In 2013 when our headquarters was in South Pasadena, California we ventured out on city bikes for a basic loop around us. We didn’t have a plan or an ultimate destination in mind. We just rolled and stopped where we felt we should stop: breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour, dinner, home. Simple. We took our time, met people, interacted. There were no segments or sprints. We weren’t seeking out “gnar” climbs or bike shops. In the end, we really didn’t venture far from home. The radius was small, yet we felt like we covered significant ground. That’s Los Angeles! You can see a ton without riding a ton of miles. In reality, every city big or small is like this. Another truth is that you can only do that by bike: cover 27 miles casually, hit multiple places, see varying landscapes and neighborhoods. Naturally, times have changed since we did this ride. We all know the social environment we live in with Covid. Some of the people we have encountered may have moved on, and the places we visited have completely different ways of doing business, but the method of navigation remains. Let us know if you have visited the places we hit and how they are, seven years on. As well, get out on your bike, in your city, do a 20 mile loop, take pictures, tell us about it. While we have moved on from our first location this loop still remains.
Take the day off. There’s a whole world out there, which we generally miss every week on our lunch rides. More focused on getting in an hour-and-a-half of riding in at lunch, climbing our way back and forth between Strava segments, we rarely stop and talk, meet people or try new routes. That all changed when we set out on city bikes with six hours to kill and pulled off a 30-mile loop with plenty of stops (and cocktails) in between. We actually saw the invigorating, painted, conflicted, vibrant, sometimes crusty but always creative city of Los Angeles.
1) LA ABEJA
Julia and Rogelio Fonseca (above, right) have worked at La Abeja for decades. Named in honor of Rogelio’s mother Gloria, who chose the name Abeja or “bee” in memory of her backyard beehive in Mexico City—and the fact that bees “work like hell until they die.” Frequented by a variety of regulars from Mount Washington and Highland Park, La Abeja is famous for their simple, almost perfect Huevo’s Rancheros and Menudo. One customer drove up from San Diego every Sunday morning, parked her limousine outside, sent in the driver and picked up her weekly Menudo and then drove back to San Diego. The kitchen is run by Francisco Rodriguez and has been for a long time.
We ordered the sublime Huevos Rancheros and the Chorizo con Huevos Revueltos to fortify ourselves for the day. Both were excellent. Also try the Carne Adobada de Puerco—a pork dish marinated for a week and a half then grilled ($8), and the Chocolate Caliente.
POSTSCRIPT: This is the ideal spot to frequent during these crazy days. Not only are you getting great food but supporting a true gem of a small business. It’s been a while since we first visited Abeja but certain that the old school charm and service still exists.
More: Go here.
3700 N Figueroa St, LA, CA 90065
2) COCO’S VARIETY
“At this time, we sell neither pancakes nor parakeets.”
Owned by Peter Vermeren, Coco’s Variety is a thriving bike shop located directly between Silver Lake and Frog Town in a neighborhood Peter has renamed “Silver Frog.”
“Silver Lake won’t claim us,” Peter says as we ask about the Prada sign on the front of his shop. “Prada is known for experimental, minimalist art and it’s sort of a play on how when Starbucks came into neighborhoods in the ‘90s it immediately gentrified the area and property values went up. We decided to skip Starbucks and go straight to Prada.”
The shop was abandoned for years and began as a variety store until Peter bought a $15 Huffy step-through in root beer metallic, refurbished it and then sold it for $45. More visits to garage sales and more bikes started filling his space until “eventually the bikes took over.” And, Peter became a cyclist and spends his non-working hour riding cross, road and mountain bikes with employees Angel and John on the roads and trails around Coco’s Variety. “It all just evolved organically.” An amazingly organized and well-equipped 550-square-foot shop, Coco’s sells bikes under $500 and offers a variety of services. John fixed a flat, repaired a spoke, overhauled our Gates Drive system and had us back riding in a matter of minutes. We learned later that, Peter (above) is actually a nationally-known speaker and writer under the nom de plume of Mister Jalopy and created the “Makers Bill of Rights.” This is a must stop when you are in Los Angeles.
POSTSCRIPT: We’ve been a fan of Coco’s for a long time and Peter Instagram feed and words of wisdom are priceless.
2427 Riverside Dr, LA, CA 90039
3) GOLDEN ROAD BREWING
Things are definitely looking up on San Fernando road in Los Angeles. Located next to a recycling center, adjacent to the LA Zoo and basically on the LA river, Golden Road Brewing was started in 2011 by Tony Yanow and Meg Gill to give Los Angeles “a craft brewing tradition to match its personality.” A brewery and restaurant sit adjacent to each other in brightly painted corrugated metal buildings, offering up a slew of great food and award-winning beer. Point The Way IPA is their most famous offering (our choice for the day), but they offer a variety of “Anytime Beers,” custom IPAs and limited releases. We sampled both the Point The Way IPA and their Golden Road Hefeweizen, as well as their Bavarian Style pretzel ($7) and Papas Brava ($6), a vegan dish of roasted new potatoes, “chorizo” and vegan ricotta cheese. We could have stayed their all day and plan to next time. Not long ago it was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev, which gives Golden Road more reach but for some diehard G-Road OG’s leaves a sour taste in their mouth.
5410 W San Fernando Rd, LA, CA 90039
4) THE YORK ON YORK
Smack-dab in the revitalized area of Highland Park (the neighborhood in Reservoir Dogs), the York is a brick-walled gastropub that is a comfortable spot for a quick pit stop or a family meal. Just a few doors down from the bike-friendly Café de Leche, so there is plenty of bike parking for cyclists and college students from nearby Occidental College. Try their Truffle Grilled Cheese with Tomato Salad ($10) or the Beer-Battered Fish and Chips ($14) or the Sriracha Wings ($10). Follow it up with the Pasadena-brewed Craftsman 1903 Ale. In today’s Covid environment, don’t just assume they are open.
POSTSCRIPT: It’s probably wise to ride by or better yet make a call… Remember how to use the phone? Fifteen years ago York Boulevard wasn’t what it is today. It’s way more “refined” but still has enough edge to it to make it a great street to frequent.
5018 York Blvd, LA, CA 90042
5) 1886 AT THE RAYMOND
We picked the Raymond as our last stop on our adventure. The original Raymond Hotel in Pasadena was built in 1886 and was a popular destination for Easterners looking to escape from winter and experience warm California weather. Rebuilt after a fire in 1895, the new 300-room Raymond was a famous getaway for Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton while filming in Hollywood in the 1920s. The hotel shut down in 1931, but the caretaker’s cottage remains today as the Raymond Restaurant and the newly-designed Bar 1886, which offers a huge selection of signature cocktails and a creative menu.
POSTSCRIPT: No doubt this is a legendary place that has a rich history. The food is great as are the drinks. Naturally, the way both are served is different in today’s environment but still worth considering. We suggest riding your bike there as parking can be tricky at times.
250 S. Fair Oaks Ave,
Pasadena, CA 91105