Neighbourhood guides: Live like a local in West Hollywood, LA

15 Jun 2022

Did you know: West Hollywood was the site of the world’s first permitted Pride parade in 1970? However, it wasn’t until the 80s – 1984 to be exact – that WeHo became the first majority-gay neighbourhood in America. It’s had a vibrant tradition of pride and acceptance ever since – enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

West Hollywood, LA

Today, 40% of residents identify as LGBTQIA+ within the 1.9-square-mile ‘hood, and the pedestrian crossings are painted in welcoming rainbows. Last year, during Pride Month, the WeHo gaybourhood even presented Lady Gaga with a key to the city on a newly declared Born This Way Day. Much like Manchester’s Canal Street, Le Marais in Paris, and Mexico City’s Zona Rosa, it can seem like the queer community far outnumbers their hetero-counterparts, so it goes without saying that the entire area is LGBTQIA-friendly – with excellent restaurants, coffee shops and shopping on every corner, naturally.

Here are our favourite spots.

The Abbey
The Abbey is one of the largest and most well-known gay bars in the world, and so you really can’t do a queer guide to LA without mentioning the popular brunch spot, or the adjacent Chapel – a bustling loud club which features go-go dancers and hosts drag nights. Although, while it is known to be a fave among gays and lesbians, The Abbey has historically been unwelcoming to its trans employees and patrons. They’ve promised to “do better,” so we’ll have to wait and see.

Take note, ladies: while literally all of LA’s lesbian’s bars no longer exist, Wednesday nights are Ladies Night at The Abbey-adjacent Chapel.

ONE Archive Gallery
Since its founding in 1952, ONE Archives has built up the biggest collection of LGBTQIA+ books, magazines, movies, photos and prints on the planet. You’ll find the organisation split into two in-person experiences: the actual library at USC – available online, as well – where you can peruse the impressive archive, and then the WeHo gallery that’s curated exhibitions on queer nightlife, AIDS activism, women in the leather community and Chicano networks.

West Hollywood, LA

Crossroads Kitchen
It’s hard for many people to tell that Crossroads Kitchen’s delicious food is plant-based, but its openly gay executive chef, Scot Jones, is known for converting many a meat-lover. This vegan spot highlights a selection of refined Italian classics as well as Mediterranean staples. Jones is also very involved in the West Hollywood queer advocacy scene, being an active supporter of the LGBT Center and a recurrent participant in the AIDS Walk.

West Hollywood, LA

Liberation Coffee House – Los Angeles LGBT Center
Located on Santa Monica Boulevard, the Liberation Coffee House is technically situated between the WeHo and Hollywood neighbourhoods. A 1,600 square foot café, shop and gallery, the space was conceived as a community living room for The Center’s residents, employees and the surrounding residents. Inspired by the pride flag, the interior palette of red, orange, yellow and green demonstrates the positive, optimistic spirit of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Out of the Closet
Out of the Closet thrift stores were initially founded to help fund AIDS Healthcare Foundation's (AHF) lifesaving services and they continue to do so today. When you shop or donate at one of their stores, 96 cents of each dollar goes directly into HIV care and services provided by AHF. And not only that, the WeHo location, among others, also acts as a free HIV testing location.

West Hollywood, LA

Crumbs Whiskers – Cat Cafe
This cat-loving cafe has been described by many as a magical land of adorable snuggles, jingle collars, cold brew vibes, animal rescue emotions, and general euphoria. Although it’s perfectly acceptable and common to go and enjoy the cuddly company of cats in residence with no strings attached, Crumbs & Whiskers’ main objective is to facilitate adoptions for needy kitties. Be warned: you might not leave alone.

Circus of Books
Remember the Netflix documentary? The former go-to spot for gay porn and sex toys, now a WeHo bookstore, was an erotica institution and a well-known cruising spot until its closure in 2019 – it was able to survive the Reagan years, but not the proliferation of free internet porn. Reborn and rebranded, drag-diva Chi Chi Larue bought the place and gave it a fresh lick of paint, turning it into a comparatively higher-end destination that can now boast art books and a gallery, too.

At female-owned Fonuts, you’ll discover “enlightened faux donuts'', which are baked, not fried. Fun and fresh flavours include: banana chocolate, rosemary olive oil, strawberry buttermilk and blueberry earl grey. You’ll also find LA-fave Lamill coffee served here, too. Vegan and gluten-free options are available of course – it is West Hollywood, afterall.

West Hollywood, LA

Gracias Madre
Gracias Madre serves entirely organic, plant-based Mexican cuisine. And if that isn’t enough to draw you in, they also mix amazing custom cocktails, pulling in many a crowd come brunch. Non-binary executive chef Chandra Gilbert, whose resume includes making cheese at lesbian-owned Cowgirl Creamery, heads up the kitchen, with a little help from the Cafe Gratitude team and a small batch mezcal and tequila-focused bar.