Seated at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Feliz is a casual community boasting verdant views. Along its northern edge is Griffith Park – Los Angeles’ largest green space – lending the neighbourhood of 35,000 residents the aura of an urban sanctuary. Yet, it isn’t lacking in cultural force. The vintage shops and coffeehouses of its well-worn thoroughfares dismiss flash in favour of a warm familiarity; nondescript bars and bookshops are frequent landing pads for the many cool denizens who inhabit the city’s hip Eastside. You’ll fit in just fine too, as long as you remember to say it like the locals: Los FEE-liz.
A wonderland on foot: Here’s how actress and seasoned local Stephanie Beatriz enjoys a weekend stroll through LA’s most walkable neighbourhood
1. Vintage Cinemas
Strolling the sidewalks of Vermont, it’s hard to miss the vintage façade of the Los Feliz 3 Cinemas – particularly at night when its retro neon marquee glows a brilliant purple. The single-screen Vista Theatre, down the road on Sunset Drive, is another local landmark. It maintains a decidedly more low-key 1920s-era vibe. In addition to film screenings, the stage here also frequently plays host to vaudeville acts.
2. Vermont Avenue
“Los Feliz has so many great restaurants and shops, but it’s the connection to Hollywood’s birth that I find so charming,” says Beatriz, the star of hit television comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. “Many of the apartment buildings on Vermont [Avenue] were once filled with Hollywood day players, and Walt Disney started his very first animation studio here.” That building still stands, though the only evidence of its legacy is a tiny tribute sign in the window of Extra Copy on 4647 Kingswell Avenue. North Vermont Avenue also holds many of the town’s best brunching options, including Loupiotte Kitchen and Atrium.
3. Griffith Observatory
The quaint streets of downtown hold plenty of Old Hollywood history. But the magic of the movies extends up the hills and into one of LA’s most popular parks. Beatriz makes the most of the city’s dependable sunshine by heading towards its ample green spaces. “A hike from Fern Dell Drive will take you right up to the Griffith Observatory, which had its own starring role in Rebel Without a Cause,” she says. You might also recognise the triple-domed Art Deco palace from La La Land, The Terminator and countless other classics.
4. Sunday farmers’ market
“My very favourite spot is the post office parking lot on Sunday mornings, which turns into a very tiny – but ridiculously cute – farmers’ market,” Beatriz says. “Fresh fruit and veggies and gorgeous flowers abound. It’s very grounding in such a big city to feel like you can mingle with your neighbours in such a sweet way, every week.” The market runs from 9am to 2pm.
“It’s maintained its vibe of being a little neighbourhood in Los Angeles that doesn’t feel like Los Angeles, while still feeling modernised by new restaurants popping up” — Mark Ferraro, bar manager at The Dresden Restaurant & Lounge
Savour the Feliz flavour: Restaurateur Beau Laughlin on his area favourites
Beau Laughlin doesn’t just run a successful restaurant in Los Feliz – he’s a native. Opening Atrium less than a mile from his home turned out to be more than a solid business model; he now has a delicious dining option in his own backyard. His executive chef, Hunter Pritchett, weaves a variety of seasonal ingredients into a brilliant tapestry, reflective of LA’s diverse cultural landscape: house-baked grilled focaccia is covered in kimchi butter, cacio e pepe is umami-fied under an emulsion of uni and dry-aged ribeye comes with a Sichuan-tweaked au poivre sauce.
“While developing the concept, we worked hard to create an environment that lends itself to being an elevated neighbourhood restaurant,” explains Laughlin. “It fills an important culinary gap in the area.” When not at work, he and his wife Lindsey step out on the town – dog walking through Griffith Park by day, enjoying world-class entertainment by night.
“[We] recently took some friends and family to The Dresden,” he recalls. “It’s a throwback lounge with live music that most people recognise from the movie Swingers. [Performers] Marty and Elayne have been staples there for nearly 40 years, singing several times a week, and they only seem to get better with age.” Laughlin also tries to catch as many shows as possible at the Greek Theatre, which he ranks among the best outdoor concert venues in the country.
