If you’re considering a weekend away, and you really want to get AWAY away – think about leaving the kids and Dad back at home. And if you want to go balls to the wall, as in “live like you’re a single gal without a care in the world,” do it in Los Angeles with your youngest friend who just happens to live there. Like I did recently.
First of all, have you ever flown on a plane by yourself after having only flown with your children for the past couple of years? Heaven. Put me in an airport without anyone needing me to take them to the potty, or having to return a pack of Skittles one of said children may have “borrowed” from Hudson News, and I am in HEAVEN. Plane is delayed five hours? Great! I’ll just be here, drinking my third glass of Pinot since 4pm and reading all of the magazines.
If my Mama’s Weekend Off had been limited simply to the plane ride to LAX and back, I would have been happy. But even better – I got to stay with my former intern and current BFF of many years, in her adorable apartment with her adorable dog. My Young Friend has been an LA native all her life, so she curated the perfect trip for a gal like me who wanted three things out of a weekend away: delicious food, some pampering, and for someone to think I was 25. If you don’t have a young friend of your own, take heart. Together we created this list of hot spots to hit up if you’re brave enough to leave your kids at home with Dad (think: your child may or not be wearing clothes at breakfast) for a girls weekend in Los Angeles yourself. Sorry, my friend isn’t available to rent. Well, maybe, if you promise to get her screenplay picked up by a major network.
Post Touchdown Priorities - Sushi at Sugarfish by Sushi Nazawa (multiple locations throughout LA)
I’d been hearing about this mythical LA-based sushi spot for years from my West Coast peeps, so when my friend suggested we go there for dinner after I landed, I was so down. We got there without a reservation (on a Thursday night, around 8ish) and didn’t have to wait for a table. You can order a la carte, but I suggest doing one of the three “Trust Me” menus (their take on omakase, or “chef’s choice”). We chose the menu that included edamame, sashimi, 8 pieces of sushi, a toro hand roll and a phenomenal blue crab hand roll ($32 for this menu, $22 for a lighter version of it). Their sushi was some of the best I have ever had. Every bite was melt-in-your-mouth. And despite the generous portions, I didn’t have to be rolled out of there.
But First, Coffee - Alfred Coffee & Kitchen(Flagship Location, 8428 Melrose Place)
This Insta-worthy coffee chain brews cult-favorite Stumptown coffee and serves fresh breakfast, lunch, and snack foods. Their homemade granola is deceptively healthy – full of lots of flax seeds and other good stuff but you would never know it because it is so yummy. Their hazelnut danish has a huge glob of Nutella in the middle of it and is a must-try. And for the health-minded (hello everyone but me) there are pressed juices and salads. They also sell great coffee-related accessories (Klean Kanteens, mugs, market bags) to bring back to The Husb. A great place to snap a photo of their #butfirstcoffee slogan, people-watch while sitting on their outdoor patio, and spot celebs and their canine companions on a latte break.
Stop. Pizza Time. – Jon and Vinny’s (412 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles)
I know, I know. I just left the land of pizza that is New York, but my friend had promised me eggs with burratta and then we arrived fifteen minutes after lunch had stopped being served. So we went for the pizza. And it blew my mind. Jon and Vinny’s had my heart from the minute we walked in when I spotted the overflowing bowl of heirloom tomatoes on the counter. I hadn’t had a good tomato since July, so I made sure to order a side of tomatoes with our meal. We ordered a gem salad with crunchy crumbled breadcrumbs and a zingy, spicy dressing; a little Greek salad with beets; and a burratta pizza from their wood-fired oven. The pizza came with little mounds of burratta and a sprig of basil in the middle of each slice that I spread over the entirety of the slice and so that the experience was like eating some kind of pizza ambrosia. These guys really know what they’re doing – it is owned by the same people who do the famous LA restaurant Animal as well as several other highly ranked dining spots.
