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Food, Happenings

‘For a Limited Time Only’ is a Tasty New Pop-Up at The NoMad Los Angeles

April 16, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Mama Guidara’s Cocktails / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

The NoMad Los Angeles is already home to both the coolest bathroom and the coolest stone, pool monster in downtown Los Angeles. Now, a new food series titled ‘For A Limited Time Only‘ transforms the hotel’s coffee shop into a variety of themed pop-ups every Friday and Saturday evening. The first, Mamma Guidara’s, takes inspiration from NoMad New York’s dinner series of the same name, which itself is inspired by old-school Italian-American red sauce restaurants.

It’s fitting that the first ‘For A Limited Time Only’ would emphasize Italian cuisine and cocktails. Long before the building was the NoMad Los Angeles, it was the L.A. headquarters of the Bank of Italy. Today, the hotel’s handsome, lobby-adjacent Giannini bar takes its name from Bank of Italy founder Amadeo Giannini.

Mama Guidara’s / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

By day, The Coffee Bar is a pretty, sun-drenched shop that serves coffee, espresso, tea, and a lovely assortment of pastries. It’s modeled after Cafe Florian in Venice, Italy. Established in 1720, Cafe Florian is the oldest café in the world. Fittingly, you can stop by The Coffee Bar for espresso during the day and then transition to a glass of wine for aperitivo. According to Ann Sim, assistant general manager of NoMad Los Angeles, ‘For a Limited Time Only’ is yet another way to activate the space at night.

Mama Guidara’s Snack & Cocktails / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

“We wanted people to stop by for their pre- or post-dinner drinks, or plan to spend the entire evening with us and a super fun line-up of drinks and snacks. The ‘For a Limited Time Only’ pop-up series was the perfect opportunity for us to flex our creative muscle. We love to throw a good party and, now, we get to throw a new party every month,” Sim said.

Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

In NYC, Mamma Guidara’s was served at the NoMad Bar and functioned more as a pre-fixe, sit-down dinner.

“When it came time to reimagine the experience in L.A. for the pop-ups, we highlighted as much of that Italian red sauce-joint ambiance as we could: think checkered tablecloths, Chianti bottles, a parmigiano reggiano wheel, and music that we very seriously curated!” Sim said.

Indeed, you’ll find red-and-white checkers on every table and Chianti bottles in straw fiaschi dripped with melted wax, while the music selections range from Italian arias and Rat Pack classics to 60s rock ‘n’ roll. You can also try your hand at Scopa, an Italian card game played with a 40-card deck.

Snack Items at Mama Guidara’s / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

The pop-up also offers a small menu of Italian snacks, including marinated olives; mini-stromboli filled with gooey cheese and served with a side of marinara; chicken parm sliders; and cannoli and rainbow cookies for dessert.

These can be washed down with the list of craft cocktails, Italian wines, and beer. For those easing from day to night, try the espresso martini made with vodka, cold brew, kahlua and creme de cacao. It comes served with a sidecar of sambuca. For something refreshing, the Sno-Cone Negroni will do the trick with rye, campari, foro amaro, St. Germain, and strawberry blanc vermouth. And for those who enjoy limoncello, a house-made recipe is served on tap. Of course, the font from which it flows is cherub that appears to be, uh, urinating the limoncello. When in Rome, or so they say.

Limoncello Cherub / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

As for prices, snacks run from $6 (rainbow cookies) to $14 (chicken parm sliders). For drinks, limoncello is $6, with cocktails available from $13 to $15. If you’re feeling splurgy, you could try the gondola for two, a shaved ice riverboat that costs $32.

Mamma Guidara’s will continue through the month of April. In May, the space will become all things Kentucky Derby. Don your fanciest hat for mint juleps, hot chicken sandwiches, and deviled eggs. In June, Take Me out to the Ball Game will offer ballpark concession bites including the NoMad’s own versions of a Dodger dog and helmet sundae. The decor will feature a collection of Dodgers artifacts strewn throughout the space.

NoMad Los Angeles is located at 649 S. Olive St., downtown L.A. ‘For a Limited Time Only’ runs on Friday and Saturday evenings through June. Walk-ins only.

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Happenings

Horror Experience ‘I want to live in your mouth’ is a Fantastical Nightmare

April 10, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Is this what the creatures look like? Photo: Carl Welti

There is a subreddit full of two-sentence horror stories of which my favorite is as follows: “They say you eat seven spiders a year in your sleep. They never say anything about the thing that feeds them to you.”

I was reminded of this tale by the title of a new, immersive horror experience at Zombie Joe’s Underground theater in North Hollywood: I want to live in your mouth. But while both horror concepts revolve around the idea of an unwanted intruder, this show does not feed you spiders. Instead, one guest at a time, acting as both voyeur and participant, accompanies a reluctant host through a pivotal memory from their youth. On that specific night, supernatural interlopers entered the host’s otherwise ordinary home. It is a dark, fantastical, and yet oddly whimsical journey into someone else’s childhood nightmare.

I want to live in your mouth comes from writer/director David Ruzicka, who also serves as the co-artistic director of JFI Productions (Creep LA, The Willows), and creative producer Eric M. Vosmeier, whose previous credits include Creep LA and Center Theater Group. I came in on a quiet Sunday night to experience the show for myself.

Upon arrival, I was told to enter the theater alone, find an illuminated chair, sit down, and wait. From the onset, there was a surreal sense that I had been transported to a different place, possibly a different time. I was soon introduced to my only friend in this strange, new world—an anxious, but friendly young man. (The role has been triple-cast; performers include Terra Strong, Curtis Tyrone Scott, and Romeo Armand Seay. On this particular night, Scott had the starring role.)

He told me about a group of bizarre creatures who had been plaguing him since he was a kid. His story was reminiscent of many classic horror tropes: monsters under the bed, creepers in the closet, invaders from another planet who will turn your entire neighborhood into pod people. Gosh, you should warn someone, one might say. But who’d believe a child, what with their overactive imaginations and all? Don’t children often talk of monsters that only come at night?

Child psychologist Dr. Laura Kauffman, in an interview with Dreams.com (they sell beds and mattresses), explained that kids, unlike adults, aren’t used to dealing with the sounds they hear in the still of the night and haven’t quite mastered how to fall asleep. This makes them “particularly susceptible to signs or indicators of [a] threat at night. As children enter their primary school years, they develop the cognitive skills and ability to imagine such things as monsters, and their fears of the dark get projected onto the caricature of the bogeyman.”

Actors Curtis Scott, Terra Strong, and Romeo Seay. Photo: Carl Welti

Ruzicka said one key inspiration for I want to live in your mouth was such common childhood fears, along with pop culture influences like the work of filmmaker David Cronenberg and movies like The Dark Crystal, Jacob’s Ladder, and Labyrinth. He said the show initially percolated as “a little bit of a prose poem with these smaller vignettes of things happening.”

As I made my way deeper into my new friend’s increasingly warped home, there were indeed several vignettes. While I won’t spoil them, I will say that while some are unsettling, others are oddly comforting.

If you’ve been to ZJU in the past, you know it isn’t a particularly large theater. However, the creators of this show have managed to build a winding set that makes the space seem much larger. There are corridors to navigate, doors to unlock, and creatures to meet or, sometimes, avoid.

The creatures are not portrayed by human actors as in a traditional haunted house, but by puppets who straddle the line between horrific and kind of cute. In some ways, this makes them creepier—thanks, uncanny valley—but moreover, they further perpetuate the idea of a child’s nightmare.

“The puppetry side was something that was part of the DNA of the project from pretty early on,” Ruzicka said. “Each of those creatures does things that we couldn’t do successfully with a human performer or even with larger scale, full-body costumes.”

“It’s also rooted in that childhood nightmare,” Vosmeier added. “[Puppets] are thought of as children’s programming, children’s toys, but here there’s this sort of warped version. If you imagine children having nightmares about Sesame Street characters, that’s what they look like.”                      

In total, the show runs about 20 minutes and offers plenty of surprises, some with an unexpected element of whimsy. For those who may find themselves curious about L.A.’s extreme haunt offerings, Ruzicka and Vosmeier note that I want to live in your mouth is not one, but could be a “gateway” to them.

“If you’ve ever wanted to be swept away or transported by one of those single-person, darker experiences but have been a little too afraid to be separated from your friend, we’re hoping this is a safe and dreamlike way to access that,” Ruzicka said.

There’s also very little in the way of gore or violence. You’re never being chased by vampires or werewolves or serial killers and there’s more fear of what’s to come than what actually is.

“There’s so much real horror going on right now. For this particular experience, we kind of wanted to give people the chance to escape into a harkening back to classic horror stories where it’s just a tale of the supernatural, a tale of dread that people can go into and forget about the outside world,” Ruzicka said.

Still, you will be touched by actors and the show is intentionally unsettling, so do pay attention to warnings listed on the website before purchasing a ticket. Note that there is a safe word, and any guest is free to stop the experience and leave at any time.

Not deterred? In that case: sweet dreams!

