DTLA – Break out your golf shoes for a round of mini-golf next month, as the inaugural Little Tokyo Mini Open hits the historic community. For two weekends, a pop-up nine-hole miniature golf course will fill part of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in celebration of the past, present and future of Little Tokyo. Local artists will design the individual holes, turning them into playable pieces of art, and there will also be food and family activities. The course at 244 S. San Pedro St. will be set up from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on April 21-22 and 28-29. The course is $3 for adults and free for children 12 and under. There will also be a tournament on April 23, with an entry fee of $100 per four-person team. Although walk-up players are welcome, registered participants will receive priority access. Register online at visitlittletokyo.com/miniopen.
Naming a new business with trendy millennial slang is supremely silly considering how outdated it will probably be in the near-future, but a cafe in Little Tokyo is rolling the dice anyway.
The good news is that Bae is a sweet spot for carefully made coffee drinks, fluffy donuts and an array of soft-serve ice cream. The cafe fills a storefront on the ground floor of the Hikari Apartments, the site of another recent newcomer, Prime Pizza.
Prices are on par with other “craft” coffee spots, with lattes running upwards of $4 (check out original flavors like “baeberry,” a blend of mocha and blackberry). Soft-serve is $5 and donuts are around $2.50 a pop.
You can find delicious coffee, pastries and ice cream elsewhere in the neighborhood, but Bae offers a hip combo of products, served in a modernist interior with comfortable seating.
At 369 E. Second St., (424) 270-0009 or baebae.co.
DTLA – Now that the holiday season is here, it is only fitting to celebrate with a true symbol of the times: a heavily depressed egg. Seriously.
The Sanrio Japanese Village store in Little Tokyo recently launched a pop-up called the Gudetama Holiday Shop, named for the company’s egg character. There are Christmas-themed Gudetama products such as snow globes and winter sweaters. The pop-up takes the place of the Sanrio Kawaii Mart that opened in the store in September. There will also be a “Gudetama Santa” in the store on certain days for photo opportunities, if that’s your sort of thing. The pop-up runs through Sunday, Dec. 17, and the holiday shop will be transformed into a new space in 2018. The shop is at 115 Japanese Village Plaza Mall.
The Paul I. Terasaki Budokan project in Little Tokyo is now fully funded. On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the County Board of Supervisors approved a motion from Hilda Solis to dedicate $650,000 to the project. The county money, which comes via the Proposition A sales tax approved by voters, closes out the final gap in the Budokan’s $25 million budget.
Located at 237-249 S. Los Angeles St., the Budokan is being developed by the Little Tokyo Service Center and will serve as a recreation facility for the community. The project, which broke ground Aug. 3, will have a two-court gymnasium, a playground and a garden; it is expected to host basketball, martial arts and other activities, and will be open for people from Little Tokyo as well as greater Downtown.
The 39,000-square-foot project has been in the works for more than two decades. Developers hope to finish by the end of 2018.
It’s the latest project from the hospitality group Zuma, which has opened restaurants in Las Vegas, London and New York City.
The huge 8,000-square-foot space along Garey Street is being built out now, and diners should expect an opening before the end of the year. Menu details are scant, but don’t be surprised to see a bevy of grillable items ordered a la carte, accompanied by various sides and cocktails.
Time will tell whether a hip new spot can lure diners away from Little Tokyo’s popular grilled skewer joints like Honda-Ya and Torigoya.
The news was first reported by the website Eater L.A.
DTLA – When high-speed rail finally comes to Union Station, it will follow the course of the Los Angeles River in and out of Downtown. Local stakeholders last week got a glimpse of the intended path and discussed local details of the proposed $68 billion project.
On Monday, Dec. 5, the California High-Speed Rail Authority hosted a public meeting on the 12-mile, Burbank-to-Downtown portion of the project. Approximately three dozen people attended the presentation at the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo.
The project will ultimately stretch 800 miles, with the first phase connecting San Francisco to Anaheim (a later phase would add spurs to Sacramento and San Diego). The Authority is hosting a series of community meetings so stakeholders can understand the impacts on specific neighborhoods. At the Little Tokyo session, the Authority staff explained elements of the project including altering grading and planned stations.
Plans call for the high-speed rail line to follow the existing rail corridor used by Amtrak, Metrolink and freight trains, according to Michelle Boehm, the Authority’s Southern California regional director.
The current projection is for the system to be fully operational in 2029.
