the site of a bustling aerospace industry in the 1920s and 30s. Many homes were long-ago condemned because of noise from jet takeoffs, but today the population is growing thanks to the influx of tech companies in nearby “Silicon Beach.”

The area is still void of trendy restaurants and hip bars, but it’s got a suburban-vibe with its bungalow homes and decades-long-running businesses like Italian joints and old-school barbershops. It’s the mac-n-cheese of LA neighborhoods, to be sure.

Stop 1: Westchester Farmers' Market

This small but mighty farmers’ market is a community hub, featuring local organizations, events and schools, and some seriously good (California fresh!) fruit and veggies.

Highlights include Peruvian handmade goods (like finger puppets!) and succulents in toy trucks and swear jars.

(Wednesdays in the park; Sundays at 6200 W 87th St)

Stop 2: Mono Poke

Calling this poke place no frills or no nonsense is accurate, but it doesn’t quite capture the fact that it’s also gosh darn GOOD. Bowls are reasonably-priced (a small poke bowl is $6.97!) and the fish is fresh and delicious. We ordered the mixed brown rice/greens with extra salmon and all the goodies on top (avocado, edamame, masago, cucumbers, seaweed salad, ginger). Don’t let its exterior fool you — this place is a seriously solid, healthy and yummy choice for a bite.

(8800 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles)

Stop 3: Café Solar

We’ve been complaining for quite a while that it’s hard to get a good cuppa coffee in Westchester….but then Cafe Solar came along. This coffeehouse AND cafe is light and bright, with cozy tables and big cushions (all the better to curly up with a magazine or newspaper from a nearby rack!), an expansive patio, and kombucha & cold brew on tap.

The succulents and trendy bright-tiled floors are beautiful, but there’s also a homey vibe that you feel as soon as you walk through the door and are welcomed with, “Hi! Is this your first time here?”

We treated ourselves to solar lattes — a cinnamon tea latte with espresso shots (one with soy milk and the other with almond milk) and they were sooooo tasty. The golden empanadas were flaky, with a crispy exterior and soft interior (the beef was our favorite!) We can imagine many an afternoon hanging in our new favorite westside cafe. Next time: their famous crepes!

(6224 W Manchester Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 4: Bluff Trail Park

This adorable little park and walking trail overlooks the Ballona Wetlands Reserve and is a green oasis (with very few people!) in the urban sprawl of LA. Perfect for a romantic stroll or a quiet break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

(1 W Bluff, Los Angeles)

Stop 5: Cinco

This modern restaurant has one of the best happy hours on the westside (and runs Monday through Saturday!), an extensive cocktail list and dozens of beers on tap. We’re ga-ga over the Oaxacan-style bites, but hold a special place in our hearts for the CHURROS — paired this time with a San Pedro cocktail: tequila, cointreau, jalapeño, red bell pepper, lime, chili salt. (These señoritas ALWAYS need a margarita).

(7241 W Manchester Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 6: Ayara Thai Cuisine

We were lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Thailand recently, and Ayara continues to be the place we go to re-live the memories through our tastebuds. This intimate restaurant is family-owned and the curries are TO DIE FOR — creamy, tasteful, decadent. But everything on the menu we’ve tried is delish, and the homegrown herbs add a punch to each dish.

(6245 W 87th St, Los Angeles)

The Details:

We parked on Manchester near the farmer’s market, and rode bikes up to the park — everywhere else was easily walked!

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