WESTWOOD

The neighborhood of Westwood has long-been synonymous with UCLA, known primarily as the home to the world famous university. Although Westwood Village was once a hub of nightlife – with movie theaters, nice restaurants and lots of foot traffic – these days it’s now often overlooked for the nearby Santa Monica Promenade or West Hollywood. But the neighborhood offers more than just cheap college pizza joints and UCLA apparel shops. This is a central point for the Persian community in Los Angeles, as well as long-standing neighborhood establishments, little-known green spaces…and, most importantly, Diddy Riese (need we say more?)

If you’re searching for great Middle-Eastern food, speciality sweet treats, and peaceful outdoor areas, Westwood should most certainly be on your list of neighborhoods to visit.

Stop 1: Holmby Park

When we visited Holmby Park early on a sunny morning, it was quiet and peaceful, only a few white-haired couples walking hand-in-hand on the trail around the perimeter of the park. The park is surrounded by gorgeous Westwood homes, perfect for gaping at as you take your morning stroll, monkey around with your children in the playground, or grill on one of the park’s barbecues. There’s also a golf course and the Holmby Park Lawn Bowling Club. Rumor has it that this was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite parks in the 1950s.

Insider’s Tip: there’s free lawn bowling lessons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am.

601 Club View Drive, Los Angeles.

Stop 2: Espresso Profeta

Now this is what we call a real coffee house. First of all, it is one of the few coffee shops outside of Seattle that serves coffee beans from Vivace (and, if you remember from previous posts, we are geeks for Espresso Vivace) From what we hear, one of the Espresso Profeta owners was once a barista at Vivace.

And secondly, this charming coffee shop has not only a cozy and inviting indoor area for sipping, studying and socializing, but a magical little brick patio that feels almost European. And if you are a cult follower of Vivace like we are, it’s important to note that you can order one of their famous White Velvet lattes here. See you on the patio!

1129 Glendon Avenue, Los Angeles.

Stop 3: Mary & Robb's Westwood Cafe

They just don’t make ’em like this anymore. Slide up to the long wooden counter at Mary and Robb’s Westwood Cafe (which was once a soda shop counter) and feel like you’re stepping back in time: old men sit reading the newspaper and eating bowls of Italian Wedding soup, the waitresses still handwrite their tickets, and the original cash register still sits up front. Breakfast is served all day, and as you would imagine, the M&R Reuben Sandwich and the Patty Melt are pretty darn good.

1453 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Stop 4: Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

This seven acre botanical garden makes you simply forget that you’re in the big city. Besides a gardener, we didn’t spot another soul as we wandered through the collection of fern trees, fig trees, eucalyptus trees, bamboo and palms. The plants are organized by themes and geographic area, and there are plenty of benches on which to stop and sit awhile.

Insider’s Tip: there’s a lot of construction in the area, and your best bet is to enter at the corner of Le Conte and Tiverton Avenue. It’s less than a minute walk from there.

777 Tiverton Drive, Los Angeles.

Stop 5: Diddy Riese Cookies

If you’ve been, YOU KNOW. There are few better places in Los Angeles than Diddy Riese, and as Ashley noted upon walking in, “This is what I imagine my Heaven smells like.” The cookies are as fresh as could be, and it should be noted that everything is made from scratch daily (even the fudge in the cookies). Ice cream sandwiches are $1.75 and milk is $0.75. We ordered espresso chip ice cream between a chocolate chip and white chocolate chip cookie. So divine, you won’t even mind waiting 20 minutes in the line outside the shop.

926 Broxton Avenue, Los Angeles.

Stop 6: Hammer Museum

The Hammer Museum may not be as huge as other well-known museums in Los Angeles, but it’s still a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. The galleries are built around a courtyard (with cafe!) The permanent collection is composed of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, but we especially loved the bold and bright Maya Hayuk collection (pictured above).

Always free for students, and free for everyone on Thursdays!

10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Stop 7: Sunnin Lebanese Cafe

There are only a few authentic Lebanese restaurants on the Westside, and Sunnin Lebanese Cafe is certainly one of them. This is where you’ll find Middle Eastern families eating platters of shawarma, falafel and fool (stewed fava beans with lemon). The regulars have been coming here long before the restaurant renovated and relocated from across the street. We ordered the hummus and pita to start, along with the Pumpkin Kebbeh (a special) and the Chicken Shawarma (of course!)

1776 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Stop 8: Saffron & Rose Ice Cream

Since we both have intense sweet tooths (teeth?!), stopping for two treats in one day wasn’t totally out of the norm. We’d never heard the term “Persian ice cream” before, and were curious about what Saffron and Rose Ice Cream Shop had to offer and if it could possibly compare to Diddy Riese.

We were delighted by the shop from the second we walked through the door. The gentleman behind the counter explained that his grandfather had originally opened Saffron and Rose, and happily offered us almost a dozen tastings of his unique ice creams. We ordered a scoop of Orange Blossom and a scoop of Saffron and Pistachio, but we also loved the Fresh Persimmon and Date. Rose ice cream tastes just as a rose smells (if you can imagine that), and each offering was surprisingly different and refreshing. One of our favorite stops of the day.

1387 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles.

The Details:

Parking in Westwood can be a bit of a nightmare, and parking enforcement is notorious. We took the Big Blue Bus from Santa Monica to Westwood, and then walked most of the day.

A map of our day looks something like this:

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