Category Archives: Los Angeles

Capsule film reviews: Four LGBT movies from the USA

‘Moonlight’
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2016
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout.
Grade: B+

Photo courtesy of A24.

“Moonlight” is a groundbreaking film — the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBT film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Can’t deny that. But, while “Moonlight” is a well-composed film with great acting, I can’t help feeling disappointed after months of buildup. As a film, it’s good, and I’m happy that it’s been so well-received by mainstream audiences because we do need more diverse representation in cinema. But as a gay film, it’s really nothing special. The plotline is predictable, and this story… it’s been done. Maybe not this artfully, but it’s definitely been done. It’s broken into three distinct chapters, which represent three stages of one man’s coming-of-age. “Little” shows Chiron’s (Alex Hibbert) childhood years, where he seeks refuge from school bullies and his drug addict mother (Naomie Harris) with a mentor (Mahershala Ali) who tells him that it’s okay if he’s gay. Next up is “Chiron,” which depicts Chiron’s (Ashton Sanders) teen years and the problems that amplify therein. Finally comes “Black,” which shows Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) as a miraculously-ripped grown man who is still haunted by his first (probably only?) love. The movie I would have liked to see would focus on Chiron as an adult and really develop that character — a tough, intimidating drug dealer in Atlanta who has had just one sexual experience (with his high school crush, Kevin, years ago). Flashbacks to his childhood and adolescence could help flesh out his background, but a central narrative to come back to would have given the movie a lot more direction.

‘King Cobra’
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2016
Director: Justin Kelly
Starring: Garrett Clayton, James Franco and Christian Slater
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A

Photo courtesy of IFC Midnight.

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I inexplicably was for this movie. Gay porn, murder, and an all-star cast including the cute male lead from Disney’s “Teen Beach Movie.” That’s all I need in entertainment, really. “King Cobra” is based on the true story of Brent Corrigan (aka. Sean Paul Lockhart), played in the film by the dreamy Garret Clayton. Corrigan is infamous for his successful career in gay porn that began when he was well underage. (Spot the Brent Corrigan reference in my review of “Schoolboy Crush” here!) “King Cobra” chronicles Corrigan’s ascent to pornstardom and his struggles to escape from the grasp of the Cobra Video studio and its lecherous owner Bryan Kocis (called “Stephen” in the film and portrayed unnervingly by Christian Slater). When Stephen refuses to let Corrigan out of his contract, rivals from another porn studio (Keegan Allen of “Pretty Little Liars” fame and James Franco) plot to do whatever it takes to get Stephen out of the way so Corrigan can perform with them. I would say this movie is about 85 percent gay porn, 10 percent murder and 5 percent plot development, which is the perfect equation for any movie. It’s campy and creepy, and if you’re into that, you should definitely watch “King Cobra.”

‘Tangerine’
Release Date: July 10, 2015
Director: Sean Baker
Starring: Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Karren Karagulian
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Rating: R for strong and disturbing sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, and drug use.
Grade: A+

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

“Tangerine” is phenomenal, and it’s just the kind of offbeat buddy/revenge comedy we totally needed in our lives. The film received major buzz following its premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival because the entire thing was (amazingly) filmed using only iPhones — particularly impressive considering how cool the cinematography is and how well it captures this Hollywood neighborhood. But even more remarkable is the engaging storyline. “Tangerine” follows two trans women who work the streets near the iconic Santa Monica and Highland Donut Time shop: Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), fresh out of prison and on the hunt for her cheating boyfriend Chester (James Ransone), and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor), who just needs to make it to her big singing gig at Hamburger Mary’s that night. The day’s adventure is thoroughly entertaining, and the glimpse into the lives, friendships and relationships of the characters is really wonderful. I even equally enjoyed the subplot that follows Razmik (Karren Karagulian), a married Armenian cab driver and frequent customer of Alexandra’s. Other background characters are portrayed by real-life Instagram stars and Viners found online by director Sean Baker (a lot of the film’s kinetic soundtrack was sourced from Vine and SoundCloud as well). In the end, “Tangerine” is a compelling film that proves big-budget frills aren’t necessary when you have charismatic characters and a unique story to tell.

