Los Angeleno's Cool Co-Founder on L.A.'s Best Spots for Music, Mapo Tofu, and More

L.A. journalist and entrepreneur Lauren Arevalo-Downes is on mission to create a new local media business for the digital era.

If you, too, geek out over the history of Los Angeles' most popular gems as much as you savor the stories of the city's most unappreciated people, places, and things, then you'll want to direct your browser to Los Angeleno. (Well, after you read this story.) Launched in early April, the online magazine highlights the "untold stories about L.A. life, culture, and art."

The new publication was co-founded by Lauren Arevalo-Downes, a fourth-generation Angelena and L.A. journalist who's covered arts, culture, and business for local outlets including L.A. Record, The Long Beach District Weekly, and most recently, AList, where she was executive director. "Prior to Los Angeleno, I was most recently running AList, an industry trade for senior marketers, particularly in the entertainment and technology space," Arevalo-Downes tells Uncover L.A. "I worked there for five years, starting out first as a journalist and social media strategist and before I knew it, I ended up managing the whole kit and caboodle."

"Through that job, I was given the unique opportunity and mentorship to transform into a digital-native publisher. It wasn't what I had originally thought I'd ever be doing, but along the way, I discovered that I am an entrepreneurial kind of person and that I love to build businesses. It is now for me a creative outlet in almost the same way writing has been," she says.

After seeing print and digital outlets like L.A. Weekly and LAist struggle to survive, Arevalo-Downes saw a need to keep hyperlocal media alive. "While there is, understandably, so much pessimism around the business models that support local media right now, I am committed to building a sustainable media business in Los Angeles for the digital era," she explains.

We recently sat down with the Northeast L.A.-based entrepreneur and writer for a (not-so-quick) game of 10 Questions — from her favorite local music venues and hole-in-the-wall spots in the San Gabriel Valley to her most surprising L.A. discovery, read on for more, then get to know some of the City of Angels' most underappreciated citizens and places and check out Los Angeleno here.

Pacific Dining Car bartender Rafael Covarrubias. Photo: Tess Barker/Los Angeleno

We know it's hard to pick just one, but what's a recent Los Angeleno feature that really opened your eyes?

There are so many! I am learning every day from each of our contributors who bring so many varied perspectives and interesting stories. The nexus of every story starts with curiosity and wanting to know more about so many subjects. A recent interview we did with Pacific Dining Car's Rafael Covarrubias was particularly eye-opening to me in a few ways. 

Firstly, his passion for working far into his 80s is inspiring and you get a sense that he gets so much personal fulfillment from his work, which I admire. Secondly, it was one of our top-performing articles so far which speaks to the power of the behind-the-scenes heroes. I'm so excited to be able to do more content like this that sheds light on the people who make our city a special place to live.

What songs define your "driving in L.A." music playlist?

I actually have a Spotify playlist that fits this bill. It runs the gamut, but a few highlights are Glass Candy's "Rolling Down The Hills," "Shooting Star" by The Mamas & Papas, and "Catalina" by Allah-Las.

What are your top L.A. music venues and why?

The Echo — in spite of the recent transition they're undergoing — has so much personal history for me. I feel like I partially grew up there as a music writer. Its size is intimate enough and it has an energy in there. I lived in Echo Park for years and went nearly every week.

I also like Teragram because it's such a beautiful venue and so well laid-out, and also the Lodge Room in Highland Park because it's my nearest local venue now that I can stumble home from easily.

What are some of your favorite hole-in-the-wall places that you're willing to share?

I'm a huge fan of The Corner Place (2819 James M. Wood Blvd.) in Koreatown for their cold noodle soup paired with freshly-barbecued brisket. It's such a great contrast and perfect for summer weather.

I also am a big fan of mapo tofu and Spicy City (140 West Valley Blvd., Ste. 208) in San Gabriel has my favorite version. On an ideal day, I would go there and then swing by Twinkle Brown Sugar Tea (406 East Valley Blvd.) on Valley Boulevard for some brown sugar grass jelly deliciousness and brick toast on my way back.

If you could travel back in time anywhere in L.A., when and where would it be?

The '60s seem like such an exciting period with the counterculture scenes in L.A., the feeling of the precariousness of it all. 

The lake at Ernest E. Debs Regional Park. Photo: JuanCarlos Chan/L.A. Dept. of Recreation & Parks

Most random L.A. discovery?

Having lived in Northeast L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley most of my life, I somehow only just discovered this year the "Peanut Lake" on top of Ernest E. Debs Regional Park. My parents lived in El Sereno and I would pass by it all the time driving down Monterrey but only went to the flat area of the park with the BBQs near the parking lot. Imagine my surprise to discover a little slice of paradise so close to home.

Favorite people-watching spot in L.A.?

The Pantry (877 South Figueroa St.), hands-down. Everyone winds up there in the wee hours in various states of sobriety.

Favorite after-hours place to eat and your go-to menu items there?

A few go-to favorite spots: I love the La Estrella truck on Colorado in Eagle Rock for consistently good carnitas and great salsa. I also love Café 101 (6145 Franklin Ave.) after-hours for their nut 'n' honey shake. It should be noted that I am lactose intolerant but I eat it anyway. It is that good.

Photo: The Hollywood Museum

In your opinion, what's L.A.'s most under-appreciated tourist destination?

The Hollywood Museum (1660 North Highland Ave.)! I never would have gone were it not for a journalism class in college. It is right in the thick of terrible tourist things but it's a beautiful building full of fascinating objects and as someone who is into the history of beauty products, it's a must-visit.

Most hilarious L.A. stereotype you've heard?

I frequently get called a unicorn by out-of-towners, as though us locals are these mythical, difficult-to-find beings. But there are so many of us, which is what makes this expression so ridiculous. It pretty much marks you as someone who doesn't know or understand L.A. at all.

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