Category Archives: Los Angeles

The Magical Pierogi Truck

One of the foods I missed most when I moved back to Los Angeles from New York many years ago were the potato pierogies served up in the Polish and Ukrainian coffee shops in the East Village.

Little did I know that one day there would be a magical truck offering pierogies right here in my own neighborhood in L.A., though sadly this one that I saw on Melrose just a few minutes ago wasn’t open for business at the time…

The Cat and the Fiddle Returns!

The Cat and the Fiddle’s new location on Highland Avenue.

The Cat and the Fiddle was the first bar I used to frequent with friends on a regular basis after moving back to Los Angeles from New York City in the mid-1980’s. In those days before microbreweries and brewpubs, it was the place where I first learned to appreciate ales and stouts and British pub fare. It was a gastropub before they were called that.

It quickly became a favorite hang-out, and a couple years later the place where my grad school friends and I would most often go for food and drinks. While students in the Directing, Producing, and Cinematography disciplines were on most Friday nights beginning grueling week-long shoots that would determine their future at the school, my fellow Writing students and I would roll out of James Hosney’s film studies course and head to The Cat and the Fiddle for beer and food and bad jokes. Some of my AFI friends probably still remember me as the guy who always ordered Bass and chips.

The growth of brewpubs and nightlife over the years meant that The Cat and the Fiddle was no longer one of the only places you could go to in Los Angeles for a good beer in a pleasant location. In my own neighborhood, The Fat Dog offers the kind of casual urban atmosphere that was almost entirely missing from the L.A. of the 80’s and early 90’s. But The Cat and the Fiddle remained a favorite of mine until the closing of its Sunset Blvd location just a couple years ago – ironically, a victim of rising rents as a result of the Hollywood renaissance that in some sense it helped pioneer.

Happily, the owners are now bringing back The Cat and the Fiddle with a projected March opening, and even happier for me, its new location is right across the street from where I work. It’s the space I still think of as the old Highland Grounds cafe, though it has been through many other iterations both before and after that. There will be an outer patio, though I can’t imagine it will quite match the charm of the 1920’s Spanish-style courtyard of the Sunset location. And though I no longer consume beer, carbs, and sodium quite so unconcernedly as I used to, I imagine at least every once in a while I will drop in to the new location after work for ale and chips. Happy Hour, anybody?

Waiting For The Train

A possible route for the Crenshaw line extension through West Hollywood…

I’ve spent the better part of a lifetime waiting for the train, and while it’s never shown up, I still have some reason to hope. When I first moved to West Hollywood in the mid-1980’s, I had just returned from five years in New York City while attending college and afterwards. Though a Southern California native, I had grown accustomed to the quality of life in a city as transit-rich and pedestrian-friendly as New York, and felt its lack when I returned to Los Angeles.

Though it wasn’t a term anyone would have used at the time, I became something of a proto transit geek, following news as the Red and Blue lines were slowly built, pointing out bits of track and abandoned stations left over from the old Red Car system to my patient and bemused friends, and even stumbling upon an already-forgotten RTD study in the cramped old West Hollywood Public Library outlining a never-realized 1982 plan to restore light rail on the old Red Car right of way stretching from Santa Monica to Century City and through Beverly Hills to West Hollywood.

Nothing had come of that plan, and just recently the original route of what is now the Red Line subway had literally been derailed by Congressman Henry Waxman. A widely admired liberal on most domestic and foreign policy issues, Waxman acted like a Reagan Republican when it came to public transportation issues in his own district – the legislation he pushed through Congress at the behest of a small group of affluent Hancock Park residents delayed construction of the Wilshire Blvd portion of the subway for three decades.

That original route would have included a station at Fairfax and Santa Monica Boulevards that would have also served as the eastern terminus of the studied light rail line. Land had been purchased and cleared for the station, and at the time I moved into the neighborhood, a weathered sign announcing imminent construction was still present on the vacant lot. That land on the northwest corner ended up becoming a mini-mall instead, and the closest we have come to a subway station in West Hollywood is the Subway sandwich shop located there.

Thirty years later, plans for a West Hollywood Metro station are once again part of the MTA’s long range plan, backed by city government, and now supported by a sophisticated advocacy group. Budget, funding, and construction issues remain formidable, and the dour predictions I made in my twenties that I would probably be in my sixties by the time that Los Angeles had a truly workable rail transit system now seem either eerily prophetic, or perhaps still overly optimistic.

Even at that, this is progress, and I’m still hoping that one day, perhaps in the same year that I qualify for social security, I might be able to walk to the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Fairfax, descend stairs into the cool interior of a subterranean station, and hop on a train that will take me…most anywhere I need to go. If so, it will only be happening about forty-five years later than it needed to…but what’s half a lifetime or so when you’re waiting to catch a ride?