A Local’s Guide to Silver Lake, Los Angeles

*all images by Teal Thomsen

Silver Lake – Home to the grungy, the chic, the young, the old, the $8 coffee and the $1 taco, artists and entertainment hustlers alike. LA photographer and Silver Lake resident, Teal Thomsen, is showing us her favorite spots in one of California’s coolest neighborhoods.

S

ilver Lake is a land of contradictions that unite in one happy (and walkable) ‘hood. Made up of narrow, tree-lined streets that wind up and down the steep hills of the East Side, the longtime haven for artists is buzzing with creative energy from both the residents and the businesses that line Sunset and Silver Lake Boulevard. The brightly painted storefronts are home to record shops, galleries, both vintage and contemporary clothing boutiques, luxury skincare brands, cheese shops, comic books stores, music venues, markets, and too many restaurants, bars, and coffee shops to count. And if you haven’t heard, Silver Lake is home to the BEST hipster watching in all of the lands. Visit in May when the jacaranda trees are in bloom and the hills turn purple. Silver Lake Guide

EAT

Props to anyone who can keep track of the many restaurants and bars constantly popping up in the ever-evolving Silver Lake! The diverse culinary landscape of Silver Lake keeps everyone well rounded and well fed, offering cuisines from Taiwan, Israel, Vietnam, Italy, Mexico, France, Japan, Thailand, and the list goes on and on. But don’t be fooled – the quantity of restaurants in this foodie ‘hood does not affect the top-notch quality that comes out of the kitchens.

KETTLE BLACK
My go-to Italian spot. Handmade pizza and pasta, only the freshest ingredients, and a serious wine list – in my opinion, the three most important factors of good Italian food. Chef Sydney C Hunter III is spot on with some seasonal dishes such as Agnolotti with kabocha squash filling and brown butter sage sauce, and a Branzino with fennel-saffron broth, romanesco, jumbo asparagus, baby fennel, Manila clams, and fennel fronds to close out Spring. Go for happy hour and grab the Pizza and a Pop deal!
NIGHT + MARKET SONG
Night + Market Song sits at the bottom of the popular painted steps of Micheltorena and lures in those who are lucky enough to wander by with the intense aroma of Thai street food. Chef Kris Yenbamroong, who has no formal culinary training but earned his street cred growing up in a family-owned restaurant, has created a menu that adds a contemporary flare to traditional Thai street dishes like catfish tamale, pad thai, and a SPICY papaya salad that is not for the faint of heart. Perfectly summed up in their mission statement, they “aim to make the most delicious and authentic Thai food to facilitate drinking and fun-having amongst friends.” There is a term for this in Thai: “aharn glam lao.” Silver Lake Guide


CAFE STELLA
Where I go when I’m homesick for Europe… The iconic Cafe Stella sits right at the Sunset Junction in a coral colored courtyard / covered patio with Parisian cafe tables and chairs and the perfect pommes frites to cure your hangover. Silver Lake Guide

SAWYER
Open air and a southern flair, Sawyer is the ideal place to spend summer afternoons. With $4 Peronis and specials on full-priced menu items including grilled corn on the cob, brussels sprouts topped with a poached egg, or a fried chicken sandwich, Sawyer has become a key player in the Silver Lake happy hour scene.
L&E OYSTER BAR
L&E is a local’s staple for a casual, post-work glass of wine upstairs on the patio, or a formal candlelit dinner in a Parisian atmosphere. Oysters are shipped in daily from across the country, but the other dishes are just as fresh and flavorful. Start with a half dozen oysters (Chef’s choice because Spencer Bezaire knows best) and the Crémant de Limoux Rosé before moving onto one of the main dishes.