“We look at this as an urban corridor renewal program,” Boehm said. “By bringing features that high-speed rail requires to this corridor we have the opportunity to actually make this corridor a better neighbor to the communities it travels through.”
Much of the Little Tokyo meeting concentrated on the options for the rail line near Burbank. Once the trains approach Downtown, they will cross the 5 and 110 freeways southeast of where the two meet, then cross over Main Street before curving west and then south to Union Station. Authority representatives said there will have to be a grade adjustment, with Main Street elevated so that the train tracks run underneath, so as not to interrupt street traffic.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns Union Station, is looking at factoring the high-speed rail line into its planned upgrades for the station. Vincent Chio, a senior engineer with Metro, said new electrical elements would have to be added to Union Station to accommodate the high-speed rail trains. However, no major extensions or new construction would be done solely for the project, Chio said.
Some attendees of the session asked why the project no longer goes underground in the Central City, as previously discussed.
“It was proposed to go underground into Union Station,” said Melissa De La Peña, the project manager for the section. “But we wouldn’t be able to separate any of the at-grade crossings. We wouldn’t be able to incorporate signalization improvements or work with the L.A. River. So for those elements, the at-grade alignment has been proposed.”
Flanking the building’s lobby on the southwest corner of the intersection will be a 2,100-square-foot Starbucks with expanded beer and wine offerings (along Second), and an outpost of the local franchise Panini Cafe (along San Pedro).
Next to Starbucks on Second Street will be 10Below, a New York City-based ice cream shop known for rolling up thin sheets of ice cream into decorative scrolls right in front of customers.
Ramen Itto, a new ramen joint led by a chef from Japan, will be arriving as well. It will be the L.A. anchor location of Tokyo’s highly regarded Menya Itto, which offers bowls of pork-broth ramen and tsukemen, or dipping ramen.
Expect the shops to open in the first quarter of 2017, according to Avison Young broker Derrick Moore, who worked on the deals.
Coming to 232 E. Second St.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – It was a sad day when Chef David Bartnes and owner Jun Isogai’s inventive eatery b.o.s. closed this year at Honda Plaza in Little Tokyo. That space, however, has been transformed by Isogai into a new izakaya named Kinjiro. It began serving in November, offering a menu divided by cooking styles, with sections for ray, simmered/steamed, fried and grilled dishes, plus a section of salads and even two pastas, including a version of the ever-hip sea urchin pasta. Most items are $10 – $20 and are intended for sharing.
The drink selection includes beer, sake, wine and shochu, the Japanese liquor that’s typically distilled from barley, buckwheat, rice or sweet potatoes. Kinjiro is open Wednesday – Saturday from 6-11 p.m. and Sunday from 5:30-10 p.m.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – With a $1.42 billion Downtown transportation project, you might imagine local transit will improve. First, though, you should expect major delays.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority continues to do the preliminary work for the 1.9-mile Regional Connector that will connect area rail lines and create three new Downtown stations. The goal is to streamline travel through LA County, but first, the backups. For four weeks, beginning on Saturday, Aug. 23, Second Street between Spring Street and Broadway will be closed all day, every day, likely hampering commutes to the Civic Center and Little Tokyo. Westbound and eastbound drivers will be detoured through Main and Hill streets, respectively.
Closures also began on Thursday, Aug. 13 in Little Tokyo: First Street from Alameda to Hewitt streets will shutter from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. on weekends through Aug. 28. The current work involves moving utilities, in anticipation of the tunnel boring that will begin in the third quarter of 2015.
The latest information on the mammoth project is at metro.net/regionalconnector.com
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – The Sandwich Smith/Fickle in Little Tokyo, which opened back in February 2013, offered diners the best of both worlds: casual sandwiches by day, elevated small plates and more elaborate entrees by night. Now, chef/owner James Ta has cut the sandwich business and introduced a Fickle lunch menu.
The new menu features a variety of salads and small plates, such as fried fish cakes with malt vinegar aioli and “farmers toast” with roasted eggplant, English cucumbers and fresh mint.
Bigger entrees include composed dishes, such as Kurobuta pork belly with charred cabbage and squash puree and cod fish and chips. There is also a slew of more casual choices, such as a Texas bison burger and a Thai chicken salad.
For those who will miss the Sandwich Smith, the original fried chicken sandwich with coleslaw still remains.
Located at 362 E. First Street or ficklela.com