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. Takeout. 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 grownups 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. Entrées $14–$32. American. JG $$$
Edendale Grill. Housed in an old firehouse and named for Los Angeles’ first movie studio, Silver Lake’s Edendale Grill is a bit of set-dressed history. Craftsman-era lighting fixtures with mica shades cast a warm, golden glow in the dining room. The Mixville bar has an original hammered-tin ceiling and firehouse doors. The kitchen serves up its own brand of culinary nostalgia for midcentury Midwestern American cooking: oysters Rockefeller, caesar salads made tableside, Green Goddess salad dressing, sand dabs, steaks and chops, even a beet-red velvet cake from the Waldorf. Despite somewhat harried service and slapdash cooking, the Edendale Grill can be a tough reservation, which indicates just how much Atwater–Echo Park–Los Feliz–Silver Lake citizens have hungered for such a fine-looking, versatile neighborhood dinner house. 2838 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 666-2000. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m. Sunday brunch 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. Complimentary valet. Entrées $13.75–$27. AE, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$
El Caserio. The cornerstone of the Ecuadorian kitchen is the fresh chile sauce aji (pronounced ah-hee), which has a tart, fiery taste. El Caserio’s aji is spicier than most, juiced up with onion and fresh tomato, one of the best salsas imaginable, spooned straight over big, puffy white-cheese empanadas, or over the fresh-corn tamales called humitas. The shrimp dish sango de camarones revolves around a strange, thick sauce made with green plantains and peanut butter — probably unlike anything you have eaten before. 309 N. Virgil Ave., (323) 664-9266. Lunch and dinner Thurs.–Tues. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $12–$18. Ecuadorian. 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 bighearted, 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 ¢
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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.–mid., 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 $$‡
Picholine. The elegant house of temptations known as Picholine sits on the unlikely corner of First and Beverly (two otherwise parallel streets that meet just east of Virgil). 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 and 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
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 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. 5 p.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 hand-picked 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