The Los Angeles East Side Guide
Formerly known as hipster central, the East Side—though by no means mainstream—has transformed from a far-flung destination to a vibrant central neighborhood, thanks to a consistent stream of new openings across all categories, be it shopping, eating, or drinking. Close proximity to amenities like Griffith Park and booming Downtown just add fuel to the fire.
Forage3823 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.663.6885
Local, sustainable, and fresh ingredients are the focus at this rustic-meets-modern spot, so much so that if you bring your own home-grown produce, they'll exchange it for credit. And the credit is worth it: The roasted salmon bowl is particularly excellent, though there are very few misses on Forage's constantly changing chalkboard menu.
Sqirl720 N. Virgil Ave., Silver Lake | 323.284.8147
What started out as a toast and jam pop-up now commands long weekend lines: A quick scan of the outdoor tables reveals that most people are digging into their signature Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Bowl, complete with nut-free pesto, preserved Meyer lemon, feta, black radish, and a poached egg. Don’t leave without picking up a bottle of the jam that made Sqirl famous.
Night + Market Song3322 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.665.5899
30-something chef Kris Yenbamroong, may not have any formal culinary training, but no matter: He learned how to cook in Bangkok, and in the kitchen of his parents' long-standing Thai mainstay, Talésai, which is now the (sort of) home of Night + Market. Tucked away behind a curtain in the back, you won’t find the white tablecloths that mark the former. Instead, you’re met by a stark white space where the only décor is a handful of Christmas lights and a Singha beer sign. Here, the hype continues to mount: Maybe it’s the low-slung and crowded communal tables (this place is loud), or maybe it’s the exquisite and (very) spicy street food, like pad thai, grilled fatty pig collar, and fried chicken wings, bathed in “rooster sauce.” The fried chicken sandwich is among LA's best.
Pine & Crane1521 Griffith Park Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.668.1128
What’s really special about this Taiwanese-Chinese food spot is that for the most part, the ingredients come from Chef Vivian Ku family’s Asian produce farm. The pared-down menu is pretty heavy on the noodles (the wanton noodle soup is hearty and delicious) as well as traditional small plates like potstickers and dumplings. They also make a mean three-cup chicken and serve it in an individual pot with lots of garlic and ginger. The space is small and cheerful, with cement walls, two-tops, and communal tables—these tend to fill up fast, but it’s a quick turnaround, so stick it out. The tea menu is really impressive, too, with several kinds of oolong and milk teas (boba optional).
Silverlake Ramen2927 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.660.8100
You'll find the best ramen on the east side at this extremely well-priced strip mall-esque spot. Silverlake Ramen boils their broth for 16 hours, and you can tell. Get the pork buns, too—they are similarly out of this world. (Side note: they serve beer and sake until 10pm.)
Cliff’s Edge3626 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.666.6116
This quirky little spot near Sunset junction opened in 2004 meaning that the owners were early East Side dining adopters. The menu is classically good Californian cuisine, but locals really come here for the ambience, which is epitomized by the magical back patio. It's lush, open-air, and definitely a good for a romantic date-night in Silver Lake.
Café Stella3932 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.666.0265
Cafe Stella is a great choice for those nights when you want to be in the company of a lot of other people: It's always bustling, you'll always have to wait for a table, and you'll always be elbowing your way up to the bar for a cocktail while you bide your time. That said, it's fun and low-key, and just the ticket when you want some cozy French bistro food and a glass of good wine.
Trois Familia3510 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.725.7800
This walk- in-only spot from the guys behind Animal, Son of a Gun, Animal, Trois Mec, and Jon & Vinny's is located in a Silver Lake strip mall, which is kind of how they like to play it: Under-promise on the exterior, over-deliver on the food. The hours aren't the only exceptional thing about this spot, either, as the focus is on French-Mexican fare, like chilaquiles, crepes, and churro french toast.
All’acqua3280 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village | 323.663.3280
The wood-fired pizza at this Atwater Village spot is on par with Pizzeria Mozza, Milo & Olive, and Bestia—which says a lot. It also has a late-night menu, which is kind of key if you're looking for a good option after a Dodgers game.
Blossom Silver Lake4019 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.953.8345
Owner Duc Pham, who was born in Vietnam but raised in Anaheim, obsesses over the quality of every detail in his restaurants, from the Scandinavian-inspired furniture to wine list to the bread on his banh mi, which is baked fresh daily. While the classic dishes are excellent at all three locations—anything on the menu with pork belly is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser—we love the Silver Lake location, which has a secret wine bar downstairs. They also have locations in Downtown and Chinatown.
