Max Koch Uncorked

Wine-soaked adventures through a twisted life…

A Decadent Day in Downtown L.A.

Sure, I live in Los Angeles but I never bother to go downtown unless I’m being dragged against my will to attend some play or musical by my lovely wife.  So you can imagine the dread I felt inside when she said, “Hey! Why don’t we take the Metro line downtown sometime and see some sights.”

To be fair, she was coming from a place of encouragement because I had just seen an old Huell Howser segment featuring Downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market.  I was suddenly very curious to see what it was all about and that set the wife off on a mission to plan a day downtown.  ANY opportunity to explore a city (even our own!) and my wife is ON it.

ME: But we can’t leave the dogs alone that long…

NIC: They’ll be FINE. We’ll only be gone for 5 or 6 hours!

So yesterday morning we drove up to the North Hollywood Metro station to park our car so we could get on the subway train to head downtown.  I suppose we could have just walked there since we only live about 25 minutes away from it on foot.  But it was already so hot and humid by 10am, that we said, “Ah, screw it, let’s spoil ourselves!”  The truth is, the parking lot was unbelievably packed and confusing. There were green zones and blue zones and pink zones and yellow zones and bus zones and bike zones and we didn’t know WHAT the hell was going on. But we finally figured it out after about another 30 minutes and finally made it down to the station’s ticket terminal, which was equally confusing if not more so.  

(Seriously, we had not ridden the Metro since, like, the late 1990’s…)


The wife utterly bewildered by the ticket machine. (Tap card? What’s a TAP card…?)

We weren’t on the subway car FIVE seconds before some kind of heated argument broke out between 2 passengers, only adding to my anxiety about getting on an underground train in a region RIPE for a massive earthquake to erupt and bury us in concrete and steel. 

Thankfully, Security arrived to break up the brawlers and I managed to breathe it out the rest of the ride down.

We got off at the Pershing Square exit and were IMMEDIATELY thrusted into a monsoon of people, pollution, buildings, bricks, construction, noise, odors, oddwins, cars, cranes, filth, fury, and honking horns. We also started accidentally walking in the opposite direction of our first destination on the itinerary. Namely, The Last Book Store. (Suggestion: NEVER forget a MAP.)


The Last Book Store was SO cool. New books, used books, rare books. And BEST OF ALL, a warning sign to customers that I was very happy to see:


THANK YOU, Last Book Store!  It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, these loaf-abouts who grease and gross up the stock with their finger tips and coffee dribbles.


And check this out, they even sell used DVDs and rare-ass PUNK ROCK records!


The Annex Room is a TRIP.  So many kickass, Koch-centric treasures to be found…










So of ALL the things I coulda bought, what do you think I wound up with?

You guessed it: A Carrot Top DVD, a book on Shane MacGowan, and “The Collected Works of Beavis and Butthead!”  Am I a refined, cultured individual or WHAT!


Listen, I stand by my choices.  And this total badass bookseller babe at least agreed with my Shane selection, anyway… 


Phew!  Shopping for books can be exhausting and we were starting to get hungry so it was finally time to say goodbye to The Last Book Store – and this Fishbowl Head Lady – and make our way over a few blocks to the Grand Central Market for some culinary taste-gasms.


Along the way, I stopped to see if I needed any Aloe Pure or joint support pills.  I did not…


I’m telling you, you never know who – or what – you’re going to run into in Downtown L.A. …it’s all VERY surreal.  I even saw a man talking to a natty, old ventriloquist dummy.  But I saw that in San Francisco, too, once, so it really wasn’t that big a deal.


Ah.  Thar she blew.  The Grand Central Market.  We’d made it.


The first thing we saw when we entered the left-side door was a WALL OF WINE.  Perfect for this blog!


This was a title I was interested in picking up on the way out but it was all so overwhelming, this marketplace, that I forgot.  I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t wanna enjoy a red blend during Happy Hour…?


The scents, the sounds, the hunger, the humanity…


The Grand Market has SO many options, you almost start to short circuit.


And don’t even get me started on the delicious artisanal Goudas (from Scotland and Holland) we picked up at DTLA Cheese.



You need spices?  You need chiles?  You need Moles?  What about powders and rubs?  ANYTHING YOU NEED!!!


You need to re-adjust your pants in front of the China Cafe counter?  GO for it…


Finally, we settled HERE to catch our breath.  The Oyster Gourmet.  If you follow me at all on this blog, you know ALL ABOUT my adoration for oysters.  And best of all, you don’t judge me for it.


I ordered a beer and the Chef hand-picked my 9 globs of glory…


Nic ordered a French white (you’ll see…it’s this entry’s wine pairing) and a succulent shrimp cocktail…


I mean the produce ALONE down there.  Of course, we came from a train so we could only carry so many canvas bags full of crap.


And I assure you, your sweet tooth will NOT feel ignored.


They even got an Eggslut.  I don’t know what it means, but I’m intrigued…


If you think we’d had enough to eat, you are VASTLY incorrect.  Nope, it was now time for our actual LUNCH!  Spaghetti with Tomato, Garlic Bread, and Ceasar Salad from Knead & Co.  I’m telling you, the main directive of the day was DECADENCE. And Knead was SO fantastic.  Just enough fuel to get us back home.  

(And don’t worry…we shared…and did so much hot, sweaty walking, we pretty much lost every pound we’d gained during this adventure.)



Back out on the street and into the heat, it was time to find a refreshing, COLD dessert.  Nic had seen an ad in The Downtowner for a place called Little Damage that served – you guessed it again – GOTH ice cream!

By the time we were ready to hike it back to the Pershing Square Metro station, I was WIPED.  But I also felt a new appreciation for my city.  Like I had actually gone away on vacation for a day and all I had to do was take a quick subway ride downtown for a few hours.  And we BARELY scratched the surface.  There is SO much more to do and see and EAT.  But, MAN, was I happy to get back to my little old black pugs. AND MY AIR-CONDITIONING.

WINE PAIRING: Nic’s French white choice! The Picpoul de Pinet. Merci!


  1. I know you’re a wine lover but some nice Vodka pairs even better with Oysters. I love them too only….NOW I’M A FUCKING VEGAN!!! Oh well, most days it’s fine by me, but oysters are a weakness that I may have to indulge in a most unVeganlike way.

    Entertaining as always Max. Rock on!

    • maxkochuncorked

      Dude! Congrats on your Veganism. I would love to pair a Vodka with my little slimy buddies sometime. And don’t worry about the occasional cheat. Your secret’s safe with me. And thank you for reading, too!

  2. Jacquie Garcia

    I ❤️This post. How was the black ice cream? I almost did a downtown trip to check that out a couple weeks ago! But then the thought of dragging two 6-yr-olds onto trains and through city streets by myself made me rethink it. Also, I am curious if it would taste delightfully different, or remind me of that trip to the ER and the activated charcoal I drank… 😳

    • maxkochuncorked

      Hi, Jacquie! Thank you for reading! The flavor, if you can believe it, was strawberry shortcake. MUCH more pleasant, I imagine, than activated charcoal. xoxox

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