Los Angeles is so big you could go forever and a day without crossing the city, even when you live here. That’s why I make a point to travel my town by spending a few nights each month exploring different neighborhoods and recently I headed to Downtown Los Angeles. With everything from the just-opened Broad Museum to gorgeous Grand Park and the food mecca that is Grand Central Market you could easily spend a whole week exploring.
If you visit me, know that a food crawl of Downtown LA will most surely happen, and—with vibrant colors, lots of action, and all sorts of settings—it’s also the perfect place to capture photos. I usually shoot with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II but, with lens mounted, it can be a little on the heavier side. That said, I’m partial to taking a photo on a camera over a smartphone because I have just have more control. A few weeks ago, the team at Canon lent me their latest EOS Rebel T6i DSLR camera along with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. It's lightweight but still heavy hitting enough to take quality photos and pretty much solved all my on-the-go photo problems.
So, here’s how to do a food crawl of Downtown LA with some of the best places right now, including where to go, what to eat, and tips for capturing it all.
If you’re going to see this food crawl through, icaffeine is the key so start at Chinatown coffee bar, Endorffeine. Coined by locals as the “Walter White” of coffee, Jack’s background in biochemistry means he’s beyond meticulous (personally making each and every drink) and the result is exceptional coffee drinks. You could go for excellent classic espresso, but the signature drinks are the Pandan Vanilla Latte and the Palm Sugar Whiskey Latte.
Photo Tip: The camera’s Wi-Fi functionality meant I was able to shoot these photos and load them to my smartphone (and share them on social) within seconds of snapping.
A James Beard Award, a Michelin star, a cookbook, and 8 restaurants later, I probably don’t need to explain why you should stop by Pok Pok. Their newest location in Downtown LA’s Chinatown is a few blocks from their noodle spot, Pok Pok Phat Thai, and is a perfect spot to start a night of noshing. The only problem is that you’ll have to exercise restraint if you want to make it through a full night of food touring. So I'd say an order of the fried red peanuts, a batch of shrimp chips, some spicy fish sauce wings, and a cocktail is the way to go but it’s hard to go wrong here.
Photo Tip: Fluorescent light and food normally mean photo disasters, but I used the Special Scene Food setting which helped make the food colors pop.
There are a lot of reasons to visit Grand Central Market: the century-old food market was recently revamped and has everything from a high-end butcher to long-standing taco stands. If you haven’t been, give yourself a few hours to try everything from the cheese counter and ice cream to some of the best modern Thai food in LA (along with Pok Pok, of course). But, when it’s happy hour, head to The Oyster Gourmet. It’s just oysters and wine (okay, there’s also some poke and seaweed salads) but it’s always excellent. Owner Christophe is a master ecallier (as in an oyster master) and will educate you on the exact conditions your oysters were harvested in and why they’re so unique. A half dozen oysters and a glass of bubbles and your happy hour will be on point.
Photo Tip: The close-up or macro setting allowed me to grab a detailed photo of the oyster while helping blur the background.
As a native Angeleno, I love our awesome sunsets and downtown LA has plenty of rooftops for sunset viewing. Upstairs Bar at Ace Hotel is my current favorite place for sunset and the setting—great people, awesome views, and well-made seasonal cocktails—can’t be beat.
Photo Tip: The Special Scene mode has a ton of useful settings for low light and nighttime shooting. To capture photos at sunset, I used the HDR Backlight Control to get the most even light in the photo.
Downtown LA’s Old Bank District is filled with great bars and restaurants but one I go to time and time again is Bäco Mercat. On a food crawl it’s a prime stop because they have small plates so you can grab a few bites without committing to a whole meal. It’s also where I go for custom-made cocktail because the bartenders always come up with something interesting like, on my recent trip, this twist on an Aperol Spritz made with Amaro Nonino.
Photo Tip: The Canon Camera Connect App has a function that allows you to remote capture photos from your phone, which is helpful for keeping a low profile and getting action shots in low light.
Chef Matt Molina made his name at Mozza, the local pizza mecca, but recently switched gears by opening up this small bites bar tucked away in Downtown LA’s Arts District. Nothing more than a door marked “Bar” indicates the location so you’re going to want to use your maps app to find it. They serve food until 1AM and are open until 2AM so it’s a great place to end your night.
Photo Tip: Nothing makes you stick out faster than photographing with a flash. This camera has great high ISO performance, which means you'll be able to shoot in low light and still get great photos.
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