‘Blackbird’
Release Date: April 24, 2015
Director: Patrik-Ian Polk
Starring: Julian Walker, Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drug use – all involving teens.
Grade: D+

Photo courtesy of KBiz Entertainment and Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions.

This movie is… really not what I was expecting. With stars like Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington topping the bill and a strong story to work with about a gay black teenager growing up in Baptist Mississippi, I expected “Blackbird” to be a solid and impressive melodrama. Much to my surprise, it’s actually quite goofy. Campy, even. Which is — at times — enjoyable (I liked the high school drama club preparing to present a gay version of “Romeo & Juliet”), but — at times — very stupid. Julian Walker is not at all convincing or compelling in the lead role of Randy, and Kevin Allesee as Randy’s older love interest Marshall gives me the creeps every time he appears onscreen. The strange subplot about Randy’s missing younger sister is unnecessary and seems added on as an ill-conceived afterthought. But worst of all, the entire film is spoiled in the final moments when Randy dreams up a “vision” that tells him the exact details of the entire rest of his life. Whose idea was it to end the movie like that? Because it’s absolutely terrible. I don’t know what happened, but I feel like “Blackbird” was a really wasted opportunity.

Learn k-pop dance at Dancejoa in Los Angeles

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Dancejoa studio in Koreatown, Los Angeles. SCREAMfmLondon

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that Dancejoa is one of the best things about living in LA. I only wish I had found out about the studio sooner!

It all started when I determinedly decided that I was absolutely going to learn the choreography for G-Dragon and Taeyang’s song “Good Boy.” I did learn it (eventually), but I also learned that dance is perhaps my secret passion in life, and I haven’t quite been the same since. I’ve logged a lot of hours at the studio in the ensuing years, and I like to think I’ve come a long way since I stumbled through my first dance cover video with Dancejoa LA several beats behind everyone else the entire time.


Yireh is an excellent teacher with amazing dancing talent and style. She makes everything look cool and effortless (even when I, myself, am dying and sweating profusely). But most importantly, she is a really effective teacher. Actually, Yireh is one of the best dance teachers I’ve ever had — she breaks everything down so well and teaches so clearly that I never feel confused or left behind even during difficult choreography. The classes are so well-organized and well-run. It’s really a pleasure to attend Dancejoa.

The schedule is also very well thought-out. There are two classes on Tuesdays, two on Thursdays and two on Saturdays. On the weekdays, it’s usually a one-hour girl group dance followed by a one-hour boy group dance. The Saturday classes are a bit longer (one and a half hours) and consist of one k-pop dance and one hip-hop routine.

The songs are broken down and taught in sections spread out over the course of a month so you can learn the entire choreography, which I love!!! You feel so accomplished after learning an entire full-length song. And having four weeks to work on it gives you enough time to digest the lessons and practice at home before coming back to add more.

I also love having so many varied dances to choose from. If you like cutesy Twice dances, they’ve got ’em! If you like super-intricate EXO dances, they’ve got ’em! If you like badass hip-hop dances, they’ve got that too! And if you like it all, you can just come learn everything. The schedule is posted in advance on Facebook.


Last year, Dancejoa moved to a new location. It’s easy to find and has its own (very small) parking lot out back. Some of the classes get quite crowded, so I’d recommend coming early to make sure you can find parking (but what else is new, LA?). There’s also a weird random wall in the middle of the studio that limits the space a lot, but Yireh is great about moving around so everyone can see and splitting big classes into groups so everyone has a good chance to practice.

I really can’t recommend Dancejoa enough. I’ve discovered a love for dance that I didn’t realize I had, and it’s made such a big difference in my life. Thanks, Dancejoa!

