Many people feel an indescribable urge to follow in the footsteps of celebrities long passed—hoping that a connection to their genius or charm still lingers in the air of their apartments and favorite pubs. The guides of Esotouric understand and share this urge, though they prefer to roam the paths of history by bus. After scouring the famed neighborhoods of Los Angeles in search of interesting and outlandish locations, they share their findings on bus adventures that retrace the trails blazed by local artists, filmmakers, writers, and actors.
Esotouric's odysseys wind through haunts such as Raymond Chandler's favorite breakfast spot and the salon Charles Bukowski visited for his weekly knuckle-hair perm. Coloring their tours with anecdotes about the films adapted from his noirish stories, guides also visit locales captured in the cinematic landscapes of James M. Cain. Various tours explore Southern California’s culture, literature, and architectural sides, giving history hounds the chance to sniff out sinister deeds in old-time tattoo parlors, burlesque shows, and crime scenes.
You could argue that every meal at Gaucho's Village includes live entertainment—servers are constantly visiting tables with humongous skewers of meat and slicing off choice pieces with a sword-like knife. To summon such a show to your table, all you need to do is turn a small marker over to display its green side, or turn your "Bring on the Meat" t-shirt right-side out. Then, you select from an array of flame-roasted cuts, ranging from the traditional picanha, or sirloin cap, to tri-tip and filet mignon wrapped in bacon. The blazing churrasco fires backstage also cook lamb, pork, and sausage, and the menu suggests a proper wine pairing for each cut.
Though these meats have been featured on the Travel Channel's Tastiest Places to Chow Down, they aren't the only impressive spectacle at the restaurant. The real show occurs on weekends, when samba dancers and DJs rev up the always-festive atmosphere. Guests who would rather kick back than shimmy along can visit the attached lounge. There, a separate lounge menu boasts empanadas and coxinha—fried balls of chicken and cheese—as well as flavored hookah on a back patio fenced with live bamboo.
Tiny combustions and the smell of butter emanate from Goodnight's Comedy Club's vintage popcorn maker as nationally touring standups such as Marc Maron and Ralphie May step up to the mic. With a brick wall behind them and a checkered floor below, these headliners spin their comic yarns as popcorn, Buffalo wings, and cocktails deftly land on tables. In addition to its cabaret menu of apps and drinks, the club is connected to two restaurants. Every month, the mostly private Grille at Goodnight's unveils a new menu of upscale American fare, from prime rib to lobster mac n cheese and pumpkin ravioli that turns into carriage ravioli at midnight. The Old Bar Restaurant and Bar resides underneath Goodnight's, treating diners to more casual fare in the form of burgers and Tex-Mex platters.
The chefs at Chadaka Thai shower traditional spices over a bevy of fresh seafood, spicy curries, and refreshing vegetarian dishes. Tender steak and succulent lamb chops don flavors of lemongrass and hot peppers as egg and rice noodles take on a range of shapes beneath savory sauces. In the dining room, towering windows and pillar-like pendant lights illuminate dark-wood décor as stark geometric furnishings find a rustic complement with burl accents and a patchwork-quilt ceiling. Candlelit tables for two fan the flames of a romantic evening or passionate fire-eating contest, whereas an outdoor patio framed by pinewood-hued beams grants diners a glimpse of the bustling shoppers just beyond their savory sanctuary.
Sardo's pacifies yelping stomachs with a menu of delectably pubbish fare while fostering intradiner friendliness with a suite of entertaining distractions. Guests can feel free to feast eyes on sports-related imagery projected on one of seven large-screen LCD TVs, or donate their pipes to the restaurant’s award-winning karaoke. The appetizer platter, like the feel-good final scenes of cafeteria coming-of-age films, lets its popular chicken tenders go to prom with nerdy yet attractive mozzarella sticks and onion rings ($8). Meanwhile, the lunch menu features a hearty sandwich list ($5.25–$8) and providential pasta possibilities, such as the penne pomodoro, featuring penne rigate tossed with fresh garlic, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil ($6.25). Nocturnal nibblers can nosh nighttime-only entrees, such as fried chicken ($9) and sirloin steak ($14), as well as libations from the ornate, amply stocked bar.
Soak up the solid surroundings before perusing the equally solid menu. Start the feastivities with three mini sirloin sliders ($8), house-cut garlic and parsley fries ($5 for small), and a fighting pint of Stone Brewing Co.'s Arrogant Bastard ($5). Those with an itching appetite can dive straight into larger bites. Equip yourself with a house sirloin burger ($11) or order of chicken and biscuits ($16).