“It’s the perfect balance of a small village in the middle of a colossal city. You feel like you’re part of a diverse, creative and cohesive community” — Tom Trellis, chef and owner of Alcove Cafe & Bakery
Eat, drink and be merry: Tom Trellis of Big Bar and Alcove recommends a few of his dining highlights in Los Feliz
1. Bar Covell
A cosy neighbourhood hang located on Hollywood Boulevard, featuring one of the city’s widest collections of wines by the glass, personally recommended to you by the staff.
2. Best Fish Taco in Ensenada
This boldly named outpost on Hillhurst Avenue exceeds expectations with Baja-style fish and shrimp specialities with homemade salsas.
3. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Now available nationwide, this seasonally inspired scoop shop first established its West Coast presence in LA in 2015, bringing along unique tastes such as cognac with gingerbread and cold brew with coconut cream.
4. Messhall Kitchen
A contemporary gastropub with the comfort of a country cabin, serving up the likes of homemade griddle cakes and a resplendent barbecue spread on Sundays.
5. McCall’s Meat and Fish Co
A high-end butcher on Hillhurst Avenue, renowned for quality cuts of protein alongside premium cheeses and organic loaves from Clark Street Bread.
“All these beautiful landmarks [such as Griffith Observatory and Frank Lloyd Wright properties] are just up the hill from us.” – Mary Williams, general manager of Skylight Books
Shop like a local: Mary Williams of Skylight Books on her favourite Los Feliz retail gems
Reading actual books might be a dying practice in many parts of the world, but in Los Feliz, it remains a celebrated pastime. If you need reassurance, enter Skylight Books on any given afternoon. Between the stacked shelves, a gathering of excitable literature lovers spans all ages and the store’s general manager Mary Williams is on hand to steer them through the store’s dense and comprehensive selection.
“We strive to be a well-curated neighbourhood bookstore for residents as well as an introduction to Los Angeles literary culture for visitors from out of town,” she describes of the local landmark. “We specialise in personalised recommendations, and love talking to our customers about books and matching them with their next great read.”
Williams doesn’t spend all her time buried in books, though. Here she eagerly shares some of her favourite spots in the neighbourhood.
This charming gift store is filled with beautiful home décor items (their ceramics are particularly appealing), accessories, cards and handmade jewellery. There’s also a section with adorable and unique gifts for kids.
One of the more eclectic shops located in Los Feliz, this is the perfect place to discover all the things that you didn’t know you wanted. They feature a variety of wares with funky, tongue-in-cheek slogans, along with an apothecary section that has items with a focus on sustainability and fair trade.
Pop-culture oddities line every aisle of this Los Feliz institution, with the selection getting weirder the deeper you go. Visit the attached La Luz de Jesus Gallery for the latest from the LA art scene.
Built in 1923, the Vista is a beautiful example of vintage single-screen Hollywood movie theatres. Arrive a few minutes before your movie begins so you can soak in the Egyptian-themed interior.
Through the years: Notable moments from Los Feliz’s history
1795: The 2,690-hectare Rancho Los Feliz is awarded to Corporal José Vicente Feliz; among California’s first official land grants.
1830: A sizable adobe house is constructed by Feliz’s heirs. It still stands today, on Crystal Springs Drive within Griffith Park.
1900: Only 23 residential properties exist within the area, now owned by Colonel Griffith J Griffith. He eventually bequeaths the land to the city after passing away on 6 July 1919.
1921: Frank Lloyd Wright completes his iconic Hollyhock House, a Modernist temple commissioned by philanthropist Aline Barnsdall. It is the architectural centrepiece of the hilltop park that now bears her name.
1928: Walt Disney draws his first image of Mickey Mouse in the garage of his uncle’s house, on Kingswell Avenue between Vermont Avenue and Rodney Drive. The world’s most recognisable cartoon character is born.
2007: In the wake of a wild fire, LA pledges millions to rebuild the damaged areas, including a popular scenic perch, Dante’s View.
2018: Ennis House, made famous in the 1982 film Blade Runner, hits the real estate market at US$23 million. It eventually sells for US$18 million in October 2019.
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This article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of SilverKris magazine