Students practicing GD and TOP's "Zutter" choreography at Dancejoa in LA. SCREAMfmLondon

Students practicing GD and T.O.P’s “Zutter” choreography at Dancejoa in LA. SCREAMfmLondon

Dancejoa Dance Studio
3859 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, Calif.
For more information, visit www.dancejoa.com.

Theater: Shakespeare OC presents ‘Pirates of Penzance’

Alex Bodrero (The Pirate King, foreground) with Max Black and Nikolai Fernandez (immediately behind him) in Shakespeare Orange County's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, September 10-26, 2015. In background, left and right, are Jacob Lansberg and James Quesada. Photo by Amelia Barron

Alex Bodrero (The Pirate King) with Max Black and Nikolai Fernandez in Shakespeare Orange County’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.” Photo courtesy of Amelia Barron

To close their summer season, Shakespeare Orange County cordially invites the audience aboard the goofiest opera-singing pirate ship around with a uniquely intimate production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”

Director Peter Uribe, whose background in rock operas includes a six-month tour of the UK working on a Pete Townshend-approved production of The Who’s “Quadrophenia,” said he hopes to infuse Shakespeare OC’s debut musical with this kind of energy.

“The kind of mantra we live by is, ‘This is not your great-grandmother’s Pirates of Penzance,’” he said. “A big fight scene happens that’s kind of an homage to The Who and ‘Quadrophenia.’ We have a sound cue: at the count of four or five, the lights all go out, and it’s just Roger Daltrey screaming at the apex of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’ The lights just go black, that all happens, the lights come back up, and the fight’s over.”

“Penzance” is more of a comic opera that is best known for one specific song (“I am the very model of a modern major-general, / I’ve information vegetable, animal and mineral,” etc.), but Shakespeare OC hopes to show Southern California theatergoers how entertaining it is in its entirety. Because the 1879 opera is now in the public domain, the cast has had more freedom to reshape the material for today’s audiences.

“We’ve thrown in every gag we can,” Uribe said. “While we’re pretty faithful to the script, I encourage the actors the entire time, ‘Any time you see a space for a joke, improv a joke. If it makes me laugh three times in a row and it’s somewhat appropriate, it can stay in the show.’ It’s been kind of fun to work fast and loose with the script.”

The opera’s storyline follows Frederic, a 21-year-old who has just completed an apprenticeship aboard a pirate ship. However, as Frederic is preparing to be on his way (hopefully alongside the Major-General’s beautiful daughter Mabel), the Pirate King discovers a loophole: because Frederic was born on leap year, he won’t technically turn 21 for many more decades and has to rejoin their crew.

Alex Bodrero, who plays the Pirate King in Shakespeare OC’s production, said he’s enjoyed combining elements of serious opera with the comedy of “Penzance.”

“This is probably the most classical singing I’ve done in a long time, despite it being such a crazy, off-the-wall show,” he said. “It’s an interesting dichotomy. It’s got that legit thing while having fun like you’re on the playground in elementary school.”

For “Penzance,” Shakespeare OC decided to make the most of the expansive Garden Grove stage: instead of utilizing all 500 seats in the amphitheater, they will include audience seating right there in the midst of it.

“I don’t think people know what to expect when they’re going to come see this,” said Nikolai Fernandez, who plays Frederic in the production. “What’s exciting about that is you’re going to have audience members who are uncomfortable and look away when you’re trying to talk to them and invite them in, and you’re going to have audience members who want to, like, jump up and be a part of it when you give them that permission.”

In recent years, Shakespeare OC has been working to make classic theater productions more accessible to the local community. Earlier this season, a production of “Romeo and Juliet” staged its famous ball scene as a traditional Mexican quinceañera, and the Montagues delivered their lines in Korean. Uribe hopes “Penzance” will prove that musical theater also has a place in the OC.

“The stigma is that in LA, everything is better, but [Uribe] really brings a lot that you won’t find anywhere else to the theater,” Fernandez said, “and I think that’s a huge reason why I decided to commute down here two hours every day to be a part of it.”

