12 Things to Do When You're in Silver Lake and Echo Park

We recommend the double-fried chicken wings (and the games) at Button Mash.
We recommend the double-fried chicken wings (and the games) at Button Mash.
Anne Fishbein

Silver Lake and Echo Park are two of L.A.'s most notorious hipster enclaves, but really they're home to a diverse cross-section of Angelenos, and the experience of hanging out there reflects that. Whether you're driving in from the Westside or just walking down from Los Feliz, here's some stuff to check out next time you're in the neighborhoods, compliments of our Best of Los Angeles issue.

Have stoner breakfast at Trois Familia
It's a lot of fun to imagine the genesis of the menu items at Trois Familia, that "duuuude, wouldn't it be cool if ..." flash of inspiration that created dishes such as churro French toast and maple-chili glazed bacon. At the Silver Lake French/Mexican brunch restaurant opened by Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo and Ludo Lefebvre, the dishes may sound ridiculous — garlic-butter bean burritos? Hash brown chilaquiles? — but they taste incredible, all the more so if you put yourself back into that "duuuude" mindset. Sure, high-end stoner food is almost a genre unto itself these days, one that Shook and Dotolo are partly responsible for creating. But Trois Familia proves that there's still plenty of originality to be milked from the stoner-chef mentality, and also that late morning is probably the best time of day — other than 4 a.m. — to eat this way. Now, if only the threesome would open a late-night version, we could have our breakfast fix at both ends of the a.m. —Besha Rodell
3510 Sunset Blvd. (323) 725-7800, troisfamilia.com.

Shake your ass at an unpretentious club night
Usually when you see someone in an L.A. club wearing a fedora, you know you're in the wrong club. But on Thursday nights at the Virgil, when Funkmosphere is in full swing, the only fedoras in attendance will be plush red ones worn by older gentlemen holding court at the bar, spitting game about playing bass for the funk band Lakeside and hanging out with Wilt Chamberlain. Funkmosphere is the brainchild of modern funk evangelist Dam-Funk, who launched it as a club night devoted to boogie music — sweaty and sweet deep grooves from the late '70s and early '80s, somewhere in between slowed-down disco and smoothed-out funk — and boogie's contemporary incarnation, modern funk. Although Dam himself occasionally makes DJ appearances, resident DJs Billy Goods, Randy Watson, Laroj, Eddy Funkster and Matt Respect, plus great guest DJs, continue Dam's mission of creating a positive and unpretentious night of high-grade funk for your ass to move to. —Sam Ribakoff
4519 Santa Monica Blvd. (323) 660-4540, thevirgil.com.

Take your furry friend to the Silver Lake Dog Park
L.A. Weekly readers voted Silver Lake's reservoir-adjacent dog park the best in L.A., and it's no wonder. This big-ass dirt lot — plus the smaller, grassier knoll for small dogs — is always chockfull of cute critters playing fetch and sniffing buttholes.  There's always a surplus of left-behind balls and toys lying around, plus a faucet and water bowls. Humans will enjoy shaded seating and the dopamine-boosting effect of being around a bunch of dogs, the only creatures who seem to make sense in this crazy, messed-up world. —Gwynedd Stuart
1850 W. Silver Lake Drive. laparks.org.

DisOriented Comedy is one of many shows to check out at Lyric-Hyperion.
DisOriented Comedy is one of many shows to check out at Lyric-Hyperion.
Jenny Yang

Catch some live lit at Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Cafe
The Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Café has been a Silver Lake institution for some time, but it wasn't until recently that its calendar got shored up with some top-notch storytelling events. Like many L.A. storytelling shows, there's usually a side element of stand-up comedy, but every show has a different theme, which invariably means a wide swath of genres and styles. There's a new one called Haunted, which (shocker) is about ghosts and the paranormal. Then there's Killer Unicorns, where people reach deep into their pasts to tell their most horrifically hilarious childhood stories. Ordinary Phreeeks Storytelling Show is a New York–born show that just moved west to bring a taste of dark sideshow humor to the stage, while Cara & Jen's Sleepover Party encourages everyone to put on their jam-jams and get comfy for long-form comedic stuff. And if you’re lucky, DisOriented Comedy’s Jenny Yang, Atsuko Okatsuka and D’Lo will bring out their Family Reunion storytelling night to Lyric-Hyperion with a different boundary-pushing theme every month. No matter what you're into, you can hang out on the venue's patio and catch a show while enjoying some pretty good drink specials. —April Wolfe
2106 Hyperion Ave. (323)906-8904, lyrichyperion.com.