I want to live in your mouth runs through May 5 at Zombie Joe’s Underground theater, located at 4850 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets are $47.50. 18+ only.

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Things To Do, Travel

An Angeleno’s Guide to Fun Things to do in Oakland

March 28, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Oakland is an easy weekend getaway for an angeleno, with flights lasting but an hour and a half. The Bay Area city known for its robust arts scene was recently selected as one of National Geographic‘s top places to go in 2019. It’s also the former home of The Call of the Wild author Jack London, the namesake of Oakland’s Jack London Square, where tourists will find plenty of walkable nightlife options. And, it has one of the coolest museums for learning about all things California.

Tempted to book a trip to Oakland? Below you’ll find a massive list of ideas to fill up your itinerary.

PLACES TO STAY

The Waterfront Hotel Photo: Facebook

Waterfront Hotel

This nautical hotel is located in Jack London Square, meaning it’s both highly walkable and overlooks the San Fransisco Bay, which is great for enjoying coffee on your balcony with a strong breeze. Amenities include a fitness center, heated pool, a cozy lobby with a fireplace, and a complimentary wine and cheese happy hour on weekdays. There is one on-site Italian restaurant, Lungomare, as well as several bars, restaurants, and cafes within a short walk.

Ideal for: A unique hotel in a popular, walkable part of town. 

Best Western Bayside Hotel Photo: Best Western

The Best Western Bayside Hotel

The Best Western Bayside Hotel is affordable and highly-rated by travelers. It has all the standard conveniences one would expect of a modern hotel, including a 24-hour fitness center, complimentary breakfast, an on-site bar, and wifi. Though not as walkable as staying in Jack London Square, you can get around via the free, local shuttle and many rooms come with an ocean view. Ideal for: A trusted, convenient brand close to the water.

Claremont Hotel & Spa Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr

The Claremont Hotel & Spa

The Claremont Hotel & Spa is a historic property built over a century ago as a private home before becoming hotel in 1915, currently owned by the Fairmount Hotel chain. While the so-called”White Castle on the Hill” is considered an Oakland City Historical Landmark, you may technically be in Berkeley depending on where you’re standing on the sprawling property. Amenities include a very large spa with a host of treatments, complimentary champagne daily at 5:30 p.m., multiple on-site dining and cocktail options, multiple pools and tennis courts, a gym and fitness classes, and 22 acres of manicured grounds to wander. Ideal for: A pampered luxury experience in a historic hotel.

THINGS TO DO IN OAKLAND

Michael McMillen’s ‘Aristotle’s Cage,’ an installation at OCMA Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Oakland Museum of California

The sprawling Oakland Museum of California has been divided into three sections: art, history, and natural sciences. Each contains relevant artifacts, displays, and interactive exhibits spanning decades of California history, plus the views from the gardens are great for decompressing between wings.

An ideal time to visit is for Friday Nights at OMCA. From 5 to 9 p.m. visitors enjoy after-hours access, food trucks, a cash bar, artists, family activities, live entertainment, local vendors, and more.

The Oakland Museum of California is located at 1000 Oak Street. General admission starts at $15.95, with discounted rates for members, students, seniors, and children. 

The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment

This museum is an incredible paradise for gamers, especially if tastes run old-school. They have a playable library of over 5,300 new and classic games on platforms including PC, Atari, Playstation 3, and others. A membership may be advisable for locals gamers, but visitors can drop by for just $10 per day and play to their heart’s content.

The M.A.D.E. is located at 3400 Broadway. Open for gaming Friday, noon to midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Lake Merritt Photo: Doug Letterman/Flickr

Lake Merritt

Lake Merritt is a tidal lagoon that offers outdoor recreation right in the middle of the city. Guests can jog, bike, or walk the lakeside path, or participate birdwatching, boating, lawn games, or yoga activities. You might even stumble upon one of the area’s many gardens, including the peaceful Bonsai garden.

Jack London’s cabin Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Jack London’s Cabin

Jack London lived in a small cabin in the Klondike in the late 1800s, right before the Gold Rush. Decades later, the abandoned cabin was taken apart and two separate replicas were made with its wood. While one is located in Dawson City in Canada, the other can be found in Oakland’s Jack London Square.

Jack London’s Cabin is located at 1-199 Webster Street Tube, Jack London Square.

Marcus Books Oakland

Marcus Books features literature by black authors and is, in fact, the oldest black bookstore in the country; the original location in San Fransisco dates back to 1960. Books span a variety of subjects, ranging from children’s books to autobiographies, history, cooking, art, and fiction. If you want to support writers of color and locally owned bookstores instead of internet giants, give Marcus Books a visit.

Marcus Books is located at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

Children’s Fairyland

It was Oakland entrepreneur Arthur Navlet who suggested the building of a fairytale-themed children’s park after seeing a smaller, but similar park in Detroit. The result was Children’s Fairyland, which opened in 1950 and featured costumed characters, rides, and whimsical sets taken from classic children’s stories. The popular attraction drew numerous visitors, including an inspiration-seeking Walt Disney who would open Disneyland in Anaheim in 1955.

Today, the 10-acre park operates as a nonprofit year-round (hours vary depending on the season). Adult visitors are typically not permitted without children, but the park does offer an annual adults-only event.

Children’s Fairyland is located at 699 Bellevue Avenue. Tickets are $12.

Chapel of the Chimes Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Chapel of the Chimes

One might not put a columbarium at the top of their vacation list, but the Chapel of the Chimes is truly breathtaking. It owes its beauty to famed architect Julia Morgan, notable for designing the Hearst Castle, who redesigned the Chapel in 1928. One can meander through among numerous sunny courtyards and cloisters, some opening to gardens and fountains. You might even find a pair of rescued birds, chirping in their fern-flanked cages. Urns shaped like books are displayed in cases, the names of those whose ashes they hold written on the spines. Chapel of the Chimes hosts the occasional musical performance, and historical, guided tours are available. It is located next to the Mountain View Cemetery, notable for its many monuments and bucolic paths. Morgan herself is buried here, as well as numerous California and Oakland politicians. The cemetery is also the final resting place of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia.

The Chapel of the Chimes is located at 4499 Piedmont Avenue.

Morcom Rose Garden Photo: Friends of the Morcom Rose Garden

Morcom Rose Garden

If you’ve been advised to stop and smell the roses, the Morcom Rose Garden has thousands of them. This seven-acre garden dates back to the 1930s and as part a WPA project and is maintained today by volunteers. Wander along winding walkways to view the plants and water features. You might even cross paths with the resident family of turkeys.

The Morcom Rose Garden is located at 700 Jean Street. Admission is free, but feel free to donate to the garden’s upkeep.

The Oakland Asian Cultural Center

The Oakland Cultural Center (OACC) is located in Chinatown and offers a variety of cultural events, including performances, art shows, film screenings, workshops, lectures, and classes including calligraphy, Chinese folk dance, and Kung Fu. While in the neighborhood, you can grab a bite at Baby Cafe or Shandong Restaurant.

The Oakland Asian Cultural Center is located at 388 9th Street, #290.

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve Photo: Mike Linksvayer/Flickr

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

The volcano in question at this 928-acre park is a long-extinct one known as Round Top. Several trails are available, and those in the know may seek out the park’s stone labyrinths. According to Friends of the Labyrinth, one of them was created by Montclair artists Helena Mazzariello who considered her work “a gift to the world.”

Pardee Home Museum Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Pardee Home Museum

The Pardee Home was built by Enoch Pardee in the 1860s. Pardee originally moved to California for the Gold Rush, but later became an eye doctor and politician, serving as Oakland’s mayor from 1876 to 1878. His son, George, would serve as mayor from 1893 to 1895, and became California’s 21st governor in 1902. The historic home is full of artifacts, many of them collected by George’s wife, Helen. Docent-led tours of the villa, from its gardens all the way to the cupola, are available year-round. Guests can also reserve high tea or a dessert tea in the Pardee home’s elegant dining room.

The Pardee Home Museum is located at 672 11th Street. Tours are a suggested donation of $10. High Tea is $35 and Desert Tea is $25 (tour included). Advance reservation required.

Oaktown Spice Shop

For many weekend travelers, shopping can be somewhat blasé. After all, every city has its indie and boutique shops. (Oakland, btw, has several in Temescal Alley if you do love shopping.) The Oaktown Spice Shop is something special, though, in that it has pretty much every spice on your list and then some you’ve never even heard of. They’ve got blends, rubs, salts, herbs, aromatics, tonic water kits, and more. Guests are free to pick up a basket, then fill it with bottles and baggies of spices. It goes without saying, the shop smells delicious.

Oaktown Spice Shop is located at 546 Grand Avenue.

The Chabot Space and Science Center

For those who are fascinated by space exploration, a visit to the Chabot Space & Science Center is a must. Here, you can catch a show in the planetarium and view a rotating collection of interactive exhibits on science and outer space. The Center also has three telescopes—named Leah, Rachel, and Nellie—on the observatory deck, which are free to use on Friday and Saturday evenings or with general admission. A cafe and gift shop are located on site.