Boutique Mani Pedi Experience - Olive and June (430 North Canon Dr., Beverly Hills)
All the LA fashion girls turn to this nail spa for their buffing and nail-design needs. My favorite part? The entry form you fill out once you check in that asks you what kind of massage pressure you prefer on your hands, your favorite magazines, and favorite nail brands. Definitely gives my local nail place in Brooklyn a run for its money! No massage chairs here. There are about half a dozen fancy leather lounge chairs where patrons are attended to by a manicurist and pedicurist working in tandem. You even get your own steamy soaking foot tub. The menu consists of different options with names such as The Emma, The June, or The Dree -- all evoking the types of women who I imagine always look paparazzi-worthy and have flawless skin. I went for The Olive, which included luxe products from brands like Kai and an extended massage (mani $30, pedi $40).
The Kind of Massage that Makes You Shout Expletives in a Good Way - Tomoko Spa (101 S. Beverly Hills Dr.)
To me, it is not truly a vacation unless someone massages my aching neck and back. I have those super tight shoulders and necks that seem to elicit surprise and concern from any masseuse. Or anyone giving me a hug. Tomoko Spa is a serious study in relaxation and serenity. After trading your shoes for their traditional Japanese-style flip-flops, you go into a waiting room where the hostess serves you a platter of tea, water with lemon-infused ice cubes, and a petit four. Each private massage room comes with a rain shower and includes a full range of personalized toiletries so you don’t have to bring anything. My masseuse asked me if I was in school and was shocked when I told her I was on vacation from my children. She thought I was a teenager, taking a Mother Daughter Spa Day (must be a thing in Beverly Hills). Anyway, I was in love with her after that. The massage included my masseuse climbing onto my back and using her knees to get at kinks I didn’t even know I had. I also loved the kimono-style robe they gave me to wear while I was there. After the massage, while I waited for the bill, the host brought me more tea, and a trio of Japanese sweets, and peppermint-infused water. Before we left, we were each handed a memento – a delicately embroidered traditional Japanese handkerchief. How chic!
The Restaurant People Are Talking About – Petits Trois (718 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles)
This blink and you missed it French spot in the middle of a strip mall is the sister restaurant to the famed LA eatery Trois Mec. This 21-seat (with standing room dining as well!) bistro made me feel like I was right at home in Brooklyn, where places often do not take reservations and you can expect to wait at least 40 minutes for a seat and choose from a limited menu where -- thank God -- everything is yummy. My friend and I ordered dirty martinis (people say they do the best ones in town) and snuck them outside because the small bar area was super crowded. Once we were seated, we ordered steak tartar with fried shallots and elderberries and the Big Mec (their take on a double cheeseburger, slathered in gravy). Both were delicious, although if I had known the burger came with gravy I would have asked for it on the side. (When it comes to burgers I am a purist). A super cozy spot to catch up with a good friend while eating traditional French fare in a lively bistro atmosphere. Note: 18% gratuity is automatically added to the bill.
The Bar All the Beautiful People go to - Tenants of the Trees (2808 Hyperion Ave, Los Angeles)
This hipsterish bar in Silver Lake feels like what I imagine would be like stepping into a celebrity’s secluded posh patio in her 1940’s home, under a canopy of trees. By 9ish, it was already pretty full (that would never happen in New York), and there were prominent man-buns everywhere. There is a velvet rope, but no line and a friendly, welcoming bouncer. The mustached (natch) bartenders are serious about what they do, and spend time crafting and shaking their well-made cocktails. The DJ played good music but it wasn’t so loud as to not be able to engage in an actual conversation with friends. There was a ton of great people watching, people seemed to be drinking responsibly and a there was a great laid-back vibe to the place. No one was super dressed up, but the best part was that all the men there seemed to take great pains in creating an on-point look for their outfits. Unfortunately, smoking is still very much in fashion in LA I guess. When I came home my clothes smelled like college and were in serious need of some Febreeze.
ALEXIS BARAD-CUTLER is a writer, editor, and published author. She writes about “the kind of stuff no one talks about in Mom Group” on her blog. Her writing is also regularly featured on WellRoundedNY, MommyNearest.com and RZBeyondMom.com. You can follow this Brooklyn mama on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Read all of Alexis’ posts.