I have called Echo Park my home for nearly a year and a half. After spending an unhappy year in a hardly-walkable area of Los Angeles's Mid City, I decided to move to the east side neighborhood. I felt desperate to find an apartment from which I could stroll to the nearest restaurant, bar, or bookstore. Thankfully, I found that in Echo Park.
I like the neighborhood not only for the walkability, but for the creative energy. There's always a show going on down the street at The Echo, or a new independent shop or coffee house opening their doors. Echo Park is the younger, independent, DIY-loving sister to her neighbor, Silver Lake, and I love it. What I don't love is that my rent has gone up twice since I've lived in my apartment.
Echo Park, to me, is typified by the nights out that I've spent with my roommate at an old French restaurant and bar on Sunset Boulevard. One evening, while drinking our cocktails and minding our business, a horde of gorgeous, long-haired people who looked like extras in a Father John Misty music video filled the space. We were completely confused, but also entertained. Another night, we walked in expecting the place to be fairly empty, only to be kindly invited to join the gay men's mixer going on that evening. You never know what might happen on a night out in Echo Park and that's the fun of it.
A Local's Guide to Echo Park
Describe the neighborhood in three words: Stimulating, unique and easy-going.
This neighborhood is known as: Take this as you will, but LA Weekly once called Echo Park the Williamsburg of the West Coast.
Median rents (studio, one bedroom, two bedroom): $1,548, $1,848, $2,479
Median house price: $850,500 ($722 per sq ft)
Walkability score: 92/100
Average commute/traffic report: Traffic isn't as congested in Echo Park as it is in Hollywood or Santa Monica, but Sunset Boulevard slows down during morning and evening commute hours. If there's a Dodgers game, avoid Sunset at all costs.
Best local bookstore: Stories Books & Cafe. This spot is a bookstore in the front and a cafe in the back, like some kind of intellectual mullet. It's a local hangout and has a comfortable, homegrown vibe. They also feature local music and varying events on the back patio.
Best place to get coffee: Woodcat. This coffee bar is a local spot serving coffee from San Francisco's Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters.
Best bar for when you want to be around people: The Lost Knight. With two levels, multiple bars and karaoke, you're bound to make new friends (or at least have a really good time with your own).
Best bar for when you want to be alone: Bar Bandini. This secluded, dark wine bar feels like the inside of a log cabin, but chicer. With tons of bar seating and a laid-back atmosphere, you won't feel weird about treating yourself to a glass of Vin de France.
Best free cultural thing to take part of: Echo Park Farmer's Market. Every Friday, there's no better place to stroll in the sun and check out what local Angelenos have to offer.
Best avocado toast: Honey Hi. The small cafe features what's best about Echo Park dining: Locally sourced and actually organic food made with integrity. You can't really mess up avocado toast, but the folks at Honey Hi can make it 10 times better than you thought it could be. (P.S., celebs like Mandy Moore love the place.)
Best street for finding a birthday gift: On Echo Park Avenue between Scott Avenue and Lucretia Avenue you'll find Shout & About, an impeccably curated gift shop; Cookbook L.A., a tiny grocery great for foodies; Cactus Store, which has the prettiest cactuses you'll ever find; and Valerie Echo Park, whose confections are too sweet not to gift.
Something only locals know: Echo Park has some of the best vintage shopping, including WORSHIP L.A., Lemon Frog Shop Vintage Bazaar, American Superior Used Clothing, Sleeper, Sunday's Best Vintage (named after Sunday the cat), and LOOK Vintage (just to name a few).
Hidden gem: TAIX Bar and Restaurant. Though it's not hidden—it's on busy Sunset Boulevard—people tend to overlook TAIX (pronounced "Tex") as a spot for weekend drinks because it's a 90-year-old French restaurant. But the bar room is gorgeous and lively, and the bartenders serve up some great cocktails.
Best spot for an Instagram: Echo Park's Jensen's Recreation Center building. While the building—built in 1924—is gorgeous, what's even cooler is the 28-foot-tall sign that tops it. Restored last year, the quirky sign features a bowler whose ball becomes animated as it lights up across the length of the sign. It's the perfect snapshot of historic Echo Park. However, if you're looking to get yourself in the photo, you can pose in front of one of numerous Echo Park murals by local artists.
Overrated spot: The Short Stop. This bar/dance venue has a cool disco ball and some fun theme nights, but if there's a Dodgers game, forget about it.
Underrated spot: Burrito King. This literal hole-in-the-wall Mexican spot is greasy, messy and just damn good. Order a horchata, grab a seat on one of the green bar stools and don't forget the napkins before you bite into California burrito heaven. It's also open until 3 a.m., which is late for L.A.'s standards.
Favorite outdoor lounge spot: Echo Park Lake. This is perhaps an obvious suggestion, but there's nothing typical or mundane about the beauty of lying in the grass next to the giant lotus blooms as you gaze across the lake at Downtown L.A.'s skyline. You can even rent a paddle boat if you're feeling particularly athletic or sappy.
Best date spot: Button Mash. This barcade (bar + arcade) not only boasts the best classic arcade games, but some delicious craft beers. Nothing alleviates the awkwardness of a first date than some healthy competition during a heated Puzzle Bobble match.
Best alone spot: Subliminal Projects. Artist Shepard Fairey created this local gallery in 1995, and the intimate space is ideal for a solo afternoon of browsing contemporary art.
Best place for a workout: Club Pilates Echo Park. I once had an instructor who played The Pixies and David Bowie during our workout. I'd never felt more at home in L.A.
Best place to take an out-of-towner: Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are the pride and glory of many small businesses close to the stadium, who sport murals of players on their buildings. There's nothing more classically Echo Park than a Dodger Dog and some overpriced beer.
Best brunch: Mohawk Bend. This vegan restaurant is the reason I ventured to Echo Park in the first place. Built in an old movie theatre, the ambiance is peak Echo Park-cool, and their pizza is the perfect cure-all for a Saturday morning hangover.
Worst place to find parking and easiest place to find parking: Pretty much anywhere on Sunset Boulevard is rough for parking, but there's a paid lot behind a great line of shops between Lemoyne Street and Echo Park Ave. The lot provides easy access to Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Lake.