Echo Park

Establishment neighborhood
1360 Allison Ave., Echo Park
Like its sister restaurant Tsubaki, Ototo serves an iteration of Japanese pub grub. These are the snacks and bites you devour with beer and sake (if you’re looking for sushi and sashimi, look elsewhere). Once you start ordering and eating and ordering more, you just get it. Kara-age (Japanese sweet and sour fried chicken), potato salad with pickled carrots and ponzu, and miso-grilled eggplant is food made to be paired with cold, fizzy beer. Panko-crusted fried oysters and smoky daikon need the silkiness of unfiltered sake. Come on a Saturday night with a pack of friends as an excuse to order the whole menu.
1356 Allison Ave., Echo Park
Tsubaki co-owner Courtney Kaplan knows her sake. She'll come to your table and tell the story behind a variety's founder or the acidity of the soil in the region where it's from. Kaplan has spent a great deal of time in Japan (she's fluent in Japanese) and built her career as a sommelier of wine and sake in some of the top restaurants in NYC and LA (i.e., Bestia). Her love for craft sakes and shochu (a traditional distilled spirit of Japan) makes coming here an education in the first ten minutes. And then you start to order, and the food adds a layer of fun. Chef and co-owner Charles Namba pulls from his Japanese roots creating authentic dishes and adding a Californian flair. A few (of many) goop favorites: tofu salad with garlic soy vinaigrette, tomatoes with whipped tofu, sake-steamed Alaskan king crab with French seaweed butter.
1716 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
Stories is Echo Park’s much-loved local bookstore, but what most people don’t realize is that behind all the books is a tiny café (and a good one, at that). We love escaping here for the quiet—the stacks and stacks of haphazardly arranged tomes soak up all the street noise. The tables are filled with other studious folks tapping away on computers or reading through screenplays, so there’s not much chatter. You can sit here for hours munching through the pastry selection without being disturbed.
Triniti (Closed)
1814 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
Chef Joseph Getskopf (formerly of Culver City’s Destroyer and Copenhagen’s Noma) opened this Echo Park restaurant-café hybrid late last year, adding yet another stylish caffeine pit stop to this gentrifying East Side neighborhood. Coffee beans come straight from San Francisco’s Tartine Manufactory, while the food is at once healthy and decadent (we’ll call it healthyish). Take the savory breakfast porridge, for instance, made of farro and mustard seeds and served with brown-butter-roasted broccoli and mushrooms. Or the addictive buttered yam lattes made with dairy-free oat milk. The space itself is so pleasant (high-ceilinged, flooded with natural light) that an entire afternoon seems to pass by in an instant when we’re here.
Love Yoga
2110 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
We spend a lot of time at the original Love Yoga in Venice, so news of its East Side outpost was thrilling. Just like the Lincoln Boulevard space, co-yoga directors Kyle Miller and Sian Gordon have created a paradise that smells more like white sage and Diptyque candles than a sweaty yoga studio. While the studio interior has obvious appeal, the teaching is where Love Yoga really shines. The overall vibe is laid-back—no heat, no mirrors, and definitely no weights—with a meditation and Savasana built into every class. Clear direction and game-changing adjustments will make seventy-five minutes go by extraordinarily fast, though there’s nothing about this that’s easy: Expect to sweat (a lot) and to feel it the next day.
Cookbook Market
1549 Echo Park Ave., Echo Park
Cookbook Market, founded six years ago by two longtime Echo Park residents (who also happen to be married), is the serious home cook's culinary playground. The tiny, tightly edited space stocks plenty of daily provisions (farm-fresh dairy, organic meat and vegetables, homemade pasta, pickles, and salsas), alongside harder-to-find artisanal items (Anson Mills grains, obscure oils and vinegars, special spice blends). Aside from fresh produce and pantry items, you'll also find a host of flavorful prepared salads, sandwiches, and tempting baked treats by the counter. Order a cup of the espresso-based coffee and sip it surrounded by buckets of wildflowers on the benches outside. For those living farther east, a second Cookbook Market location has just opened in Highland Park.
Taco Zone
1342 N. Alvarado St., Echo Park
While this Echo Park staple is considered a truck because it's technically located inside a truck, it only has one location: In the parking lot of an Echo Park Von's. It's best known as a late-night spot (it's always crowded on Friday and Saturday nights with people on their way home from bars), but locals come here for dinner, too. The al pastor and carne asada are both great—as is the horchata, if that's your thing—but the local order of choice is the suadero, which is like a brisket. Get a generous helping of the fresh salsa, which might be the best part of the entire operation.