Hollywood Walk of Fame? Homes of the Stars Tour? Universal Studios? Rodeo Drive? Been there, done that. If you are totally over the touristy side of L.A., then you need to go east, young man. The Eastside of the city harbors some hip, eclectic, and fun neighborhoods often overlooked by non-locals.
Adjacent to Hollywood and a few miles north of downtown lies the ‘hood of Silverlake. Known for having creative and artistic residents, this area is home to funky and unique shops, restaurants, and bars. The main strip can be found along Sunset Boulevard, between Fountain and Silver Lake Boulevard.
There is a refreshing lack of chain restaurants and stores in Silverlake. Even a Starbucks is hard to find, but don’t worry – there are plenty of fantastic breakfast spots and coffee houses around. Start your day at Millie’s, a small café known for curing many a local’s hangover on a rugged weekend morning. They may claim to provide “service with a fuck you,” but what you’ll remember most about this place are the omelets. The Devil’s Mess is the house favorite, but you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
After a filling breakfast, stroll along Sunset to the various one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques that line the section of Silverlake referred to as “Sunset Junction.” Stop in to Reform School to peruse their entertaining selection of gifts and home goods that you have most likely never seen anywhere else. Almost everything in the store is handmade by locals, using recycled materials. Who knew a handbag made out of old plastic bottles could be so adorable?
After some shopping at Sunset Junction, you might be ready to get out the concrete craziness. Although this section of L.A. has an urban feel to it, there is a reason it was named Silverlake – there actually is a lake, or reservoir to be exact. To find it, follow Sunset to Silver Lake Blvd., and head east until a blue-green oasis greets you. A running path encircles the roughly 2.5 mile perimeter of the reservoir, frequented by local joggers and dog walkers.
If strolling around the reservoir has worked up your appetite for lunch, head to Glendale Boulevard, parallel to the south of Silver Lake Blvd., and check out the Red Lion Tavern. Red Lion is the only authentic German beer garden and restaurant around and offers a full German lunch and dinner menu, and reasonably priced beers straight out of Deutschland. Outside seating in the beer garden will have you yearning for LA’s “sister city” of Berlin, as the beer maidens serve up your bratwurst and schnitzel.
Make sure at least one person in your party skimps on the hefty steins of lager, cuz you have some driving to do. Hop back in your car and head to some of the steepest ascents around for an urban roller coaster ride. Baxter and Fargo are two of the steepest streets in the city, and are not recommended for the faint of heart, or the lacking in confidence stick-shift driver.
A drive through the hills along both sides of the reservoir provide some dramatic “only in L.A.” views – of the reservoir, the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel mountain range to the east, downtown’s skyline to the south, and the Hollywood Hills (including the Hollywood sign) and Griffith Park and Observatory to the north. You’ll also be able to take in some of the most unique and interesting architecture in L.A., designed by famous architects new and old. Homes in the Silverlake hills date back to the early studio heads and movie stars of the 1920s and 30s, including Gloria Swanson and Antonio Moreno.
Ready for dinner and drinks? Tucked away discreetly behind the Sunset Junction sign is the French restaurant Café Stella. You’ll feel like you’ve discovered a Parisian hideaway as you wine and dine on the romantic patio by candlelight. The food here is worth the price, so indulge with a steak au poivre and Crème brûlée. The secret is starting to get out about this cozy enclave, so you might want to call ahead and reserve a table.
You couldn’t wrap a truly L.A. day without taking in a film at a classic theater. After dinner, head to the historic Vista Theater on the border of Silverlake and Los Feliz and catch a movie in an enchanting Egyptian décor. Unlike the pricier, overwhelming theaters in Hollywood, the Vista is a refreshingly affordable one-screen theater with the most leg room you will likely ever experience.
What & Where:
Millies ( 3524 Sunset Blvd, cross of Maltman; 323-664-0404
Reform School (4014 Santa Monica Blvd; 323-906-8660)
Silver Lake Reservoir ( Silver Lake Blvd & West Silver Lake Dr)
Red Lion Tavern (2366 Glendale Blvd; 323-662-5337)
Café Stella (3932 W. Sunset Blvd; 323-666-0265)
Vista Theater (4473 Sunset Dr; 323- 660-6639)