Echo Park is the place to grow, and nobody appreciates that more than husband-and-wife restaurateurs Jaime Turrey and Brooke Fruchtman of Ostrich Farm and newly opened Bar Caló.
“For us, it's always been the best neighborhood in Los Angeles,” Turrey tells L.A. Weekly. “The landscape, the ethnic diversity, the history. Investing here, building two businesses here, working every day here, is an expression of our belief that there's simply no better place to be in L.A.”
Named after the Ostrich Farm Railway, which shuttled sightseers to the popular ostrich farms around the Griffith Park area at the turn of the 20th century, the 50-seat restaurant is a favorite among locals.
“We absolutely love Echo Park and named the restaurant after the railway, which briefly traveled up what is now Sunset Boulevard,” Turrey says. “It's just a nod to a little-known piece of the neighborhood's history.”
Open for brunch and dinner, the intimate cafe also has a full bar. Much of the menu is cooked on the wood-fired grill, and produce is sourced from Ostrich Farm's own garden.
Breakfast plates include the popular ricotta pancakes with seasonal compote, maple syrup and lemon zest. If you can't make up your mind, go for any of the generous tartines, perfect for sharing. The smoked salmon with pickled onion and cream cheese is the best in town. The smashed egg with feta, pickled onion and garden herbs on sourdough is a close second.
There's a great selection of big bowls as well — give the sweet potato, Swiss chard, quinoa, grilled halloumi and chimichurri a spin.
With the success of Ostrich Farm, Turrey and Fruchtman opened Bar Caló across the street, inspired by Turrey's Chicano heritage and the couple's travels to Mexico City.
“We've been here for more than 15 years and designed this space with our neighbors' needs in mind,” Turrey says. “You can bring your computer and plug in here in the morning with a coffee or agua fresca and breakfast, bring your kids for brunch on the weekend, share a fun dinner with friends, and come back for a true bar experience at night.”
Every week the bar features a different “Market Margarita,” depending on what looks good at the farmers market or in their garden. Caló also has an insane selection of about 30 mezcals.
Ostrich Farm, 1525 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 537-0657, ostrichfarmla.com.
Bar Caló, 1498 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 278-0901, barcalola.com.
In 2011, the City of L.A. launched a multimillion-dollar project to revitalize Echo Park Lake, which included renovating the historic boathouse. In 2016 Beacon Echo Park took over the cafe that was first opened in 2013.
Offering an idyllic lakeside view with swan boats floating in the background, the cafe offers an exciting menu that is definitely not typical park food. Despite the compact kitchen, chef Emmanuel “Eman” Garcia wanted to tackle an inclusive menu in the boathouse.
There's a strawberry and basil grilled brie sandwich, which can be washed down with your choice of pineapple lemonade, watermelon mint lemonade or iced raspberry matcha latte. There's fried chicken salad and a vegan Indian eggplant as well as a Wagyu beef burger and a long list of toasts including miso crab. The Beacon Burger won Best Burger at a Battle of the Burger event in 2017.
“As Echo Park residents, we care about contributing to the natural charm of Echo Park Lake,” owner Jason Espiritu tells L.A. Weekly. “We try to do that with the food we serve and by offering things like picnic blankets and games that guests can borrow for a picnic in the park. We're incredibly happy to be able to serve at such a historical landmark.”
Beacon Echo Park, 751 Echo Park Ave., Echo Park; (213) 318-5193, beaconechopark.com.
Maybe more Silver Lake than Echo Park — but close enough — is Valerie's Confections, which started as a charming little boutique in 2004 and has expanded into another shop in Grand Central Market downtown as well as a booming online business.
Owner Valerie Gordon and her sweet creations quickly skyrocketed to culinary fame; by 2009 she had added preserves, pies and her line of Classic California Cakes. Her boxed rose petal, Champagne and bittersweet chocolate petits fours are an art form.
Gordon's latest instrument is the grill. She recently launched her BBQ Brunch series at Valerie Confections Echo Park on summer weekends.
As a result of her obsession with L.A.'s underground barbecue scene, which includes Trudy's smoked brisket and Ragtop Fern's pork ribs, Gordon is serving a grilled desserts menu.
There's a rotating selection of sweets including salted caramel bread pudding, skillet brownies, and a clafoutis filled with market-fresh cherries and apricots. Grilled savory brunch items are also on the horizon.
Valerie's Confections, 3360 W. First St., Silver Lake; (213) 739-8149. Also in Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, downtown. valerieconfections.com.
And speaking of L.A. history, the epicenter may be the Taix French Restaurant, which opened downtown in the Champ d'Or hotel in our own French Quarter in 1927. Marius Taix Jr. started out serving chicken dinners for 50 cents per person at long family-style tables. For an extra 25 cents, diners could request private booth service.
In 1962 the restaurant moved to Echo Park, and there it is still family-run by Marius' son Raymond and grandson Michael, who curates the award-winning wine list. Some of the staff has been working at Taix for three generations.
The restaurant and menu remain largely unchanged and faithful to the family's tradition, such as the tureen of soup du jour. Other suggested starters: fresh marinated white anchovy filets with slivers of fresh apple, Spanish red onion, lemon and cream; and the moules maison, mussels cooked with leeks, butter, cream, white wine and a hint of chili.
Other classics include daily specials such as the Tourte de Volaille, a French-style chicken pot pie with poached chicken, tarragon, mushrooms, leeks and crème fraiche. Taix is one of the best places to dig into a traditional cassoulet, bulging with Tarbais beans, duck leg confit, homemade saucisse de Toulouse and saucisse a l'ail sausages, pork belly and lamb shoulder, all crowned with crispy bread crumbs.
Taix French Country Cuisine, 1911 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 484-1265, taixfrench.com.