Sawtelle. Oh Sawtelle. Life hasn’t been the same since I learned of your existence. I remember the first time I stepped foot on this glorious stretch of road. It was on a beautiful class-less day freshman year. I had spent too much time in Westwood not realizing that this Mecca of Japanese / asian food was just a couple miles away. I often joke that most of my fondest college memories happened on Sawtelle. There aren’t many places I could call myself a “regular” at in LA, but Coco and Seoul Tofu are like old habits that never die. Sawtelle feels like home, it’s comforting to know it’s there, thriving on the west side.
LA is a big city, with a rich and diverse cultural history. So it should not come as a surprise that we have a “Little Osaka” to serve everyone who lives west of La Cienega and can’t be bothered to drive all the way downtown for Little Tokyo. Sawtelle feels more local than Little Tokyo. A lot of people visit Little Tokyo, but Sawtelle is reserved for…well a ton of Bruins, local foodies, and Asian tourists who are in on the secret. But the neighborhood pre-dates its current hype. It’s been home to LA’s Japanese population for decades. The nurseries are family-owned, a couple of them reclaimed after Japanese internment. Like many other parts of the city, the rapid gentrification has led to original residents getting displaced.
On the other hand, the culture is well-preserved, thriving, even. More and more stores are opening up, and a majority of them Japanese or another Asian cuisine (Tsujita is slowly taking over the entire street, but no one’s mad about it). It’s a well-branded neighborhood that knows it’s audience. Today, it’s a bit of a destination. The fact that this many people are willing to put up with the parking situation is a testament to the respect for culture (& food) in this city.