Our intrepid writer did all the legwork for you — here’s the best of the east side’s Highland Park
Words by SARAH GAVISH
On Highland Park’s main drag, North Figueroa Street, tattooed couples push strollers with German Shepherds attached to loose leads as abuelitas pass with bags of fresh vegetables, chatting in Spanish. The energy is mellow but not without some tension, like anything historically interesting. The neighborhood’s rich culture and off-the-beaten-path vibe make it ripe for investment. In fact, commercial rents are rumored to rise three times over. Here, a cappuccino costs $5.48, including tax. But Highland Park sits low and confident, intent on remaining itself, graciously receiving discovery and never losing its warmth — or exquisite taste in music.
TO EAT & DRINK
This is where you go to people-watch as you chat with friends over a latte and something delicious (and almost unsettlingly cheap?) from the breakfast menu. Bring your computer and work on your novel, or your screenplay, or whatever. P.S. There is an absolutely lovely back patio. 5629 N. Figueroa St., L.A.
Gold Line Bar
At 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, with the front windows open to the street and minimal signage, Peanut Butter Wolf’s latest spot feels like a hi-fi block party. The space is a jazzed up (thanks to the brilliant Tyler Bell) Kissaten-inspired lounge and a time portal to decades past, with gorgeous low-hanging light fixtures and 8,000 records lining the wall behind the bar. Don’t be weirded out when everyone on staff looks you in the eye and says hello or, alternatively, interrupts your craft cocktail to turn the vinyl over. Bring your friends, hang out and prepare your Shazam. 5607 N. Figueroa St., L.A., 323-274-4496.
Highland Park Bowl
You don’t need to bowl or even like bowling to enjoy Highland Park Bowl. Sit yourself down at one of the shapely wooden bars and ogle the Spanish-style architecture dating back to Prohibition, or the hipster families teaching their tots how to toss a ball down the lane. Have a cocktail. Order a pizza if you’re hungry. And of course, if you do enjoy bowling, all the better. You might have to wait a bit and you’ll be dropping more than a few dimes in the process, but you’ll be able to say you bowled at one of the most historic alleys in L.A. Plus, you’ll feel really cool, which is important. 5621 N. Figueroa St., L.A., 323-257-2695.
Highland Park Wine, Hippo and Triple Beam
It’s obvious the minds behind Silver Lake Wine (Joe Capella and Randy Clement) and James Beard Award winner Matt Molina created this joyful corner of Figueroa as a kind of foodie holy trinity. At Triple Beam you can try as many Roman-style pizza squares as your heart desires, but don’t skip the barbecue chicken. Around the corner at Highland Park Wine, the staff will make you laugh before they school you with some serious wine expertise (yes, there is such a thing as Slovenian wine — and they’ve got it). Time your trip right and go on a Wednesday, when they host wine tastings starting at 5 p.m. Next door, still under-the-radar Hippo delivers on your wildest pasta fantasies (think: fettuccine with pork ragu and fresh ricotta tortellini).
Walking into Kitchen Mouse isn’t really that different from walking into the kitchen of your cool vegan aunt who insists you try her gluten-free bread, just out of the oven, before you go to yoga. This place feels like home — from the mom-inspired cookie jars to the playpen for toddlers in the back. 5904 N. Figueroa St., 323-259-9555.
Chef Teresa Montaño says she envisioned Otoño to be a restaurant that reflected her “travels and experience of Spanish food while still looking through the lens of Los Angeles.” She continues, “It’s our goal to bring a modern but familiar perspective of Spanish cuisine.” At Otoño, guests can enjoy her hearty and seasonal take on dishes like fresh veggie-loaded paella; gazpacho featuring Weiser Family Farms melon and piquillo pepper; and local black cod inventively paired with jamón ibérico tonkotsu broth; as well as bar manager Gavin Koehn’s cocktails and beverage director Katie Putterlik’s hidden-gem natural wine selections direct from Spain. The space, located in a historic 1928 building, features a splashy mural by Spanish artist duo PichiAvo and downtown-based architect Ana Henton’s design work — including custom ceramics crafted in collaboration with Montaño. 5715 N. Figueroa St., L.A., 323-474-6624.
The Highland Park offshoot of this homegrown, almost decade-old Echo Park establishment is just as sweet, if not a bit sweeter for its larger proportions. And their mission remains to support sustainable agriculture in southern California. A semblance of the Mediterranean climate pervades the assortment of imported specialty food products and flavors of the weekly menu. If what you need is clean and local seasonal produce, or perhaps a Portuguese sardine in the most beautiful packaging you’ve ever seen, this is the place. 5611 N. Figueroa St., L.A., 323-507-2051.
Speaking of print culture, the minds behind creative agency Chandelier opened Owl Bureau to satisfy our undying love for the shelf life. The carefully curated collection of 1,000-plus titles span art, design, counterculture and L.A. film noir — a reference library of sorts. But it’s the space that impresses — designed in collaboration with Paris architects Studio K.O and local designers Waka Waka and Machinehistories — and the intricately carved owl at the back of the curved book display that mesmerizes. If you time your visit right, you may encounter the artist-in-residence, who is working upstairs. Put yourself on the mailing list — you’ll want to know what’s happening here. 5634 N. Figueroa Ave., L.A.
Walking into Shorthand brings back a welcome tinge of childhood nostalgia. Particularly if you’re a writer or an artist, or have a vocation that involves a fondness for desk objects. The stationery shop, celebrating its third anniversary on York, is a cacophony of journals, colored pencils, things to touch and ways to organize. Letterpress happens on-site, in the back through the big windows. You won’t want to leave, or at least not without a bright pink felt-tip pen and a stack of greeting cards. 5030 York Blvd., L.A., 323-642-9039.
Inside Sonomama, an array of exquisite California-made novelty, design and self-care products sit in between a selection of books about, say, Buddhism or Noguchi. Behind the cashwrap, the owner, Billie Lopez, allows you to meander at your own speed, eyeing and touching and smelling whatever you wish. Sonomama regularly hosts a soldering event with jeweler Hannah O’Keefe, whose permanent jewelry — in this case, simple 18-karat gold, rose gold or silver bracelets — is something of a cult phenomenon. 5711 N. Figueroa St., L.A., 323-274-4430.
A Figueroa staple since 2008, Sunbeam is a treasure trove of midcentury vintage goodness. According to the very hip and attractive staff, the warehouse used to be a movie theater, and none of that ample space is wasted. Don’t be surprised if you spend an hour or more roaming through the space, tripping over the leg of a Danish coffee table as you eagerly make your way to a boho chair that just happens to match everything in your living room. There are so many reasonably priced wares that they just opened a second location downtown. 106 S. Ave. 58, L.A., 323-908-9743.
April 24, 2019