If you’re craving a big-city fix and a bit of urban grit, consider exploring Silver Lake. One of L.A.’s most compelling creative hubs, the indie-spirited eastside neighborhood late last year welcomed its first signature hotel, Silver Lake Pool & Inn. Located steps away from the landmark Sunset Junction, there’s plenty of intrigue and action within easy walking distance, so you can leave your car parked the entire stay — and see how Angelenos really live off the traditional tourist’s path.
Part of the Palisociety collection of boutique hotels, the oversized rooms at Silver Lake Pool & Inn have an effortlessly hip residential feel. The warm-toned furniture, fixtures, and art are all locally sourced and über-comfortable, from the wood and leather chairs to the framed prints, vintage-inspired telephones, and ceramic planters. I stayed in a Deluxe King room and was mesmerized by my view of the leafy cityscape with the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign in the distance.
I spent an afternoon relaxing by the cactus-lined pool, sipping a mezcal cocktail, noshing on a refreshing cucumber salad, and — in the name of “research” — eavesdropping on conversations that educated me on the property’s clientele. That day, it was a mix of artists, musicians, actors, and people visiting friends who live in the area. Very apropos for Silver Lake! Locals were also among the patrons of the buzzy onsite restaurant, Marco Polo Trattoria & Bar. There, I feasted on a platter of perfectly dressed oysters and a zesty pasta dish paired with a crisp Italian white, while my companion dug into the Bavette steak with a Buona Sera cocktail, their version of an Old Fashioned.
There are so many delicious places nearby to lure you away from the hotel, too. Get your morning caffeine fix at Intelligentsia around the corner. Place an order for breakfast sandwiches at the Yeastie Boys Bagels truck typically parked nearby, or grab breakfast burritos at Tacos Delta down the street. Tartine, of San Francisco fame, is another solid spot for takeaway bakery fare with a tempting menu of sweet and savory toasts. For dinner in the Sunset zone, you can’t go wrong with Pine & Crane (Taiwanese), Night + Market Song (Thai), Bar Restaurant (French), or Ma’am Sir (Filipino). If you venture a bit further afield, my go-tos on Silver Lake Boulevard include Alimento (Italian), L&E Oyster Bar (seafood), and Botanica (healthy organic fare).
When it comes to what to do, the shopping and people-watching up and down Sunset can’t be beat, from L.A. originals Mohawk General Store (clothing) and Yolk (gifts) to Clare V. (accessories), The Odells and Buck Mason (clothing), and Parachute (linens). There’s also a great little Saturday farmers’ market with a section dedicated to vintage vendors and local artisans.
My absolute favorite way to explore Silver Lake is via the walks from the guidebook Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles by Charles Fleming. The hilly neighborhood abounds with staircases dating back to the early 1900s — many now painted with contemporary murals — and the book provides insights and trivia about the area’s colorful history and notable architectural landmarks with pop culture references aplenty. For example: the Music Box Stairs named for the 1932 Laurel & Hardy comedy; the nautical-looking building where Beck recorded Guero; and the residence at the top of the Mattachine Steps where one of the earliest gay rights organizations in the U.S. gathered in the 1950s.
Not only do the stair walks offer a great workout, they feel akin to scavenger hunts, and the photo ops are plentiful between the street art, eclectic homes, and peekaboo views of Downtown L.A., Hollywood, and Glendale. If you don’t want to commit to buying the whole book, staircases that are easier to find with a quick Google search include the Micheltorena Steps, Esther’s Steps, and the Swan Stairs. Another option for an iconic urban hike or jog is the 2.1-mile loop around the Silver Lake Reservoir, which wraps around two reservoirs, a dog park, and Silver Lake Meadow.
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