Check out a short at El Cid
Sure, El Cid is known for killer flamenco, but it transforms into an off-the-beaten-path theater for the monthly El Cid Short Film Night. Michael McCarthy, a longtime music booker for the venue, had the idea to bring the same spirit of rock shows to a film screening, with a "community" that comes back again and again, instead of just a one-off night when you might have to support whatever weird short your co-worker made. Unlike a traditional film screening in a regular theater, El Cid seats you at a long table for full dinner service (and bar service), so it's an all-in-one date night. If more people start submitting silent films, El Cid can do screenings outside on that oasis of a garden patio it has, but for the time being, show up at 8 p.m., grab a drink and take a seat inside to cheer on your fave local filmmaker and their crew. And if you're into that kind of thing: network. —April Wolfe
4212 W. Sunset Blvd. (323) 668-0318, elcidla.com.

Take a ballet class at the Sweat Spot
It's so humbling, adult ballet. As if staring at your Lycra-clad body in a mirror for 90 minutes isn't harrowing enough, there's the actual ballet part. Because ballet is hard — like, really hard — and because you're nowhere near as strong or flexible as the teenage version of yourself, and so it is that you spend a good part of most every class waging an onslaught of existential angst while your leg shakes in a sad and crooked attitude on a wobbly relevé, faced as you are with such an intense reflection of your impending demise. That sort of neurotic self-delusion is pretty much impossible while you're taking Kristin Campbell-Taylor's Rock the Barre ballet class at the Sweat Spot. A veritable force of feminine power and confidence, KCT (as everyone calls her) puts her Saturday morning class devotees through their paces — at the barre, the center and across the room — to the likes of Björk, FKA Twigs and The Go-Go's, imploring her bunhead devotees to imagine jewel-emblazoned clavicles, and to focus our gazes upon tempestuous imaginary lovers in the invariably super sassy routine she teaches after taking us through our classical paces. Kudos for rock & roll ballet, and empowered teachers who encourage us to feel sexy and amazing while grunting our way through petit allegro. —Dani Katz
3327 Sunset Blvd. (323) 953-8089, thesweatspotla.com.

Echo Park goes country at Grand Ole Echo.
Echo Park goes country at Grand Ole Echo.
Chris Kissel

Get some Sunday country vibes at Grand Ole Echo
The stoned, steely sounds of '70s country music live on in Echo Park — on Sunday afternoons, at least. Breezy and boozy vibes abound at the Echo every Sunday afternoon from spring to fall at Grand Ole Echo, an open-ended country showcase that features all manner of buzzed outlaws and country-fried songwriters but zeroes in on the hazy days of Willie and Waylon and Ronstadt. The party takes advantage of both the Echo's main performance space and its sunny back patio, where Ray's Back Patio BBQ serves up slow-roasted pork on a white hamburger bun for $6 a pop. Kids are welcome and run free with joyous abandon; handsome young men and women lounge around with cans of Bud; vintage Western shirts and cowboy boots hang for sale on racks by the side of the stage. It's the music, though, that keeps fans coming back every week, with hot-shot local acts such as country-fried rocker Elijah Ocean and the flawless bluegrass harmonies of Dear Lemon Trees sharing the stage with touring Americana acts. Can't-miss special tributes, like those dedicated to Merle Haggard and Townes Van Zandt earlier this year, bring out scores of L.A.'s finest roots singers and musicians. If you squint hard enough, you could mistake the whole affair for a Nashville house party circa 1978. —Chris Kissel
1822 W. Sunset Blvd. (213) 413-8200, theecho.com.

Climb the Baxter Stairs
Just down the block from Fix Café, past the elementary school, hidden behind a wild and sometimes grassy knoll (drought depending), is a super secret and extra bitchin' slew of stairs that doubles as a shortcut to the backside of Elysian Park, as well as a highly effective ass workout. Known as the Baxter Stairs, the 231 steps cut a zigzag pattern up the hillside and ­— when summited with consistency and just the right playlist — do wonders for the thighs, booty and spirit. From the top, you can follow the road to the left and then cut through the brush to skitter your way down to the trail, which you'll probably want to follow to the meadow that doubles as an Eastside dog park. There you can stretch and cool down and, if you're feeling really ambitious, get in some crunches, while gloating because you're in L.A., and you're working out for free. —Dani Katz
2101 Baxter St. to 2100 Park Dr.

