West Hollywood on a Budget: Living it Up

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Photo by Visit West Hollywood

Myth buster: West Hollywood is affordable

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West Hollywood on a budget? Yes! The myth that WeHo is too expensive for mere mortals is as easy to burst as a soap bubble. You can have more fun than you might imagine. You just have to know where to poke. And then, with the savings that’ll pile up in your pockets, you can stretch those dollars into a three or four day stay. Get the low down for WeHo on the down-low. (No, not that kind of down-low…) Experience the fabulousness that WeHo is known for without busting your budget.

Starting living in WeHo’s FOMO-free zone. Mix-and-match the choices below over a three-day vacay.

Getting around West Hollywood

First things first: WeHo, a 1.9 square mile jewel box of a town, is consistently rated one of California’s most walkable cities by Walk Score because of its wide sidewalks and tree-lined streets. Stroll Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard, and Melrose Avenue.

Check out the city’s seven outdoor murals in the Design District, a dense and vibrant area with more than 250 studios filled with art, design, food and fashion. See WeHo To Go.

If your feet need a break, let pedals power your sightseeing. Pick up a two-wheeler from WeHo Pedals, the city’s bike share program, which has more than a dozen stations on Santa Monica Boulevard. Headed further afield? Rent wheels at Bikes and Hikes LA, which comes with a DIY GPS tour, and not to sound cheap, if there’s no guide, there’s no tipping. L.A. is mostly flat and things are closer than you might think when you’re not stuck on the 405, and besides, think of all saved dough from not renting a car, much less paying to park it and worrying about pricey tickets.

West Hollywood budget brunch or lunch places

kitchen24 (8575 Santa Monica Boulevard) is all about the huge happy hour and patio people watching. Open 24/7 as the name implies, this place is uber-relaxing, bustling but not crazy-bustling, and hip, as good for studly people-watching as for the sushi-inspired burger. Its central location – close to boisterous clubs and bars – makes it perfect after a night of drinking or a late morning after. That’s the best time for fried chicken or a Garden Benny (with ham, avocado, and poached eggs) or an over-the-top cupcake-of-the-day. You’ll also find plenty of veggie and gluten-free options, salads and sandwiches, and a delish Asian BBQ salmon. No matter the time of day (but preferably at high noon), spend some time hanging on the front patio with a Hollyhood Martini, or a signature cocktail with caffeine-infused vodka.

Ed’s Coffee Shop (460 N Robertson Boulevard), ensconced amidst the stylin’ high-end Design District boutiques, has been a family-run neighborhood standby for more than 50 years. In the early days of filming True Blood, the stars used to chow on lunch here. Ed’s daughter now runs the inexpensive breakfast and lunch place, offering solid, short order American favorites like omelettes, short stacks, BLTs, and sloppy joes. It’s old school, beloved, super friendly, and there’s never a wait. Refreshing.

Mel’s Drive-In (8585 Sunset Boulevard), open 24/7, is a solid recommendation throughout the day, but weekend brunch is particularly sweet. And … drum roll please … they offer free valet parking on weekends. Mel’s began in 1947 in San Francisco as a drive-in for burgers, capable of accommodating more than 100 cars at a time and cranking out 180 burgers a minute. The classic WeHo location (formerly an iconic hangout for ‘60s and ‘70s rockers like Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan after their shows) has outdoor tables on the Sunset Strip, a Formica counter with bar stools, lots of chrome, comfy booths, and tabletop jukebox players. Everything you’d expect from a ‘50s style diner, along with an attentive staff and plenty of locals. Look for burgers, a hangover omelette, renowned curly fries and surprisingly affordable craft beers on tap.

Budget West Hollywood Mels

West Hollywood lazy afternoon

So … you had a long brunch with cocktails and plan to live it up with late night dinner and more drinks. Take a Spanish-style afternoon siesta at your hotel or go hang out at a cafe and people watch. We like Verve Coffee Roasters (8529 Melrose Ave), but there are many choices.

West Hollywood dinner choices that offer bang for the buck

Fresh Corn Grill (8714 Santa Monica Boulevard) is loved by pretty much everyone for good reason. Let us count the ways: it’s easy on the wallet, appeals to the health-conscious with tasty California cuisine, counter service is quick, it doesn’t skimp on the serving sizes, it lacks pretention, it specializes in tacos (salmon, shrimp, tofu, and whitefish) and chicken enchiladas, but also offers killer pastas and pizzas. Their grilled signature salad is topped with asparagus, zucchini, corn, avocado, and tomatoes (and your choice of a perfect protein). Inside is airy and mod; the patio is verdant. What’s not to love?

Marix (1108 N. Flores Street) is dark, loud, and fun — and where Tex Mex and friendly service rule. They are renowned in the neighborhood for their $10 all-you-can-eat beef, chicken or veggie Taco Tuesday, featuring San Antonio-style puffy tacos. Any day, though, is a good day to down a pitcher of strong and tasty margaritas – although they are only $5 on Mondays (aka “Fundays”). Feast on chunky guac, free crispy chips with salsa, fajitas, chile relleno, and fabu queso.

WeHo Bistro (1040 N La Cienega Boulevard), a French casual resto, has a really solid lunch and dinner menu (try the crepes and Croque Madame sandwich), an easy-fitting weekend brunch scene, and a friendly staff. It’s also pretty darn romantic (especially for the price!) in the evening, lit by candlelight. Forgo the patio and sit inside. Bonus: free parking at the adjacent CVS. Since it gets busy, reservations are recommended.

