Echo Park ~ Los Angeles

Echo Park: You could say it echoes Brooklyn’s Bushwick; it might even be compared to nearby Silver Lake (a less developed version of it , anyway). This neighbourhood, located 10 minutes from downtown LA, has that energetic feel so prominent of communities that attract a newly-moved-in younger demographic of artists, foodies, and entrepreneurs.

Take Brite Spot, for example. I’ll admit to having passed it a few time, only to dismiss it as just another old-school American diner. Hey, it’s painted bright blue, it’s on busy Sunset Boulevard, and claims to be Echo Park’s original diner since 1949. Ever since I tasted “the best margarita” in New York, I have avoided places making grand statements. However, my husband was convinced is was going to be a find based on many favourable Yelp reviews, so with a twist of the arm, my tummy gave in. We hopped in the car on one very warm Sunday in May and drove inland for brunch.

I have to say that when I entered the diner, I was quite taken with its cosy interior. Even more promising was that the place was buzzing with all sorts: yuppies huddled in a booth discussing last night’s drinking antics, grandparents feeding grandkids; a lone brunette in the corner reading the paper and eating eggs over easy. The space looks like a 1970s ski chalet crossed with grandma-chic — bronze vinyl booths and large windows that let in the gorgeous L.A. light line one side; perpendicular to it is a wall of mirrors, interspersed with retro-looking black-and-white light sconces. Wooden swivel pub chairs surround the central coffee bar, mood lit by an overhanging orbital chandelier. On the menu: on-trend items like egg-topped kale salad, vegan Garden Burger, as well as modern twists of the usual diner fare: 2 eggs any style with sausage and bacon (note: substitutes include egg whites, tofu, or veggie bacon). But it’s the dessert display case that was the apple of my husband’s eye — I immediately knew that our meal would end with a piece of the sinful-looking Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie, piled high with lashings of freshly-whipped cream. I have to admit that our meal was good. Really good, and fairly priced.

Served by a tattooed, plaid-shirt-wearing waitress and surrounded by patrons of all ages — yuppies discussing last night’s drinking antics, grandparents feeding grandkids; a bookish young lady reading the paper over eggs in a corner — Brite Spot Diner feels like a microcosm of what’s happening in Echo Park today.

So, what is going on in this ‘hood? Here’s what Eric Brightwell wrote in the Los Angeles Times back in late 2011:

All you hipster-haters need to check yourself. Yes, hipsters are offensive to the eyes, ears and nose and yes, they provoke violent urges in me but remember, the Echo Park you grew up in wasn’t always that way either. Echo Park began as a wealthy, white, Victorian neighborhood. Places change for the better and for the worse. I remember El Prado when it was a dive (I liked it then) and like it as a posh wine bar too (certainly there are more women in there now).

I miss some of the old Echo Park but it’s still got the Film Center, Pizza Buona, Echo Park lake, the Baxter Stairs, the memory of Room 8 the Cat, Jensen’s Rec Center (with its cool sign).

My advice? Ignore the haters, the hipsters and (most importantly) the hype. It’s not the Williamsburg of LA, it’s Echo Park… oh, and lying WEST of the LA River, don’t be an idiot and call it the EASTside.*

Today, the facades that stretch along this part of Sunset Blvd look relatively unchanged; the burrito joints, liquor store, and tobacconist have probably been here since the 1960s. It’s easier to make out progress by the new condo developments that have been fitted in between many Craftsman-style homes, standing since the early 1900s. If you take a drive down the quieter Echo Park Ave, you’ll pass newly sprouted coffee shops selling $5 coffee pour overs to a WiFi-dependent clientele, as well as a yoga studio, a quirky boutique, hair salon, a bodega, and a real estate agent.

Based on some research I had done earlier, we scouted a beautiful home on Valentine Street. Designed by architect Raphael Sorriano and built in 1938, it is a salute to Modernism – sleek , simple, and lots of windows. Because the neighbourhood is so hilly, many homes have great views towards the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory, downtown LA, the Valley and the 5 Freeway. Some downhill descents are so steep that with the gradual build up of momentum, and a subsequent “woosh,” you feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster.

Echo Park is certainly an area to watch and has the familiar feeling of a community on the verge… It’ll take some time to get there but I am happy about that as things seem to happen way too fast in this technology driven world.

