Los Angeles, at nearly 500 square miles, is objectively enormous, especially if you compare it to the 40 square miles of Paris or even the 235 square miles of Chicago. As a result, it’s hard to see everything in Los Angeles, and visitors tend to start with the coast, making their way to Santa Monica and Venice Beach. As someone who lives inland, in the cozy enclave of walkable neighborhoods just east of Hollywood and north of downtown Los Angeles, I am constantly trying to entice out-of-town visitors, not to mention friends from across town, to visit my neighborhood. The neighborhoods in question are the Los Feliz-Silver Lake-Echo Park nook of the city. The three neighborhoods are often characterized as the “east side” for lack of a better way to refer to them. But to be clear, referring to Echo Park as the east side is not only inaccurate, it also incorrectly co-opts the name of the actual east side, which lies farther southeast of this area.
Echo Park slips into downtown Los Angeles, in an area that can perhaps be categorized as neither Echo Park or DTLA. Also bordering Echo Park is Historic Filipinotown—or HiFi as a record-low number of people are calling it—that some would, perhaps wrongly, designate as Echo Park. As a result of all the geographic nuances at play, Echo Park takes on a unique atmosphere fusing elements of DTLA, Historic Filipinotown, Silver Lake, and Echo Park itself.
As a former Echo Park resident—who now lives just down the street—I put together the very best of Echo Park for those travelers who want to experience a neighborhood that contributes to the distinctive aura that is Los Angeles. If you’re staying downtown or in Hollywood, here’s how you can spend the day in the nearby neighborhood of Echo Park:
Shop Local at Shout and About and PF Candle Co.
I do a shop-local run once a quarter where I essentially refresh my home decor (candles, more candles, and some greenery) at only local businesses in my area. Without fail, I always end up on Echo Park Ave at Shout and About, a delightfully charming Pinterest-feed-come-to-life kind of store. From chic reusable water bottles, to the baby shower gift you keep meaning to buy, to great California-centric cookbooks, Shout and About is nothing short of a perfect shopping experience. After Shout and About, head back up to Sunset Blvd where you’ll find P.F. Candle Company, a California wax company whose luxury scents have now achieved nationwide hype.
Enjoy an Izakaya Meal at Tsubaki and a Pre-dinner Sake at OTOTO
One of the best restaurants in Echo Park is Tsubaki, an intimate and inventive Japanese izakaya hotspot. Their constantly rotating (and always-expanding) sake list is sourced from small craft brewers in Japan, and the knowledge and passion the restaurant team has for sake is downright heartening. Tsubaki’s sake offerings became so popular that they opened OTOTO, which literally means “little brother” in Japanese, next door as a sake bar for the more casual diner (i.e., me and other devoted followers of OTOTO’s chicken katsu sandwich). Tsubaki’s menu is broken into seven categories—cold, steamed, fried, grilled, yakitori, braised, and rice and noodles—and we highly recommend you try at least one offering from each category.
Take a Drop-in Pottery Workshop at POT LA
Local businesses and crafts are a crucial element of Echo Park life. And what better way to experience the culture than to take part in it? Taking a drop-in class at POT is a perfect way to do so. POT identifies itself as a “full-service pottery studio owned and operated by people of color, a majority of which are women and Los Angeles natives.” You can take a drop-in pottery class just like you’d take a drop-in yoga class here; at Drop-in Wheel Throwing, you need no ceramic experience and will spend 90 minutes learning the basics of the pottery wheel and making ceramic.
Head to Bloom & Plume Coffee Before Relaxing by Echo Park Lake
Before lazing in the sunshine (or renting swan boats) at Echo Park Lake, the area’s most recognizable landmark, stop in at Bloom & Plume Coffee, just three blocks south of the lake on West Temple Street. Bloom & Plume is one of the most exciting businesses to come to Echo Park (actually, technically Historic Filipinotown) in 2019. Owned by floral artist Maurice Harris, who’s known for making luxurious flower arrangements for A-list clientele, the coffee shop serves delicious toasts made on Bub and Grandma’s bread (a LA classic) and meticulously brewed coffee. Treat yourself to breakfast here, admire the florals, and then walk with your iced oat latte to Echo Park Lake.
Toast to a Dodgers’ Win With Mezcal Margs at Bar Caló
Here’s the thing about LA: The best food and drinks are often found in strip malls that look wholly unpromising. When you move from the east coast to Los Angeles, you expect that the one-story malls hold two to three mediocre chain restaurants, a good nail salon, an insurance agent and/or chiropractor, and not much else. Welcome to Los Angeles, where the famed (though now closed) tasting-menu-only restaurant Trois Mec was hidden behind a Ruffalo’s Pizza in Hollywood. On a similar note, the Echo Park plaza on Sunset Blvd between Laveta Terrace and Portia Street has two beverage institutions. The first is Sunset Beer Co., a bottle shop and bar with an impressive selection of craft brews. The second is still in its Echo Park Institution infancy: Bar Caló, owned by the couple who runs small plates restaurant Ostrich Farm just across the street. Bar Caló made a name for itself almost immediately upon opening, likely because they’re serving some of the best mezcal margaritas in the game and have more than 70 types of the spirit at the bar.
Take a stroll in Vista Hermosa Park
Looking for the best view of downtown Los Angeles? Here’s an insider tip: It’s not from the hiking trails of Griffith Park, it’s at Vista Hermosa. Vista Hermosa Park feels like a Los Angeles secret to be uncovered. And for the fact that it’s a public, 10-acre park bordering downtown, it’s one of the most serene places in the entire city. Vista Hermosa is also one of the newest parks in Los Angeles. Once an oil field, the revamped park opened in 2008 and is now committed to encouraging conservation within the park.