Feasting on the 4th of July in Los Angeles

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Clockwise from top left: Blue Velvet; the patio at Wilshire Restaurant, photograph from Peter Pak, MD; BREADBAR

The 4th of July can sneak up on you if you're not paying attention. One minute you're cruising through June, reveling in the cornucopia of early summer produce at your local farmers' market and fiddling around with new barbecue ideas, and then bam!—4th of July weekend explodes like a Roman candle and a fistful of sparklers.

If you live in Los Angeles and didn't plan your escape from the sweltering city, dread the beach-bound parking lot that will be the 10 Freeway going west, and don't want to fork over the dough to see the fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl, don't despair. Here are some tasty alternatives to celebrate your independence from the same ol' same ol'.

Red, White and Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet's former sous chef Jonathan McDowell took over at the helm of this elegant downtown restaurant back in February and he's cooking up a storm this 4th of July. Taking advantage the restaurant's poolside location, McDowell's Cuban-inspired pool party will feature less-than-traditional Fourth fare like tostones nachos, tender, spit-roasted suckling pig and mojitos. DJs will be spinning records to accompany the good eats from 1-8 p.m. $10 cover.

Blue Velvet

750 South Garland Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90017 (b/n West 7th Street and West 8th Street; map) 213-239-0061
bluevelvetrestaurant.com

Star-Spangled BREADBAR

Rather than toasting your buns on the beach all weekend, indulge in fresh-baked artisan ones at BREADBAR's Build-Your-Own-Burger weekend. Curcuma, sesame, onion, brioche, whole wheat and Tuscan ciabatta from one of the city's modern bread revolutionaries will become the foundation for your custom burger. There will be a variety of patty choices, from skirt steak to ahi to portobello mushrooms, and gourmet treats like grilled zucchini, brie and Applewood smoked bacon to dress your burger up with. Burgers will be $15 at both locations all weekend. If you are already barbecuing at home or are planning a picnic, skip the Sara Lee and swing by the nearest BREADBAR location. Their famous buns will also be available to take home, individually or by the baker's dozen, Friday through Sunday.

BREADBAR

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard R-2, Los Angeles CA 90067 (in Century City; map) 8718 West Third Street, Los Angeles CA 90048 (b/n Amaz Drive and South Hamel Road; map) 310-277-3770, 310-205-0124
breadbar.net

Backyard Hymn of the Republic

Nothing says 4th of July weekend like a neighborhood barbecue, but who says you have to do the cooking (or that it has to be in your neighborhood)? Wrap up your holiday weekend on Sunday, July 6 at Wilshire Restaurant's barbecue night. Wilshire's Thomas Schoos designed split level garden patio and terrace is the perfect spot to gather with friends and enjoy grilled goodies from new executive chef Andrew Kirschner. Sip on cocktails like the Kumquat Caipirinha or "Strawberry Fields" while munching on wood-fired Japanese Kobe steaks, pulled Kurabuta pork, or lobster Cobb salad. And with the restaurant's emphasis on local, organic and seasonal ingredients you'll fast be singing This Land is Your Land.

Wilshire Restaurant

2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica CA 90403 (between Chelsea Avenue and 25th Street; map) 310-586-1707
wilshirerestaurant.com