‘The Pirates of Penzance’
12762 Main St., Garden Grove, Calif.
7:30 p.m. Thursday – Sunday through Sept. 26
Tickets are $20
For more information, visit www.shakespeareoc.org.

Great craic at the Celtic Arts Center

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New Irish dancers learn some basic steps at the Celtic Arts Center in North Hollywood. SCREAMfmLondon

I just knew there had to be a place in Los Angeles that gave Irish language lessons. I just knew. If it exists, it probably exists in LA.

That’s how I came across the Celtic Arts Center — An Claidheamh Soluis — in North Hollywood.

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SCREAMfmLondon

Every Monday night, the group gathers at the Mayflower Club, a wood-paneled venue complete with a small stage and, naturally, a well-stocked bar and provides free classes and workshops, then caps the night off with a traditional Celtic jam session.

Upstairs, lessons in Irish and Scots-Gaelic take place in cozy rooms lined with bookshelves full of worn-out classics including Yeats and Seamus Heaney. The beginners’ Irish language classes follow Máiréad Ní Ghráda’s book “Progress in Irish,” and when you graduate to the next level, the Arts Center also offers an intermediate workshop. But good luck with that. I’ve been stuck in a never-ending loop of beginners’ classes for like three years.

After wracking your brain over all the sínte fada, you can head downstairs, where the real céilí atmosphere settles in over a few rounds of dancing. Some of your classmates (like me!) are former competitive Irish dancers, and some are trying it out for the first time that night. Either way , they will grab you and throw you into the middle of the Walls of Limerick or the Siege of Ennis, and it will be a blast. Guaranteed.

And at 9 p.m., musicians set up their fiddles and drums for a traditional Celtic music seisiún.

The Celtic Arts Center is such a cool asset to the SoCal community. Definitely check it out!

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“I have a headache.” SCREAMfmLondon

2015 St. Patrick’s Day Céilí
11110 Victory Blvd.
7 p.m. Monday
Admission is free.
For more information, visit www.celticartscenter.com.

I did a 3-day juice cleanse (and lived)

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One day’s worth of juices from Pressed Juicery. SCREAMfmLondon

I don’t usually like to do things that could be considered “a step in the right direction” at the beginning of the year because I don’t want people to get the impression that I’m the kind of person who resolves to better myself. Nah, I plan to be terrible for a long, long time to come.

Still, I couldn’t help taking advantage of the opportunity to challenge myself with a three-day juice cleanse. And I did it, with the help of Pressed Juicery, who delivered the 18 requisite beverages (six per day) that comprise “Cleanse #2” to my doorstep at 4 a.m.

So, I drank my juices throughout the day as instructed. But I was hungry. Real hungry. And I did not feel energized, nor did I “glow.” And I’m sure I’ve since erased any progress I made “resetting” my body with all the Wingstop I’ve eaten since the cleansing ended. I guess some people are not cut out for that cleansing life.

I do, however, feel like I relate more to my fellow Angelenos since the completion of my juice cleanse. I feel more susceptible to Scientology and quinoa salad, too. Maybe I’ll try another cleanse in the future when I’m more mentally prepared to stock up on kale and organic guacamole afterwards. Anything could happen. 2015 is full of possibilities.

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Vanilla almond: the most delicious of the juices. SCREAMfmLondon

Greens 2: kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon

The first juice of the day is your standard green juice. This is what juicing is all about. It definitely tastes like it’s healthy — that is to say, it’s not super delicious, but it’s not bad. After a day or two, it begins to taste like you’ve been weeding the garden face-first. Make of that what you will.

Citrus 2: apple, lemon, pineapple, mint

I really expected this to be more delicious than it is. “Citrus” sounds tasty, the ingredients are all appealing, and the color of this juice is one of the most attractive. But the apple and mint are the most overpowering flavors in this one. It’s not the best.