The Chabot Space & Science Center is located at 10000 Skyline Boulevard. General admission is $18.

EAT & DRINK

Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon

Just steps away from Jack London’s cabin is a tiny, dark, lop-sided dive where the author was said to be a regular. Opened in 1883, Heinold’s First and Last Chance was built out of a whaling vessel. Its name comes from original owner John Heinold and its proximity to the port; it was both the first and last place a departing or incoming sailor could get a drink. When Heinold’s was first built, it had a level floor. Since the earthquake of 1906, it hasn’t. Yes, that’s right: everything in this bar is on a slant. Those curious to learn more about the bar’s history can pick up a printed handout with their drink.

Heinold’s First and Last Chance is located at 48 Webster Street.

Ratto’s Market & Deli

According to Berkeleyside, Ratto’s is one of Oakland’s oldest restaurants (possibly the oldest, if you’ll consider a delicatessen a restaurant). The specialty market and deli was founded by Italian immigrant Giovanni Battista Ratto in 1897, and the shop’s been operated by the Ratto family ever since. Stop by for sandwiches, soups, salads, and all manner of pantry staples.

Ratto’s is located at 821 Washington Street.

White Horse Inn

White Horse Inn has been open since at least 1933, possibly earlier, though there were no records kept through Prohibition. This makes the White Ho’, as it is occasionally called, one of the oldest gay bars in the country. The bar’s own robust history page, complete with interviews from long-time regulars, is worth a read.

Today, the White Horse continues to be a neighborhood LGBTQ bar. They host karaoke, drag shows, and dance nights, in addition to other special fundraisers and events.

6551 Telegraph Avenue

Fenton’s Creamery and Restaurant

Fenton’s Creamery dates back to 1894 and claims to have invented popular ice cream flavor rocky road. It’s an often-bustling diner with American fare, but many come just for the ice cream, which comes in many year-round and seasonal flavors. You could get a simple scoop or shake, but they also make massive ice cream sundaes and banana splits.

Fenton’s Creamery is located at 4226 Piedmont Avenue.

The Avenue

You know how CVS always has a bunch of plastic and foam skulls on clearance the day after Halloween? The Avenue may have bought them all for the last decade. This dark dive is just covered in skulls, and the ceilings are hung with foam stalactites. And if you think they’ve just left their Halloween decorations up year-round, then just wait until it’s actually Halloween. Skulls aside, The Avenue is a friendly enough spot for affordable drinks and making new friends. They’ve also got a pool table and a photo booth.

The Avenue is located at 4822 Telegraph Avenue.

Cosecha Kitchen Photo: Facebook

Swans Market

Swan’s Market is a food hall full of options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch (though they’re closed on Sundays). It dates back to 1917, operating as a market until its closure in the 1980s. It’s since been restored and re-opened, offering about 10 different places to try. They include Mexican restaurant Cosecha Café, The Cook and Her Farmer for oysters and wine, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, Miss Ollie’s Carribean soul food, and izakaya at AS B-Dama.

Swans Market is located at 510 9th Street.

The Fat Lady

The Fat Lady is certainly arresting, with sheet music pasted to the ceiling, stained glass lamps, an ancient cash register behind the bar, and cozy, red-draped booths. They’re open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, serving steakhouse fare and seafood.

It’s unclear how the restaurant, open since 1970, got its name. One story states that original owner Louis Shaterian named the establishment after a painting, which hangs near the bar. The other story claims the building was once a brothel and the eponymous woman was its madam. Choose your own origin story as you will.

The Fat Lady is located at 201 Washington Street.

Dyafa

Arabic restaurant Dyafa is helmed by Chef Reem Assil, Thrillst’s 2018 chef of the year. The menu is divided into hot and cold mezze (share plates), breads for scooping up dips, and a handful of large plates. One standout among those is the maklouba, a flavorful, layered dish of rice, vegetables and crispy, thin potatoes that translates to “upside-down.” The cocktail menu is also lovely, especially the Dark-Skinned Nightingale made with Coruba rum, Medjool dates, almond, coconut, and egg white.

Dyafa is located at 44 Webster Street

The Trappist

The Trappist is split into a front and back bar, both inspired by the beer bars of Belgium and the Netherlands. They offer some 25 Belgium and specialty beers on tap and four times as many in bottles, resulting in several unique finds including interesting stouts, porters, fruit beers, and seasonal offerings. They also have a very small wine menu if you happen to be with someone who doesn’t do beer, plus snacks, sandwiches, cheese, and charcuterie.

The Trappist is located at 460 8th Street.

Kona Club

Oakland has a few tiki bars, including The Kon-Tiki on 14th Street and Forbidden Island on Alameda. Kona Club is located on Piedmont, in between (and not far from) Fenton’s Creamery and Chapel of the Chimes. The decor is as expected, with lots of palm thatching, light up puffer fish, and even an animatronic hula dancer. The drinks are appropriately tropical and include their signature blended macadamia chi chi. The music, however, strays from island tunes via a jukebox that stocks plenty of rock, hip-hop, and punk. Open daily from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., it’s easy to fit Kona Club into a busy weekend.

Kona Club is located at 4401 Piedmont Avenue

Beauty’s Bagels, the classic to-go Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Beauty’s Bagel Shop

Beauty’s Bagel Shop was suggested to me by a former New Yorker, whose bagel opinions I tend to trust, though these wood-fired bagels are Montreal-style: chewy, slightly sweet, and charred on the outside. There are two shops—one in Temescal and a newer one downtown—where you can get bagel sandwiches, bagels and spreads, and a few other breakfast items. Bagel sandwiches include the classic with smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion, and capers, and a fried chicken sandwich with beet slaw. Beauty’s can be packed, so either order ahead or be prepared to wait in line.

Beauty’s Bagels is located at 3838 Telegraph Avenue and one at 1700 Franklin Street.

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Cafe Van Kleef

Cafe Van Kleef is covered in a seemingly endless assortment of random art and collectibles, in the way that some of the best neighborhood watering holes are. The bar features live music most nights and their signature drink is a greyhound, a grapefruit freshly squeezed into each one, a massive wedge then plunked on the glass.

Cafe Van Kleef is located at 1621 Telegraph Avenue.

Lois the Pie Queen

Lois the Pie Queen is a cash-only diner founded by Lois Davis over 50 years ago and now run by her son, Chris. They’re open for breakfast and lunch, during which they serve Southern and American diner fare and, of course, pie. Flavors can rotate seasonally but might include lemon icebox, key lime, pecan, sweet potato, or banana cream. Much like Dale Cooper, you’d be happy to order a slice with a cup of hot coffee.

Lois the Pie Queen is located at 851 60th Street.

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Food, Where to Eat

The Milky Way Offers Delicious Kosher Cuisine in a Newly Revamped Setting

March 15, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Milky Way’s revamped interior Photo: Wonho Frank Lee/Courtesy of the Milky Way

Some may remember Leah Adler as the mother of filmmaker Steven Spielberg. But to those who frequented The Milky Way, her kosher restaurant on Pico in Pico-Robertson, Adler was famous for her love of new flavors, including those unfamiliar to kosher diets. Though the restaurant closed for several months following Adler’s death in 2017, it’s back with a fresh revamp that maintains her bright spirit while introducing a new generation to Adler’s enduring hospitality.

Prior to becoming a restauranteur, the Ohio-born Adler, known to loved ones as LeeLee, was an accomplished concert pianist. She married Arnold Spielberg in 1945, with whom she had four children: Steven, Anne, Sue, and Nancy. The couple later divorced and Adler remarried Bernie Adler in 1967. The pair moved to Los Angeles and, in 1977, opened The Milky Way.

“When my mom and my stepfather…decided to venture into the restaurant business, their initial purpose was to provide a dining experience to L.A.’s Kosher community who had never tried internationally inspired food,” Nancy Spielberg said via a statement.

For those unfamiliar with kosher regulations, Spielberg offers an explainer. A crucial rule is that meat and milk must never mix, so kosher restaurants will typically choose to be either a meat restaurant or a dairy restaurant. The Milky Way is a dairy restaurant, meaning that they serve no meat except for fish, which may be eaten with dairy. Ingredients that are neither meat nor milk—dried goods, vegetables, etc.—are known as pareve. All ingredients, regardless of which category they belong to, must have certification from a kosher establishment.

The Milky Way also employs a mashgiach, who oversees everything that goes on in the kitchen to ensure its kashrut status. Additionally, the restaurant does no business whatsoever on the Sabbath.

Adler’s restaurant was unique in that it didn’t just serve common kosher foods like potato pancakes, but would also offer chimichangas, guacamole and chips, and other items unlikely to be found at any of her competitor’s establishments.

