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Sunday, 23 September 2012 14:38

More to Find iin Little Known Neighborhoods of LA

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Spanning a massive 470 square miles, Los Angeles offers what may be the most dynamic grouping of individual neighborhoods of any city in the U.S. In fact, in an attempt to get a handle on the sheer mass of the City, the Los Angeles Times recently counted no fewer than 114 individual neighborhoods within the City limits alone. And, while places like Downtown, Hollywood and Brentwood may be world famous — or infamous — here are a few districts that are lesser known but no less alluring.


Pair of Aces: Los Feliz/Silver LakeLE  Oyster Bar Silver Lake PicmonkeyL&E Oyster Bar on Silverlake Blvd.

These two older neighborhoods, which sit side-by-side about halfway between Hollywood and Downtown and are home to about 70,000 people combined, have grown in notoriety among locals but still can garner a blank stare when mentioned to an out-of-town visitor. Curiously, a lot of early filming history, including the opening of Walt Disney's first studio, took place here. Los Feliz is the slightly more stately of the two, with gorgeous homes dating back to the 1920s lining the hills of its upscale Oaks section next to Griffith Park. Its two primary shopping districts along Vermont and Hillhurst Avenues are heavy on local cafes and boutiques and light on chain stores. Silver Lake, named for its 127-acre reservoir, has long been a mix of artists, gays and young families and has more recently attracted a group of gastropubs and local-flavored eateries.

Quick Vibe: Los Feliz's Skylight Books on Vermont Avenue is a rare breed: a thriving, independent bookstore that's supported by locals and is known for its author readings. The Alcove Café & Bakery on Hillhurst will give anyone sitting on its patio a quick primer on the local community. Silver Lake is known for its music scene, so indie record store Rockaway Records and music clubs Satellite (formerly Spaceland) and Silver Lake Lounge are great for the uninitiated. And, more recently, Sunset Triangle, a pedestrian plaza created from what had been part of Griffith Park Boulevard, offers as good a daytime local vibe as anyplace and hosts two Farmers Markets a week, while Intelligentsia Coffee reflects a neighborhood on the upswing.


Low Key, High Rent: Pacific Palisades

Will Roges on Polo Pony PicmonkeyWill Rogers played in 1920's.Don't let the some of the country's highest housing prices fool you. Pacific Palisades is actually a very low-key, family-friendly community with a small-town feel. Boasting some of the best weather in the city — the community is bordered by a bluff overlooking the Pacific — the Palisades dates back to the early 1920s, and its commercial district covers just a few blocks on either side of Sunset Boulevard. Nature lovers can hike to a waterfall in Temescal Canyon, while polo aficionados (we know you're out there) can rejoice at the chance to attend weekend matches at Will Rogers State Park from April through September.

Quick Vibe: Pacific Palisades' relatively out-of-the-way locale ensures that its Sunday morning Farmers Market is almost exclusively a local affair, while Palisades Park is always full of families looking to take advantage of top-notch facilities mixed in with an ocean breeze. Village Books has been serving the literary set since 1997 and, while the Palisades has little nightlife to speak of, lots of folks hit the Southwestern-influenced Café Vida for breakfast and lunch, especially on weekends




Still Funky: Highland Park

As the gentrification fairy makes its way from Los Feliz and Silver Lake up into Eagle Rock, Highland Park remains a hodgepodge of sorts. Hemmed in by Glendale, Eagle Rock, Mount Washington and the Arroyo Seco Freeway, Highland Park consists of longtime Latino families mixing it up with artists and students at nearby Occidental College. The local art scene has more recently gotten a boost by way of NELAart (Northeast Los Angeles Arts Organization) Second Saturday Night, a monthly event where art galleries along York Boulevard and Figueroa Street keep their doors open late. And, of course, there's always the Lummis Home and Garden, the century-old home that writer/poet/photographer Charles Fletcher Lummis built out of beams, river rock and other assorted materials.

Quick Vibe: On Figueroa, Mr. T's Bowl & Nightclub is exactly what it says it is and has become a fixture for local bands trying to move up. Nearby, the Good Girl Dinette offers an innovative take on Vietnamese cuisine. But the dichotomy of Highland Park is most clearly reflected on a two-block stretch of York Boulevard, where The York gastropub serves a somewhat upscale clientele and wouldn't look out of place in New York, while El Huarache Azteca #1 goes down home with its namesake Mexican dish of giant proportions.


Valley, and Proud of It: EncinoRyan and Friend Toast at The York PicmonkeyOwner Ryan Ballinger shares a moment with a friend at The York

Yes, yes, pop culture vultures will probably associate Encino with title character in the early-'80s Frank Zappa hit "Valley Girl," but there's plenty more going on there aside from shoe emporiums and pedicure salons and, heck, the Galleria is actually on the other side of the 405 in Sherman Oaks. Ventura Boulevard is the main strip, with a ton of places to shop and a healthy hodgepodge of restaurants, including good breakfasts (More Than Waffles), sushi (Daichan Kaiten Sushi), Cuban (a local outpost of the Southern California chainlet Versailles) and Jewish (Jerry's Deli).

Quick Vibe: Encino may wear its suburbanism on its sleeve, but it also includes one of LA's natural treasures. The 2,031-acre Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area includes a wildlife preserve full of ducks, geese and egrets, as well as Lake Balboa, not to mention golf courses, a cricket field, bike paths, an archery range and a Japanese Garden.


Soul from Struggle: Leimert Park

Leimert Park is the ultimate, little-known LA story, having formed into its present version largely when writers, poets and musicians moved there after the 1965 Watts riots. The World Stage best illustrates how the neighborhood evolved, from the jazz of Ella Fitzgerald and R&B of Ray Charles to the more contemporary sounds of its educational and performing arts gallery. Phillips Bar-B-Que is a local and well-respected institution known for its spare ribs, while Ackee Bamboo serves generous proportions of Jamaican food.

Quick Vibe: Two words: drum circle. That's what happens every Sunday afternoon at 43rd Place and Crenshaw Blvd. And every June, the community puts on the Leimert Park Village Book Fair, which attracts more than 5,000 people, as well as more than 200 authors, poets, spoken-word artists and performers.


Rising Sun: Sawtelle

West Los Angeles' Sawtelle district is usually overshadowed by nearby, tonier communities like Brentwood, Westwood and Santa Monica. Heck, it's not even the best-known Japan Town in LA. Downtown's Little Tokyo takes that award. Still, the strip just west of the San Diego Freeway where Japanese and Japanese-Americans started settling in the 1910s remains a compelling place to visit, complete with its nurseries, sushi bars, noodle houses and even the magazine-cum-comic book store Giant Robot (there are actually two in the area). Some have even taken to calling the neighborhood Little Osaka.

Quick Vibe: Food wouldn't be a bad place to start. Hide Sushi is a Sawtelle stalwart, with fresh, no frills, fairly priced sushi, while folks looking to try Tokyo barbecue can check out Manpuku. Or, depending on time of day, you could skip the meal and check out one of the half-dozen nurseries that still dot the boulevard.


TravMedia sources contributed to this article.


Editor's Note: Planning to visit LA? There are links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the directory is our new section for beer-centric establishments throughout the state.

Read 2759 times Last modified on Sunday, 14 October 2012 11:55

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