Garrett Leight: my favourite haunts in and around LA

The founder of California-cool eyewear brand Garrett Leight California Optical reveals his local hangouts

Garrett Leight California Optical was founded in Venice Beach in 2010 by Garrett Leight, who was, perhaps, destined to start an eyewear brand. He grew up in Los Angeles with a father who was obsessed with glasses. Larry Leight is the man who launched Oliver Peoples in 1986, naming the firm after the owner of a job-lot of frames he bought at auction. Young Garrett, meanwhile, wanted nothing to do with the family business until he was gradually sucked in, and finally, after cutting his teeth at Oliver Peoples, he branched out to create GLCO. 

Today, Garrett counts many famous faces among his customers, as you might expect from a native of Tinseltown, and has attracted fans worldwide for his lovingly classic take on eyewear, which pays homage to the shapes and designs we associate with the California cool of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, while bringing them right up to date. You can find GLCO’s handcrafted optical styles and sunglasses in the firm’s seven US stores and in boutiques in 25 countries, as well as online, of course. Here, Garrett tells us where you might like to wear his pieces in and around Los Angeles, should you come to visit.

Olvera Street
Olvera Street in Los Angeles is near where I work. My office has been Downtown for a decade, though I am not a Downtowner – I’m a Westsider, Venice Beach born and bred. But I probably go down to Olvera Street once a month.

It’s like a market, with vendors selling handmade Mexican blankets, knick-knacks, vases and jars, all made in Mexico or by Mexicans living in LA. There is a touristy component there too, of course, with people selling T-shirts that have silly graphics on them, but the place is authentic.

Olvera Street Market

There’s a restaurant there called Cielito Lindo that does great taquitos, which are my favourite. I used to go there as part of my on-boarding process for new members of my team: after two weeks of being introduced to the brand, the final element would be to have lunch with me on Olvera Street.

I like to go there to eat and then I walk it off, as the food is quite heavy. I just people-watch. There are mariachis playing and families running around. I don’t usually buy things, although I have done. So for me, Olvera Street is a great place to take a break for 45 minutes. But for a visitor it’s a little piece of Los Angeles that gives you a different flavour of the place.

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Maybe more obvious as somewhere to visit if you are coming to the city is Venice Beach. There’s a dive bar called Hinano Cafe that’s been there forever. It’s pretty much the last place before Washington Boulevard boardwalk. That’s where all the surfers are, and Hinano is a meeting place for all types of locals. It’s very low key – it’s just beers, pool tables and sawdust on the floors. Some of the regulars can look a bit mean but they’re actually very nice. It’s a flip-flops, casual, burger kind of place. It does a really good burger actually, not fancy, just classic on a grill – I really love them.

Hinano Cafe

There are so many bars in LA that are way more “party” and many are very touristy. But that one little bar is a great place to hang out and watch the surfers. It’s in an area of Venice that I used to frequent a lot more in my younger days, but it’s still cool and I’d highly recommend it.


Ojai, CA

Then, if you’re up for leaving LA itself, about an hour from the city centre is the small town of Ojai. I really like it there. One highlight is a cute outdoor bookstore called Bart’s Books that just speaks of the past – I like the smell of old books – as well as a bunch of good vintage shops. I just like to walk through them and point things out to my kids. I love introducing old things to my kids.

Rory’s Place is a favourite local restaurant that does good food. And although I’m not a big hiker, there are great trails here – I think there’s even a 27-mile super hike you can do. You’ll walk among the pines and, with the rain we’ve been having, there will be lots of places where you can just jump into streams and pools. It’s a special place. Johnny Cash built a house in the Ojai Valley.

Ojai itself is tiny: one road in and out. If you go through it, you are in the mountains of the wine valleys; the town was built for those coming from the ocean on their way to the mountains. It has an old mission feel, with the main area full of arches, and there’s a big bell tower. I love the feeling of it – the side streets where you find coffee shops and local restaurants. There’s also a golf course there that I like; it’s super cheap and public.

If you’re in LA, I’d definitely make time to get out to Ojai for a day. And if you’re interested in staying, there’s a really cool place called Caravan Outpost that has glamping Airstreams [aluminium travel trailers] you can sleep in. It’s a uniquely Californian experience. 


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