24 Hours Soaking Up LA’s Silver Lake Neighbourhood
The Los Angeles neighbourhood of Silver Lake is the sprawling city’s most hip/hyped. Made up of mostly small character homes and apartment buildings on hilly and quiet residential streets, the area is bisected by Sunset Boulevard, the loudly immodest fast track for eating, dining and shopping on trend. It’s impossible to ingest Silver Lake in a single day, try though I may have. What follows, then, is one condensed chapter detailing the better places I shopped, ate and drank over a recent 24 hour period.
GO SQIRL-Y | The nourishing, life-affirming power of food is evident at Sqirl, located on Silver Lake’s fringe. It’s the first stop to fuel up on good food and positive vibes. The place is a hub of takeaway activity, low key meetings and solo diners — prime people-watching for an out-of-towner. The small, tiled space and open kitchen arrangement is minimal but unpretentious, and sprinkled with quirky details like tarot cards for place markers and framed, limited edition merchandise. What’s not minimal is the menu of modern cafe fare filling up the two chalkboards that run nearly the length of the entire room. It includes an exhaustive list of all-day breakfast options and rotating daily specials.
The Sorrel Pesto Bowl is at the top of the breakfast menu and sees a base of toothsome Kokoro brown rice liberally coated in sorrel pesto with gems of preserved Meyer lemon. The thing is topped with an artful arrangement of watermelon radish, a poached egg, lacto-fermented hot sauce and a smattering of sheep feta. It arrives with a large spoon, presumably to encourage a playful swirling of the elements. Take a cue from the cover of their cookbook – Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking – by adding avocado and house-smoked, thick cut bacon. Grab a “horchoffe” – iced, housemade vegan horchata with two shots of espresso – for a caffeine boost while you walk and shop thereafter. They’ve also got a small selection of pastries, like a morning bun with grapefruit, peppercorn and sumac.
ABOVE AVERAGE THREADS, ETC. | Hit up Virgil Normal for a fix of Cali-cool duds, with a focus on local clothing brands, zines, art, housewares, a small selection of vintage and paraphernalia, plus friendly convos, cacti and Snoopy — SO MUCH Snoopy! Typography and hand-lettering fans will geek out over the signage.
KITSCHY DISHES | Probably the most highly recommended and critically-acclaimed restaurant in Silver Lake is Night + Market Song. The space is a sensory overload of neon mish-mashed kitsch designed to facilitate “aharn glam lao”, or fun times eating and drinking in good company. However, the line between amusing and eyesore is wavy; so if you’re not feeling up to the visual assault then take-out is a good option. The waiting area is a perfect place to take in the vibrant action while taking for your food to go, under the pinched yet approving look of an old portrait and a small but inactive disco ball. The Nam Khao Tod (an aromatic crispy rice dish with pork that pushes the definition of ‘salad’) and Khao Soi Neua (spicy hanger steak noodle curry) are two of the most popular menu items. Spicy, salty, oily, bright and crunchy (there are probably more nuances discernible by a less inebriated palate); these dishes definitely are the perfect accompaniment to Song’s fancy-free ethos.
GET LUCKY | There’s no shortage of places for drinking in Silver Lake, but for the sake of being thematic try hitting up Good Luck Bar or slinking over to a barstool at The Black Cat. The former is a dim, red-light drenched dive bar that’s decked out in the retro kitsch of ‘The Orient’. Think red Chinese lanterns above the bar, scrolls on the wallpapered walls and dragon carvings in the ceiling tiles. In addition to bottles of beer and the usual bar stock, they do have a small menu of tiki drinks served in appropriately cliched vessels. Good Luck is, unsurprisingly, a hot date spot and the low leather corner booths are perfectly suited to chill group hangs with a few of your closest post-ironic pals.
Over on Sunset the cat paraphernalia at The Black Cat is discernible but more slyly dispersed amid the large, dark space. The booze list is long and the dinner menu covers every hankering, from “Cat Snack” (olives, pickles and nuts) to Pork Schnitzel.