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Beyond the Forum and Sofi Stadium: 9 Spots to Get a Local Feel of Inglewood

A woman wearing an apron works inside of a cafe kitchen. Her bright red hair is tied up in a bun that rests on her head.
Lara Curtis of Mingles Tea Bar in Inglewood works in the kitchen. Mingles Tea Bar serves looseleaf tea, espressos, lattes, homemade pastries and desserts. | Jean Lim Flores
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The City of Inglewood is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. Angelenos may think of Inglewood for concerts at The Forum or sporting events with the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Charges at SoFi Stadium. But the one thing that Lara Curtis, owner of Mingles Tea Bar loves about Inglewood, "Is that it is developing its own type of culture for the community. The people who live in Inglewood pretty much pride themselves on making it stand out from any other city."

As an L.A. native, Curtis reflects on how her love affair with the city started from an Inglewood moniker with a decidedly negative reputation. "As long as I can remember, it had a bad rap of being 'Inglehood,' but it's not. Due to the pandemic, yes, it got bad, but it was also beneficial because it caused people to stop, take notice of their surroundings and take notice that in the blink of an eye, your life could change."

Curtis says during the pandemic, people joined forces and really worked with each other. "It has been great. A lot of the residents are determined to see Inglewood thrive. I've had conversations with customers who are standing up to say, 'We don't want to see these large companies coming in, monopolizing our city. We want the mom and pops. We want the unique stores.' I love the fact that I was a tea shop coming into a neighborhood that really was not familiar with tea. I was not sure how I would be received. It was very welcoming in the sense that they gravitated to the idea of having something new. Not that tea is new, but the types of tea we have and the way we serve it, have customers coming back for more."

Meet Lara of Mingle’s Tea Bar and learns the art of tea and family on "SoCal Wanderer."
Mingles Tea Bar

In the same way that her patrons are supporting their local businesses, Curtis doesn't have to think twice when it comes to elevating her personal favorites on the following list of must-dos in Inglewood:

Jamz Creamery

A scoop of white/cream-colored ice cream sits on top of a waffle cone. The ice cream is topped with multicolored popped rice cereal. Behind the ice cream is a lime green wall with a pink neon sign that reads, "Jamz Creamery."
1/3 A single scoop of ice cream topped with Fruity Pebbles at Jamz Creamery. | Jean Lim Flores
An ice cream storefront with bright red tables and chairs on the sidewalk. A large sign shaped like two scoops of ice cream on a waffle cone and topped with a cherry stands by the door. The store itself is brightly colored, with pink and white stripes and images of ice cream all over.
2/3 The storefront at Jamz Creamery. | Jean Lim Flores
A man stands behind a corner and stretches his hand out, offering a scoop of ice cream on a waffle cone. The man is wearing a red t-shirt, a blue disposable face mask and black-rimmed glasses. On the counter in front of him is a tip jar filled with dollar bills.
3/3 A man serves ice cream at Jamz Creamery. | Jean Lim Flores

"So one of the places that I go to is Jamz Creamery, because I love ice cream and crazy enough, I love ice cream in the winter time. It's also the fact that it's starting to get into that fall weather," laughs Curtis. "First thing you have to get over when you go in there is [how much the owner] looks like someone who could be playing for the Rams, are you kidding?"

Curtis admires how the owner J. Allen, fought to turn a vacant spot in a building into an ice cream parlor. "At first, he wanted to expand, and the city was giving him a hard time, but he stuck to his guns. He's doing something not many people are doing. He is an African American, single father who decided to put an ice cream shop in the heart of Inglewood," Curtis says. "It's all about community supporting one another."

She adds, "You can sit inside, you know, hang out with your family and your kids. It's just a great experience plus some amazing cookies and ice cream." Curtis recommends the strawberry cheesecake-flavored ice cream. As a purist, Curtis states, "If I want ice cream, I want to get to it. I want the ice cream in a cup so I can taste it, not the sprinkles and all that kind of stuff." That being said, there are plenty of fun toppings, new coconut milk-based vegan options, sorbets and creamy flavors from chocolate malted crunch to dreamy cotton candy and everything in between for ultimate taste bud satisfaction.

Crustees Eatery

A small, single-serving pie is held up against a wall with the Crustees logo on it. The Crustees logo is red. Inside the C is an icon of a pie with one slice missing. A slice of pie takes the place of the apostrophe by the 'S.'
Crustees in Inglewood specializes in sweet and savory flaky pies. | Jean Lim Flores

Although they have a modest list of sweet and savory pies enveloped in perfectly flaky crusts, Crustees also makes a mean chili, says Curtis. "Now their chili is top of the line. Wow. It's flavorful, it's authentic and fresh. You don't have to add anything. You can tell that they were there making it that morning and not that they had some left over from the week before that they froze."

