If Los Angeles is having its barbecue moment, then it seems only natural that the tidal wave of some other once-trendy food has crested and is coming crashing back to sea level. In Silver Lake, at least, it appears that food may be pizza.
It may be an exaggeration to say that pizza is about to go the way of the cupcake, especially considering 800 Degrees' world-conquering ambitions and the phallic pizza cutter looming over Silver Lake Boulevard from its perch in the former Tom's Burgers space. It is not an exaggeration, however, to say that Silver Lake has become pretty well saturated with pizza joints, from Tomato Pie to Garage Pizza to Lucifer's and Mother Dough, among others. Something, it seems, had to give, and Nicky D's and Hard Times may have been it.
Nicky D slung his wood-fired pies in a cozy old bungalow-style house, and though the pies were admittedly inconsistent, they were generally quite good. What we may miss even more than the delicious little cups of grease that passed for pepperoni on his pizzas, though, is the hilarious and perfectly cheesy sign out front, a memorable and welcoming neighborhood landmark for most of Nicky D's decade-plus in the space.
It's still there for now, standing like a giant lollipop in the parking lot with a picture of Nick himself pulling a pie out of the oven, a broad grin on his face. According to a report in Patch, Nick sold the location to an unnamed future restaurateur, and Nicky D's second location in Santa Barbara will remain open.
Hard Times is something of a different case. Two slices of Hard Times pizza and a Yoo-Hoo was a foundational meal for whole generations of Northeast L.A. kids, after a hard day of soccer at Silver Lake Rec. or after a hard day of learning at Marshall High School. Their slices, Neapolitan and Sicilian, pepperoni and Hawaiian, were the base of many an Angeleno's lifelong love of pizza (including this author's). The location was perfect, welcoming and easy, and the pizza was just right -- nothing fancy or unusual but solid, simple and well-made. In recent years it may have been surpassed by newer places, notably Tomato Pie right down the street, but it was always the sentimental favorite, especially for local kids.
When the owner of the mini mall in which Hard Times sat decided to raise the rent, they did what all the priced-out cool kids are doing these days -- they picked up and moved to Echo Park.
The old Hard Times was closed for just a few days before reopening in the former Domino's Pizza space on Glendale Boulevard, two doors down from It's Thai. The new location is bright red, and really just a counter inside. The bulk of the seating is out front, with about a dozen or so chairs around small patio tables.
One thing they did bring with them from the old location is the neon -- two bright yellow-green circles with red lettering, one with the logo and one advertising the slices. This glows in that uncanny but somehow comforting way that only neon does, a reminder of their former home.
The pizza itself is also familiar, straightforward and decent. It's the kind of slice you grab for a quick cheap lunch, the kind you fold in half and wolf down without even realizing it, grease pooling on your plate and smeared on your chin, tracing that peculiar shade of orange down the creases in your palm. It's the pizza of warm afternoons after school, of a night in with a couple friends and a video game, equally good fresh out of the oven before a show at the Echoplex and straight out of the fridge hungover the next morning. It's the pizza of life, the pizza of childhood. Silver Lake may have moved on, raised the rent, become saturated, grown up, but don't worry -- your childhood isn't over, it just moved to Echo Park.