Sunday, January 1, 2017

Wilson's Words of Wisdom: Top 10 of 2016

While this past year was definitely a doozy for so many reasons on both national and international fronts, there were still a lot of awesome happenings going on, right here in Los Angeles.

So in annual due fashion, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 moments from the past 12 months. It’s a roundup of the most memorable highlights in L.A.’s social/restaurant/nightlife scene that yours truly has written about throughout the year.

Read on below, and don’t forget to leave your 2016 highlights in the comments section below.

Here’s to 2016, and Lord willing, an even better 2017!


#10) The Rams return to Los Angeles. The Rams officially came back to the City of Angels this past fall and to commemorate the occasion, held training camps that were free and open to the public. While most of these training sessions were at the University of California, Irvine, a special one in particular — coined “Family Day”— was held at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. I captured all of the action of that afternoon — including player signings, mascot appearances and intense drills — in a blog post that you can read here.

#9) We deserve to be pampered. I’m all about giving myself lots of TLC, which is why I’m always down for a spa day. Fortunately, I stumbled upon an amazing spa that had a discounted deal running for several months on Travelzoo, Le Merigot Spa. Aside from a prime location literally right on the beach, this urban oasis boasts wonderful massages, an awesome cocktail/food menu and a pristine pool. It was the perfect place to escape to! 

#8) New players take the stage. What should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, hundreds of noteworthy restaurants open annually in Los Angeles. Fortunately, I captured a few of these new launches as they happened. 
  • SOL Mexican Cocina Playa Vista officially opened in January 2016, featuring its own spin on traditional Baja Mexican cuisine and fresh margaritas, like the Pineapple Serrano Margarita, pictured below. 
  • The Chicken or the Egg, a very casual eatery that’s also in Playa Vista, debuted this Fall, dishing out sandwiches comprising organic, cage-free chicken and eggs. 
  • Good Greek Grill, which initially started as a food truck, opened its second brick-and-mortar location, bringing us amazing twists on Greek classics. 

#7) Old players remain in the game. Old restaurant staples proved they were not to be forgotten nor outdone by these new restaurants popping up all over town, reinventing themselves with new menus, new décor and new attitudes. 
  • The District by Hannah An debuted 14 new dishes this spring, including the Dungeness Crab, pictured below. 
  • Napa Valley Grille in Westwood got a new look and a new brunch menu, all while celebrating its 15th anniversary. 
  • Hard Rock Café Hollywood introduced Mason Jar Sips during the summer — colorful alcoholic frozen blends that were quite refreshing on hot days. 
  • And Yamashiro Hollywood revamped everything with its Lucky 7 Happy Hour this past Fall, including a new menu, new chef and new location on its outdoor patio. 

#6) Bienvenidos a Miami. This past spring, I had to shake, rattle and roll out of Los Angeles for a much-needed vacay, and lo and behold, found myself in Miami. And while I've frequently frequented South Beach, for the first time ever, I got to explore some other amazing neighborhoods: Coconut Grove, Wynwood, Brickell, Little Havana. I wrote all about my excursions in each little enclave in a post you can read here

#5) Echo Park Lake still has it. As one of the city’s oldest parks, Echo Park Lake has gone through a lot throughout the decades — including highs like being featured in classic films such as Chinatown and lows such as pretty bad gang-infestations. But now, three years after a $45M renovation that includes wildlife restoration, the park is still going strong. With so many FREE and/or inexpensive activities to partake in — pedal boating, street food vendors or simply lounging on one of the many green knolls and taking in the scenery — there’s no reason not to make a trip here on any given sunny day.

#4) That salmon can’t be vegan. I don’t know about you, but when I think vegan, I think of boring nuts, berries, and other bland foods that will leave me hungry, 20 minutes after eating them. That all changed once I headed to Crossroads, a very chic, very vegan restaurant on Melrose Ave. It’s managed to create these amazing items from vegan ingredients that literally taste just like the real deal — I’m talking ice cream, cheeses and yes, even salmon. Carrots are transformed into “salmon” in the tortellini with heirloom carrot lox and kelp caviar entrée, getting the taste and consistency right, down to a T.

#3) Hidden hole-in-the-wall spots. I almost didn’t want to write about these next few places, because I wanted to keep them all to myself and not let anyone else in on the secret. 
  • Comfort LA in downtown serves up fried chicken with “that sauce” and healthy soul food sides like yams and greens, pictured below. Bonus: they’re open until 3 a.m. on weekends. 
  • The Flavor Table near Inglewood serves up heaping portions of hearty, Southern soul food breakfast and brunch goodies, like deep fried catfish with eggs and smothered pork chops and grits. 
  • Delicious Pizza, located near La Brea and Adams, artfully serves up gourmet pizza and pays homage to old school hip-hop in its décor, music selections and occasional events. 

#2) Inspirational figures. I’m always honored when I have the opportunity to interview amazing trailblazers who are killing it in their respective fields, and this year, I got to meet three incredible, talented luminaries doing just that. 
  • Carmelita “The Jet” Jeter (pictured below), three-time Olympic medalist and the world’s fastest runner, talked about what it’s like to be on the track during a race, her most memorable run and what sport she plans to conquer next. 
  • Jermaine “Chef Raw” Rawlings (pictured below right), who’s had a career with the U.S. Air Force and obtained an MBA, discussed what it’s been like to launch Frat Boy Cuisines, where he’s introduced his Caribbean-inspired dishes to A-list celebs like The Game, Boris Kodjoe, Nicole Murphy, Garcelle Beauvais and Tyrese. 
  • And chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix (pictured top), who I met at the GRAMMY gifting suite, shared more about making high-end, luxury chocolates that retail up to $3,000. 

#1) Top Black-Owned Restaurants, Bars, Lounges & Eateries. In honor of Black History Month this past February, I created a list of the top black-owned restaurants, bars, lounges and eateries throughout Los Angeles. I wanted to take the time to highlight some of the amazing unsung heroes — these restaurant owners and chefs — who are keeping our bellies full with delicious meals and making positive impacts in our local communities and in so many of our lives, every single day. So from popular Brazilian dishes to jazzy Sunday brunches, health-conscious soul food and more, this list covers an eclectic, diverse range of cuisines and experiences that are sure to please all palates.


  1. Hi,
    I found this interesting since I live in Los Angeles County. I never heard of many of these. Thanks for letting me know.