It's easy to miss Speranza on Hyperion Ave. -- it looks a lot like a house covered in tarps. But pull back the tarps and you'll find a patio hideaway, leafy and cozy and shabby-romantic. The food here is much like what you'd cook at home if you were throwing together something easy and Italian, though the handmade pastas might make the word "easy" a stretch. Lasagna, grilled fish, caprese, tiramisu -- all the classics are represented. For a while it was no-corkage BYOB, but no longer; now they have a good selection of mainly Italian and US wines. Warning: Good for families, meaning big tables, a neighborhood feel, and occasionally toddlers run wild. 2547 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles; 323-644-1918.9. Pho Cafe:
While Pho Cafe certainly isn't destination-worthy pho in and of itself, it's a mighty fine place to live up the street from, and a great, cheap lunch or dinner option if you find yourself nearby. Completely unmarked and located in a sketchy strip mall on Sunset near the corner of Silver Lake Blvd., the spare modern room is usually packed with hungover Silver Lake types slurping down pho or gobbling bun, both of which are fragrant and soul-satisfying. 2841 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 213-413-0888.8. Forage:
Forage is the epicenter of Silver Lake's locavore aspirations, its Sunset Blvd. corner storefront packed with diners lining up and spilling out the door, waiting to order quinoa and barley salads at the counter before they fight for a rickety seat on the sidewalk or in the long, thin dining room where you have to carry your tray above you so as not to clonk your fellow diners in the head. Built originally on the idea that much of its food might be made from the back yards of its customers, the restaurant quickly ran up against pesky health laws that required purveyors to be certified growers. Nonetheless, the restaurant's commitment to local foods remains, and the farms and foragers used are prominently featured on the day's menu. The restaurant operates much like a cafeteria for the gourmet-minded, and is especially useful when you're looking for something creative and quick and nourishing. The 3-sides plate, with choices like barley with chickpeas, kumquat, mint and pomegranate vinaigrette, or black kale and arugula with feta and breadcrumbs, is an especially attractive deal. 3823 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-663-6885.