During the fog-entrenched days of July and August, I kind of—to my own surprise as a diehard adopted San Franciscan—fell in love with L.A. (I know, right?!) Its funky neighborhoods, its huge sprawling diversity, even its smog-tinged sky framing those impossibly tall, thin palm trees all beckoned me southward more weekend than one.
The first two weeks of October are an ideal time to visit because the city’s DineLA promotion is offering three-course meals at more than 300 participating restaurants at bargain prices, Oct. 3–8 and 10–15: $16, $22, or $28 for lunch; and $26, $34, or $44 for dinner. A dozen hotels are offering special rates to go along with the DineLA promotion; I went down to scope it out last weekend (hey, someone’s got to do the heavy lifting around here), and brought back three itinerary ideas:
1. If you want to go big, stay at the fabulous Four Seasons Beverly Hills, where a simple drink in the bar is an occasion for celeb spotting. Rates start at $445, but that includes the picture-perfect fourth-floor outdoor pool and Lindsay Lohan lunch sightings. Dinner at Culina (for a mere $44) is a highlight; chef Victor Casanova, a baby-faced, down-to-earth Bronx native, turns out seriously excellent, classic Italian food and has all of L.A. talking about his crudo bar. Culina’s not just a hotel restaurant; the entire neighborhood seems to show up in the evenings to grace the outdoor patio while plowing through corn-mascarpone ravioli in sage-brown butter.
2. Not far away on La Cienaga, you can stay at the SLS Hotel starting at $329 a night, which includes a 20 percent discount at its spa, Ciel. On the ground floor is The Bazaar by Jose Andrés, an “indoor piazza” where you can move from room to room as you eat and drink. Also part of the DineLA promotion, it’s unlike anyplace you’ve eaten before. Favorites on the tapas menu include “Philly cheesesteak”—a cheesy puff of bread filled with cheddar and decorated with a thin sheath of Wagyu beef. And since you're mere blocks away, make sure to lunch at The Counter, the wildly popular, design-your-own-burger chain that was born in L.A.
3. If you want to stay downtown, check out the new JW Marriott in the L.A. Live complex that includes the Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, and all the shopping you can handle. Rooms here astart at $369, which includes dinner for two and breakfast for two at chef Kerry Simon’s “California fresh” LA Market; plus two glasses of wine and an appetizer at its lobby wine bar, Glance. When you factor all that in, the room here is downright cheap. And the emerging downtown L.A. restaurant scene is all around you: from the classic Italian-plus-cocktail-scene Drago Centro to the retro-fabulous First & Hope supperclub.
Flights from SFO to LAX this coming weekend look to be hovering around $109; for next weekend (Oct. 8–10), it’s about $129. What are you waiting for?
Photo: Culina's corn ravioli, courtesy of Four Seasons Beverly Hills