NFT Los Angeles Eagle Rock / Highland Park

Eagle Rock / Highland Park

Essentials
With its mix of recent nesters, creative-class types, and long-time residents, Eagle Rock is holding onto its quirky blue-collar spirit even as it gets a facelift. The gentrification of this northeast LA neighborhood stalled during the Great Recession, but there are signs it is picking up again, especially in nearby Highland Park. You can watch the change unfold on York Boulevard, where galleries and high-end coffee shops are popping up between the dive bars and taco trucks.

Sundries/Entertainment
Eagle Rock has long been a foodie's paradise, offering up impeccable pizzas from Casa Bianca, upscale vegetarian fare at Fatty's, and fast food done right at The Oinkster. Highland Park is quickly catching up with its more established sibling, with gastropub staple See more.

>The York anchoring a restaurant renaissance. Enjoy fine French cuisine at Ba or head east for Maximiliano's clever take on Italian -- but don't forget about neighborhood classics like Huarache Azteca and its satisfying Mexican antojitos.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Wino Bars in LA

By Rin-rin Yu
Wine: it's always there when you need a friend. A grape on which you can depend. A glass of wine is mighty fine. A drinker needn't toe the line. W-I-N-E: Wine ain't got no enemies. It's tasty. Yeah, yeah, it's tasty.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Black Boar
I've spent many hours in the dark confines of the Black Boar, knocking back the happy-hour special (a Pabst and an Evan Williams shot, which I christened the "meal deal") and wishing the day's care into the cornfield. So I got to know the bar's mustachioed proprietor. Like me, he has a history in Chicago, and we discussed the idea of opening a "Chicago-themed bar" in LA. But, in many ways, he's already done it. The Black Boar is modeled on British pubs, but like the most grounded Chicago taverns, it feels more like a particularly kempt dive than a theme bar. It's not well known enough to drive traffic from parts west, but like a corner tap in Chicago, it caters to a range of immediate locals: the craft beer selection rivals LA's best, but there's plenty of cheap swill for the kids. The jukebox rocks macho FM staples, contemporary indie-electro fads, and some surprisingly deep cuts. Key bartenders are enthusiastic to the point of flamboyance, but they're much more theatre/improv-comedy types than Hollywood types, if you get me. Bouncers and older regulars are chummy and charming in a gruff, avuncular way. The dark interior and huge wooden booths shut out the world. Daily specials include the Mystery Shot. Do not ask what this is.



Posted By:  Alexander Smith
Photo:  Alexander Smith

Shambhala Meditation Center
Bright red and royal gold energize your senses upon entering one of the peaceful shrine rooms at the Shambhala Meditation Center. Nestled on the corner of bustling Colorado Blvd and Figueroa in Eagle Rock, an office building has been amazingly transformed into a spiritual center. Walk inside and the quiet energy will offer instant relaxation. Come on Sunday mornings or Wednesday and Thursday evenings for free meditation instruction and practice. The center brings together modest people interested in getting the most from their lives. Originating from a Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Shambhala can supplement your current spiritual practice or offer you a new perspective. Numerous trainings and classes are available for those students dedicated to the development of their spiritual awareness regardless of their religious background. The center even offers work study for those in need of financial support.



Posted By:  Alexander Smith
Photo:  Alexander Smith

Cafe de Leche
Now a landmark of trendy York Boulevard, Cafe de Leche offers writers, students, and young families the only independent coffee shop experience in Highland Park. Their coffee and organic loose leaf teas are excellent. Nowhere else can you enjoy an Agave Mocha or a Horchata Chai Tea. Grab a large ceramic mug of drip coffee and enjoy your time inside or on the bustling York Avenue. Wi-Fi is available for you laptop addicts. Forgot your book? A collection of South American travel books, shelves of local business cards, and event fliers can keep you satisfied. Or view a gallery of local art (for sale of course) on the cafe's walls.