The interior of Brite Spot Diner

The interior of Brite Spot Diner

Stumptown (artisan) coffee

Stumptown (artisan) coffee

A bit retro, a bit old school, a bit ski chalet

A bit retro, a bit old school, a bit ski chalet

Stumptown Americano

Stumptown Americano

Kale Salad: Chopped kale, fried egg, bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts, lemon garlic chili dressing $9.75

Kale Salad: Chopped kale, fried egg, bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts,
lemon garlic chili dressing $9.75

Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie

Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie

The Brite Spot vibe

The Brite Spot vibe

Catering to the DAFT PUNK demographic

Catering to the DAFT PUNK demographic

The view from Fargo Street

The view from Fargo Street – looking toward LA’s downtown

DSC_0312PS

Steep streets with view that look onto the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory (right)

Steep streets with view that look onto the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory (right)

If you like rollercoasters, you'll like driving in Echo Park

If you like rollercoasters, you’ll like driving in Echo Park

A sunlit wrought iron gate

A sunlit wrought iron gate

Looking onto the 5 Freeway - the Los Angeles River is in the background too

That’s my husband looking onto the 5 Freeway – the Los Angeles River is in the background too

Smelling fresh baby peaches

Smelling fresh baby peaches

Modernist architect Raphael Sorriano designed this home, built in 1938

Modernist architect Raphael Sorriano designed this home, built in 1938

Another view of the Raphael Sorriano home

Another view of the Raphael Sorriano home

DSC_0293PS

*http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/neighborhood/echo-park/comments/

Advertisements

37 thoughts on “Echo Park ~ Los Angeles

  1. If you haven’t yet tried Masa of Echo Park, I highly recommend trying it! And definitely order the Warm Croissant Bread Pudding. It’s just delightful 🙂 I love this post. Reminds me of home.

      • I’m from Downtown Los Angeles. About two blocks from Echo Park! 🙂 anytime.

      • I do too! Have you tried Bottega Louie in Downtown? Also pretty good. I dream of their mushroom fries. Are you from Brooklyn?

      • I have been following Bottega on facebook and haven’t made it in there – mushroom fries sound amazing!! I am from Australia but relocated from brooklyn recently 🙂

  2. Glad to read your post. Just wondering when you were going to post something. I would have not known about Echo Park if it wasn’t for stairwalks. Echo Park has a funky vibe.

    • Hi Karen! My posts have been a little less frequent but they are in my mind – I just have to find the time to post them 🙂 Echo Park is cool isn’t it?! Great to hear from you!

  3. Thanks for this share ,Marina!
    It all sounded so interesting and new to me. Places I heard of but I’ve never seen ,now are somehow nearer , thanks to your post and photos!

  4. Very cool, I was so jealous when I read ‘on a very warm May afternoon…. ‘ here we have +8, rainy, windy, cold and grim 😦 I miss the heat, the sunshine!

    The food and that lovely cup of espresso looks amazing, I am glad you popped in 🙂 Great pictures as ever 🙂

    • K, hello! I hope the weather has picked up in London. I am loving the sun but I did get a little red from the rays today (not good!). Thanks for saying the about the photos – makes my day brighter!! Hope you’re well!

      • Marina, your photos are great, I always look forward to your posts 🙂 The weather was lovely during the weekend… and today it’s back to normal 🙂 Rainy and cold 🙂 I can’t wait for my holiday back home at the end of June, hoping for some sunshine and less rain 🙂

      • Thanks so much K – it means a lot that I can share images from across the world with you and others. June can’t come soon enough, right? 🙂

      • Indeed 🙂 Not long now, just under a month until I go home 🙂 really looking forward to seeing everyone 🙂

  5. Hi Marina, thank you for sharing as always your wonderful posts. Echo Park is such a nice part of L.A. I am often there for photography work and always enjoy driving through this great neighborhood, it has changed quite a lot through out the last 15 years as I have observed.

    • Hi Cornelia! Thank you! yes, I have heard that the changes have happened over past number of years and it’s a similar situation in many other parts of the USA, and the world. A lovely space to photograph in.

  6. Marina, I lived in Echo Park for years, right off of the second Baxter hill, just past the Baxter stairs, so full of memories for us Laurel and Hardy fans. The Brite Spot was among my hangouts for years. Thanks for the reminder of a wonderful neighborhood.

Please Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s