The event planners behind QueenVee Entertainment throw themed bashes that immerse partygoers in elaborate experiences. Founded by CEO Joanna Vargas—a producer, dancer, and choreographer who started her career by staging events such as The King of Pop, a dance-tribute show to Michael Jackson—QueenVee has staged past events such as Phenomena, a mash-up of a dance showcase and a fashion show that benefited Dance for Peace Charity. Ongoing events include booze cruises aboard a three-story Grand Romance cruise ship in the style of a 19th-century steamboat, complete with an open-air top deck and a team of acrobatic Mark Twain impersonators. Further amenities entertain the up to 320 passengers, including two full-service bars, a professional DJ playing over a large dance floor, and a professional photographer who posts images on Facebook. Raffle and door prizes reward attendees with keepsakes, and tables and booths offer respite from the dance floor and a private place to run Y2K safety drills.
In 1981, siblings Enrique and Alicia Ramirez opened a small street-side taco stand and began to re-create the dishes of their childhood. The duo grew up in Los Angeles, although their family’s roots were in Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Everything was always made from scratch in the Ramirez household, including tortillas, salsas, beans, and ornamental doilies, so Enrique and Alicia made sure to uphold these DIY traditions at their eatery, Señor Fish.
In the last three decades, Señor Fish has expanded to include seven popular locations throughout LA, each earning regular praise from local media. Yet the siblings are still just as involved in the restaurants' daily operations, captaining kitchen crews as they fold freshly caught seafood into burritos, tacos, and ceviches.
Housed in the Little Tokyo branch of Señor Fish, La Cantina Tequila & Botanas Bar is the restaurant's lounge counterpart, with an extensive selection of premium tequilas and mezcals that complements small plates of tacos, tostadas, and taquitos. Guests linger over sips of Mexican beers on the spacious back patio, which twinkles beneath colorful strings of hanging lights. The cantina also regularly hosts a tequila class in which renowned mixologist David Fleisher leads students through tequila tastings, margarita recipes, and the creation of tequila-based sauces. Other nights, the bar opens its patio to DJed festivities, DJed dance parties, and DJed quilting races.
Don and Rick Wood, owners of Cooks Collision, can trace their auto-repair roots back to the 1930s. Their grandfather, Clyde, built cars for Ford Motor Company and later started his own body shop, where he passed his knowledge on to his son, Bob. After working as a body-shop manager for Saltnes Volkswagen, Bob took out a mortgage against his family home and purchased Cooks Auto Body, fulfilling his dream of starting his own shop—just like his dad. Today, Don and Rick carry on the family legacy with more than 30 locations, dozens of employees, and one magical vintage racecar. Their ASE-certified mechanics are factory-certified by Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Jaguar, and Volvo, and they repair around 30,000 cars each year.
Chefs at Dog Haus's three locations fuse German culinary tradition with Southern Californian flavors and ingredients. Seven types of sausage, such as skinless beef dogs and gourmet bratwursts, as well as burgers, lay sandwiched between pieces of King's hawaiian bread, which wraps contents in the sweet warmth of a quilted scuba suit. Beneath clouds of aromatic steam, bundles sport predetermined fixings or don some of 32 inventive toppings, which include egg, chili, and avocado. German and Californian craft brews flow from taps in sudsy cascades as 80's rock provides a soundtrack during meals. Dog Haus's staff also travels to sate distant appetites with catering services.
Hot wings, New York-style pizza, and Philly steak sandwiches may be the signature foods of the east coast, but it's hard to imagine any restaurant treating them with more reverence than west-coast franchise Alondra Hot Wings. The eponymous wings are the house specialty, hot and slathered in one of 18 sauces. Ranked on a scale from mild to atomic—which requires a waiver to order—the sauces also include flavors such as lemon pepper, spicy barbecue, maple syrup, and thai chili.
Alondra's other major influence is written all over the menu—and the walls. Mug shots of famous mafiosi hang throughout the dining room, and the owners are so fascinated by the subject that their website even offers tutorials in mob history. Also from that old Italian-American milieu: pizzas built on from-scratch dough, bearing names such as The Godfather—a hearty amalgam of four meats—and the Little Italy, which flecks chicken breast with basil. Draft beer and wine help mouths cool down after biting into a hot wing or almost insulting the ghost of Al Capone.
At The Grids, the foundation of the whole menu is a crisp, airy waffle. But the mildly sweet staple is rarely ordered by itself, as the chefs use the crispy discs to bookend an array of savory sandwiches and sweet breakfast piles. They create handheld riffs on traditional recipes, such as the chicken and waffles, alongside more decadent creations stuffed with pork belly, shoestring onions, and sweet apple barbecue sauce. Even their sweet breakfast plates have a touch of the fanciful to them. After dusting waffles with a light coating of powdered sugar, they then add sweet and salty notes with a drizzle of maple syrup and bits of bacon. Non-waffle-based dishes include a smoked salmon salad with honey dill mustard dressing. They also whip up fresh juices, which, like the best Sir Mix-a-Lot videos, contain a mix of fresh fruit and vegetables.