Daikokuya (8873 Sunset Boulevard), on Sunset near Whiskey a Go-Go and the Viper Room, has delicious big bowls of ramen and tasty chasu for decent prices. Check out the awesome sake selection and the Kirin slushie machine. Yep, that’s right: beer slurpees, da bomb on a hot day. Two bonuses: vegan and gluten-free ramen, and one-hour free parking.

Cecconi’s West Hollywood (8764 Melrose Avenue), a classic but modern Italian place with hand-made pasta, offers incredible prices on its “4 to 7 Menu” available from 4 to 7pm Tuesday through Saturday with items priced at $4, $7 and $9. Too good to be true? Not. The selections and portion sizes are big enough to be oh-so-satisfying, and the prices won’t break the bank. Think baked gnocci, black truffle burgers, pizzettas, and calamari fritte. Beer, wine, aperol spritz and margaritas fall into the same 4-7-9 price points.

Astro Burger (7475 Santa Monica), a super local option since 1974, is great for bacon avocado cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, onion rings, shakes, zucchini (and regular) fries … you get the idea, except that the prevailing conventional wisdom is that the diner’s burgers are better than you can imagine. The Greek owners offer up plenty of authentic Hellenic specialties, too, but those burgers… The only potential downside, although you are now forewarned: cash only. Drive-through, hang inside, or dawdle on the patio. Vegans are hella happy here, and the OJ is freshly squeezed, too.

Cocktails in West Hollywood where you won’t feel like a cheap date

The awesome owner of V Wine Room (903 Westbourne Drive), Mikey, is reason enough to sample and sip wine here. Happy hour until 7 pm is another. If you are already knowledgeable about small batch California wine, you can take it to the next level under their passionate tutelage. If you don’t know the difference between a Sav Blanc and a White Bordeaux, you will before you leave. Order a flight of something, and pair it with a meat and cheese plate. Upscale but casual, perfect for a relatively quiet evening, this little hideaway served as West Hollywood’s first library, hence the bookshelves lined with bottles, and was once Charlie Chaplin’s studio.

There are so many great reasons to hang at the Surly Goat (7929 Santa Monica Boulevard), a WeHo-style beer garden, which is to say, it’s not your typical garden-variety beer garden. Come for a diverse (overwhelming?) selection of beers on tap, early evening happy hour ($4), crowds, a back patio with picnic benches where you can bring your own food, shuffleboard, darts, Karaoke, Netflix on the TVs, and taxidermied goat heads, all looking fairly sullen and sulky, truth be told.

For good divey gay bars on Santa Monica, check out the Motherlode (8944 Santa Monica Boulevard), the latter with generous (read: deadly) pours from genuinely friendly bartenders for a diverse clientele. This being WeHo, don’t expect a Charles Bukowski-style watering hole, though; it’s more along the lines of light pretention with a side of grit and billiards.

PS: Gold Coast and Fubar are also good choices on Santa Monica Boulevard.

West Hollywood experiences on the cheap

There are more free and inexpensive things to see and do in West Hollywood than you can shake a swizzle stick at.

MOCA PDC (Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Avenue) is always free and showcases rotating exhibits that celebrate architecture and design. This branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art is open Tuesday through Friday 11 am to 5 pm, weekends 11 am to 6 pm.

MAK Center (835 N Kings Road), a global collection of applied arts, design, architecture and contemporary art, is housed at architect Rudolph Schindler’s House and Studio. Designed and built in 1922 by the Austrian-American architect, it features indoor and outdoor environments completely integrated in what Schlinder called “a real California scheme.” It’s open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm and costs $10.

Grab some chow to go and hang in one of two tiny parks carved out by the city while West Hollywood Park completes its stint in rehab. Both shady oases are on Santa Monica Boulevard; one is next to Astro Burger, the other adjacent to Fatburger. Catch the tiny parks while you can, as the installations are temporary through mid to late 2018.

There are few places like The Comedy Store (8433 Sunset Boulevard), where you can see nationally-known comedians from Netflix and TV (without FCC filters) for under $10 for most shows. Who knows, Arsenio Hall might even wander in! Sure there’s a two drink minimum, but let’s face it, you were going to drink that somewhere anyway, right? Order a double; that counts for two drinks. The two small stages guarantee a sense of intimacy for the ensuing laugh riots. Want your shot at comedy fame? Sign up for the Monday open mic when fifteen newcomers get three minutes each to earn a spot on stage. Sign up at 6 pm; the show starts at 7 pm.

Book Soup (8818 Sunset Boulevard), a hip space crammed with more than 60,000 titles, specializes in art, film, music, and literary fiction. Long live the indies, tactile browsing, and staff recommendations! Check out their almost-nightly lineup of (free) author readings and book signings. Tons of celebrity authors come through; pose for a snap as they personalize your purchase and then humble brag about it on social. It’s open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 10 pm, until 7 pm on Sunday.

Patti Smith at Book Soup
Patti Smith at Book Soup (by Carolyn)

Big West Hollywood annual events

When the party is over, resist the knee-jerk urge to open your Lyft app. Check out the free WeHo Pickup, a shuttle back to your place and the best pick up EVER. It’s a party-goer’s dream date – always there as your designated driver, never complains, and doesn’t post your unattractive pics the next morning.

Partaay and people-watch at two big (free) annual events in West Hollywood: Halloween Carnival on October 31, and L.A. Pride Parade and Festival

Inexpensive West Hollywood hotels

Ramada Plaza Hotel
Best Western Plus Sunset Plaza
Alta Cienega Motel

At A Glance

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