Where to go in East Hollywood / Little Armenia / Virgil Village
The first neighborhood I really got to know in Los Angeles was Echo Park. Then Silverlake. I lived in that “Tri-Hipster Area” for the first two years of my life as an Angeleno, so when it came to great bars or restaurants or music venues or parks or events, I rarely ventured beyond those borders.
Five months ago I moved to the undefined border regions of several neighborhoods. Depending on your perspective, I either live in Little Armenia, East Hollywood, Thai Town, East Hollywood, Virgil Village, or “just north of Koreatown.” Exploring my neighborhood has been enjoyable. Every week I add a place to the growing list of “Places to Take Visitors.”
The Faculty is a modest sports bar conveniently right around the corner from my house, and right across the street from L.A. City College, on the little block of Heliotrope that was clearly developed for students. It’s nestled squarely between a bike shop, a tattoo parlor, a coffee shop, and an ice cream store. The neon above the wrought iron door commands patrons, “GET IN HERE.” But it’s a friendly invitation. Once inside, you have your pick of high table booths, all in view of a TV. So you kind of have to enjoy watching the game if you frequent this place. Or, if the weather’s nice, grab a table on the patio. A rotating menu of craft beers and imported wines is displayed on a chalkboard, as well as entree specials to accompany their regular menu of sandwiches and salads - your standard bar fare. The Faculty is smart though, and knows its clientele. You won’t be bored with fries or sad burgers here. They serve three-pepper spicy macaroni & cheese, fresh veggie ratatouille wraps, and generous salads. Their waitstaff is friendly, lighthearted and ready with drink recommendations all the time, if you can’t decide between the locally brewed lager of the Belgian lambic.
707 N Heliotrope Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90029
Let me now sing the praises of the best ice cream place in Los Angeles. Scoops serves small-batch creative flavors of ice cream 6 days a week to study-weary college kids and Silverlake stragglers. Their signature flavor, Brown Bread, is just slightly sweet and peppered with grape nuts. If you’re not sold on the whole “crazy ice cream flavor” thang, you’ll at least be able to find a comforting salted caramel, but why not branch out just a teensy bit with a decadent chocolate Guiness scoop? It’s so good, you’ll doubt your sobriety. Scoops’s flavor selection varies every day, so you may find yourself compelled to try the mango sriracha one day or the black pepper cheesecake the next. No matter what you choose, you are sure to get a creamy, just-sweet-enough scoop of ice cream with thoughtful and creative flavor balances. Scoops knows how to match sweet with salty or sour. The price can’t be beat either. $3 for one scoop, which is really TWO scoops. For those of us who can never decide, and just have to see how well black sesame pairs with pistachio rosewater.
All the Pupusas
Of the list of names for my neighborhood, I don’t know why “Little El Salvador” or something to that effect is not one of them, considering that I seem to be living in the epicenter of Pupusaville. To the uninitiated, the pupusa is a traditional salvadoran dish made of thick handmade corn tortillas, usually filled with cheese and/or beans and/or meat and/or mushrooms, squash, potato flour, etc. It’s topped with a zesty slaw of cabbage and thin salsa. And it’s delicious. There are pupuserias all over my neighborhood, and I hope to try them all during my stay. There’s Golfo De Fonseca, Sabores Latino, and other little corner places serving up pupusas for a dollar each. So far my favorite is California Grill. I know, it sounds like a crappy overpriced salad chain in Palo Alto. And oddly enough, that name is barely visible on the outside of the building, under the prominent blue-on-white lettering that just reads, “PUPUSERIA TAQUERIA.” Just so nobody doubts what they’re really making in there. The California Grill’s pupusas are flavorful, cheesy, and a great mix of textures. The grittiness of the fried corn flour contrasts with the stringy melted cheese and the crunchy spicy cabbage topping. A deliciously cheap filling meal.
I’ve already written about Cha Cha Cha and The Virgil. Stay tuned for reviews of The Smogcutter (a karaoke dive bar), Pour Vous (a formal-attire only burlesque cocktail lounge) and Cafecito Organico (a popular brunch coffee shop)