Hidden Gems in Mid City Los Angeles

Image of Short Stories Hotel exterior sign

The Mid City area of LA offers a treasure trove of art, culture, shopping, and dining. Like a microcosm of multicultural Los Angeles itself, there are pockets and enclaves here that each contribute an eclectic patchwork of sights, sounds, flavors, and experiences. And while there's no shortage of prominent museums, shops, and restaurants in Mid City, there are also intriguing, lesser-known aspects of this side of town. We explore some, below.

Primary image for Brain Dead Studios

Brain Dead Studios

Even Mid City locals may be unfamiliar with Brain Dead Studios. The building, a cozy Art Deco theatre, originally known as Silent Movie Theater dates back to 1942. Since 2020, Brain Dead Studios, a subsidary of the Brain Dead street wear brand, has resurrected the theater, programming cult cinema series and special events. There's an outdoor café specializing in Asian cuisine, a curated upstairs bookstore, and a green room.

Craft Contemporary

Craft Contemporary

Debunking stereotypes surrounding craft and folk art, Craft Contemporary reveals the potential of these creative traditions to educate, captivate, provoke, and empower. The museum derives its name from its focus on contemporary art made from craft media and processes. Marking its 50th anniversary this year, it showcases a diverse and rotating body of work of both established and emerging artists, making contemporary craft accessible to people of all ages through not only static gallery exhibitions, but also hands-on interactive workshops and an imaginative line-up of educational programs. Be sure to check Craft Contemporary’s calendar for current installations, fundraisers and upcoming workshops.

The Ebell of Los Angeles

The Ebell of Los Angeles

Founded in 1894, The Ebell of Los Angeles is a women’s club that supports numerous non-profits and scholarships. It hosts regular special events, concerts, dinners, and community forums in its historic clubhouse and at the nearby Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Inspired by Dr. Adrian Ebell, a pioneer in women’s education, the club’s original mission was “to interest women in the study of all branches of literature, art and science and the advancement of women in every branch of culture.” Amelia Earhart made her last public appearance at the Wilshire Ebell, which was also where Judy Garland was discovered. The 1,200-seat theatre’s contemporary calendar reflects local ethnic diversity, including performances in Korean, Persian, and Russian.



This cozy bar and taqueria boasts one of the best tequila selections anywhere in L.A. El Carmen also serves up freshly fried and completely addictive chips with atypically nuanced salsa and guacamole in an alluringly red-hued, campy and narrow space that’s often used in movie shoots. Their satiating menu of tacos, shared plates, and combination meals is dwarfed by a vast selection of wines, mezcals , and liquors including a super-spendy “reserve” selection. Pop in on their weekday happy hour, 5-7 p.m., for strong margaritas and bargain small bites. Looking to sample tequilas? Try El Carmen’s tequila flights, comprising a trio chosen by expert bartenders.

Burger at The Golden State | Photo by Esther Tseng

Cofax Coffee Shop

Opened in 2008, the Golden State became a beloved neighborhood burger and craft beer destination. It spawned a mini empire for its owners – who subsequently opened Cofax Coffee shop, also on Fairfax Avenue, and the Prime Pizza chain. While the original location succumbed to the pandemic in early 2021, an outpouring of love from customers prompted an at least limited return inside the aforementioned Cofax, where Golden State has retained much of its menu of popular burgers, burritos, and sides (but no beer) while seeking a more permanent location. 

Photo courtesy of Haifa

Haifa Restaurant

For reliably delicious Mediterranean fare in the Pico-Robertson corridor, look no further than Haifa. Also popular with locals for its delivery feasts, this petite and unpretentious eatery offers reasonably priced, evocative regional specialties including hummus, tabouli salad, falafel, shawarma, shish kebab, baba ghanoush, stuffed chicken, and more. Since 1979, Haifa has served an Israeli-accented menu in its bright and open dining room, including mouthwatering desserts and exotic beverages like Turkish coffee and mint tea. Using authentic traditional recipes with a focus on vibrant flavors, this prime Pico pick also offers an unhurried environment typical of restaurants in Mediterranean countries, but a rarity to be treasured here in frantic L.A.

Malese Jow and Austin Charles at The Mint | Photo courtesy of Justin Higuchi, Flickr
Malese Jow and Austin Charles at The Mint | Photo courtesy of Justin Higuchi, Flickr

The Mint

The Mint is an often overlooked music venue that’s been showcasing up-and-coming acts, mostly on the mellower side of the popular spectrum (soul, folk, singer-songwriters, and occasional jazz), since 1937. That kind of staying power in a famously fickle live music market requires something really special, which this intimate, retro-flecked space with an almost dinner theater vibe delivers in spades. With its diverse calendar of performers, comprehensive and affordable (by L.A. standards) bar, and a concert-themed menu usually served ‘til midnight, with reservations available, The Mint makes a civilized spot to enjoy live music and a meal free of mosh-pits, beer-soaked floors, and obstructed sight lines.

Anne Frank exhibit | Photo courtesy of Museum of Tolerance, Facebook

Museum of Tolerance

Opened in 1993, the Museum of Tolerance is a revolutionary collection of interactive exhibits across various media, intended to confront how we think and act towards others, challenging our most closely held assumptions, and inspiring us to assume responsibility for change. This unique facility is dedicated to educating the public about the Holocaust both in its historical and current contexts and examining all forms of prejudice and discrimination in our contemporary world. The museum recently expanded its hours with current exhibits including Anne, on the extraordinary life and legacy of Anne Frank; and Social Lab, in which visitors focus on the major issues of intolerance in our daily lives.

Jr. Suite

Short Stories Hotel

Opened last year across from The Grove, the 66-room boutique Short Stories Hotel is a casual-chic reimagining in the heart of an eminently walkable neighborhood. Just a stroll from some of the best shopping, dining, and museums that L.A. has to offer, including The Original Farmers Market, it draws inspiration from the city’s breezy natural aesthetic. Gone is the concrete of the 1962 structure’s earlier incarnations, replaced with softening natural stone and well-chosen woods. One of the few hotels in L.A. where out-of-towners needn’t rent a car or rely on ride shares to get a real taste of their surroundings, Short Stories is only on its opening chapter.

Top Round Roast Beef | Photo by Esther Tseng

Top Round Roast Beef

This landmark orange and white stand at La Brea and Olympic, shaded by an enormous (unrelated) billboard, serves up among the most delectable roast beef sandwiches in Los Angeles. Choose from a variety of juicy beef-packed buns, with or without their special horseradish cream or homemade cheese “wizz,” and be transported to a happy place within bites. There’s also what some say is the best crispy chicken sandwich in town, plus a variety of signature curly fries. Round-out your Top Round selection with your choice of shake, then finish off with a “Concrete” frozen custard. Then go nap!

Versailles on La Cienega | Photo courtesy of puregroove:dot:org, Flickr

Versailles - LA

Actress Dame Helen Mirren once described her ideal L.A. weekend as going to the beach then having dinner at Versailles Cuban Restaurant. This three-strong chain first opened in nearby Culver City in 1981, helmed by father-and-son team Orlando and William Garcia. It has since become a staple in an otherwise constantly shifting L.A. cuisine scene, where huge portions of authentic Cuban fare retain loyal regulars while constantly converting Versailles first-timers. The Versailles Famous Garlic Chicken is no idle boast, remaining its most popular dish alongside the transporting likes of Macitas de Puerco Fritas (fried pork chunks), Rabo Encendido (oxtail stew), and black beans with white rice.