Posted By:  Alexander Smith
Photo:  Alexander Smith

Bicycle Doctor
Got a flat? Need a chain? Lucky you, the Bicycle Doctor is in. This shop offers mountain, road, and fixies both new and used for sale. No bike here is too expensive. Mitch, owner and operator, will be down to have you bring in your old bike for a trade towards a new one. The shop also offers bike accessories, helmets, and parts for you do-it-your-self mechanics. Sometimes if you get on Mitch's good side, he'll even take off a few bucks from the sale price. The doctor will see you now.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Casa Bianca
It's the pizza place you've heard about! The Eagle Rock neighborhood legend! With an atmosphere cool and unique, cozy enough for a date and friendly enough for the family! The pizza is straight-up NYC-style thin crust! (If you want deep dish, go elsewhere, and good luck, in this town!) With toppings just piled on! Heaps of them! This is greasy stuff, people! If you can't handle some grease, you'd better soak it up with a napkin before you dig in! And when you do, be prepared for some pretty damned good pizza! I mean, it's not the world standard, but there's a word for people who don't like a solid, unpretentious pizza pie: haters! You'll get full here! It's hard to get decent pizza in LA, and people surely appreciate it! There's often a line out the door, and, on weekends, you may have to wait 45 minutes or more! This pizza is reserved for the bold! It goes well with a solid, unpretentious red wine--tasty!



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

PC Bang
Since you care: I don't have any kids, and I don't want any right this second, thanks. However, as an evangelical realist, I realize that I'm never more than one drunken indiscretion away from changing diapers, singing lullabies, and struggling to explain sex, drugs, and zoning laws. According to this bubble-mourning Noo Yawk Times article, Eagle Rock will soon enough have little to show for itself save martial-arts studios. Which ain't so bad, for a guy who's (abstractly, theoretically, with complete detachment) thinking about what it might be like to rear rugrats here. Martial arts are a common on-ramp toward long-term health and self-discipline. And computer games are a common on-ramp toward a career of some sort, in technology, entertainment... this "computer" craze is here to stay, folks! Granted, most of the pint-sized gamers in PC Bang aren’t writing source code; they're committing mass e-murder. It's a start. (Girls, too... if you can deal with these trolls and kick their asses at their games, any "corporate culture" should be a cakewalk.) But, compared to the kids smoking weed, deafening themselves with hip-hop and gothic death-rock, and doing everything else I did as a kid, they're learning useful skills and forming a circle of like minds. When more kids had yuppie parents, these places took a hit, but I bet they're back now. At the least, they get the kids out of the house, which is the main thing.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Colombo's
Well, that was fast. Suddenly, Eagle Rock is a sponsor in Gentrification Anonymous, and y'all can stop fretting about the bohos and weekend warriors taking over the neighborhood's prize Italian steakhouse. Until god flicks on the houselights, it'll be the same mix of retro-jazzbo romantics, satisfied grandparents and, on the other side of the partition, RIGHTEOUS drinkers. The food is good--I'm a pescadian, and I can vouch for the crabcakes. Best I've had in LA, in fact, for the price. That might be because I was loaded. The diners and barflies are obscured from one another, but why do either when you can do both, I say. Bartender Frank is a bit of an Old World drama queen, but he pours mixers that could eat through a bank vault, and caters to more 3D caricatures than a Hollywood hypnotherapist. These people don't have Facebook accounts, and after you drink with them, at least one of your friends will delete you. Live jazz on weekends.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Foster's Old Fashion Freeze
Yes, it's part of a city-wide chain, but this Foster's Old Fashion [sic] Freeze packs a personality all its own. (When I read "[sic]," I always imagine that the writer has the hiccups. The grammar-snob hiccups.) It sits on a seedy, beaten-down block of Eagle Rock, past the semi-gentrified turf and into the flaking paint, the barred-up liquor stores and the tiny churches. It's a place to see neighborhood kids ignore a sleeping homeless man as they order their soft serve. It's a place to feel a hardened chocolate dip collapse under the weight of your front teeth, or to eat a harmonious chocolate-vanilla yin-yang from a flaky old-fashioned cone. It's a place to look at pictures of burgers, fries and deep-fried mushrooms that you might think about ordering the next time you're drunk by sundown. It's the place to relive the glory days of family ice-cream joints, which you probably didn't experience, which makes it the Medieval Times of ice-cream joints. Summertime ain't just known for the weather.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Paper
E-mail is great, I guess. But it's nothing like getting something cool in the mail. A well-thought-out letter or card is a full sensory experience--it communicates not just in words and doodles, but also in smell and weight and texture. It's also a greater personal investment. When I was younger and lived in the sticks, I was a stamp-licking mail nerd. I published zines and mailed pulp all over the country. Beholding someone's paper offering yields some clues about how they live. (Does it smell like cat litter? Maybe they should go easier on the Thunderbird. Oh, yeah...I know that perfume.) If you want to charm someone, I recommend a cool letter over just about anything else you can do. There's not much in most people's mail save bills and junk; anything thoughtful will get noticed. This small Eagle Rock shop stocks unusual stationery and cards designed by local artists, some idiosyncratic tchotchkes, and a small selection of arty-crafty books. The paper smells crisp, and rubbing your fingertips across it is a good salve for computer-induced rage.