Dune3143 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village | 323.486.7073
Scott Zwiezen, who was the chef at vegetarian LA restaurant Elf, opened Dune in early 2015, and it quickly became known for its excellent falafel. Dune is a casual joint—you order at the counter and then, if you can, grab a counter seat or a patio table outside. It serves hummus plates, salads, and sourdough toasts, as well as a pickled beets sandwich and a lamb one for carnivores. But again, the falafel sandwich is the real star of the show here.
Alimento1710 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.928.2888
LA local Zach Pollack split his culinary education between Italy—he fell in love with Italian food while studying (architecture) abroad—and the west coast, eventually teaming up with Chef Steve Samson to open the Italian restaurant Sotto in LA. And then in 2014, Pollack opened his own: Alimento in Silver Lake, which serves outstanding pastas (including a most notable tortellini), good wine, and a chopped salad that GP loves. It is small—and busy—so make a reservation or go early/late to avoid a long wait.
Little Beast1496 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock | 323.341.5899
Housed in a Craftsman bungalow, Little Beast is a charming neighborhood restaurant opened in 2012 by wife and husband team Deborah Schwartz-Lowenthal and Chef Sean Lowenthal (Sean was previously the sous chef at Chateau Marmont). Little Beast's menu is a mix of small and large plates designed for sharing—seasonal, California-style fare like burrata and beet salad, steelhead trout crudo, roasted organic chicken breast, and charred flat iron steak. In addition to their homey dining room inside, they also have an outdoor patio decorated in strings of white lights. And it's known to be kid friendly—the restaurant is named after their son (affectionately, of course).
Little Pine2870 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake | 323.741.8148
At the end of 2015, Moby opened an organic vegan restaurant in Silver Lake that features Mediterranean-inspired and California-style cuisine along with wine, beer, smoothies, and kombucha. It serves lunch and dinner daily and a weekend brunch. Even better, a few months after Little Pine's opening, Moby announced that all of the restaurant's profits will be going to animal-welfare organizations.
Ostrich Farm1525 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park | 213.537.0657
We love the fun and casual atmosphere at this neighborhood restaurant, which sets itself apart care of its bright white facade in a stretch of dark buildings on Sunset. Inside, a forest green banquette hugs one wall, while a marble bar graces the other, which are all elegant touches from husband and wife team Jaime Turrey (aka Monsieur Egg, the one-man pastry, and egg cart) and Brooke Fruchtman (formerly a VP at LACMA). They do not serve ostrich—the restaurant is named after an old railway that led to Griffith Park—but rather a selection of flatbreads, salads, meat mains like beef pot pie, and their own take on pork ossobuco. Brunch is a mix of tartines, sandwiches and salads, savory bowls, and breakfast classics like brioche French Toast and blueberry pancakes (plus lemon and ricotta).
Winsome1115 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park | 213.415.1818
The duo behind the Hollywood cocktail lounge, Spare Room, opened the Winsome in early 2016 on the ground floor of the towering Elysian building in Echo Park. The kitchen is run by chef Jeremy Strubel (formerly of Rustic Canyon) and pastry chef Leslie Mialma (formerly of République). The interior, which is a fun, sophisticated play on traditional diner aesthetic, was done by Wendy Haworth Design (who created the look of Gracias Madre and Cafe Gratitude, among others). Right now, they're serving California fare for breakfast, brunch, and lunch—with dinner to come.
Kismet4648 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz | 323.409.0404
On the border of Los Feliz and Hollywood, this all-day, full-service restaurant comes from chefs Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer, who ran the kitchen at Glasserie in NYC before stealing Angelenos’ hearts with their vegetable-centric falafel joint, Madcapra, in Grand Central Market. Teaming up with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (of Animal, Jon & Vinny’s, and Son of a Gun fame), they’ve successfully brought their Middle Eastern/Californian cuisine to the East Side. Be sure to order the flaky bread with labneh, preserved lemon, and honey; za’atar squash tart; Persian cucumber salad with labneh and rose water; and squid with saffron, pine nuts, and cilantro, to name a few goop favorites.