 


THE FRIEND
The Friend is definitely the new kid on the block but they’ve already made a good name for themselves among locals in the realm of cocktails and small plates since their opening in January 2017. Order the “Wallflower” from one of the bartenders dressed in traditional French boater attire, and snag a seat at the bar or one of the teal colored two-tops under the disco ball. Don’t miss the art that adorns the space by artists like Aaron Rose, Kenny Sharf, Topher Chin and Andre Saraiva – one of the co-owners of the restaurant. Silver Lake Guide

TROIS FAMILIA
I would never have anticipated a French-Mexican fusion, but chef’s Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo did it again with their third collaboration, this time in Silver Lake. The daytime cafe draws both locals and tourists for their renowned brunch fare offering dishes like the Galette crêpe with a sunny side up egg, chorizo, jack cheese and avocado crema or the Smoked salmon and scrambled egg tartine with chives and crème fraiche. And don’t skip out on the Mexican hot chocolate!
LAMILL

Lamill is Silver Lake’s mainstay in the coffee department. Situated on Silver Lake Blvd just a block from the reservoir (and right across from L&E), this gourmet coffee shop and cafe serves up delicious eats and drinks all day long. With a modern and elegant interior and a casual front porch where you can hang with your k9 companion, Lamill really has something for everyone, but especially those who are serious about good coffee. Some crowd favorites on the menu include the warm brioche donuts with maple espresso glaze, avocado toast with a poached egg, and the shrimp & grits with habanero-bacon jam and baby kale.

 

DO

There are countless ways one could choose to spend a day in Silver Lake. From reading novels in a hilltop bungalow to sipping cocktails on the porch of Bar Stella, running the reservoir or searching out the many painted public stairways. These are a few of my favorites:

SILVERLAKE RESERVOIR
My favorite thing to do anytime, anywhere, is to spend time outside, rain or shine. The Silver Lake Reservoir, which is currently being refilled (goodbye California drought!), is the heart and soul of this neighborhood. With a running trail, a dog park, a meadow, basketball courts, and more, the reservoir provides countless opportunity to spend time in fresh air. The meadow is the perfect place to bring a blanket and a book and spend your Sunday on the lawn with a glass of something bubbly and the colorful Silver Lake hills towering over you. Other nearby parks are Griffith (endless hiking trails), Echo Park (paddle boats galore), and Barnsdall (best place for a sunset picnic).

SATELLITE
If you’re into live music and dance parties, this is your spot. Enough said!

SATURDAY FARMERS MARKET
Farm fresh produce and vintage clothes in one place? Yes, please. The Saturday Silver Lake Farmers market is so much more than a few stalls with fruits and veggies. Yes, it’s that plus jewelry artisans, Reiki booths, used book and record dealers, crystal and gem merchants, and some of the very best vintage vendors in the city.

NEUTRA VDL HOUSE
The Neutra VDL Research House, built in 1932, was the home and studio of celebrated architect, Richard Netura for nearly three decades. The modernist house sits on the Eastern shore of the Silver Lake Reservoir overlooking the meadow and hills on the opposite side. The minimalist design is characterized by floor-to-ceiling windows, sliding glass doors that open onto roof terraces and private garden patios, and mirrors that reflect the greenery and reservoir. Every detail of the house is an aesthetic experience and was carefully thought out. The house is open to visitors every Friday from 11 am – 3 pm thanks to the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design!

SHOP

The shopping in Silver Lake is concentrated along Sunset Blvd and a block of Silver Lake Blvd, with a handful scattered along Hyperion and Rowena, and a few new shops popping up in residential areas. I would suggest starting at Sunset Junction after fueling up at one of the nearby coffee shops (Dinosaur, Intelligentsia, Cafecito Organico, the list goes on….) and strolling along Sunset until you make a left at Silver Lake Boulevard and head towards the reservoir to hit the rest of the shops before grabbing a well-deserved bite at L&E. 

