Art by James Curran.

From Memorable Meals to Unforgettable Films, Our Favorites of 2019

Last updated:

The Los Angeleno staff weighs in on year-end favorites including Little Tokyo eats, RuPaul sightings, Monterey Park discoveries, a concert at the Echo and more.

Lauren Arevalo-Downes, Co-founder and CEO 

Favorite local album: “Bird Songs of a Killjoy” by Bedouine was my favorite local album of the year, with gorgeous folksy tunes. Although Azniv Korkejian isn’t originally from L.A., it’s clear in listening to this album that her influences are Laurel Canyon stalwarts like The Byrds and Judee Sill, only the geography has shifted eastward to Echo Park.

Favorite movie: Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” but now I’ll say “Marriage Story.” Scarlett Johansson’s character is an L.A. native and the depiction of her home turf, while through the very manicured lens of privilege, isn’t contrived. Ace acting, especially from Laura Dern.

Favorite meal: Every favorite meal I’ve had this year has taken place at Otoño, because much of the meal is spent in blissed-out silence with my dinner mates relishing whatever dish we just had. And the bar is just great for casual hangs over an Estrella or vermút. I was lucky to live around the corner from it much of this year.

Favorite L.A. moment: There was one particular day of uncharacteristic and exciting “sightings” for me. At a lunch with Lakin, our COO, we ate next to RuPaul, who was lunching alone quietly. Later on that same day in Malibu, I saw a young great white shark close to shore, which bobbed along in the dark looking like driftwood almost until we saw a large gleaming eye and a long and wide white belly.

Sophia Kercher, Editorial Director

Favorite local album: I’ve listened to the loungey “Jungle Flowers” EP by Healing Gems countless times this year. I was introduced to the local tiki band when they performed at one of Los Angeleno’s Creative Ritual events and I haven’t stopped listening to them since. The tropical-tinged tunes are perfect happy hour (or dinner) music that can wash away any post-traffic blues.

Favorite movie: It’s impossible to not feel some kind of connection to Korea while living in Los Angeles. After all, L.A. County has the highest Korean population in the country. I suspect this is one of the reasons why I loved “Parasite” so much. The other reasons are that I was expecting the thriller to be scary but instead ended up half on the edge of my seat and half laughing at the film’s critique of capitalism. Director Bong Joon-ho’s depiction of the division between the wealthy and the working class especially hit home because it’s something we experience daily as Angelenos. (Honorable mention: “Homecoming: A film by Beyonce” on Netflix — I’ll take any excuse to relive the big cultural Beychella moment.)

Favorite meal: I’ve fallen back in love with downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo this year, thanks in part to fun and thoughtful event programming organized by the community-led Go Little Tokyo. One recent discovery was the newly opened Chinchikurin on 1st Street, which offers street-style Japanese food. While a lot of regulars line up for the sizzling fried squid balls — or takoyaki, I fell hard one night for the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki,  which is admittedly the perfect drunk food. The dish is stacked with grilled noodles, meat, eggs, cabbage, bean sprouts, maybe some cheese and a sprinkling of tempura along with at least five other items. It’s like a raucous one-man band in one delectable slice. Best of all? You devour it with a little spatula that makes it easy for sharing.

Favorite L.A. moment: In late summer, one of my favorite artists Chelsea Wolfe, who like me is from Sacramento, played a bewitching, semi-secret show at The Virgil before the release of her new goth-folk album “Birth of Violence.” I often find myself thinking how lucky I was to be there that night. Her lyrics “I cannot stop/ I want to be all things” is my rallying cry for 2020.

Daiana Feuer, Events Editor

Favorite album: Don’t know about you but I’m always in a low-key existential crisis. I recall watching a video of Weyes Blood performing “Something to Believe” from her new album “Titanic Rising” at a Pitchfork event back in March. In that song, she echoed a lot of the confusion and sense of searching that I was filled with at the time and I found myself getting teary-eyed feeling the feels. I dug right into the album. She’s like a modern Linda Ronstadt in the way she can put her heart into these melancholic songs full of longing that build ultimately to a crescendo of hope — not a blindly idealistic hope, but the kind of wistful yearning that pairs well with whiskey.