(L to R) Nancy Spielberg, Steven Spielberg, Leah Adler, Sue Spielberg, and Anne Spielberg. Adler was honored with a ‘Mother of the Year’ Award at the annual Mother’s Day luncheon by Cedars Sinai’s The Helping Hand. May 5, 1995. Photo: Courtesy of The Milky Way

Spielberg said her mother would work at the restaurant six days a week. She and her siblings would sit with Alder at the Milky Way’s corner table “to share our joys and our woes, hear her sage (yet unusual) advice, and just be in her presence.” As time went on, Spielberg began to also see the Milky Way as a means of giving back to their Jewish community by providing a rare service: “a great gathering place serving globally-inspired food that adhered to strict kosher regulations.”

It was that gathering place that Adler’s family didn’t want to lose, even after Adler herself passed away in 2017 at 97.

“She had her regular guests, her dear friends, and her large family, all of whom cared a great deal for the restaurant. We wanted to continue her desire to feed her people and to honor her legacy by bringing the Milky Way back to the local community,” Spielberg said.

The family connected with Phil Kastel of PK&J Hospitality Group (Public School, The Grill on the Alley) and together collaborated on the revamp.

The restaurant itself has been renovated in shades of blue—a color loved by Adler—by Jen Smith of Untitled Interiors, who previously worked with Kastel on several Public School restaurants. Wood floors replace carpeting. Large, half-moon booths continue to line one wall, but they’ve all been reupholstered and fitted with new cushions. Opposite, banquettes now allow for larger parties to be served. Throughout the space, guests will find family memorabilia, including photos, watercolors painted by Adler, and knick-knacks from Steven Spielberg films.

“You might be eating and look left and see a little picture of E.T.,” Kastel said.

And in one corner, on a patch of the old carpeting, guests can sit on a bench and watch a four-minute looped video of Adler as she was.

“People love it because she still kind of lives in the restaurant,” Kastel said.

When it came to the menu, it was important to keep beloved items for regulars, but to also add or update dishes to appeal to modern palates.

“It took a lot of time and discussion with the family and close friends of the family [as to] what items are special and very dear to their heart, what reminded them of their mother, and what people used to come to the Milky Way for,” Kastel said.

Once the existing menu had been pared down to about 40 favorite items, Kastel asked the kitchen to make every single one of them. Many stayed the same or with only minor changes. The salmon puffs—crispy pockets filled with cured salmon, cream cheese, scallions, and fresh herbs—were made slightly larger and the sauce was changed from tartar to a remoulade. The halibut chowder was once only served on Fridays, the day the restaurant closes early. Kastel made some modifications to the soup and decided to serve it daily. When it came to the signature cheese blintzes, Kastel didn’t change a thing.

Kastel did add an Impossible Burger to the menu which, because it’s a vegetarian patty, can be served with a slice of cheese. Elsewhere on the menu, diners will find a Cajun Pacific snapper entree, fish & chips, an Ahi tuna burger, and several pasta dishes, including fettuccini with wild mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Guests can enjoy their meals with a selection of kosher wines and beer.

Apple Dream Pie Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

For dessert, guests can choose a slice of cheesecake or perhaps the Apple Dream Pie, which comes served à la mode. The name comes from a dream Nancy Spielberg had in which her mother ordered a slice of apple pie with pepper sprinkled on the vanilla ice cream. The story of that dream stuck with Kastel, who began trying to think of a way to add pepper to the staple dessert.

“I found sweet peppercorns, which are naturally very floral but not spicy like black peppercorn,” he said. “I crush them up and put them in the caramel sauce.”

It’s subtle but brings a slight kick to the pie that’s sweeter if you know the story—and the woman—behind it.

The Milky Way is located at 9108 W. Pico Blvd. in Pico-Robertson, (310) 859-0004. Open Mon.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Saturdays.

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Happenings

‘I Like Scary Movies’ is an Immersive Experience that Celebrates Iconic Horror Films

March 6, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

In our modern era of Instagrammable, pop-up environments, creepy chills take a backseat to unicorns, rainbows, and oversized desserts unless it’s autumn or there’s an upcoming horror film to promote. But thanks to a studio known for its elaborate Comic-Con installations, the I Like Scary Movies Experience will give us a thrill this April. It’s a passion project from one self-described “Halloween freak” and horror buff to the rest of us, weaving together interactive scenes from IT (2017), Beetlejuice, The Shining, The Lost Boys, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Artist Maximillian Castillo (who goes professionally by his first name only) founded Ultra Productions nearly 20 years ago. The company has been a staple at Comic-Con since 2003 when it recreated Camp Crystal Lake for the Freddy vs. Jason booth. Guests entered and took photos in an ominous forest and gore-soaked campsite full of movie ephemera. Maximillian still has Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head (the prop, that is). Maximillian considers this installation, and the several other fan interactions he’s done since, foreshadowing for what he’s doing with I Like Scary Movies. Essentially, it’s a celebration of these beloved horror properties. And unlike many pop-ups of its kind, I Like Scary Movies is something Maximillian pitched to Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema as a fan—not something the studios pitched to him for promotional purposes. (Though it is worth noting that IT: Chapter Two comes out in September, The Haunting of Hill House director Mike Flanagan is directing The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep, and the CW is developing a Lost Boys series.)

“In essence, it’s kind of like you’re walking into a 3-D fan art experience,” Maximillian said. “I’m the fan, and I’m creating these installations and the things that resonated with me in these five movies.”

So if this isn’t promoting a film, why April and not October?

“Sports fans have their season, but really they can do that year-round,” Maximillian said. “[Horror fans] really get one day [a year]. I wanted to do something outside of the standard Halloween fare. I feel that when you look at the landscape and the popularity of things like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and you see movies like A Quiet Place coming out in the spring and summer, [you see] there is a voracious appetite for horror all year long now. We don’t have to wait until fall to see scary stuff.”

In terms of “scary stuff,” guests can expect to see, hear, feel, and smell recreations of iconic moments as well as new twists on scenes and characters. There won’t be costumed actors jumping out trying to startle you like in Halloween mazes at Universal Studios Hollywood or Knott’s Scary Farm, but there will be multi-sensory surprises along your winding path. One moment you might be wandering through Beetlejuice’s graveyard, the next, one might come face-to-face with a giant, 12-foot replica of Freddy Krueger’s bladed glove.

“Fans are going to be able to pull five-foot-long knives from Freddy’s glove around their body for their photo or video and feel the melted skin on Freddy’s palm,” Maximillian said. “It’s going to be a tactile environment and he’s going to be thrusting his hand through this massive furnace that’s in this boiler room environment.”

Other scenes include Pennywise the clown’s subterranean lair, the bold carpet from the halls of The Overlook Hotel in The Shining, and The Netherworld Waiting Room.

“We will have a few what I call ‘Easter egg’ scares where they’re a little more cerebral and unexpected,” Maximillian added enigmatically. “Things here and there that fans will have to find—or they may find you.”

All told, expect to spend about 60 to 90 minutes in the exhibit and, of course, feel free to take as many photos as you like.

I Like Scary Movies runs April 4 through June 16 at The Desmond, 5514 Wilshire Blvd. in Mid-Wilshire. Tickets are $39 and available here.

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Happenings

This Immersive Play Makes You Feel Like the Star of a Time Travel Adventure Movie

March 1, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Agent Stanfeld in Delusion: The Blue Blade Photo: Robert Kozek

If you weren’t able to get a ticket to Delusion: The Blue Blade last Halloween, the interactive, action-adventure play has returned with a whole new ending. This ‘director’s cut’ edition will run through March 17 and, unlike last fall, it’s not completely sold out yet.

Delusion has often been billed as a ‘haunted play,’ having launched in the fall of 2011 as a horror attraction. Yet their sixth show, The Blue Blade, is a departure, relying less on foreboding mansions and gothic tropes and more on science-fiction. According to Delusion creator Jon Braver, The Blue Blade is inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark; there’s even a scene where participants must outsmart Nazis, a common and hated foe of archaeologist Indiana Jones. Also, there’s a ton of time travel, something Braver said caused him a bit of writer’s block after reading a couple of books on the topic.

“I lost my mind for a couple months. I mean, no joke, I fell into a weird space. I was like, ‘this is too trippy for me,’ and I couldn’t write anymore,” he said. “At some point, [I decided] forget the physics of time travel, don’t think too much about all that. Just forget that stuff and stick to the story.”

The story in question revolves around the titular Blue Blade, a cerulean dagger that allows whosoever wields it to cut through the fabric of time. This kind of thing can have pretty disastrous effects on reality, so the Blade was one of many relics protected by the clandestine Safeguard Society. Until, that is, one of their agents, Evelyn Lowell, absconded with the Blue Blade and began charging monied clients high sums to take time-vacations. You and up to seven other recruits from the year 2019 must now shift through time to find Evelyn and reclaim the Blade before it’s too late. Or… too early? I mean, time is weird.

