This must be Silver Lake

Long before Silver Lake became the kind of place where throngs of 20- and 30-somethings flock on a Saturday night to sip natural wine and run from one dance floor to the next, there was a man named Herman Silver.

Get to know Los Angeles through the places that bring it to life. From restaurants to shops to outdoor spaces, here’s what to discover now.

He was a city councilman and water commissioner at the turn of the 20th century, and he’s the one who pushed for the creation of a reservoir among the hills east of Hollywood and and west of the L.A. River.

That was 1907. Once city officials named the reservoir for Mr. Silver, people started calling the area Silver Lake. (Yes, the name is two words — not Silverlake, as some local businesses would lead you to believe.)

These days, the area is best known for the Modernist architecture that clings to its hillsides, the chic young families who cavort in Silver Lake Meadow and the bustling nightlife that thrives along Sunset Boulevard. Also, you probably couldn’t swing a boom microphone in this neighborhood without hitting a writer, actor or musician.

You could argue that Silver Lake’s creative spark goes back a century, to the first silent films shot at the Mack Sennett Studios or the early cartoons drawn by Walt Disney and company in his first animation studio a few blocks away. For most of the ’90s and ’00s, the music venue Spaceland (now closed) was a magnet for up-and-coming indie rockers including Beck, Elliott Smith, the Silversun Pickups and Rilo Kiley.


And for decades, one of the neighborhood’s signature events was Sunset Junction, a street festival designed to build bridges between the area’s substantial Latino and gay communities. (Though New York’s Stonewall Riots are better known, two years earlier Sunset Junction’s Black Cat Bar was the site of one of the first public protests for gay rights.)

Now celebrities like Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Martin Scorsese use the Mack Sennett Studios on Fountain Avenue. As for the Disney studio that stood from 1926 to 1940 at 2719 Hyperion Ave., where Mickey Mouse was born? It’s been torn down and replaced by a Gelson’s supermarket.

But all is not lost. Though pricey, this Gelson’s is a neighborhood hub and not a bad place for celebrity-spotting. To catch locals at ease on any evening, belly up to the Gelson’s wine bar. If it’s a weeknight, they’ll have “Jeopardy!” on at 7.

Anyway, Silver Lake will surprise you. It has a flamenco club (El Cid on Sunset) but no movie theater. Its German beer garden (the Red Lion Tavern) used to be an English pub. For decades, somebody has been hanging hand-cut metal letters that spell KOOK on utility poles near busy street corners. It has an entire neighborhood (along Rowena Avenue) where streets are named after characters in Sir Walter Scott’s novel “Ivanhoe.”

And who knows? Maybe, at a sidewalk table on some Silver Lake street tonight, you’ll find some unexpected genius drinking an Intelligentsia iced coffee and dreaming up the next Mickey Mouse.


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What's included in this guide

Anyone who’s lived in a major metropolis can tell you that neighborhoods are a tricky thing. They’re eternally malleable and evoke sociological questions around how we place our homes, our neighbors and our communities within a wider tapestry. In the name of neighborly generosity, we included gems that may linger outside of technical parameters. Instead of leaning into stark definitions, we hope to celebrate all of the places that make us love where we live.

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Name tag medallions hanging on a wall.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Share eggs and ham with new friends at the Los Angeles Breakfast Club

As the sun rises over Los Angeles every Wednesday morning, a group of bright-eyed Angelenos has already congregated at Friendship Auditorium to chant about eggs and ham. The Los Angeles Breakfast Club (LABC, for short), started in 1925 as a place for businessmen to eat breakfast after riding horses in Griffith Park. And though it still serves buffet-style eggs, breakfast meats, pastries and yogurt, the club has widened its invitation to any local who’s curious about the world, becoming a beloved community space that hosts weekly guest presentations.

Speakers have ranged from Oscar Mayer Wienermobile hotdoggers to neon artists and local gardeners. The event is steeped in elaborate traditions, including sing-alongs, secret handshakes, a giant cryptogram and a group calisthenics workout — after all, LABC was originally a parody of the Masons. Tickets are $25 for guests, and those who want to make the gatherings a regular ritual can get an annual membership (which includes a nifty nametag pin stating how long they’ve been a member) for $285.
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Intelligentsia Coffe, Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake, LA.
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times )

Sip like a star at Intelligentsia Coffee

Silver Lake Coffee
The coffee is strong. The croissants and other baked goods are several levels above Starbucks. The blue-and-white Moroccan tilework around the counter is cool and calming, and the arch over the storefront hints at nonchalant chic. So it goes at Intelligentsia, which is the hub of Sunset Junction, which is the perfect picture of Silver Lake boho cool. There’s often a line, and shaded seats are at a premium. A few steps away from Intelligentsia, the Yeastie Boys truck sells bagels and lox in the morning, Cafe Stella serves French dinners in the evening and La Pharmacie du Vin sells and serves French wines while a taxidermy zebra stands sentry near the door. Intelligentsia isn’t a homegrown business (it started in Chicago, has corporate backing from Peet’s and has sibling locations in New York, Boston, Austin and around Los Angeles), but it has been keeping this corner busy since 2007. Coffee $5 and up. Croissant $6. Open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
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Millie's Cafe for the neighborhoods POI.
(Cathereen Lim)