The depth of the chili spice profile, layered into crushed tomatoes and sprinkled with kidney beans, is deeply simmered into the chunky ground turkey to become a bowl to behold. Pair that with their perfectly sweet, in-house cornbread muffins and you've got yourself a complete meal. As many businesses in the area are, they are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Because of that, Curtis usually calls on the family matriarch for some chili aid, "Hey mom, stop by Crustees and get me something to eat."

A cornbread muffin sits next to a bowl of chilli. The photo is taken from overhead and the food sits on a metal tray.
A cornbread muffin and a bowl of chili served at Crustees. | Jean Lim Flores

Curtis has learned as a small business owner herself, "It really matters when you walk through the door, and you see the person that you're supporting and they tell you their story. You're not looking at me just as a dollar and I'm not looking at you just wanting to come get something to eat, but I've taken the time to know your story. You shared with me. I know when I come back the next week, you're going to remember me and we gonna make this happen." Other secret menu items that you won't find online is their gluten-free sweet breads, ranging from seasonal pumpkin loaves and banana chocolate chip bread to banana pudding and lemon meringue pie. (They can be made the regular way on request.) Make sure you call ahead for these off the menu offerings as they are not readily available daily.

Ms. Ann's White Clothing Store

A woman wearing all black sits on an ornate white cushion chair with gold detailing. The chair back is tufted with sparkly buttons.
Ms. Ann of Ms. Ann's clothing store inside her boutique in Inglewood. | Jean Lim Flores

Not too long ago, Curtis found herself with an invitation to her first all-white party. "Okay, y'all have to understand. For the last six years, my life has existed of black yoga pants, Birkenstocks and a T-shirt," laments Curtis. With no white clothing in her closet to speak of, Curtis heard about Ms. Ann's store through word of mouth. "Somebody was like, go to Ms. Ann. She will dress you! The community knows of her as Ms. Ann. One, she's BEEN in the community. Two, she has two clothing stores on Manchester between Crenshaw and Van Ness."

A woman dressed in all black sits on a black metal chair outside of a boutique storefront. In front of the store are two mannequins wearing flowy white dresses. On the store is a sign that reads, "Ms Ann's" in a curvy, cursive font.
Ms. Ann of Ms. Ann's clothing store sits outside of her shop. | Jean Lim Flores

Also, as the owner of the neighboring tattoo parlor and décor shop, it's apparent that Ms. Ann knows a thing or two about the business of dressing people and places up. "Ms. Ann dressed me, from my sunglasses to my dress, to my shoes, down to my purse and pasties. I bought two outfits. Ms. Ann will dress you no matter what the event is. She's going to make it happen. And when you go into her store, you will feel like a kid in a candy store, cause there's bling-bling here, there's contemporary here, there's casual there. I mean like, you want it and she's going to make sure you look the part." Ms. Ann has a knack for styling anyone that walks through her doors, even industry folks. Curtis recently learned that Ms. Ann does work for homeless women. "She has a nonprofit that does things for women shelters and homeless women. And I was like, 'Wow.'"

Swank Men's Fashion

A man wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a duo-tone button up tucked into blue jeans leans against the doorframe into a men's fashion boutique. The storefront is glass with well-dressed mannequins dressed in mens fashion. A sign that reads, "Swank Men's Fashion" is posted on the face of the building.
Khnum Alexander of Swank Men's Fashion stands outside of his storefront in Inglewood. | Jean Lim Flores

Another clothing store favorite of Curtis' is a men's clothing shop called Swank, a few doors west of Ms. Ann's. When Curtis threw a party for her guy, "He went there and they did the male version of what Ms. Ann did for me. They dressed him from head to toe and he was looking mighty fine."

Owner, Khnum Alexander, approaches most people who come through his doors by understanding the events they are wanting to be styled for and tailoring outfits to flatter their body type. The great thing about his approach is that he likes to get people where they're comfortable, and then take them a little further to be empowered. Not only does Alexander know fashion, but he is also the co-founder of a nonprofit art gallery in Inglewood, called The Creative House. "I know him, but I know him from having a place on Market Street where he would put on art shows, book signings and things like that," says Curtis. The fine art gallery is open to the public on Tuesdays through Sundays, showcasing curated exhibitions as well as accessible free art education and programming for kids and adults.

