Melrose Ave.


Seeing Stars: Where the Stars Shop

(between Highland Avenue and San Vicente Blvd)

Melrose Avenue is not what it used to be.

Not long ago, Melrose was one of the unique sections of the city which helped define the L.A. experience.  It was a funky, New Wave, walking/shopping/dining/ people-watching area which was, in turn, both bizarre and delightful.

Melrose was to the young, cutting-edge trendies of the West Side what Rodeo Drive was to their affluent elders, and what the Venice boardwalk was to L.A.'s residual 60's counterculture: a place to shop, a place to stroll outdoors, but most of all, it's a place to see and be seen.

But, alas, Melrose has changed a lot over the last decade or so, and much of that funky, freaky ambiance has disappeared, along with many of the more interesting storefronts.

Unique shops such as Have a Nice Day, Cadillac Jack's, Off the Wall, Red Balls, The Wound & Wound Toy Company, Atomic Garage, Hollywood Neon, Time After Time, and Fantasies Come True have all disappeared.

So have most of the colorful names such as "A Star is Worn," "Humphrey Yogurt Cafe," "Warbabies," "Some Crust: the Bakery," "Retail Slut" and "Wacko". 

Some relocated: Wacko is now on Hollywood Blvd, while Humphrey Yogurt Cafe, moved to the Valley.

Others, such as
Wound & Wound Toy Company and Fantasies Come True moved strictly to the Internet.

Perhaps it was the recession.  There are a lot of empty storefronts now along Melrose, along with a few too many smoke shops and tattoo parlors.

While Melrose remains one of the few genuine pedestrian neighborhoods in our City of Angels, it has become a far more traditional environment.  And most of its remaining notable shops are clothing stores. Good clothing stores, granted - quite a few of them cutting edge.  But much of the quirky, slightly-demented personality of Melrose seems to have evaporated.  Even an old landmark, a fast food stand called "The Burger That Ate L.A." was long ago replaced by a Starbucks.

What was once a neighborhood trying desperately to be hip and outlandish, and succeeding wonderfully; a garish blur of day-glo and neon, of pierced noses and red Ferraris; featuring row after row of eccentric, trendy little boutiques with gaudy storefronts done up in florescent colors - has become a much simpler, less colorful place. 

But like any major L.A. street, Melrose still has a lot to offer: comedy clubs, night spots, lots of boutiques, and a few key restaurants - but its center has shifted farther west, towards the Pacific Design Center, and its focus has become far more traditional in recent years.

Here are a few of the places on Melrose that are still worth a visit, starting with those east of Fairfax:

(Odd-numbered addresses are on the north side of Melrose; even-numbered addresses are on the south side of the street.)

  • Osteria Mozza - (6602 Melrose, at the southwest corner of Melrose and Highland); one of the best-reviewed Italian restaurants in Los Angeles. (323) 297-0100.
  • The Golden Apple - (7018 Melrose, between Spaulding & Genesee) is still around; back in the day, superstar Michael Jackson was spotted buying comic books here. (323) 658-6047.

  • Necromance - (7220 Melrose, between Alta Vista & Formosa) - A rather macabre little shop offering a unique gift collection of animal skeletons, insects, bat-shaped beads, coffin-shaped wallets, human teeth, alligator feet, and skulls... lots of skulls.
  • Smoke Oil Salt - A new entry on the restaurant scene, getting very good reviews, this Spanish restaurant scores high points for its authentic paella on Sundays. (7274 Melrose, three blocks west of La Brea); a. (323) 930-7900.
  • The Groundling Theatre - (7307 Melrose, four blocks west of La Brea); an improvisational comedy group, which gave many comics their start, including Pee Wee Herman, Phil Hartman and Elvira. (323) 934-9700.
  • Wasteland - (7428 Melrose, at Sierra Bonita); vintage (often camp) clothing from 1940's to the present. (323) 653-3028.

  • Snake Pit Alehouse - (7429 Melrose, at Sierra Bonita); The name alone deserves a mention for its old-Melrose vibe - a corner bar, a somewhat trendy dive with a good jukebox and a young crowd. (323) 653-2011. 
  • The original Johnny Rockets burger joint - (7507 Melrose, between Gardner & Sierra Bonita) sits at the northwest corner of Garner and Melrose. (323) 651-3361.  
  • Puzzle Zoo - (7547 Melrose, at Sierra Bonita Ave), an eclectic toy store with board games, puzzles, Star Wars figures and wind-up toys. (323) 782-1020.

  • Creatures of Comfort - (7971 Melrose, at ?); Quirky designer clothes at high prices. (323) 655-7855.

    That main strip of the once-wild Melrose was mainly east of Fairfax Avenue.

