Imagine sitting in an airy brick studio on a leather couch, surrounded by jungle wallpaper and sleek, midcentury furniture while the ambient drone of an Explosions in the Sky record plays on a gigantic pair of teak wood speakers overhead. There is a colorful slice of avocado toast in front of you, and an espresso tonic with lemon peel cools in your hand.
If you guessed you were in Echo Park, you’d be right.
The Semi-Tropic, a stylish café and bar that opened last month off a traffic-heavy stretch of Glendale in Echo Park, is named after an early–20th century land tract called the Semi-Tropic Spiritualists Association, a sort of utopian campground that was intended to house hundreds of tiny plots for free-thinking residents in northeast L.A. (100 years before Tiny House Hunters, no less).
Owners Daniel Finley and Eren Magri are first-time restaurant operators, but their decision to turn an abandoned print gallery into a café by day and bar by night was a shrewd one. In the morning, diners can stop in for coffee and espresso drinks made from Demitasse beans, as well as salmon toast, cinnamon-dusted churro waffles or house-made Portuguese custard tarts. At night, the focus shifts to wines and craft beers on tap, plus a handful of approachable bar snacks such as charcuterie plates, chicken mole tamales and a burrata salad with pistachio pesto.
During a recent lunch, the mood was calm and subdued, giving off the feeling that you were hanging out in the very hip living room of your very stylish friend. We loved the gooey crunch of the grilled Italian sandwich, layered with capicola and melted mozzarella, and the small, simple salad that came alongside. The Semi-Tropic isn’t going to be a game changer for Echo Park’s culinary scene (much of the menu is similar to the straightforward café fare you’ll find at Dinette a few blocks away), but the cool digs and friendly service make it a place you’ll want to linger.
The Semi-Tropic is open Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to midnight; Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. 1412 N. Glendale Blvd., Echo Park; (646) 858-7595, thesemitropic.com.