Enjoy pinball and some good grub at Button Mash
There's something about Button Mash and its dinging, ringing energy, about the mix of customers, old and young and hip and dorky and unpredictably diverse in the best possible way, that is massively appealing, even if you're not here for the impressive collection of old-school video games. The restaurant/arcade is a collaboration between owners Jordan Weiss, Gabe Fowlkes, and chefs Nguyen and Thi Tran, who for years have been known for their nomadic pop-up project, Starry Kitchen. The involvement of Starry Kitchen is an obvious draw, though this food isn't an exact replica of what was served at any of the pop-up's iterations. Instead, the menu is more like a greatest-hits album of Asian and American drunk food: crispy tofu balls, appropriately lacquered double-fried chicken wings, and a cheeseburger that is — like the games — pure old-school nostalgia. When your burgers and beer come wrapped in such original, joyful revelry (with tofu balls and galanga thrown in for good measure) it somehow feels fresher than half the serious restaurants in town. —Besha Rodell
1391 Sunset Blvd. (213) 250-9903, buttonmashla.com.

Have a cocktail by Thom Sigsby at Mohawk Bend
It's not hard to find a decent mixologist in Los Angeles, what with the buses emptying them out by the thousands at Hollywood & Highland every day like Okies from the Dust Bowl. Some of them come here with sparkling personalities; some come with extensive knowledge of their craft; a select few have the hospitality finesse of 19th-century stewards. But rarely do you come across a triple-threat like Mohawk Bend's Thom Sigsby. Of all of the barkeeps we've encountered across the city, Sigsby is the one most likely to demonstrate his skills and scholarship humbly without ever leaving your glass empty — be it beer, wine or mixed drinks. I've seen him pull off cocktails perfectly paired to vegan dinners, unforced new twists on classic drinks and seasonally appropriate yet somehow unpretentious new concoctions, doing it all with class and conviviality whether his bar is deserted or five deep on three sides. —Paul T. Bradley
2141 W. Sunset Blvd. mohawk.la.

Have a drink and do some reading at the Semi-Tropic
Few spots in Los Angeles transition competently from day to night, from freelancing time to fun time. Billions (yes, billions) of coffee shops both Eastside and Westside make fantastic reading nooks and scriptoriums, but what happens when 3 p.m. rolls around and you're thirsty for something palliative yet you're not done reading? What happens when the smell of stale coffee and desperation starts to harsh your mellow? You're not ready to go home. You can't go to a loud bar with too many trappings of unwoke civilization, like TVs and a jarring electro-pop soundtrack, can you? Certainly not. Enter the Semi-Tropic, the Echo Park boho-chic cafe/bar perfectly designed to mix suds and literary sensibility. With a bank of sound-baffled couch alcoves, low tables and a just-low-enough-to-be-calming lighting scheme, Semi-Tropic makes you feel comfortable cracking the spine of a good book and losing yourself in its pages without completely hiding away from the world. —Paul Bradley
1412 Glendale Blvd. (213) 568-3827.

Buy something prickly at Hot Cactus
Bring a bit of the desert to your abode with Hot Cactus, a tiny shop in Echo Park precariously packed with the prickly plants. Each piece has personality, like the tall ocotillo, whose spiny tendrils reach to the heavens, or the fuzzy-looking cholla, whose spines you'd want to pet, if it wouldn't send you to the hospital. Cacti are stark and tough, but once you get to know one, it makes a good friend. They don't need much, just an occasional sip of water and a big drink of sunlight, and they'll stick with you for years. Cactus collectors are a rare breed, too. Co-owner John Morera is a cactus man who began in the plant world by collecting bonsai trees. Like the wind-twisted gnarls of those Japanese trees, cacti too have an almost sculptural form that's eye-catching whether they're guarding the front yard or occupying a corner of your home. Morera and his compatriots sometimes travel long distances deep into the desert to acquire these pieces from various cactus collectors and farms along the Mexican border. And their adventures yield great results, bringing unusual specimens from the most arid areas to the urban expanses of our city. —Drew Tewksbury
1505½ Echo Park Ave. (213) 947-3009, hotcactus.la.


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