Botanica1620 Silver Lake Blvd, Silver Lake | 323.522.6106
Botanica sits on a stretch of Silver Lake that feels like a real neighborhood (a rarity in LA). It’s both a restaurant and a market—pop in to re-up on local eggs, fruit, vegetables, and house-made specials like the Aleppo-Urfa butter and thick labneh. There are few prettier spots for a healthy breakfast of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, the freshest orange juice, and really good espresso. We go for the soft scramble (creamy soft-scrambled eggs with a side of lemony greens); the crunchy, garlicky bread; and the entire pastry case. (Bear in mind that portions are on the light side, so order with abandon.) Whether you're alone, with a friend, or coming with kids, the space is comfortable and inviting, with high ceilings and airy décor. Sit on the terrace out back and work your way through the biodynamic wine list (we’ve moved on to lunch now), and snack on one of the epic seasonal vegetable boards. The selection of wine and cookbooks is a godsend for last-minute gifts.
Mh Zh3536 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.636.7598
Despite being the most unannounced restaurant in LA, with no sign, no website, and menus written on strips of brown paper, Mh Zh (pronounced "Mah Zeh"), on a Silver Lake corner of Sunset, is packed seven nights a week. The food is vegetable-heavy, Israeli-inspired, and designed to share. We’ve all had hummus and vegetables before, but chef Greg Shemtov’s version is different—the hummus tastes like a smooth tahini and garlic cream. Eaten with the vinegary pickled vegetables and a side of charred Bub and Grandma's bread, it’s the perfect marriage. Most of the seating is curbside and it doesn’t take reservations, but, Mh Zh is arguably the best-priced, most satisfying meal to be had in this part of town.
Cosa Buona2100 W Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 213.908.5211
Echo Park is fast becoming LA’s newest foodie hub, which—given the sheer volume of incredible restaurants packed into this small corner of the East Side—is completely justifiable. Every neighborhood needs a good local pizza joint, and the latest offering from chef Zach Pollock of nearby Alimento is exactly that, Italian-American comfort food done really well. Cosa Buona occupies the space that was Pizza Buona since 1959, but with a significant upgrade. Chef Pollock and his team have modernized the space with a marble bar and plenty of dark tile. The booze list—heavy with French and Italian natural wines—is concise, and the mozzarella sticks are without question, the best in the city.
Blair’s2901 Rowena Ave, Silverlake | 323.660.1882
You’ve probably driven past this nondescript, redbrick building on a residential corner of Silver Lake a hundred times. The only thing that gives it away is a flashing arrow sign. Blair’s is the kind of neighborhood spot where the chef’s wife takes your order and the tables are taken up by locals. The menu is Italian-inspired, but you’d do well to scan it quickly and then just order the gnocchi. Also every meal here should end with the tiramisu. No need to reserve on weeknights—stroll in and take a seat at the dimly lit bar.
Sawyer3709 Sunset Blvd, Silverlake | 323.641.3709
Despite being set up on a stretch of Sunset dense with good restaurants (Silver Lake Ramen, Night + Market Song), Sawyer holds its own. The space—all high ceilings, blonde wood, and Moroccan tile—is so comfortable you feel like you’re hanging out in a very cool friend’s living room. Chef Peter Macias has designed a Southern-inflected menu of catfish po’boys, shrimp and grits, and especially good Carolina fried chicken. If you can’t make dinner, take a seat at the very pretty bar or in the even prettier outdoor terrace at happy hour (daily 4 to 6 p.m.) and start ordering anything that appeals—you can’t go wrong.
Salazar2490 Fletcher Dr., Frogtown
Salazar is one of those rare restaurants that puts just as much emphasis on togetherness as it does its food. There’s a giant patio that’s often crowded with every type of diner, from families to groups of friends to those on a first date–all noticeably enjoying themselves. The vibe is chill–you can grab a margarita or Horchata cocktail at the bar while you wait to be seated (trust us: there will be a wait)–and the food is some of the best fresh, inventive, Sonoran-style Mexican we've had. Housed in a coveted auto body shop right by the LA River, this place is unlike any other.
Majordōmo1725 Naud St., Chinatown | 323.545.4880
The mild pandemonium around David Chang’s first West Coast restaurant is entirely warranted. The food is difficult to describe, not definable by any one region or culture. It’s a mishmash of foreign flavors that many will find unexpected and familiar at the same time. Definitely not a repeat of Chang’s greatest hits—there’s no ramen here. Instead, this is an entirely new menu of shareable dishes that are often prepared tableside. The grilled bings (a type of Chinese flatbread), topped with everything from cultured butter to uni, are something we’ve never seen before. Sausage-stuffed peppers with buttermilk and the short ribs with all their many fixings are reason enough to book a table. Call a few weeks ahead for a table, or if you’re just two, go early and try for a walk-in (then get a cocktail at nearby Apoteke while you wait).