Hatch a scheme over a Veggie Mess at Millie's Cafe

Silver Lake Cafe
Millie’s Cafe has a lively sidewalk scene, a long bohemian history and a tradition of cranky service. Diner breakfasts and lunches are served inside and out, with lots of sidewalk seating and frequent lines (it’s first-come, first-served). Breakfast is available all day, including a Veggie Mess ($17.50), which involves three eggs, white cheddar cheese and a bunch of vegetables. The restaurant’s patron saints are Eleanor Roosevelt and Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer for Tool, a former regular. One former owner coined the slogan “Service With a F— You,” which servers still wear on their shirts, and some do seem to operate according to that message. Yet just about every day the place is packed with lively creative types, plotting projects. All part of the vibe.
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Modern Eats restaurant in Silver Lake.
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times )

Load up on blueberry pancakes at Modern Eats

Silver Lake Breakfast
For a top-notch breakfast in a low-key setting, head to Modern Eats. This smallish restaurant prides itself on dishes made from scratch, and the breakfast options are tempting indeed. Try the blueberry pancakes (an $11 short stack will be plenty, unless you have the appetite of two lumberjacks). If you get apple compote on the side, it will taste like warm, chunky applesauce — as comfortable as comfort food can get. The coffee is good and strong — not a surprise, since the owners also own the veteran coffee importer and roaster Euro Coffee.

The restaurant has a covered patio and a bright, tidy dining room with concrete floors, yellow walls and a high ceiling. These people aren’t trying to be fashionable, just tasty and bright. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday and Monday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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Silver Lake Farmers Market.
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times )

Choose among mushrooms and vinyl at the Silver Lake Farmers Market

Silver Lake Farmers' market
This market isn’t big, but it’s twice-weekly — Tuesdays 1:30 to 7 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — and the mix of produce, snacks, vintage goods and services speaks volumes about the neighborhood. You’ll come across plenty of vinyl (“Abbey Road,” $30), jewelry, books, leather, candles and massages, along with pupusas, cheese, tea, tofu, mushrooms and gluten-free bread. The market occupies a triangular plaza at Griffith Park Boulevard and Sunset and the adjacent restaurants and shops are a big bonus. Sample Persian-style ice cream at Mashti Malone’s, dig into burgers and sandwiches at the Win-Dow or load up on caffeine at Coffee Memes. (Parking is a challenge. Be prepared to take a curbside spot on the hillside residential blocks of Edgecliffe, Lucile or Maltman.)
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LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 01: A bougainvillea bloom provides a splash of color on a warm summer day for a jogger at the Silver Lake Reservoir on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Log some steps (2.2 miles' worth) around the Silver Lake Reservoir

Silver Lake Park
Hipsters and seniors, dogs and kids, nannies and athletes — everyone circles the Silver Lake Reservoir, walking or running. The path, which includes West Silver Lake Drive, Silver Lake Avenue and Tesla Drive, is set apart from car traffic and much of it is on decomposed granite. It’s 2.2 miles to make a full circuit. The reservoir itself looks like two little lakes, side by side, with concrete banks and surrounding greenery. Unfortunately, the water is set back behind fencing. (There are plans, someday, for expansions and improvements.) On the way around, you can flop on grass at the Silver Lake Meadow and pause at the Silver Lake Recreation Center, which has more grass, a playground and a dog park next door.
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LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27, 2023: Mara Herbkersman and Emily Bielagus, soon-to-be owners of new wine bar concept The Ruby Fruit, open a bottle of wine to celebrate their new business venture.
(Brittany Brooks / For The Times)

Break bread (and sip wine) with your dearest queers at the Ruby Fruit

Silver Lake Wine Bar
There are only a handful of lesbian bars left in the U.S., but the Ruby Fruit is one of the newest and chicest ones on the scene. Opened in February 2023 by Emily Bielagus and Mara Herbkersman as “a strip mall wine bar for the sapphically inclined,” this spot has been consistently packed and widely beloved. But if the Indigo Girls-themed bathroom and friendly queer crowd aren’t enough to justify the hunt for a table or seat at the bar, it’ll all feel worth it when you try the food.

