Los Feliz / Silver Lake

Alegria. The best food here revolves around the extraordinary mole sauce: sharp, thick, sweetly complex, with top notes of smoke, clove and citrus, lashed with dried-chile heat, black enough to darken the brightest Pepsodent smile. (It takes two days to make, a million steps, and has something like 20 ingredients.) Dobladitas are corn tortillas folded around melted cheese and moistened with mole. There is also chicken mole, and sometimes a Oaxacan-style special of chicken, pork and plantains cooked in mole. And you can get a side of mole sauce to put on your burrito. 3510 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 913-1422. Open Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Entrées $5.75–$14. Mexican. JG ¢

Blair’s.
Blair’s is an adults’ restaurant for people who don’t really consider themselves to be grown-ups even in their 40s, a civilized redoubt of ­caesar salads and crab cakes and shrimp cocktails that are served with a side of ­deviled eggs, a sort of roadhouse where the pepper steak comes with farmers-market vegetables, the salmon comes with lentils, and the roster of artisanal beers is nearly as long as the wine list. I would be surprised if anybody’s parents ate this well at Rotary Club meetings. Or if the dinner music rocked nearly this hard. 2903 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 660-1882. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m., Sun. 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrees $14–$32. American. JG $$$

The Kitchen.
Here is the quintessential Silver Lake canteen. Its former subtitle — “Lunch to Late Night” — reflects the circadian rhythms of its neighborhood clientele. The interior is Early East Village — deep colors, battered tables, crumbling cement, loud music. The service tends toward the casual and offhand, which belies the big-hearted, darn good food — try a bowl of quite viable cioppino. 4348 Fountain Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 664-3663. Open Mon.–Fri. 5 p.m.–mid., Sat. noon–2:30 a.m., Sun. noon–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $10–$18. American. MH ¢

Malo.
Okay, right off the bat: Malo is not malo. It’s a decent, stylish Mexican restaurant that inhabits the former Cobalt Cantina in Silver Lake, and the menu is a taut, well-devised little list of small, shareable items by executive chef Robert Luna. The food has the hearty heft and flavor of good, home-cooked Mexican food. Soups tend to be meals unto themselves. I’d also make a whole dinner from the iceberg-and-grilled-steak salad; the long-marinated meat comes well-charred and sputtering on the lettuce, which is flecked with grated cheese and olive slices. And in keeping with today’s small-dishes, share-everything, anti-starch, Atkins-friendly ethos, entrées come unaccompanied; beans, rice, guacamole and sautéed squash are offered as side dishes. 4326 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 664-1011. Dinner Fri.–Sat. 6 p.m.–midnight, Sun.–Mon. 6–10 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 6–11 p.m. Full bar open until 2 a.m. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées, à la carte, $7–$14. Mexican. MH $$

Rambutan Thai.
Rambutan is hip enough for designers and artists, romantic enough for dates, and authentic and passionate enough in its cooking for ethnic-food lovers. Many Thai restaurants cater to timid American palates, playing down the chile heat, eschewing the fish sauce, and sweetening dishes. But the Rambutan kitchen refreshingly and correctly assumes that its hip Silver Lake clientele has the sophistication and ability to appreciate the full Thai flavors. But more timid eaters will find plenty of accessible, Americanized crossover hits on the menu’s “from the grill” section. And there’s a lengthy list of “Thai tapas” that should not be ignored. 2835 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (213) 273-8424. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., dinner Sat. 5p.m.–mid., Sun. 5–11 p.m. Beer, wine and sake. Lot parking. Entrées $8–$14. AE, MC, V. Thai. MH $

Say Cheese.
A dual storefront in Silver Lake houses this gourmet store on one side and espresso café on the other. The lunch menu features salads, sandwiches, quiche and the house specialty, tartiflette (baked diced potatoes with onion and bacon topped with melted reblochon cheese and served with a mixed green salad). The gourmet shop tempts with a notable variety of pâtés (including duck foie gras at a dizzy-making $106 a pound), olives and, of course, a handpicked selection of French cheeses. 2800 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 665-0545, fax (323) 665-6465. Open Mon.–Sat. 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m (store open until 6:30), Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m . No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Sandwiches $8–$9.50. MH ¢

Vermont.
Anchoring the ever-new hip commercial corridor of Vermont Avenue north of Sunset, Vermont (always lowercase) is like a stalwart, reliable friend. The owners often wander through the dining room, with its palmettos and pillars and gentle lighting, and they always like to chat. You may not be bowled over by anything you eat, but you’ll be back. Plus, the stylish bar is one of the neighborhood’s few upscale spots for cocktails. 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 661-6163. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. ­Dinner 5:30–10:30 p.m. (until 11:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat.). Full bar. Parking in rear. AE, MC, V. Entrées $13–$18. California. MH $

Picholine.
This gourmet specialty/sandwich shop sells nine tried-and-true sandwiches and no coffee drinks. You can eat at one of the very few tables — if you’re lucky enough to find an empty one — or carry out. Sandwich Number One (grilled chicken breast with pesto, arugula, shaved Parmesan and oven-roasted tomato on a rustic roll) is the biggest seller. All sandwiches come with a choice of pasta or mesclun salad, and you can supplement your meal with a Valrhona chocolate bar, or an array of Roche handmade bonbons. Shop while you wait — there are French jams, rustic Italian pastas of startling porosity, Dean & DeLuca herbs de Provence, not to mention a mind-bending selection of European cheeses. 3360 W. First St., Los Angeles, (213) 252-8722, fax (213) 252-8723. Open Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m., closed Sun.–Mon. No alcohol. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. All sandwiches $7.50. MH ¢

India Sweets & Spices. While the steam-table food here is basically steam-table food, not especially different from what you’d find on any local Indian buffet, the made-to-order dishes are delicious: freshly fried bhaturas, balloon-shaped breads, served with curried chickpeas; the thin pancakes called parathas, stuffed with highly spiced cauliflower or homemade cheese; the South Indian lentil doughnuts called vada, served with a thin curried vegetable broth. 3126 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 345-0360. Lunch and dinner seven days, 9:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two, $8–$12. Indian. JG ¢