Khnum Alexander of Swank Men's Fashion sits on a black cushioned arm chair. All around him are racks of mens wear from blazers and coats to dress shirts and trousers.
Owner Khnum Alexander sits inside his store, Swank Men's Fashion. | Jean Lim Flores

The theme of being culturally relevant for the community continues to be a common theme amongst Curtis' favorites, so here is a list of other unique places in Inglewood that are worth a visit:

Edward Vincent Jr. Park

Curtis says that the family-friendly Edward Vincent Jr. Park, which was named after the first Black mayor of Inglewood, is, "doing a lot of great things. They just built a new place for soccer. They have this theater inside the park where they used to hold concerts before the pandemic. It's really nice and the park in itself is beautiful."

Rusty Pot

A favorite brunch spot for Curtis is Rusty Pot. "I know that it's a small operation and I'm hoping they continue to succeed, but it's a quaint shop on Market Street." Curtis raves that the food is fabulous. "I've been there several times when I've had the opportunity to be off and go for breakfast." Her go-to menu items are the hot links and eggs with home fries or perfectly fried chicken wings with fluffy pancakes or waffles. It's really good. Their food is really good.

Taco Tuesday and Savory Saturdays at Mingles

Two women stand behind a table topped with various taco ingredients like tortilla shells, salsas, sliced radish, tomatoes and more. Behind them is a bright orange wall with eclectic wall decor arranged messily on the wall.
Curtis' Mingles Tea Bar serves tacos on Tuesday nights from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. | Jean Lim Flores

After some coaxing, Curtis humbly shares some information on the two days that she serves food out of Mingles Tea Bar — on Tuesday nights from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. "During the pandemic, I started doing tacos and not a lot of people showed up. Then, my family started coming to eat tacos on Tuesday. I started dating and my boyfriend was like, 'Oh, I'm gonna tell my coworkers.' That started bringing attention, cause you have all these men sitting out on the patio, eating tacos and women driving by would pull over saying, 'Wow, this is the business,'" laughs Curtis.

An older woman sits behind a counter. She is surrounded by an eclectic environment. The wall behind her is painted in a vibrant teal color. Mugs and teacups of various sizes, shapes and patterns are arranged in a shelf nearby.
1/2 The interior at Mingles Tea Bar where they serve looseleaf teas, homemade pastries and desserts. | Jean Lim Flores
Looseleaf tea in large glass jars are arranged on two shelves. Behind it is a bright teal wall covered in various wall decor and personal photos, arranged in a collage style.
2/2 Looseleaf teas on display at Mingles Tea Bar in Inglewood. | Jean Lim Flores

Since then, Taco Tuesday has really taken on a life of its own. "Everybody that comes in is a regular. They're hanging out. I literally have to kick people out when I'm ready to close, because we laughin', the music is going, people are dancing," Curtis says. "I'm chopping onions, cutting cilantro and slicing radish. It's the one day that I don't play games. It is crazy. I love it. But it's crazy." Suffice to say, the tacos with made-to-order fried shells and freshly chopped ingredients are the way to go! "For Savory Saturdays, it's a waffle bar with turkey sausages, blueberries, bananas and strawberries," says Curtis. "When people come on Saturdays, my mom is doing the waffles so they feel that family environment. I even have customers that come in before they leave and we're praying over them."

When asked what success means to her, Curtis answers, "Success is not the dollar amount. Success is not even how many teas or desserts I've sold per day. Success, to me, is when Mingles Tea Bar made such an impact in their life to let them know, 'Hey, I see you.' That's success."

Sweet Red Peach

If you're down in Inglewood taking in a concert at The Forum or a game at SoFi Stadium, a quick visit to the family-owned and operated bakery of Sweet Red Peach is in order. The selection of made-from-scratch cakes, cookies, cupcakes and Southern specialty desserts like their famous red velvet or classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting don't last all day, so the earlier you go, the better.

Ride Wit Us Bike Shop

Ride Wit Us is a pandemic success story. Owner and founder, Kellie Hart created a cycling movement and landed herself a storefront during the most challenging of times of the pandemic. What started as a way to get out and let off some steam became a club made up mostly of beginner or intermediate Latino and Black riders in their 30s and 40s. It was community that drew them there. The goal of opening a thriving bike shop, selling refurbished bikes and cycling merchandise was just the beginning as Hart has many more aspirations to expand her footprint and create a community center and event space.

How to get to Mingles Tea Bar

By Bus: The easiest route to Mingles Tea Bar would be to hop on the Metro E Line (Expo) at 7th Street and get off on Expo at Crenshaw. Walk a couple minutes to Crenshaw and Exposition where you can hop on Metro Bus 210 (Orange) and exit on Crenshaw and Manchester. Mingles is just a short .1 mi walk to the tea bar.

By Car: The fastest route via 110 S is to exit right off W Florence Ave. Continue onto S Flower St and use the right two lanes to turn right onto W Florence Ave. In approximately 2.8 miles, Turn left at Crenshaw Blvd and Mingles Tea Bar will be located one mile down on your right.

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