The villainous Uta Photo: Robert Kozek

Guests to Delusion: The Blue Blade will find themselves checking in at a private venue near Mid-City that, from the outside, presents an unassuming theater marquee. After being briefed by a fellow agent, guests will be lured inside the theater where both the outside world and the year 2019 melt away. Time periods flow into one another, despite being decades, sometimes centuries, apart. There are puzzles to solve, secrets to unlock, and a cast of heroes, villains, and monsters to assist and evade. It’s worth emphasizing that the sets are truly wondrous with a lot of surprising tech, and there’s at least one costume that’s sure to blow anyone who isn’t a stone-hearted curmudgeon away.

The characters—all of whom are double- or triple-cast—will feel familiar with sci-fi and adventure fans. The self-serving Agent Stanfeld is loosely based on Raiders villain Arnold Toht. The most empathetic character turns out to be the android Carrick, who provides much of the show’s story as well as some mid-show levity. His robotic, yet vulnerable demeanor may remind one of a more humanoid C-3PO. And Evelyn herself is a complicated one, replicating over and over through time as she loses her sense of who—and when—she is.

Braver said he often sees his characters as actors in his mind who activate and freeze as he writes, as if he himself has control over their sense of time.

“One of my favorite things about writing any kind of story is when I’m writing a scene and [the characters] are doing something in my mind, and I have to leave. I have to stop writing and go pick up my daughter at school or whatever it is. I feel like that character is frozen in time,” he said. “[When] I start typing again, they literally, in my mind, start moving again and it’s such a cool feeling.”

Delusion: The Blue Blade Photo: Robert Kozek

It’s hard to classify a piece of theater like Delusion. You’re not wandering around a space waiting for scenes to unfold, like one might at New York City’s Sleep No More, and it isn’t an escape room where you should tear apart the set looking for clues. Though you will need to interact with objects, you’ll have instructions as to what you’re supposed to be doing and characters who lead you through the winding scenes. Escape room fans will find less to do than usual, while traditional theater fans will find themselves more engaged than ever.

If you went to The Blue Blade during its first run, you might be wondering what’s changed. My first time, I felt like I had missed a fair bit of the story. Part of this was due to narrow passageways my group of eight was forced to navigate. I often took up the rear and found myself getting truncated versions of the story as I waited for everyone else to make it into the next scene. During the director’s cut, I felt like the exposition was a bit more clear and I wasn’t missing anything, even though I navigated those same corridors. But the most significant change is the ending, which has been completely reworked to present a conclusion I found much more satisfying and full-circle. According to Braver, many of these changes are ideas they had initially but were unable to achieve in the first run for budgetary or other reasons.

Another significant change is that for the first time, Delusion is opened to guests younger than 21. Families may now bring children age 13 or older. (Be aware that are some minor jump scares, some mild gore, a few monsters, and scenes with Nazi imagery. There’s also no accounting for other patrons who may shout curse words in surprise or joy.)

Delusion: The Blue Blade runs select night through March 17. Tickets are $95 and up and can be purchased online here. The venue is located in Mid-City, to be revealed to ticket holders. There is an attached venue where food and drinks can be purchased before or after the show.

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Happenings, Things To Do

Whisperlodge is an AMSR Video Performed in Real Life

February 21, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

WhisperLodge Photo: Emily Barrett

Do ASMR videos give you tingles? Have you ever wanted to experience an ASMR video in real life? Your chance comes this March when Whisperlodge returns to Los Angeles, this time softly crinkling paper and whispering ear-to-ear in Silver Lake.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a pleasant tingling sensation that some people experience when exposed to certain triggers. It’s not entirely unlike frisson, the goosebumps some get when listening to a beautiful piece of music.

ASMR triggers tend to be very gentle audio or visual cues: someone tapping lightly on a glass or whispering in your ear, slow hand movements, or the sound of water being poured from one vessel into another. ASMR frequently revolves around “personal attention,” such as the kind one receives during an eye exam, a one-on-one lecture, or a spa treatment. While the sensation may occur spontaneously during day-to-day interactions, many people attempt to intentionally trigger the tingles by watching ASMR videos on YouTube.

These videos feature soft-spoken “ASMRtists” who whisper their way through role-plays or trigger videos, racking up thousands if not millions of views. They’ve become so popular that W Magazine has been conducting celebrity ASMR interviews—here’s one with Cardi B—while Michelob ULTRA aired an ASMR commercial starring Zoë Kravitz during Super Bowl LIII.

WhisperLodge offers a multi-sensory journey through ASMR Photo: WhisperLodge

In October of 2017, Melinda Lauw and Andrew Hoepfner brought their live ASMR experience, Whisperlodge, to Los Angeles after a successful run in New York. Lauw returned in March of 2018 for a sold-out series of one-on-one ASMR sessions called Whispers on Demand, and is now back for another installment of Whisperlodge. The intimate 90-minute experience takes place in a private Silver Lake residence and will feature eight guides who lead eight guests through a variety of ASMR triggers.

Lauw herself has experienced ASMR since childhood but first learned others had it too via the YouTube videos.

“I used to watch a lot of instructional massage videos in order to feel the tingles and someone in the comments section mentioned ASMR. Once I looked it up, it was a moment of realization for me that this thing I experienced all my life has a name, that I’m not a weirdo,” Lauw said.

As someone who has also experienced ASMR since childhood, I attended Whisperlodge in 2017. In one room, a guide offered me a small, leather bag filled with a variety of materials, including tissue paper and plastic. He then asked me to select which material I wanted him to gingerly crinkle around my head. In another room, a guide asked me which of several makeup brushes most appealed to me, then gently brushed them across my face.

If you’re particularly curious, watch WhispersRed, a well-known ASMR YouTuber, go through a Whisperlodge event in San Francisco in the video below.

For this installment of Whisperlodge, creators have taken care to make sure the experience is accessible to deaf guests, offering touch and personal attention triggers, not just sound. And though the show does not require interpretation, there will be at least one cast member who knows ASL at each performance. If you attended the last Whisperlodge, know that there are two new one-on-one scenes in this one.

If you know you have ASMR, I’d say expect so many tingles you may wind up with ‘tingle immunity,’ a term associated with the temporary loss of ASMR after experiencing a lot of it. If you don’t have ASMR, this might just feel like the world’s strangest spa. And if you’re not sure, why not watch a few videos and see if you feel tingly?

WhisperLodge takes place March 13 to 17 at a private home in Silver Lake (address and directions revealed to ticket holders six days prior to show date). Tickets are $120-$150 and available here.  

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Happenings

The Comedian Who Plants Fake Toys and Signs Into Real World Locations is Getting His Own Pop-Up Show

February 21, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Obvious Plant’s Museum of Toys launches March 1 Photo: Obvious Plant

For four years now, Jeff Wysaski, aka “Obvious Plant,” has been surreptitiously inserting fake signs and products into everyday Los Angeles locations. There’s the time he added some little-known animal facts to habitats at the Los Angeles Zoo, like: “America’s first president, George Washington, was actually 9 koalas stacked on top of each other.” Or the time he added an artist’s statement card to a mirror in the men’s restroom at LACMA. The card read, “Reflection of a Hideous Man. Los Angeles, circa 2015. An ugly, disfigured man gazes into the abyss.” But it’s not just signs; Wysaski also adds fake toys and other products to store shelves. This includes his “Revengers” actions figures, with characters like “Regular Raccoon” and “Fedora Ron.”

This March, Obvious Plant will have a show of its very own—no sneaking required—for the first time. Obvious Plant’s Museum of Toys will offer a look at over 100 items, revealing an alternative timeline in which toys that never should have existed did.

Wysaski began his comedy career on the internet a decade ago with the website Pleated Jeans where he created and shared humorous content. This included the phony flyers he’d attach to telephone poles around his neighborhood. Though Wysaski dabbled with other forms of comedy, including webcomics, he kept coming back around to the signs.

“I realized there are a whole lot of other signs out there that are worth parodying, and I thought this might be a big enough idea to start something new,” he said.

He started by posting fake rules in Griffith Park in January of 2015.

“It was stuff like ‘no alpacas’ and just random funny stuff,” he said.

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He later created fake book jackets, which he slipped over real books at Book Soup in West Hollywood. They were all self-help books and included the title So Your Son is a Centaur. He posted photos of the books online and soon received coverage from a variety of media outlets, including Buzzfeed. Book Soup was good-humored about the attention and ultimately set up a display for the fake books. Each one was priced in the millions of dollars.

“That’s the response I wanted,” Wysaski said. “I want the people who find [the plants], especially the store, to get a chuckle.”

Wysaski eventually decided to move from signs into fake products, like action figures, board games, and playsets. He makes them all himself, even the action figures that come packaged just like real toys. He prints the graphics onto photo sticker paper, which he applies to a cardboard back. He then uses tools to trim the edges and round the corners. He purchases plastic blisters online, which he fits over the toy and fixes with crafter’s tape. He offers a demo on his Instagram, if you’re curious.

