The ascendance of L.A.’s eastside has been rapid in recent years. As real estate skyrockets in surrounding areas, Echo Park has attracted many of the city’s newest restaurants, bars, and shops.
While the neighborhood’s quiet, leaf-fringed streets feel like a respite from the city, Echo Park is accessible by four major freeways (the 5, 2, 110, and 101), and it's a stone's throw from Chinatown and Downtown—you can see actually the skyline in the backdrop. It makes a great home base for exploring Greater L.A., but make sure to factor in some time to explore the neighborhood itself—there’s a lot to experience within its own borders, especially for the budget-conscious.
Where to Eat & Drink
This rustic-chic restaurant serves healthful comfort foods guaranteed to revive you, whether from one too many IPAs or morning yoga. Dishes include pillowy ricotta pancakes drizzled in berry compote; wood-fired flatbread with wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and cheddar topped with an egg; and a deep bowl of polenta with mushrooms and warm greens. Even the fruit salad—a rainbow of just-picked berries with ribbons of fresh mint (much of the produce comes from the restaurant’s own garden out back)—is divine on a hot afternoon.
Sage Vegan Bistro offers some of the best food we’ve tasted (and we’re not vegan). Among the exhaustive list of dishes, standouts include the pizza—of which there are a dozen varieties (we loved the white pie with broccoli and garlic)—and sweet-chili cauliflower wings. The bar scene is equally enjoyable: The attached industrial-style taproom features beer from its on-site brewery, wine, craft cocktails, and kombucha on tap.
This abandoned print gallery turned chic bar, cafe, and eatery is ideal for laptops and macchiatos by day. By night, the $7 Old Fashioneds and $5 draft beer, wine, and snack platters make it an economical happy hour destination before moving onto one of the neighborhood’s live music establishments.
Whether you want to feel better, think better, or look better, Glowing Juice offers a range of healing elixirs. A smoothie made with pineapple, mango, turmeric, cinnamon, and watermelon is said to reduce inflammation; while a list of juices, tonics, and shots promise to combat everything from allergies to bloating. Acai bowls, and a broad selection of organic, raw, vegan, and gluten-free treats are available to take away.
With 20 types of tea (plus a separate list of tea lattes and coffee drinks), Valerie is the perfect place to relax or refuel. Order one of their homemade crème fraiche scones, hand pies with seasonal fruit (which, in Southern California, is every fruit), and palm-sized cakes that are hard not to devour in a single bite. If you’re craving something heartier, the kitchen turns out hot breakfast items (hello, goat cheese bread pudding) as well as salads and sandwiches.
For the best drink deals, 1642 (bordering Historic Filipino Town) has live music after 9 p.m. (a mix of jazz, honkytonk, swing, and blues), and on Thursdays happy hour includes a free tamale with any beer between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunset Beer Company
This strip mall liquor store-and-bar on Sunset features 12 rotating taps and more than 800 bottled beers that the friendly and knowledgeable staff is happy to help you navigate. The vibe is relaxed and low key—people line the mahogany benches to play board games or punch away on their laptops. Outside, a small side yard with tables is a nice place to catch some rays. Happy hour is between 4-7 p.m. from Monday through Thursday.
Coffee & Tea
Echo Park has no shortage of places to get your caffeine fix. Among our favorites are Eightfold—a Japanese-inspired, airy space that serves bento boxes, pastries, and maybe the best matcha latte in town—and Woodcat, a cozy shop with strong brews and benches out front, is the perfect pit-stop before a day of exploring the town.
Lot 1 Cafe
Though it's technically a restaurant, no one really comes to Lot 1 for the food (except maybe for the endless, bottomless mimosa brunch). In the backroom, under-the-radar Indie and Alternative acts perform nightly. The low-key, no-frills environment is a bit reminiscent of the basement of your first off-campus house—complete with Ikea furnishings and the lingering smell of beer, BUT from a good, very adult beer selection. The best part: No cover charge.
What to See & Do
A tiny slice of Provence in L.A., Cookbook boasts baskets of olive loaf and ciabatta made daily by The Bread Lounge; mounds of artichokes and citrus fruits picked in their prime; top-quality fish, meat, and cheese; and specialty goods, like canned tuna belly and butternut squash seed oil, by European brands you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Nothing here is cheap, but it’s worth the minor splurge on one of the homemade sandwiches or peanut butter cookies.
At Stories, patrons can shop, sell, and trade books; then grab a seat under the canopied patio to enjoy their latest acquisition over a drink and a light bite from the in-house cafe. In the evenings, you can catch readings, comedy, and music. Happy hours are from 5-6 p.m. and 9-10 p.m. and include $5 beer and $6 wine.
Looking for a souvenir that embodies L.A.’s artsy eastside? At Shout and About, you’ll find cheeky greeting cards, notebooks, candles, art prints, and jewelry. Most items are made by California designers.
A zen retreat within the city, this intimate studio focuses on the spiritual side of yoga and acupuncture. In the sunny waiting area, a cachet of crystals in all shapes and sizes, as well as clothing and books are available to purchase. Classes are often taught by candlelight and include Sanskrit chanting and bells that can be heard pouring out onto the street. First-timers can pay $25 for a set of three classes, and the studio offers at least one pay-what-you-can donation class daily (except Saturdays).
Echo Park is the home of Los Angeles’s Major League Baseball team, the Dodgers. With 162 games per season—twice as many as the NBA and 10 times more than the NFL—plus a stadium that accommodates 56,000, you can almost always find cheap seats to a game. We found tickets for as low as $23 (for bullpen seating) to a midday game on a Thursday; the same seats only went up to $32 on for a Saturday afternoon game. And there are nearly always same-day deals.
Get in Touch with Nature
Echo Park is also home to two of L.A.’s oldest parks. The eponymous Echo Park and its lake—established in 1860 as a drinking water reservoir—were used frequently in early films. It was designated a Cultural and Historic Landmark in 2006 and got a 45-million-dollar makeover in 2013; now, the charming boathouse (built in 1932) houses a cafe and pedal boat rides. Lotus flowers bloom on the water between April and August, and the Downtown skyline sits along the horizon.
L.A.’s second largest park and the city’s oldest, Elysian Park, comprises 600 acres of hiking trails, jogging and bike paths, and Dodger Stadium. It hosted several events in the 1932 Summer Olympics, and legend has it that early Spanish settlers buried their gold under the land here. But the Eden-esque lawns, terraced creek, and wooden footbridges are treasure enough.
Tour L.A.’s Remaining Victorian Homes
Known as L.A.’s first suburb, Angelino Heights is home to the best remaining Victorian homes in Los Angeles. Nearly all have been restored and many have appeared on screen (including in the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller!”). Walk the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue where most of them reside on your own for free, or show up on the first Saturday of the month at 9:45 a.m., when the L.A. Conservancy gives a two-hour tour ($15) that includes historical information and a look inside two private homes.
Where to Stay
The hotel industry hasn’t yet infiltrated Echo Park, which is part of its charm. There are accommodations through Airbnb, or try Noon on Sunset Hill: Perched on a hill above Sunset Blvd and within walking distance to the neighborhood’s attractions, this remodeled three-story home has nine rooms (about $160-$170 per night), which can be booked individually or by the floor; large parties can even reserve the whole property. Each of the stylish rooms has its own bathroom and private entrance and includes free wifi, a flatscreen TV with Roku hookup, a mini fridge, and a Keurig. The house also has common work and living space, and three outdoor patios with picnic tables.