Secret Stairs Walk #38: Universal City- Happy Trails

—  In 2012 I have to do all 42 walks from my book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. These posts are to (hopefully) convince you to buy the book and get out there to explore the secret stairs around LA. Enjoy!  —

Today I want to talk about my exploration of the Universal City hills. This walk begins along the busy street of Cahuenga Blvd. Once you walk a few blocks you loop up into the hills, where the sounds of traffic dissipate, the air feels fresher, and it becomes very calm.

I actually made a mistake, took a wrong turn and added a steep detour to my walk. It’s funny how this mistake was very enjoyable (despite the high heat and hill steepness). Spending time walking the hills and secret stairs is so relaxing. All the anxiety of the day just washes away and you feel in the moment. Personally I’m always looking for small details to take photos of and delight in. This means I’m constantly absorbing what I’m seeing, just taking it all in.

For example, if I hadn’t made the mistake of a wrong turn, I would have missed out on this awesome Star Wars windshield cover.

Speaking of secret stairs, how about secret houses? The only marker of this home is the bright red door, a glimpse of a chimney and the trash cans out front. I like to imagine who lives in there and what it looks like. Probably a troll… or some type of Disney character.

Higher and higher I go. The architecture got more unique as I headed up hill.

A friend joined me.

This house is where Kathy Griffith lived (or still lives?) and was featured on her reality show, My Life on the D-List.

The next unique home I came across was of a former wrestler turned designer. I was unable to fit it all the in frame because it was so monstrous and the road was narrow. The entire home is covered in decorative mosaic tile. Also, I think the home owner came home while I was taking photos. It was awkward.

This homes are so interesting and the book said these are where a famous novelist set his superhero’s home. I can’t remember the details, but I love the architecture! I can’t imagine being in one of these during an earthquake. I did enjoy that the glass walls made it so you could see how people decorated these homes (there were several along this hillside).

Per usual, this was another delightful Secret Stair walk.

Miceli’s

On Friday night, my sister invited me to Miceli’s to use one of her Groupons. The deal was a 3 course meal for $15 (1 appetizer, 1 salad, and 1 pizza). If this deal comes up again, get it!

We made reservations for 8pm at their Universal location. Parking was a little tricky as it was Friday night along Ventura Blvd, but they offered valet (for a cost) or you could search for a spot along the narrow winding side streets leading up into the hills (like I did, because Im a proud cheapskate). I was running a little behind because of an accident on the 101 (per usual), so when I finally found a parking spot and walked half a mile down to the restaurant I was about 11 minutes late. As I walked up to the door of Miceli’s, a family was exiting the restaurant with the mother saying “Im glad we got here when we did, because if you get here after 7p, forget’aboutit!” I continued in, thankful Erica made reservations because the waiting area was packed with people. I apologized for being late and she said that even with the reservation she was told it would be a 15 mintue wait, which was perfect timing given my tardiness. After a few minutes of chatting, Erica’s name was called out by a man with a cone shaped bullhorn. We made our way through a packed restaurant to a back area where they gave the 2 of us a table for 4, which was great because it gave us room to spread out (a rarity at a packed LA restaurant).


This place was like being in a cartoon. The walls are covered in murals representing “old Italy” and hundred’s of chianti bottles in signed straw baskets strung around the restaurant as decoration. In the center of the restaurant a band was set-up. Occasionally the wait staff would get their 15 minutes of fame, jump up there and belt out a song. While singing they also walked around the restaurant with the microphone to make all sections feel included. On this Friday night there was a tween birthday party happening in a section behind out table, which meant the songs karaoke’d were mostly Miley and Bieber (not my favorite, but it made them happy).

When using a Groupon you have to present it while ordering, which basically implies to the waitress, I’m a cheapo that uses coupons. Don’t get me wrong, I love Groupon but when presenting it right off the bat, it always makes me think the service will be less than stellar because the waiter knows we won’t be spending a lot of money. At Miceli’s I was proven wrong, the waitstaff was excellent. Our waitress was a woman in her late forties (?), and she was extremely attentive constantly refilling our drinks and checking in with us. Considering it was a packed restaurant, it was all the more impressive.

Our Groupon allowed us one appetizer (we chose the fried zucchini), one salad (perfect for 2 people), and one pizza. We chose the large veggie pizza, but the deal was even good on their fancier pizzas (up to a $22 regularly priced pizza). What a deal! The food was delicious, the live music and crowds were entertaining, and the service was great. My sister and I each left with a doggie bag of 2 pieces of pizza each, and the total spent on the Groupon and tip came to $22. I highly recommend Miceli’s for families and groups, and remember to make a reservation!

Photo taken from Yelp.com