Greens 3: kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, ginger

They didn’t actually give me any of these! Instead, they sent me duplicates of the Greens 2, which is fine because the only difference is that Greens 3 is supposed to contain ginger. And who needs ginger? Nah, not me.

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Greens 2: start your day with a mouthful of plants. SCREAMfmLondon

Roots 3: apple, lemon, beet, ginger

I had high hopes for this because I feel like red juices are usually delightful. Clearly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Roots 3 tastes like garbage. This is probably the roughest juice of the day. All beet with the distinctive, overwhelming zing of ginger in your face. It’s a chore to swallow. Do not recommend.

Lemon H2O: lemon, cayenne, filtered water

I expected this lemon water to taste more like lemonade. So naïve. It tastes like spicy, lemon garbage. I just had to close my eyes and drink it quickly, praying that it was actually doing something beneficial for my body. Supposedly, it preps your digestive tract for absorption. But it’s so awful, y’all.

Vanilla almond: filtered water, almond, dates, vanilla bean, sea salt

Well, I think this is the only juice that was genuinely enjoyable for me. I so looked forward to it at the end of each increasingly difficult day of the cleanse. That’s because it tastes like a milkshake and provides protein and healthy fats. My kinda drink. It’s more filling and satisfying than the other juices. Would definitely drink again.

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Cleanse prices at some popular juiceries around Los Angeles. SCREAMfmLondon

Jeff Goldblum at the Rockwell Table & Stage

Another great picture: Jeff Goldblum performs with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra at the Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz. SCREAMfmLondon

Sometimes, I wonder why I would ever want to leave LA. Such a night was when I made it out to the Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz to see Jeff Goldblum play jazz with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra over cocktails. Only in Hollywood, folks.

More-or-less every Wednesday at 9 p.m., Jeff and his band perform a low-key concert at the Rockwell with Jeff simultaneously on piano and holding court with the audience, singing and shooting the breeze about movies.

On the night I attended, the band played standards like “Bye Bye Blackbird” and invited up a few guest performers, including a fantastic female vocalist who sang “It Had to Be You” with them.

In between songs, Jeff tools around on the piano and engages in conversation with the audience. Which is super awkward. I cannot emphasize enough how apparent the generation gap was here. I’m going to have to assume that the majority of the audience came out because they remember “Jurassic Park” fondly from their childhoods, because they were not familiar with the songs and struggled to keep up with Jeff’s references to classic movies. There was some sort of degrees-of-separation game going on, but the connection was not being made between Jeff’s contributions of films like “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and the audience shouting “Shia LaBeouf! ‘Harry Potter’!” Like I said: awkward for all of us.

If you want to attend, you can order tickets ahead of time, and you’ll get a guaranteed seat. Regular seats are $20, and VIP seats are $25 if you want to be all up in Jeff Goldblum’s face. Or, you can just swing by and hope there’s an open chair. This is what I did — and I scored one of the last stools available at the bar, which was a perfect spot from which to eat and watch the show. It was fate.

At the Rockwell, the cocktails all have fabulous names: The Rejected Suitor, for example, is made with honey scotch, blackberries, fresh mint and Cointreau. I ordered “Jim Got Down on His Knees” because that’s a great fucking name for a cocktail, and it sounded delicious: rosé, grape vodka and St. Germaine Elderflower. It was delicious, by the way, and all of the craft cocktails cost $12.

After watching plates of aromatic food pass by for a while, I decided I couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to order something of my own. I went with one of the wood stone flatbreads ($15) — the forest mushroom, which is topped with wild mushrooms, white sauce and truffle oil. It was perfect.

The entire event is a classy, classic Hollywood experience, and I highly recommend it.

Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra at the Rockwell Table & Stage
1714 N. Vermont Ave.
9 p.m. Wednesday
Entry is free; reserved tickets range from $20-25
For more information, visit www.rockwell-la.com.