Favorite movie: I tend to watch more movies at home with my dog than at a theater, so there’s a few blockbusters I won’t experience until I see them on a plane ride. As for movies from Netflix or HBO, I thought of “Always Be My Maybe,” because it was a sweet addition to the rom-com canon and Keanu Reeves as Keanu Reeves is too funny. Then I thought of “Abducted in Plain Sight,” a documentary that shook me for days because reality is so much more insane than fiction. Which leads me to “Leaving Neverland,” the Michael Jackson documentary. To call it my favorite would be weird, but I can certainly say that this multi-part movie was the most disturbingly memorable nostalgia-crushing experience I’ve had this whole decade, or ever.

Favorite meal: My most cherished dining adventures tend to occur in strip-mall restaurants that I just happen upon. One such experience took place at Northern Cafe in Monterey Park. It’s a simple, no-frills place with an open kitchen where you can get hypnotized watching the chefs swiftly hand-pull yards upon yards of noodles before your very eyes. We ate pan-fried dumplings that stay connected by a crispy lattice that gets me drooling just thinking about it. Then, we got into some perfect noodles swimming around in flavorful comforting soup that I now always turn to for hangovers. There are so many wonderful places to eat in this city where you can feel like you’re in another country for about an hour.

Favorite L.A. moment: In October, I hosted the sixth edition of Murder Ballads & Dark Songs at the Echo, a tribute show where bands perform the darkest, bloodiest songs of all time. It had been a few years since the last one, but with the support of Los Angeleno, we revived the tradition. The very first Murder Ballads night was in 2010. It was the first event I put on as The New L.A. Folk Festival, which was conceived with my friend James Cartwright, and it led to a lot of fun and crazy times where we hosted a festival on stages shared with alpacas. That’s another story. Doing it again made me reflect on the whole decade and some pretty cool things I managed to pull off with a lot of imagination and duct tape. Watching bands from the early days and new acts all come together blew my mind once again, as it always does, because there are so many amazingly talented people in this town.

Tony Pierce, Editor-at-Large

Favorite album: “Norman Fucking Rockwell” by Lana Del Rey. Like me, Lana is a transplant who can’t get enough of L.A. Unlike me, she makes the dreamiest, sweetest melodies that drift above and around and in and out like weed smoke wafting from an apartment across the street. But what do I know, as Lana croons I’m “just a man, all through and through.” A bonus reason I love this record, when I ask Siri to play it she says, “Sure, now playing ‘Norman [BLEEEP] Rockwell’ by Lana Del Rey.”

Favorite movie: Although I really loved “Booksmart,” “Long Shot” and “Joker,” the film that stuck with me the longest was the documentary about the little-known music executive Clarence Avant, “The Black Godfather.” A high school dropout, the doc shows his unbelievable rise in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, from being an artist manager to label executive to music publisher to activist. All the while he was a star-maker, advisor and no-nonsense negotiator who touched the lives of not just a ridiculously long list of musicians but also icons like Hank Aaron, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. It not only shows the power of will, wisdom and creativity but also what magic can happen in Los Angeles.

Favorite meal: My favorite meal was at the Crenshaw and Slauson Popeyes when I was interviewing employees of Hollywood and South L.A. about their experience during the Great Chicken Sandwich War. While talking with one store manager near USC, she told me that the long sold out spicy chicken sandwich had appeared a few miles away. Surely they had sold out of it, I assumed and finished my interview with her and took my time heading south. While interviewing the managers there, I asked sheepishly if the rumor was true, did they have the sought-after sandwich? They said, yes, they had a few. Would I like one? Why yes, yes I would. Maybe they treated it differently because I was a reporter, or maybe it was because it was an almost mythical dish at this point since it had been weeks and weeks since it had been available, but it literally melted in my mouth.

Favorite L.A. Moment: Again, on assignment, I was in South L.A. talking with people there about the impeachment of Donald Trump. One reason I love journalism is you never know what people will say to you when you ask them questions. When I ventured to Inglewood, I met an African-American security guard there from Compton, an older man who could be a grandfather. I asked him what he thought about the impeachment which was just starting to gain momentum. “As far as I’m concerned, I think the man has done a pretty good job,” the gentleman said, but later added that he doesn’t talk politics at home because he doesn’t like to disagree with his girlfriend. It proved that even though we in L.A. are written off as bleeding-heart elitists, our diversity here in multiple ways is so unpredictable.

Los Angeleno