Originally published to Happening in DTLA June 2016
If there’s one district in DTLA that I find myself visiting most, it’s Little Tokyo, and for so many reasons. With an easily accessible Metro stop, the abundance of food options, and its proximity to the Arts District, Little Tokyo has enough to explore for an entire day, unlike many neighborhoods in LA in which much driving is required from one area to another. If you decide to spend an entire day in Little Tokyo, here’s what the itinerary might look like:
Grab a coffee from Café Demitasse and a donut from Café Dulce
Self-proclaimed coffee geeks Café Demitasse roast locally and turn coffee into a science at their original Little Tokyo location. In addition to offering a variety of aesthetically pleasing lab-themed brew methods like siphons and Kyoto style iced coffee, Demitasse also has a myriad of single origin coffees, loose leaf teas, and sweet specialty espresso beverages. Some of these drinks were even created by the baristas themselves.
135 S. San Pedro St. / Mon-Fri 7AM-10PM & Sat-Sun 8AM-10PM
Café Dulce also functions as primarily a specialty coffee shop, but its artisanal and kooky donut selection somewhat overshadows its coffee program. It’s not an irregular occurrence to see people lined outside the shop, waiting to order donuts covered in breakfast cereals like cinnamon toast crunch and fruit loops. Other popular options include the matcha green tea donut and the forever-trending maple bacon donut.
134 Japanese Village Plaza Mall / Mon-Sun 8AM-10PM
Get cultured at the Japanese American National Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Art Geffen (MOCA)
While the museum may have a smaller amount of permanent exhibits, the JANM frequently curates a rotating set of exhibits throughout the year, much of which varies in subject material and medium. From Hello Kitty to Japanese American photography to new age origami, the museum keeps its material and events lively and relevant for visitors.
100 N. Central Avenue / Tues, Wed, Fri-Sun 11AM-5PM
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Formerly a police car warehouse, the MOCA Geffen is the special exhibits wing of the MOCA, whose main location is just a mile away on Grand Avenue. Unlike JANM, the special exhibits tend to run for a few months at a time, and its current exhibit, “Don’t Look Back: The 1990s at MOCA” is currently drawing extra attention from the media. The Geffen also has free admission every Thursday from 5-8 PM, and if you take the Metro, you can get BOGO admission with a valid TAP card.
Satisfy Your Ramen Craving
Two of L.A.’s most popular ramen chains thrive in Little Tokyo, Daikokuya and Shin Sen Gumi. Be prepared to take a few laps around the Japanese Village Plaza once you’ve added your name to the wait list. While both are regularly crawling with customers, however, the wait for Daikokuya’s signature Daikoku Ramen and Shin Sen Gumi’s Hakata Ramen are worth it – the Daikoku’s rich and hearty tonkatsu broth is steaming with customizable egg noodles, pork belly chashu, and more savory goodness. The Hakata Ramen might as well be considered the “Chipotle” of noodles; there are over 30 different topping options you can include in your ramen dish. Both options are satisfying and filling.
Eat Real Mochi at Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop
A disappointing number of people don’t realize that traditional mochi does NOT have ice cream inside of it! For a truly authentic experience, Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop serves fresh mochi and manju (mochi filled with a sweet bean paste called anko). Unlike most ice cream filled mochi, Fugetsu-Do’s rice cakes are much more precariously prepared and sweet on their own. Fugetsu-Do’s manju is equally delicious with fillings like red bean, strawberry, and blueberry. Make room in your stomach for this confectionary goodness.
315 E. First St. / Sun-Thur 8AM-6PM & Fri-Sat 8AM-7PM
Finish Off With Happy Hour at Far Bar
Far Bar is an old restaurant from the 1930’s renovated into a charming bar tucked inside the Far East building, just steps away from Daikokuya and Fugestu-Do. Upon walking through the narrow, brick alley, its large and private outdoor patio greets guests with plenty of bench seating, tasteful string lights, and a packed menu of Asian American fusion food. The alcohol menu is equally plentiful and varied. During happy hour, most appetizers are marked at five bucks and drinks at seven. With an additionally hospitable staff, Far Bar makes an overall buzzed and blissful close to a day.
347 E. First St. / Mon-Sun 10AM-2AM