Yes, the Ruby Fruit is a wine bar — and the whole classy-wine-bar-in-a-random-strip-mall shtick is undeniably charming — but I’d stop by just to enjoy a meal. From divine shallot-topped hot dogs to tinned-fish plates and the most sophisticated loaded fries (topped with raclette, speck, sliced cornichons and pickled red onions), everything on the menu would take the gold in the Girl Dinner Olympics. And though it’s easy to run up a triple-digit bill sampling all the enticing snacks, the drinks are rather reasonably priced, from the $5 Miller High Lifes to the $18 glasses of wine.
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Yoke, a shop on Sunset in Silver Lake, LA.
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

Pick up some witty salt and pepper shakers at Yolk

Silver Lake Gift Shop
This smallish space brims with charming gifts, toys and home goods, including Marimekko designs, Calico Critters toys and wooden playthings that might include a DJ setup or a banjo. It’s not cheap, but the goods along its two brightly colored aisles are stylish and unusual, including sidewalk chalk shaped like doughnuts and macarons (six for $31), puzzles, greeting cards, coffee table books, vases and witty salt and pepper shakers ($27).
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Breakfast dishes at Pine & Crane.
(Stephanie Breijo/Los Angeles Times)

Slurp beef noodle soup and other Taiwanese specialties at Pine & Crane

Silver Lake Taiwanese
Angelenos line up to enter this loud, lively, minimalist dining room for its tasty fast-casual Taiwanese food. Order at the counter, then scope out a two-top or a family-style wood table to eat dan dan noodles and garlic pork belly and slurp wonton or beef noodle soup.

If you have to wait for a table, check out the black-and-white photo on the wall: Pine & Crane noodle factory, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 1965, an enterprise run by Pine & Crane chef Vivian Ku’s grandfather. Noodles and rice dishes run $9.50 to $16 and the selection of loose-leaf tea, wine, beer and sake is intriguing. If you want to eat outside in the Sunset Triangle, ask for your food to-go — the staff can’t do table service out there. Open Wednesday through Monday, noon to 10 p.m. The eatery opened in 2014 and now has a sibling in DTLA.
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Music Box Steps, Silver Lake
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

Huff and puff up the Music Box Steps — and then savor the view

Echo Park Historic landmark
The Music Box Steps is a public stairway where Laurel and Hardy shot one of their most beloved comedy shorts. (Stan and Ollie play piano movers with a seriously uphill assignment.) The climb is 133 steps from the edge of the Sunset commercial district to the residential neighborhood in the hills above. At the bottom there’s a pleasant little triangle of grass and trees (its name? Laurel and Hardy Park). At the top, along residential Descanso Drive, fascinating little bungalows are squeezed together on tiny lots with commanding views. See if you can spot the castle turret on the hilltop. If you’re ready for more steps, there are plenty in walking distance. And there are many more public stairs in Silver Lake and environs.
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Scenes from Speranza in Silver Lake, California
(Angella Choe/For the Times)

Enter the lush hideaway that is the Speranza patio

Los Feliz Italian Restaurant
The ultimate IYKYK spot, this plant-filled Italian patio cafe has endured for more than a decade with basically no signage visible from the street or sidewalk. Thumbs up on the porcini mushroom risotto and the prosciutto-and-melon starter — fresh and tasty, unfussy presentation. Pasta in squid ink is a specialty — but if this is a date, do you really want black teeth? Orange curtains screen out the sight of traffic on Hyperion, although some of the sound does bleed through. When the bill comes, take note that it will already have an 18% service charge added in. Open 6 p.m. daily until 10 p.m. weekdays, 11 p.m. weekends.
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(Angelle Choe/For the Times)

Grab an esoteric red or white at Silverlake Wine

Silver Lake Wine Shop
The liveliest days at this hugely popular video store turned wine shop are Thursdays, when it offers wine tastings from 5 to 8 p.m. ($20 per flight, no reservations required). Sometimes winemakers come by and sometimes there are slices available from Triple Beam Pizza (of Highland Park and Echo Park).

Opened in 2004 by Randy and April Clement and George Cossette, Silverlake Wine specializes in small-volume wineries, including many organic and biodynamic operations. You’ll find plenty of bottles under $20 and many over $300 too. The shop also sells beer, cider and sake.

The Clements also are behind E.R.B., also known as Everson Royce Bar, a wine bar in the Arts District downtown. But the Silver Lake location has a singular distinction: It’s next door to Rockaway Records, a beloved source of vinyl, CDs and music memorabilia since 1979. So you can buy a $500 Grand Cru and a $500 1971 Yoko Ono T-shirt on the same quick shopping trip. Silverlake Wine is open daily, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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Bacari restaurant, Silver Lake.
(Chris Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

Indulge in bottomless brunch at Bacari

Silver Lake Small Plates
It’s easy to miss the sign on this two-level patio restaurant, but once you enter the tree-shaded jungle scene and the sound of Sunset traffic fades away, the rewards are ample. Bacari is casual enough that there’s a 99-cent store next door, dogs are allowed and there’s pizza on the small-plates menu. But it’s elegant enough that the house french fries are topped with a fried egg and the macaroni and cheese is made with truffle oil. It’s a great place for dates or celebrity sightings.