DREAM COLLECTIVE
Dream Collective sits on the sunny corner of Sunset Blvd and Micheltorena, right around the bend from Clare V. The bright space is the gallery of Echo Park-based jewelry designer, Kathryn Bentley, and showcases pieces from her collections of brass and enamel costume jewelry as well as minimalist clothing, home goods, art objects, and natural beauty products and fragrances.
LACAUSA
Committed to creating quality garments under ethical conditions, the Los Angeles-based brand offers lust-worthy staple pieces in neutrals, pastels, and bold colors. The sun-filled brick and mortar location on Sunset Blvd stocks the LACAUSA collection as well as a beautifully curated selection of other artists and designers.
VIRGIL NORMAL
Rodarte stylist, Shirley Kurata, and designer Charlie Staunton opened the hip menswear boutique in January 2017 in the former location of their go-to moped shop called Choke, where they used to have their bikes fixed up. Named after the intersection it sits on; the shop offers contemporary garments, gadgets, and accessories for both city life and the great outdoors with an artistic air.
LAKE
Melissa Lovoy, who studied at the Parsons School of Design, stocks her light-filled store with a carefully edited collection of the European brands she so loves. Focusing on “styles that inspire and quality that endures” Lovoy’s breezy boutique draws chic visitors looking for something special. The clothing selection is supplemented with textiles, ceramics, small-batch apothecary products, handmade housewares and thoughtful gifts. You will want to touch everything in this dreamy shop!

 

TWIG & TWINE
Los Angeles-based Heather Williams opened Twig&Twine in 2013, expanding her floral design company to a brick and mortar store front which still offers full-service floral design in addition to a unique curation of artisanal goods, gifts and cards, home decor, and other hand-picked treasures. The shop is located on Virgil, on the same block as Sqirl (one of the very best brunch spots in LA). After brioche toast with house ricotta and seasonal jam at Sqirl, stop in Twig&Twine to pick up some fresh blooms, then go next door to browse Flounce Vintage.

STAY

Silver Lake lacks in hotels other than the notorious Bates Motel turned public art piece by French artist Vincent Lamouroux. Once you turn off Sunset Boulevard, the hills are stacked with colorful bungalows and apartments that make for some pretty prime Airbnb’s with hard-to-beat views. However, if you venture just out of Silver Lake and into the neighboring area, Los Feliz, you can post up in the most charming boutique hotel. And the best part? It’s on top of a wine bar.

HOTEL COVELL
Hotel Covell is an independent boutique hotel with five distinctly unique suites that offer all of the comfort, privacy, and calm of your own apartment. The hotel is a go-to for musicians and other entertainers constantly on the road who stop in Los Angeles and want to feel more at home than in yet another nondescript room with a bed and nightstand. The suites range in style from retro and rustic-chic to mid-century modern. All are equally polished and charming. And as I said, it rests atop the world-renowned wine and beer bar – Bar Covell. What more do you need? Silver Lake Guide

FEW COOL AIRBNBS

Modern and Minimalist Airbnb with a View 

Charming Cottage on a Hilltop

Best kept secret in Silver Lake

I wouldn’t dare give it away! But here are some runner-ups.

BREW HAHA
Driving up and down the steep hills of Marathon St. look for a large handmade sign leaning against a garage that reads “COMEDY SHOW TONIGHT 8 PM”. Brew Ha Ha is a free comedy show and drinking game hosted once a month in a Silver Lake backyard which quickly transforms into a house party post performance. Comedians such as Matt Braunger (from MADtv) & Kyle Kinane (from Comedy Central’s Drunk History) have performed at what was apparently dubbed “the worst idea for a show ever” by a famous comedian – or so says their website.
http://www.brewhahacomedy.com/

DLA Tostada Pop Up at Cafecito Organico
A Plant Based Breakfast Taco and Burrito pop up by DLA Tostada at Cafecito Organico on Saturdays and Sundays! Cafecito Organico is a coffee shop situated in the residential area of Silverlake south of Sunset, and I would argue home to some of the best coffee beans in town. With the addition of Mexican breakfast, this place has become my Saturday morning one-stop shop. I’m officially addicted to the vegan breakfast burrito, add avocado.

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1 Response
  • denise Carswell
    June 2, 2017

    Wow,this is so informative Teal! I loved reading it! Now, I would like to visit Silver Lake! I lived in Huntington Beach for 5 years back in the 80s and I never even knew of the area!

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