    The western stretch of Melrose Avenue, west of Fairfax,  is more sedate, more notable for its interior design shops, restaurants and antique stores than for outlandish storefronts.

    At the west end of Melrose, near the Pacific Design Center you'll find almost exclusively furniture and interior design shops.  Nearby is the Beverly Center Mall, just a few blocks south of Melrose, on La Cienega.

    Here are some Melrose spots west of Fairfax:

    • Fred Segal - (8100 Melrose, at Crescent Heights, four blocks west of Fairfax); a collection of trendy shops which take up an entire block, selling everything from sportswear to great toll house cookies.  More stars than you can shake a stick at. (323) 651-1935. (See separate page.)

    • Madison - (8115 Melrose, west of Crescent Heights); original flagship store of popular L.A. chain. Lots of designers' clothing under one roof, at lower prices than you might think. (323) 651-3662.
    • The Improv - (8162 Melrose, at Kilkea Drive, five blocks west of Fairfax); the Improv, a major comedy club. (323) 651-2583. (See separate page.)

    • Red O - (8155 Melrose, across from the Improv); Upscale, somewhat pricey Mexican cuisine, served in an impressive setting. (323) 655-5009

    • Decades Inc. - (8214 Melrose, between Harper & La Jolla); consignment designer clothing downstairs, vintage upstairs.  Ring the doorbell. (323) 655-1960.

    • Resurrection - (8253 Melrose, at Harper); vintage designer clothing, with a celeb following.
      (323) 651-5516.
    • Sweet Lady Jane - (8360 Melrose, at Orlando, three blocks east of La Cienega); beautiful desserts and coffee. A favorite of celebs. (323) 653-7145.

    • Ink. - (8360 Melrose, at King's Road); one of the better restaurants on Melrose.  Innovative cuisine from "Top Chef" winner Michael Voltaggio. (323) 651-5866.

    • TenOverSix - (8425 Melrose, at Croft Ave); mostly funky accessories (purses, jewelry), but also some designer clothes. Low prices for this street.  (323) 330-9355.

    • Kelly Wearstler - (8440 Melrose, at #000000">); interior designer (and Playboy Playmate) who branched into clothing, offers both here - at a price. (323) 895-7880.
    • Ago - (8478 Melrose, one half block east of La Cienega); Ago restaurant, which includes Robert De Niro as an investor, was the scene of an infamous encounter on Oct. 22, 1997 between "Pulp Fiction" director Quentin Tarantino and producer Don Murphy ("Natural Born Killers"). According to news reports, Tarantino, angered at criticism about him in the book, "Killer Instinct" (which was written by Murphy's producing partner), attacked Murphy in the restaurant. The police were called and Tarantino spent some time in the back of a squad car before a truce was negotiated and he was released. Murphy later sued Tarantino for the assault. (323) 655-6333. (See separate page.)

    • Crystalarium - (8500 Melrose, just west of La Cienega); a colorful rock & gem shop which has had their jewels featured in Hollywood movies like George Clooney's "Out of Sight" and Jim Carrey's "Man on the Moon". (310) 652-8006.

    • The Pacific Design Center (8687 Melrose, at San Vicente); a West Hollywood landmark, nicknamed "The Blue Whale" (for obvious reasons) its three enormous, modern glass buildings - (the original "blue center", the newer "green center", and the most recent "red center") house what amounts to a private mall for interior decorators. You can go inside and look at the furnishings and art, in the more than 200 showrooms, but they only sell to professional designers (except for a special once-a-year public sale).

    (Be warned: Shops open and close here every day on Melrose, so some or all of the places listed above could be gone by the time you read this.)

    An offbranch of Melrose Avenue is called Melrose Place (yes, just like the TV show), a three-block long street that contains numerous fine antique stores.  It lies to the north of western Melrose Avenue, between Orlando Avenue (on the east) and La Cienega Boulevard (on the west).

    Getting there: Melrose Avenue is an east-west street located about a mile and a quarter south of Hollywood Boulevard, and about a mile and a half north of Wilshire Boulevard. The most interesting stretch of Melrose lies between Highland Avenue (on the east) and La Cienega Boulevard (on the west), centered around Gardener, but the trendy area keeps expanding to the east. / From Hollywood & Vine, take Vine Street south (about a mile and a quarter) to Melrose Avenue, and turn right (west). Drive another mile west on Melrose to its main shopping district. / From Farmers Market, drive north on Fairfax Avenue (less than one mile) to Melrose Avenue, and turn right (east). / From the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, take the Highland exit from the Santa Monica Freeway, and go north to Melrose Avenue. Turn left (west) on Melrose.

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