Posted By:  Susan Milam
Photo:  Susan Milam

Target
My hometown of Knoxville does have a Target but the big news there is that it now carries food. In other words, it has nothing to match the magnificence of the Eagle Rock Target buggy escalator which if it did would, in fact, be a "buggy escalator to nowhere" since the Knoxville Target doesn't have a second floor. Since I first discovered and stood in awe of the two story Eagle Rock Target buggy escalator, a new three story Target has opened in the space formerly occupied by Rob-May in the Glendale Galleria; obviously, it has a three story buggy escalator which for my money is just a little too much. It reminds me of that Raymond Chandler quote, "From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something meant to be seen from thirty feet away." If my mother--to whom Target is a destination--ever makes it to the left coast, the buggy escalator at the Eagle Rock Target will most assuredly be on our list of places to see, although maybe not; she's 87 and the excitement might be too much for her heart.



Posted By:  Susan Milam
Photo:  Susan Milam

Larkin's
I don't know anyone in the South (with the possible exception of people who slurp shine) who actually drink out of mason jars, although I'll cut Larkin's some slack since I also don't know a lot of people in the South who sit on their front porches in rocking chairs (although my mother and daddy did buy their incredible rosewood living room couch off the front porch of a family up in the Tennessee hills). Anyway, the service at Larkin's is very hospitable although a tad slow but then they are generally pretty busy. I wouldn't call this soul food, nor would I call it comfort food, nor would I call it home cooking but it is good and you've got to support a restaurant that has both okra and sweet potato pie on the menu. If you've ever had the sweet potato pie at S&S Cafeteria in Knoxville, Tennessee (let's see a quick show of hands) then forget it entirely before you eat a slice of Larkin's pie but like I said you have to encourage a place that actually knows you can make a pie out of a sweet potato. Call ahead if you're going specifically for some sweet tater pie as they don't always have it on weekdays.



Posted By:  Susan Milam
Photo:  Susan Milam

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market
The British are coming! Fresh & Easy is the stateside grocery store owned by UK retail giant Tesco. My first visit to Fresh & Easy was a protest against Whole Foods which I find increasingly annoying, overpriced and self-righteous. The two don't compare really though. If you want aisles and aisles of organic vegetables, a hot food bar and a salad bar, you won't find them here. I did go in once when they were having food tastings of vegetarian burgers on one aisle and chocolate on another. I just kept making a two aisle circle. You can find some good prices here, particularly on over-the-counter drugs and kitchen supplies, although the selection is limited--no Vanilla Coke, no Bounty Select-a-Size paper towels, no Cottonelle Aloe & E. The limited selection is rather surprising considering that one of the store's stated goals is making it easier for a family to find everything it needs at one store. Still, I like the semi-self server check out and the people are great. Seems another part of the company philosophy is to act like you're there to help people. What a concept.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Classic Thai Restaurant
Eagle Rock isn't as sleepy as it used to be. On any Saturday night, the higher-profile eateries fill up quickly, and it's a bit painful to encounter a 45-minute wait on an empty stomach and not know of anything good in walking distance. If you like inexpensive rice dishes, casual atmosphere and mixing metaphors, consider this low-key gem your ace in the hole. Dine outside, and you've got fresh air (okay, as fresh as it gets in America's Dream Factory) and a gurgling fountain; dine inside, and you're in a converted living room that's always cozy and seldom crowded. Classic Thai sells an eclectic host of seafood, curries, noodles and tofu concoctions, with plenty for vegetarians. No dish runs over $10. The white rice isn't particularly exciting, but CTR isn't about excitement--it's about saving the date, and saving it well, when its more pricey, pretentious neighbors aren't bringing it.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Spitz
Spitz didn't start LA's health-food backlash, but Spitz may have perfected it. If this place could put beef, chicken, lamb, and sweet-potato fries into a blender and serve them as a smoothie, it probably would. (Take heart, herbivores--the falafel is top-tier, if you can resist being hypnotized by the spinning kebabs.) The dinner plates go for around ten bones, which seems a bit steep, until you realize what you're investing in. The portions are heavy and huge. When you're finished, you may find yourself in an altered state, wherein your motor skills fail you. If you have leftovers, give them to a homeless person. This stuff would probably suffer from diminishing returns in a microwave, and you're not going to be hungry again for weeks. The "zesty feta" could make a tire taste good; whatever Spitz does to "zest" up that foul-smelling, fine-tasting cheese, it works in a whole new way. The indoor area is hot and crowded; dine outside, under an umbrella, and watch the cars whoosh down Colorado.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