Plan on ordering about two dishes per person (the petit filet, five slices, weighs in at 3.5 ounces; the pizzas are 10 inches with wafer-thin crusts). The pan-seared sea bass with peppers and corn is a favorite dish. With more tables, the lower level is livelier. The upper level, known as the herb garden, has its own little bar. Dinner nightly and brunch on weekends.
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Blairs restaurant in Silver Lake.
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

Sample rare handmade pastas at Blairs Restaurant

Silver Lake Restaurant
You are concerned by the missing apostrophe on the sign and menu for Blairs restaurant, which is understandable. But hang on. This long-standing spot on Rowena Avenue is a strong choice for dates and special occasions. The menu leans Italian, with great care lavished on not only the food but also the dishes underneath. (Owner Marshall Blair, who started the restaurant in 2003 and another one in Eagle Rock in 2016, also is behind the Pottery Studio in Cypress Park, where the restaurants’ plates are made.) There are pastas here that you rarely encounter elsewhere (fedelini, gnochetti). Main dishes cost $22 (cheeseburger) to $67 (beef tenderloin filet). For dessert, consider the startlingly light flourless chocolate cake, made with yogurt cream. The patio area, once parking, now is dominated by bistro lights, umbrellas and potted olive trees. Open daily for dinner only.
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(Angella Choe/For the Times )

Catch an eccentric comedy show at Zebulon

Elysian Valley Bar
Tucked behind a generic white façade just down the block from the Golden State Freeway, Zebulon is a cafe-meets-performance venue that draws an eclectic lineup of musicians, DJs and comedians nearly every night of the week. Like many dwellers in this part of town, the club lived in Brooklyn for several years before turning up here in 2017. But with a front area that feels like an unassuming restaurant, a large back room (that doubles as a dance floor) with a stage for performances and a sizable patio off to the side, it’s a great spot to catch a show solo and an even better place to accommodate a large group of friends.

As far as programming goes, past events include music by Sun Ra Arkestra, a “Gumby” screening followed by a Q&A with animator Rich Zim and a comedy night led by “Saturday Night Live’s” Sarah Squirm. Though some of the shows are free, the vast majority of Zebulon’s tickets are less than $30. Most shows are standing room only and you’ll usually find free earplugs off to the side as you enter the back room. Drinks are reasonably priced (beer cans and bottles are $8 or less) and the food menu includes thin-crust pizzas, chickpea crepes, $5 tacos and classic bar snacks like nuts and fries. Between Zebulon and Salazar — the delicious Mexican restaurant next door — street parking is scarce.
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(Angella Choe/For the Times )

Dance the night away with fellow gays at Akbar

Silver Lake Bar/Nightclub
Akbar is the nucleus for a certain sect of L.A.’s queer population. Not just Boygenius-loving Silver Lake hipsters and recent transplants who imported their mullets from Bushwick, but a true array of multigenerational LGBTQs who want to dance to Lady Gaga deep cuts, sweat it out to the newest Kylie Minogue single or dress up for diva-themed nights (think Beyoncé, Madonna and Missy Elliott). Relative to other local queer nightlife, Akbar is far less homogeneous than much of what you’ll find in West Hollywood, and its drinks are impressively cheap and strong.

The front room of the bar tends to be more relaxed, with bead curtains, comfy seating and a jukebox filled with music by all the essential gay icons. Head into the back room and you’ll find a rowdy dance floor that’s nearly packed every weekend, where sweaty masses romp along to old and new pop hits. The back room doubles as a venue for the sweetest craft night every Wednesday and transforms into a performance space for events like the monthly variety show “Planet Queer” and Tony Soto’s popular lip-syncing competition “Learn the Words, Bitch!”
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(Silver Lake Pool & Inn)

Take a nap or swim a lap at the Silver Lake Pool & Inn

Silver Lake Hotel
The pool is a key feature to this low-key, upscale lodging, but so is its location, an easy walk for dozens of shops and restaurants along Sunset. You won’t see a big sign when you’re trying to find the inn — it’s way too cool for that. But once you’ve found it, don’t overlook its Marco Polo restaurant, which serves Italian fare on a pleasant patio. If you spend at least $50 at Marco Polo (and reserve in advance), you can use the pool and deck, a white and terracotta realm of umbrellas, chaise longues and carefully considered resortwear. The hotel, part of the fast-growing Palihouse chain, has 54 rooms and suites (again, lots of elegant white and terracotta). Rates $330 to $600.
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