Wysaski’s sense of humor tends to skew dark, juxtaposing cute toys and nostalgia with existential dread. One toy offers both man’s best friend—a big-eyed, fuzzy dog—and his worst, or, “the depression that inevitably consumes him.” Another toy is just a bag of air labeled “Muppet Screams.” A colorful board game is titled “Hello Kitty Goes to Rehab” and a neatly packaged 16-month calendar depicts “Lonely People Holding Cats… at least they have cats.” One might say Wysaski was ahead of the faux-cheery, late capitalism nihilism of corporate brands like Sunny D, which recently tweeted, “I can’t do this anymore.” And what better way to face the void than with something as innocent as a toy.

“There’s something about toys that have always been a draw to me,” Wysaski said. “They’re playful and there’s a lot of room for jokes or commentary. With toys, especially, it’s the corruption of the innocent and giving the world toys that should never exist. There’s been a whole lot of negativity and a whole lot of anxiety around what’s going on with politics and in a way, I think this is my way of dealing with it and trying to laugh with everybody about how bad things are. But in a sort of general sense of general anxiety, like, life is bad, but we can also joke about it.”

Those who show up to the Museum of Toys should expect to see over 100 items, including fake toys, actual toys with new names, and actual toys with fake facts. There will also be a few Instagram-worthy moments, if only because it is mandatory that all pop-up museums now have them. And if you feel like making a fake toy real in your heart, a gift shop will offer select items (including a small bag containing the tiny skulls of your enemies). Throughout the run, there will be pop-ups from special guests including Everything is Terrible and Poorly Drawn Lines. On March 9, there will be puppet performances via the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

Obvious Plant’s Museum of Toys runs March 1-17 at Start Los Angeles, located at 2270 Venice Boulevard in Harvard Heights. A free opening reception will be held on Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. Otherwise, tickets are $10 and can be reserved online here. Check the schedule here to see when special guests will appear.

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Happenings, Things To Do

14 Unusual, Offbeat & Fun Things to Do For Valentine’s Day in L.A. (Whether You’re Single or Not!)

February 5, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Drown your bitterness in bitters. Photo: Breakup Bar

Whether you’re alone this Valentine’s or simply aren’t into candlelit dinners or romantic overtures, we’ve got you covered. Feeling bitter about love? Check out the Breakup Bar pop-up or the Sad Bastards Nite. Looking to connect with friends? How about a v-steam among pals or a top-tier cooking class? Over people in general? How about kicking it with goats instead? Check out these 14 V-Day events suitable for singles, friends, and casual couples.

Breakup Bar Popup

Embittered exes may find a respite from romance at Breakup Bar, a pop-up located next to Severance on Melrose. Here, guests enjoy a selection of snacks and desserts, including French macarons, baked Alaska, and a chocolate fountain that serves up to 12. Champagne can be sabered tableside, or guests can try one of the signature cocktails. They include the Cold Day in Hell (Amontillado & East India sherry, rooibos & chamomile tea, lemon, ginger), the Ghosted (Milk Stout, PX sherry, bitters, lavender foam), and the I Dealt With Your Parents For Years (Caperitif, lime, grapefruit soda, habanero bitters, black salt rim). Additionally, breakup films will be screened nightly, while a Wall of Broken Relationships invites guests to pen anonymous missives to their exes, creating a tableau of heartbreak over the pop-up’s two-week run.

Where: 7276 Melrose Ave., Fairfax
When: February 1-14. Tues.-Thurs., 7-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 7 p.m. to midnight.
Cost: $20, includes one cocktail or a sparkling wine flight.

Bacchus Uncorked: Love, Loss, and Libations

The Getty Villa will host a tour of mythology’s most famous lovers including “the gods and mortals whose passions took them to Hades’s realm.” What could be more romantic than learning about love so fierce its celebrants literally went to to the underworld for it, huh? After the gallery tour, sommelier Giammario Villa will offer a tasting of wines from Southern Italy. The event complements the exhibition Underworld: Imagining the Afterlife, which remains on view through March 18.

Where: Getty Villa
When: February 9 & 16, 4-7 p.m.
Cost: $75, includes parking

Lucha VaVOOM Photo: Timothy Norris

Lucha VaVOOM

Every Valentine’s Day, Lucha VaVOOM puts on on a fantastic show, offering lucha libre wrestling, burlesque, vaudeville, comedy, music, and more. This year’s theme is Amor Prohibido (that’s “forbidden love”). In addition to a full lineup of masked contenders, other performances include music from Christeene, burlesque from MOSH and Michelle L’Amour, and more. If you haven’t yet encountered Christeene, you could watch the genderqueer artist’s very NSFW video “Butt Muscle.” Comedian Jeff Davis will host this wild ride.

Where: The Mayan Theater, 1038 S. Hill Street, DTLA
When: February 13 & 14, doors at 7 p.m.
Cost: $40-55

Lover’s Rock

Grand Park’s Valentine’s celebration is free and appropriate for the whole family. Dub Club DJs will play reggae tracks throughout the evening, while food trucks will supply snacks and desserts. Remember the night with a photo booth or participate in all-ages crafts for a small fee.

Where: Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., DTLA
When: February 14, 6-11 p.m.
Cost: FREE

Learn to cook Photo: ICE Pasadena

The Institute of Culinary Education

If splurging on a fancy prix fixe dinner does not appeal to you, you can learn how to cook one instead. The Institute of Culinary Education in Pasadena is offering two cooking courses for two: New York steak and handmade pasta. Chef Richard Hanna will teach the former course, during which students will make a shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, New York strip with beurre maitre d’hotel (compound butter), creamed spinach, truffled mashed potatoes, and mini New York cheesecakes topped with strawberry compote. Chef Peter George will lead the pasta class, during which students will prepare pappardelle with Bolognese; burro e salvia (butternut squash ravioli with sage butter); tomato basil bruschetta, and shaved fennel and radicchio salad.

Where: The Institute of Culinary Education, 521 E Green Street, Pasadena
When: New York Steak on Feb. 14, 6-10 p.m.; Handmade Pasta on Feb. 15, 6-10 p.m.
Cost: $240/couple (Not that you have to bring a significant other; learning with a friend is fine, too!)

My Vintage Valentine

The historic Queen Mary’s My Vintage Valentine will conjure “old-world glamor” with a four-course dinner and a show. The event takes place in the ship’s Windsor Salon, where a love story will unfold over dinner via burlesque and vaudeville performances by Cirque Berzerk and Love in the Fire. Afterward, guests may stick around for cocktails and live music.

Where: The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach
When: February 14, seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $125-135/person, drinks not included

Psyche’s Wedding by Edward Burne-Jones

The Ominous Marriage of Cupid & Psyche

Disco Dining Club always delights with lavish, decadent, themed dinners that repeat the mantra, “consume everything.” Partnering again with The Grim Wreather, DDC’s latest theme revolves around the myth of Cupid and Psyche. According to legend, Psyche is a mere mortal so beautiful that the goddess Venus becomes envious of her. She sends her son, Cupid, to shoot Psyche with an enchanted arrow and cause her to fall in love with a human monster. Yet upon seeing her, Cupid is so stunned by Psyche that he shoots himself and thus, falls hopelessly in love with her. Chaos ensues from there.

Tickets are all inclusive and feature a five-course meal from Chef Laurent Quenioux; themed cocktails from Happy Hour Agency and table wine from Disco Vino; oysters from Hama Hama and caviar via East Boston Oysters; post-dinner coconuts from Coco Lily; immersive theater, live music, and dance performances; gift bags, and “late night perversions” from North Hollywood adult toy company Doc Johnson.

Where: A secret location in West Adams
When: February 14, 7:30 p.m.
Cost:$250/person

The Things We Do

Nothing says ‘I appreciate you’ like going steaming with your best pals. The Things We Do at ROW DTLA is offering a Gal-entine’s Day special during which guests may enjoy a V-Steam session and, concurrently, a Cryo-Cloud facial. V-Steams, as you may know, achieved notoriety when lauded by Gwyneth Paltrow. Their devotees claim the process helps with cramping and libido. 

Where: 787 S. Alameda St, Suite 100
When: Feb. 1-28
Cost: $125/person, call 213-278-0358 for reservations

Half-off for loners here on V-Day Photo: Không Tên

Không Tên

Vietnamese restaurant Không Tên will offer two specials for Valentine’s Day. Through the month of February, couples who matched on any dating app will receive 50% off drinks provided they can show their server or bartender their phones and prove their love connection. On Valentine’s Day, singles who sit at the bar will receive 50% off drinks all night. And maybe, just maybe, those singles will meet one another.

Where: 11520 Pico Blvd., West L.A.
When: Through February
Cost: No cover

‘True Romance’ Photo: Warner Bros.

Cinespia Presents ‘True Romance’

Cinespia presents 1993’s romantic crime caper True Romance, in which Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) and call girl Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) work to free Alabama from her heartless pimp, Drexl. Things go awry when Clarence realizes a bag he grabs at Drexl’s brothel isn’t full of Alabama’s belongings, but a lot of cocaine. The night will feature photo booths, DJ sets before and after the film, and full bars with signature cocktails.

