Thursday, August 28, 2014


It seems that sometimes Echo Park can be overlooked, due to its proximity to Silver Lake and Los Feliz – more well-known and prominent LA neighborhoods. We’ve heard more than a few people refer to the area as “the poor man’s Silver Lake.”

But Echo Park has so much more to offer than that: close proximity to downtown Los Angeles, a bevvy of almost-institutional Latino restaurants, streets teeming with charming Victorian-era homes, and of course, the newly-reopened and beautifully renovated Echo Park Lake. The lake is a highlight in the neighborhood, complete with a darling café in the boathouse, a Gondola, outdoor yoga, quintessentially-LA fruit stands, and the notorious yellow pedal boats (on everyone’s “LA Must Do” list).

Some might say that the gentrification kiss-of-death includes artisan coffeehouses, and Echo Park seems to be a hop-skip away from that. However, we were lucky enough to spend our day with one childhood friend and two sisters, and we all agreed that the flavor of the neighborhood – taco stands, funky thrift stores, a thriving music scene – is more alive than ever before.

Stop 1: The Park


This restaurant, an Echo Park staple, prides itself on “classic dishes.” For brunch, we ordered Marian’s Frittata (wild mushrooms, gruyere, spinach and onion) and Arlene’s Breakfast (1/2 French Toast, 2 eggs and soyrizo). The meals were solid if not exciting, but the complimentary coffee cake beforehand really saved us from our Sunday morning hang-over. The restaurant is homey and has a decidedly neighborhood feel to it – families and old friends walking in on foot, servers who know patrons by name. The home fries are highly recommended. 
(1400 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles)

Stop 2: Time Travel Mart



Dave Eggers' memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which chronicles the loss of both of Eggers' parents to cancer) was a book that really moved us when we first read it in college. Eggers has gone on to write quite a few more very important books, and also founded 826, a national nonprofit organization that teaches writing skills to youth in under-served communities. The LA chapter started in Echo Park ten years ago (there's now another location in Mar Vista) and the Time Travel Mart sells creative and silly goods to support 826LA's work.

Looking for robot milk or Dolly's anti-cloning fluid? The Time Travel Mart has both. They "import" items from both the past and future, making for a wacky and fun shopping experience.
(1714 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles)

Stop 3: Stories Books & Cafe


Stories is quite possibly one of our favorite places in Los Angeles, if not the world. Bold statement, we understand, but if you go – you’ll know. Located in the thick of the neighborhood, right on Sunset Boulevard, this shop sells records and books (both used and new). And the records and books are GREAT, not just old paperbacks by authors nobody has ever heard of. There’s also a lovely little café with good coffee and yummy café fare like sandwiches and bagels. On this particularly hot day, we ordered a Mojito Iced Coffee (which sounds strange and possibly disgusting, but was actually deliciously refreshing). There’s also an outdoor area in the back.
(1716 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles)

Stop 5: Origami Vinyl Record Shop


It continues to be of paramount importance to us to feature independent bookstores and record shops on our site, because these are the places that make a neighborhood a neighborhood. As they continue to become more and more rare, it becomes even more vital to support those that do exist. Origami is small, but their collection of vinyl is pretty darn amazing – and no wonder, since the shop seems to be run by the music-obsessed (as any good record store should be). They sometimes host live music shows too.
(1816 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles)

Stop 6: House of Intuition


Drive down most streets in Los Angeles, and you’ll see more “Tarot Card Reading” signs than palm trees. But from what we’d heard, the House of Intuition is the real deal. We made an appointment for two 30-minute tarot card readings (although their menu is extensive – clairvoyant readings, medium communication, life path readings, oracle card readings, and the list goes on). A lovely woman with a white-blonde pixie cut greeted us at the reception desk, and led us through the crystal and candle-filled shop to a room in the house out back (the “house” in House of Intuition is exactly that). There she had us cut a deck of tarot cards, and then gave us an eerily on-point overlook of our past and present, as well as her predictions for the near future. We’re convinced.
(2237 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles)

Stop 7: Echo Park Lake


The revitalized Echo Park Lake re-opened in 2013, and she's a real beauty. The two-year makeover left us with a new boathouse and state-of-the-art pedal boats ($10/hour per adult), walking trails, blooming lotuses, and the iconic (and now dolled-up!) Lady of the Lake statue back where she belongs. There's no better way to spend a day in Echo Park than right here.
(751 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 8: Lemon Frog Shop Vintage


In an area teeming with vintage shops, Lemon Frog Shop still manages to stand out. The space is jam-packed with goodies, but it's artfully organized, primarily by decade. Shoes, belts, house dresses, clutches, jewelery - this place has it all. Almost half the store is roped off for the higher-end designer stuff, and the staff is very friendly.
Insider's Tip: be sure to check out the $1 sale bin outside!
(1202 N Alvarado St, Los Angeles)

Stop 9: Masa of Echo Park


When your Italian friend Riccardo tells you that the only place he eats pizza in LA is Masa of Echo Park, you immediately run to Masa. They specialize in Chicago deep-dish pizzas (which take about 45 minutes) but we were starving, so ordered the thin-crusted Santa Ynez pizza (prosciutto, pineapple, jalapenos) and the Manchego Salad. Stop yourself from gobbling down ALL of the warm bread they bring out to start. 
(1800 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles)


Stop 10: Pins and Needles


We were walking down Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park when we ran into a friend, who excitedly told us about Pins and Needles. The story goes that a woman named Molly began collecting vintage pinball machines until she had so many that she had to open a separate space just for her collection. She now opens up the warehouse most nights of the week to allow people to play, and charges $2 for cans of Tecate she keeps in her fridge. WE HAD TO GO.

Pins and Needles did not disappoint. There were about a dozen people there at 9pm on a weeknight, and everyone was having a great time playing pinball (each game is $.25!) There's 24 machines, and a really fun crowd of people. We will certainly be back.

Insider's tip: check the blog or text Molly before you go to make sure the space is open.
(1623 Allesandro Street, Los Angeles

The Details:

Echo Park is a very walkable neighborhood, and so we tackled the area on foot. (You could also take the 92 bus to Pins and Needles if the 15-minute walk was too much). If you want the truly authentic Echo Park experience, bring your skateboard!

A map of our day looks like this:


  1. Just got back from my first trip to L.A. and saw most of these places before reading your blog entry. Love the city!

  2. Thank you for providing this insiders list of fun things to do in Echo Park!