My picks: Best brunch spots in Los Angeles

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The cobb omelette at Alcove Café and Bakery in Los Feliz. SCREAMfmLondon

The worst thing about breakfast is that it takes place so early in the day. Who even wakes up before noon? On a weekend? Not me. But if, by some strange twist of fate, you happen to find yourself both alert and hungry in the wee hours of the morning, there are some great breakfast and/or brunch spots in Los Angeles for you to check out.

Eat This Café
Neighborhood: Hollywood

I was already fond of this restaurant long before I managed to try the brunch, and, man, did that change everything. The truffle cheese and egg panini moved me. To put it into perspective: the first time I ordered this sandwich, I actually called someone on the phone afterwards to tell them that I’d just had the best breakfast of my life. Now I bring everyone there to drink bottomless mimosas with me. The sandwich is served on toasted sourdough bread and is made with fried eggs, truffle cheese, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, provolone cheese and a balsamic glaze. It’s all served with seasoned roasted potatoes and a small cup of fruit. Wow! It’s magnificent.

Larchmont Bungalow
Neighborhood: Larchmont Village

Larchmont is the kind of cute neighborhood that gives off a “brunch” vibe all day long, you know? There’s a Sunday morning farmer’s market and streets lined with expensive, kitschy boutiques and cafes. And Larchmont Bungalow is the best place to brunch there. If you’re into extravagant dessert, you will be into their red and blue velvet pancakes, which are not pancakes as much as they are moist little cakes filled with cream cheese spread, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with walnuts. So indulgent. So good.

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The truffle cheese and egg panini at Eat This Café in Hollywood. SCREAMfmLondon

Eggslut
Neighborhood: Downtown

If you find yourself cruising through Grand Central Market between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., it would be wise to stop by the Eggslut kiosk, where they serve up super deluxe egg-based breakfasts that you can eat at their counter or across the street at Pershing Square. The food rules. There’s the Fairfax: a sandwich on a brioche bun with soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and Sriracha mayo. And there’s the cheeseburger: wagyu beef, caramelized onions, pickles, cheddar cheese, dijonnaise and an over-medium egg on a brioche bun. This food will get all over you, and it will be worth it.

The Griddle Café
Neighborhood: Hollywood Hills

The line is long, and the portions are gigantic. I was completely prepared for everything to be huge, and it still surprised me how huge it really was. That’s how it goes at the Griddle Café: your plate will be overflowing with toppings. You roll with it. There are pages and pages of pancake options — they’re all served three to a plate, and they’re bigger than your head. Some of the choices are just amazing. The Black Magic pancakes are filled with crushed Oreos and topped with whipped cream and Oreo cookie pieces. The Red Velvet pancakes are topped with swirls of cream cheese icing. Mhm.

Alcove Café and Bakery
Neighborhood: Los Feliz

At Alcove, you place your order and pay inside, then find a server to seat you (preferably on the spacious outdoor patio on a lovely Los Angeles day). It’s a little stressful, and you occasionally have to wait 50 years to get up to the counter. But once you do, the food (and dessert!) is delicious. The cobb omelette is a truly fabulous piece of brunch art, stuffed with warm grilled chicken, bacon, blue cheese and tomato and topped with large slices of avocado. The omelette itself is huge, but it also comes with a large portion of delicious rosemary potatoes and four slices of toast. I don’t even like toast, but I still finished mine because it came with butter and a tiny, personal-sized glass jar of strawberry jam. It’s adorable.

Blu Jam Café
Neighborhood: Fairfax

Blu Jam is another must-try brunch location in an area full of brunch locations. There’s a little something for everybody. If you’re into savory breakfast: order Kamil’s Breakfast, which is pan-roasted macaroni scrambled with eggs, smoked bacon, ham, garlic, chives and cheddar cheese. If you’re into sweet breakfast: order the crunchy French toast, which is egg brioche dipped in batter, rolled in crunchy corn flakes, grilled and topped with fresh fruit and vanilla bean sauce. If you’re me, order a California omelette, which has three eggs, smoked bacon, tomato, avocado, sour cream and cheddar cheese.