Where: Los Angeles Theater, 615 S. Broadway, DTLA
When: February 14, doors at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $30-$80

Sad Bastards Nite

For communal brooding, check out Sad Bastards Nite at Bar Henry. There will be music. Genres listed include death rock, synth, folk, soul, esoteric, 90s, and indie, which is an admittedly diverse list. However, all songs spun will unite in a single theme of melancholy. In honor of the especially sad, anyone who can prove a recent tragedy—including job loss or divorce—will receive a free drink. The event is held in memory of Nacho Nava, co-creator of Mustache Mondays, who passed away in January.

Where: Bar Henry, 1228 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
When: February 13, 9 p.m.
Cost: Free with RSVP

Olivia Bellafontaine at Deviled Eggs Photo: Forest Casey

A Very Vaudeville Valentine’s

Drunken Devil presents A Very Vaudeville Valentines’s on Saturday, February 9th. This bawdy, 1930s-era burlesque brunch will feature Valentines-inspired performances, interactive characters, and an aphrodisiac-infused brunch menu with items including double chocolate pancakes, lox crostini, mushroom and potato hash, sweet and spicy bacon, and more. Your ticket will include brunch and the show, while beer, wine, cocktails, and bottomless mimosas can be purchased for an additional cost at the bar.

Where: Brack Shop Tavern, 525 W. 7th Street, DTLA
When: February 9, 11 a.m.
Cost: $50-$120

Sensuali-tea

Couples and singles alike are invited to Madcap Creative’s Sensuali-tea, which will explore how to connect to your own sensuality via a tea ceremony. This is an interactive workshop in which each participant will be invited into a private, candlelit loft for a tea ceremony, guided meditation, and a discussion on using plants for wellness. Each guest will also create their own personal “love potion” using herbs and aphrodisiac plants. The workshop is led by Toska, a witch, artist, and herbalist who hosts the Sex Magic Podcast. Madcap Creative is an all-women entertainment company that “takes fetish performance out of the darkness and into the candlelight.”

Where: Private venue in DTLA
When: February 7, 7-9 p.m.
Cost: $30 (materials included, but bring your own mug)

Angeles Crest Creamery’s goat hike Photo: Angeles Crest Creamery/Facebook

Valentine’s Goat Hike and Picnic

Who needs romance when you have goats, arguably one of the cutest mammals of all time? Angeles Crest Creamery invites guests to take an hour-long, gentle hike in the San Gabriel Mountains with their goats, as the animals leisurely graze to their heart’s content. The hike will include a talk about the goats, their seasonal behavior and foraging, and sustainability. According to the organizers: “Shepherding dairy goats in the San Gabriel Mountains is an experiment in developing a low-input dairying system by matching the appropriate animal to the available forage and using ancient techniques like shepherding not normally practiced in the United States. I’ll share what I’ve learned from the land and the herd 3 years into the project.”

Where: Angeles Crest Creamery, 19830 Big Pines Hwy, Valyermo
When: February 16, 11 a.m.
Cost: $25 (bring your own picnic lunch & drinks)

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Happenings

Wisdome Art Park Brings a Brand New Immersive Experience to the Arts District

February 4, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Wisdome Art Park Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

As “immersive” continues to reign as an art and entertainment buzzword, two factions have emerged: those experiences that ask you to forget your phone and just be present, and those that exist mostly for selfies. Wisdome Art Park straddles both as part-gallery and part-immersive experience, all spread among a series of domes in an Arts District lot. The current exhibition, Samskara, takes guests on a journey that includes paintings, optical illusions, virtual reality, and one very trippy video projection.

According to Marketing Manager Maria Aldarova, Wisdome Art Park first opened in Moscow in December, while their Los Angeles location near the corner of Alameda and Palmetto will remain up for at least the next three years. Exhibits will rotate, beginning with their current exhibit from artist Android Jones.

Android Jones is a digital artist whose colorful, psychedelic paintings and experiences have been displayed at Burning Man, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and on the side of the Empire State Building and the Sydney Opera House. Eastern religion is a clear inspiration in his imagery, as well as the title of this exhibit. In Hinduism, samskara refers to rites of passage, but it can also mean the impressions our past actions leave on us. The latter definition seems to be the one the exhibit caters to; the info page defines a samskara as “a soul’s impression, the hardly felt emotional track in the subconscious. We travel from life to life between strange worlds and spaces, but we are not able to remember this, just keeping the samskaras.”

“We started working with [Android Jones] three or four years ago and just fell in love with his art because it’s so personal and so deep,” Aldarova said. “We made the immersive experience Samskara together and were showing it at [festivals like] Lightning in a Bottle and Boom. Here, we have something quite special.”

Wisdome Art Park Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

What’s special, in particular, is the size and the duration of the exhibit. Each dome varies in square footage, and each one contains something new. Guests enter through a hall of mirrors where ethereal, ambient music plays, like the world’s most relaxing fun house. This leads to the first dome, where holographic paintings flicker and transform as you move in a slow circle around the space. They’re interspersed with black-and-white optical illusions, which appear to undulate as you sway back and forth. The next dome is larger, this one containing the bulk of Jones’s work, including several paintings, projections, and a projection mapping installation where guests can wave their arms and see their movements reflected on a screen.

For those feeling particularly introspective, a series of questions and musings are posted throughout the exhibit. Some spark spiritual introspection. One, which accompanies an image of two lovers, asks, “When does time begin?” Does it, the statement ponders, begin with an explosion of gas or “the exploding love of our parents”? Yet another encourages the guest to selfie freely. We like selfies because of the value of ourselves, it suggests, but “self” is different from “selfish.” “Enjoy your selfie,” the note concludes.

The next section offers a handful of VR experiences, each one contained in its own smaller neon dome. These interactive experiences allow the guest to propel themselves through surreal worlds while drawing starbursts with a controller.

The next dome is the largest and features the centerpiece of the exhibit: a 22-minute video projected on the concave ceiling of the dome. For peak enjoyment, you’ll want to snag a seat on a futon towards the middle of the dome, then lean back so you can comfortably look upwards. Swirling faces, fractals, and other visuals swoop over and at you to music. Sometimes the faces whisper phrases. It’s mellow enough that fans of ASMR may feel right at home, while everyone else is apt to find it at least pleasantly enchanting—the way solar system planetarium visits were when you were a kid.

A fifth, smaller dome occasionally offers additional video content or, periodically, activities like yoga and sound healing. (We encountered a tea ceremony on our visit.) This dome is also where the Samskara video will play when Wisdome hosts special events in the larger dome. These events are varied and have included a live performance of Pink Floyd music and after-dark parties with outdoor fire pits, food trucks, and a cash bar.

If you’re starting to get the impression that maybe opening such an art experience in a state with legalized cannabis wasn’t a terrible idea, well, I wouldn’t say you’re wrong. Everything here lends itself to a mind-altering aesthetic and it’s no surprise that it’s done well at festivals. However, it should be noted that a dayside visit is family-friendly. And while it lacks the prestige of a modern art museum like The Broad, it’s can be a fun, spacey time for those who enter with the right mindset.

People should plan to spend one to two hours for a traditional visit or more if attending an after-dark or special event, but there’s no real time limit.

“We definitely don’t want ‘fast entertainment,’ where you just kill another two hours of your time and then say, ‘oh, what have I seen, actually? What was that?'” Aldarova said. “This is a consciousness-expanding immersive art and music venue so people can get here and forget about all the material things like bills, taxes, requests at work, and all the stress and dive deeper into a different state of mind.”

Wisdome Art Park is located at 1147 Palmetto Street in the Arts District. Open Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday, 11 am. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $29 for adults, $19 for students, and $9 for children. Special event prices may vary.

 

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Food, Where to Eat

Fiona on Fairfax Offers Global Comfort Food Paired with Exceptional Pies

January 18, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Fiona Photo: Alan Gastelum

When writing, it’s easy to ramble. Verbosity is the enemy. Succinctness is the challenge. Even Mark Twain once wrote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Chef Shawn Pham believes the same is true in the kitchen.

“If you’re a writer, the biggest skill in writing is editing,” he said. “Anyone can put words together. It’s picking the right words—when to use them, how to use them—that takes a tremendous amount of skill and thought. With cooking, if you really think about every single ingredient and its place and how it’s necessary, you make a bigger impact with less.”

Pham says he shares a fondness for simplicity in cooking with award-winning pie genius Nicole Rucker (formerly of Gjelina). Together, they’ve opened Fiona, a sunny all-day cafe, restaurant, and bakery on Fairfax. The pair became friends when Rucker worked at Pham’s previous restaurant, Simbal, which closed in 2017. When Rucker mentioned she was looking for a chef to partner with on her first stand-alone restaurant, Pham expressed his interest.

Their collaborative menu is small, but has plenty of warm comfort foods. On the savory side, there are toasts and sandwiches, made with thick slabs of the house-baked bread; hearty bowls of soup and stew, and pancakes made with celery root or sweet potato. The Vietnamese Beef Stew is particularly flavorful, with hunks of tender short rib that fall easily apart. It’s served with a wedge of lime and a sizable, freshly baked sourdough baguette.

