Tuesday, June 2, 2009

..So today, partially to satiate my friend Daniel’s budding curiosity and interest about the urban aesthetics of Downtown Los Angeles, but also the so-called “hipster” culture of the locales Echo Park and Silverlake, and also, to allow me to stock up on new photo material, we took a trip to aforementioned nabes – camera and appetite in tow.

We met up sometime around 3:30PM in what is pretty much the southern fringe of Downtown (Broadway/Olympic); a no-man’s land comprised of abandoned, hollowed-out shells of buildings and sprawling, ocean-esque surface parking lots. Eventually, we worked our way up Broadway, itself a street reminiscent of contemporary Detroit in the sense that it is flanked by rows of boarded-up brick buildings; themselves representative of the squandered opportunity has come to define The Motor City. As we traversed Downtown’s flagship corridor, and as any decent soul would be, we were both in a constant, almost simultaneous state of shock and awe (ha!), when fathoming the boundless potential the thoroughfare has, but also how low the area has sank. After indulging and immersing ourselves into the endless realms grit and architecture porn for a bit, we delved off and visited other side streets, namely Main and Spring – themselves pretty much comprising the de-facto loft district of Downtown. Now, this area should be praised as a poster child for what Downtown should be: a functional, vibrant entity that strikes the perfect balance between old and new, grit and charm, and most importantly, maintains character. Later, after a bit of a transit misunderstanding, we boarded the Metro Red Line and were finally headed to the Vermont/Santa Monica station, the gateway to Silverlake, aka Hipsterville.

Silverlake, as mentioned in other posts, is without doubt, LA’s crown jewel when it comes to hipster neighborhoods. I mean, the name Silverlake is pretty much synonymous with the ill-defined, misunderstood and definitely overused, maybe even a tad bit dreaded “hipster”. I don’t want to get onto that tangent, but while we’re on that note, I’ve been periodically adding text to a mega-post on the topic in mention (hipsters), so one can expect that to drop soon. Moving on… with Daniel craving the ubiquitous killer LA taco, I decided it would be best to go hit up the quaint
Tacos Delta stand. Needless to say, it was a hit. The place, in all of its unassuming, under-the-radar glory, has been spoken rather highly of by people in the Greater Silverlake area, precisely because of its bargain-basement prices and unpretentious nature (something kind hard to come by in that part of town!). We both ordered x3 tacos de carne asada, a dish myself and Angelinos as a whole are so fond of, that it could be shortlisted for the quintessential LA food and nobody would blink as much as even an eye. With our taste buds as witnesses, I can safely vouch that they are, indeed, the real deal. Oh, yeah..excellent house salsa to boot. Perhaps the best part of this totally no-nonsense place was the cozy backdoor patio and the sheer socioeconomic/class diversity present at this taqueria – a tell-tale sign that it is well enjoyed by people of all creeds and walks of life. After scarfing down the delicious tacos, we decided to trek over to neighboring Echo Park; perhaps my favorite and most celebrated “Eastside” nabe.

Even though only a hill separate the nabes, it doesn’t take long for one to note the stark differences between the 2 places. It’s true; Echo Park is indeed a grittier, humbled down, less-pretentious version of Silverlake. With greater urban cohesion, far less gentrification, oh, and plenty of more Mexicans (and no, there’s nothing wrong with that), it’s safe to say EP has carved a unique urban identity for itself – something that makes it readily identifiable from even neighboring locales. All of this is just even more proof why LA is a collective patchwork of unique neighborhoods. Anyways, after exploring the sites of the main drag, we strolled into American Vintage to thrift shop --- which, btw, unsurprisingly has dizzying collection of vintage clothes. Tired from hopping from store to store in the Angelino urban jungle, we set off to Chango’s, Echo Park’s locally renowned coffee shop. A fine coffee shop and neighborhood space, I ordered the overly-friendly barista’s recommendation, a mint-flavored iced mocha. Yum. With Daniel getting an Italian Vanilla soda, complete with whipped cream, we ended our day on the table-filled quaint sidewalks of North Echo Park Blvd, people-watching and discussing the virtues of Midwestern life, traveling to far-flung foreign capitals and the events that led up to that very moment. A day well spent, yo.

Pics below in chronological order:

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