Los Angeles Tour: Silver Lake
Indie cool abounds in this trendy L.A. neighborhood.
The rolling hills of Silver Lake have attracted diverse groups over the decades, from film stars in the 1920’s to Latin American immigrants in the 1950’s and the gay community in the 1970’s. But since gentrification arrived in the 1990’s, Silver Lake has transformed into the ultimate hipster haven. Organic, vegan restaurants with locally sourced ingredients have replaced taco stands as the sustenance of choice, and ultra-trendy boutiques have elbowed out family-run corner stores. It's a place to sample some of the city's most serious coffee, most buzzed-about new rock bands and fashion designers, most iconic mid-century modernist architecture, and most lovely natural assets.
Lamill Coffee Boutique
In funky Silver Lake, this coffee shop offers a five-page menu of java drinks—all prepared in your choice of brewing device, from a siphon (which resembles a very elaborate bong) to a one-of-a-kind La Marzocco espresso machine sheathed in hand-pounded brass. But the note-perfect coffee is equalled by the food, courtesy of Providence chef Michael Cimarusti. Don’t miss the eggs en cocotte, a burbling ramekin of velvety yolk and gently baked whites swirled around crimini and oyster mushrooms, lardons, and fines herbes.
The restaurant is hidden beside a Crown Escrow outlet in a derelict mini-mall. Despite the lack of signage, the long, narrow room is jammed from noon to night with Silver Lake and Echo Park hipsters, each of them nursing an outsize bowl of Vietnam’s beloved, breathtakingly fragrant noodle soup. Best option: the pho tai gan, with toothsome beef tendon and ribbons of raw sirloin that slowly cook in the clove- and cinnamon-spiced broth.
Silver Lake Reservoir
Silver Lake takes its name from this picturesque stash of water that glistens amid the neighborhood’s hilly slopes. It’s the district’s main outdoor recreation area, surrounded as it is by a dog park, basketball courts, walking and jogging paths, and the Silver Lake Meadow, a picnic-perfect grassy stretch on its east side. On clear days, views of the San Gabriel Mountains are spectacular, and the attractive homes ringing the reservoir (many of them architecturally significant, like the Richard Neutra-designed house at 2300 Silver Lake Boulevard) are pretty pleasant to look at, too.
The terracotta-hued complex at this famous intersection is “ground zero” of Silver Lake hipsterdom. Rockers, indie artists, and foodies all converge at the outdoor tables to sip designer espresso from Intelligentsia Coffee and nibble on treats from the Cheese Store of Silverlake (for something more substantial, there’s also the atmospheric French bistro Café Stella). Music fans, take note: the Silverlake Conservatory of Music here was started by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Flea, and the Sunset Junction Street Fair (1980-2010) famously brought top rock and pop acts to the intersection, and Memorial Day weekend’s Jubilee music and arts festival is picking up where it left off.
This sunny boutique specializes in “free-range design” that roams both around the world (there’s a Scandinavian emphasis) and close to home (local designers are represented). Home decor items like brightly patterned cushions, linens, and kitchen accessories are fresh and functional, while handcrafted jewelry, handbags, and Old Molly tunics make for wearable art. For those with kids in tow, the children’s section is chock-full of cute clothes and refreshingly low-tech toys.
The Runway Outlet
Insider favorite The Runway is an ideal spot for ladies to score some locally minded togs on a budget—they carry samples and overstock exclusively from L.A. designers at discounted prices. Blend into the rocker-meets-bohemian fashion ethos of Silver Lake with skinny jeans from Black Orchid, flowy frocks from Daughters of the Revolution, and boho chic pieces from Kite & Butterfly.
This intimate rock club has a hefty legacy on its shoulders: Spaceland, the club that previously occupied this space from 1995 to 2011, was legendary in giving rise to the Silver Lake indie music scene, hosting the likes of Beck, The Foo Fighters, and The White Stripes. Those are big shoes to fill, but whether riding on its predecessor’s coattails or not, The Satellite is carrying the torch as a solid spot to see some of the city’s hottest alternative acts on their rise to the big time.