Dahi Toast Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Pham describes the Dahi toast as an Indian-inspired dish piled with crisp curry leaves.

“We fry [the curry leaves] with black mustard seed, yellow mustard seed, and cumin seed, then it’s served with cilantro and tamarind chutneys,” he said. “It has a very unique aroma and taste that a lot of people have never experienced before.”

Some of these dishes carry over into dinner, while new ones—like the hamachi crudo, beef tartare, and ‘duck for two’—are added for evening service. Guests may enjoy their meals with coffee and tea—plain or concoctions like sparking matcha with yuzu and ginger—or something off Fiona’s curated beer and wine list.

Then there’s also the sweeter side of Fiona, which can be found in the bakery case. There will always be a handful of pies, for which Rucker is legendary—she scored a blue ribbon for her apple pie at the National Pie Championship in 2013. On any given day flavors include banana cream, key lime, and Rucker’s famous chocolate chess, which is kind of like a perfect, velvety brownie transplanted onto a delicate, flaky crust. (There’s a lemon chess, too.) Other treats might include cookies, cake, and nightly special desserts one can see advertised via Rucker’s Instagram. Like this:

Fiona itself is cute and homey. Sunlight filters in through street-facing windows casting over a black-and-white tiled floor and green accent walls. Guests order at the counter, then take a number and a seat if dining in. You might not guess that the pretty cafe’s name came about during the media buzz surrounding a hippo born two months premature at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. (Don’t worry; Fiona the Hippo is doing just fine now.)

“‘Fiona’ just kind of stuck, and then it morphed into [the idea that] it could be anything. It could be a relative, an aunt, a grandma. We like it because it’s vague and allows us to define it,” Pham said.

The vagueness works for the restaurant, which can be a lot of different things, depending on your mood. It can be a quick, casual lunch; an afternoon spent reading a book over a bakery item and a cup of coffee, or a cute spot for a first or hundredth date. Whatever the occasion, definitely try the pie.

Fiona is located at 339 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles CA. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Happenings

Century City’s Dreamscape Immersive is VR You Have to Experience to Believe

January 10, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Blu: Deep Rescue Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

Dreamscape Immersive, the latest contender in location-based virtual reality, has opened in the Westfield Century City mall with three unique adventures. Each one is truly beautiful and a testament to the possibilities of VR. It’s all-ages escapism at its finest and an experience that cannot be replicated at home.

Arriving at Dreamscape is like prepping for a flight, minus all the TSA hassle. From the mall’s sunny second floor, you’ll enter Dreamscape’s “Departure Lounge” where you’ll have three destinations to choose from: the otherworldly Alien Zoo, the Indiana Jones-esque Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl, and the breathtaking deep-sea mission, The Blu: Deep Rescue. Whether you’ve purchased a ticket in advance online or snag one upon arrival, you’ll receive a boarding pass printed with a three-letter code, just like an IATA airport code. The boarding process hints that you’re headed somewhere else, somewhere beyond the confines of a bustling mall.

Unlike some VR experiences where you don’t see yourself in VR or see only a pair of floating hands, this is a full-body experience for up to six guests at a time. You and your teammates will all appear in VR as various avatars, dressed appropriately for whatever world you’re exploring. You choose your avatar at check-in (there are male, female, and gender neutral options), then wait for your trip in a lounge area where seating and concessions are available. In the center of the room, cases display various ephemera from the three missions, including sketches, artifacts, and letters that supplement the stories.

Dreamscape Immersive’s Departure Lounge Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

When it’s time to depart, an attendant escorts your group to get suited up. Each guest wears tracking devices on their feet and hands, as well as a backpack and headset. They’re easy to put on and fairly comfortable. Finally, you’re led into a plain black room which is, despite all appearances, where the magic happens. Some might find it disappointing to see the bare bones of the space without the fantastical VR skin, but I like it; when I was a little kid, all I wanted was my own personal Star Trek: TNG-style holodeck.

With your headset on, you’ll see yourself and your teammates as your selected avatars, complete with personalized name tags bearing your initials. And then, a new world appears.

Each adventure is considerably different. In The Blu: Deep Rescue, a partnership between Dreamscape Immersive and Wevr, you’re a team of elite divers sent to find a missing whale.

In Alien Zoo, you soar on a transport pod through a wildlife refuge in space. The creatures live in their own sort of biodome. There’s the mischievous Frog Cat—comprised of a frog head, a cat body, and the tail of a leopard gecko—and the carnivorous Sicari, who may fail to differentiate human visitors from her lunch.

In this scene from ‘Lavan’s Magic Projector,’ guests can actually reach out and hold onto the rail as they overlook the splendor below. Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

In Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl, you get a story within a story. The eponymous “magic projector” is a device that allows you to step inside a film—not unlike a VR headset. The Lost Pearl is the film you enter, casting you as explorers on the hunt for a precious artifact hidden inside an ancient temple. You begin in a virtual theater watching the film The Lost Pearl, but soon step through the black-and-white screen into a verdant jungle. It is a truly enchanting moment, enhanced further by the sensation of wind rushing against your face. Moments like these are what Dreamscape Immersive CEO Bruce Vaughn, formerly Chief Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, refers to as “Dreamscape moments.”

“We put an emphasis on the story. Story comes first, and the technology is there to enable immersive storytelling and experiences. So we put a lot of time and thought and design into the moments that blur the line between the virtual and the physical. We literally map those [moments] out in a certain kind of cadence,” Vaughn said.

You can reach out and pet this curious creature in Alien Zoo. Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

In Alien Zoo, for instance, there’s a sequence during which a savannah full of alien creatures is revealed. It’s that ‘whoa’ moment you might remember from the first time you saw Jurassic Park. A group of horse-like creatures curiously trot up to your transport and when you reach out, that horse is physically present. You can stroke its snout, the way you might interact with an actual animal. In Magic Projector, you can grab a torch from a holder in a temple wall and use its firelight to interact with objects in the temple’s winding, booby-trapped corridors. At times, you are separated from your group. You can see them waving at you from across a deep chasm. You forget all about the much smaller black box you were standing inside back in the real world. In The Blu, you’ll hop on scooters and navigate your way through ocean trenches. When you sweep your hand through a school of fish, they sense your presence and scatter. When you approach the whale, you get so close that you can see the individual barnacles attached to the underside of its fin.

The one thing you won’t do in these experiences is shoot at monsters or robots or rack up points. While much of VR is rooted in gaming, Vaughn sees Dreamscape’s VR as a new medium with overlapping elements of immersive theater, theme parks, cinema, and gaming mechanics. The focus is on telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end, as with a piece of theater or a film. The gaming mechanics give the guests a sense of agency.  Instead of gripping a plastic gun, a guest might instead hold a flashlight, which allows them to light up and explore pieces of their environment as they will. As Vaughn explains, the guest isn’t just a voyeur in a 360 world, but becomes the interface.

Alien Zoo Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

“You find that really allows our audience to find themselves in the center of the story. They might not think that when they step in, but by the end, it’s really about them. Wonderment and wish fulfillment is what we’re focusing on in the end,” Vaughn said.

He continues, “Because [the experience] is so sensory rich and because you’re experiencing that virtual world just like you do this one—you’re hearing it, seeing it, touching it, smelling it, feeling it—the memory of this functions more like a real memory from the physical world than it does [like] watching a movie. If you had seen [Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl] in a movie theater, you’d say, ‘I went to the movie theater and saw The Lost Pearl. I think when you talk about this now, you’d say, ‘I stepped through [the screen] and was in The Lost Pearl.”

This is an important piece when it comes to Dreamscape’s location inside a mall. While millennials have been accused of killing department stores—and napkins and light yogurt—malls have not been declining in popularity. Rather, malls have been changing their offerings. Bridget Johns of store analytics firm RetailNext told USA Today that while many anchor stores have closed, “a lot of those anchors have been replaced by more experiential-type environments like bowling alleys and high-end restaurants … that appear to be doing a really good job of driving traffic to those properties.”

Guests can pose with Frog Cats outside the storefront. Photo: Dreamscape Immersive

Virtual reality experiences like Dreamscape Immersive and The VOID at the Glendale Galleria are just too sophisticated for at-home consumer headsets. You have to go somewhere to actually do them. And because they both run about 30-40 minutes, including on-boarding, participants are apt to make a day of it by eating at the mall, visiting various stores, or catching a movie. In fact, movie theaters—another industry striving to be more experiential to avoid millennials slaughter—are next for Dreamscape Immersive. A partnership with AMC will allow for the opening of four new locations across the U.S. in mid-2019, some stand-alone and others housed in movie theaters. As for the Century City location, it will remain the company’s flagship and will both add and rotate out new experiences in the future.

Know Before You Go:

Dreamscape Immersive is located at the Westfield Century City mall,10250 Santa Monica Blvd, on the 2nd floor near Eataly. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online (recommended to get your desired adventure at your preferred time) or in-store. Online tickets are subject to a convenience fee of $1.50. Each adventure can accommodate up to six people at a time. All are family-friendly, suitable for ages 10 and up.

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