The Oinkster
Oinkster is a pastrami place for hipsters. Located in the now thoroughly gentrified Eagle Rock, Oinkster has been a welcome addition to the neighborhood: why go to a "drive thru" pastrami place when you can pay four times as much for house cured pastrami, Belgian frites and a weird yet quite refreshing house drink that is a cross between a lemonade and an Orange Julius, at this upscale "fast" food joint (they bill themselves as slow fast food but sometimes it just seems like slow slow food)? I’ll gladly pay the high price and wait around a while just to dip my frites in Oinkster’s fabulous chipotle ketchup. Why is Oinkster so named when pastrami is made from beef? Could it be a comment on the patrons' libidinous appetites when they eat from Oinkster's high-fat menu? You can get your pastrami sandwich plain or posh (with caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, and red cabbage slaw.) Oinkster also specializes in rotisserie chicken but why bother? Pastrami is the thing at Oinkster.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

All Star Lanes
My European pal doesn't care for this place. "This doesn't look anything like The Big Lebowski," he gripes. Me, I'm cool with All Star Lanes. The interior may resemble a Greyhound station, but at least it probably won’t be blocked off for a film set. It's famous for cheap Fat Tire and wide-open karaoke, but ASL provides a solid bowling value, too, with cheap lane rates (okay, LA-cheap), cheap shoe rentals, and ancient computer animations that taunt you when you throw a bum shot. Watch the veterans pound beer, stagger back to their lanes and still bowl strike after strike. Sometimes, without much warning, the lights go down and the place turns into a blacklit dance party.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Target
This Target does not stock rope. Remember this, if you're new in town and browsing for furniture on Craigslist. This Target is located within a five-minute walk from a sign that welcomes Glendaliens to Los Angeles. It's part of the seedy Eagle Rock Plaza, the set for Avril Lavinge's "Complicated" video, and smells like the neighboring seafood market. It boasts a special escalator for shopping carts, which isn't quite cool enough to keep the small children from howling with boredom. Some of the Target associates are hustlers: friendly, knowledgeable, and angling for an upsell. Most aren't, and hang out in small groups away from the hustlers. These people are... "apathetic" isn't quite the right word, but they operate on a specific series of commands, and if you don't know the exact name of what you're looking for, they won't be able to help much. Look for the pretty security guard with bright orange streaks in her black hair. Find all the household items you lack, and spend a bit more than you thought you would.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Stained Glass Supplies
If the trickster has decimated your hard drive, perhaps you’ve considered a less vulnerable form of expression, a quasi-permanent record not built with bits and bytes. Maybe you haven’t given appropriate thought to stained glass, the medium once known as the “poor man’s bible,” the playground for sunlight that broke down scripture for the illiterate. All else being equal, it usually takes something like the Protestant Reformation or World War II to destroy a good piece of stained glass. Maybe your muse wants to resonate beyond everyone else’s planned obsolescence. If you want to communicate through light, color, and the obstruction of windows, stained-glass artist Betty Krumal teaches eight-week sessions at this cozy, quietly mysterious Eagle Rock shop, and all the needed gear is sold in-house. Keep calling until you catch her--Stained Glass Supplies, appropriately enough, does not have a website. At the least, it’s a cheaper, less “intense” hobby than improv, and your date’s grandmother will swoon.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Swork Coffee
Swork is gunning for Starbucks money. It’s about as heavily branded as a coffee shop can be, from the black-and-red question-mark logo to the chipper, distinctive signs. Like any wise mermaid competitor, it “differentiates” itself by referring to its sizes as “small,” “medium” and “large,” and its jargon (e.g., “Sworkaccino”) is more goofy than pretentious. Like most other coffee joints, Swork’s Eagle Rock branch packs its own subculture. Certain employees sport extremely loud socks and show them off with cheerleader kicks. Others are super-chummy with certain regulars--they unapologetically hold court and hold up the line. One wall is adorned with moody, B&W shots of the staff. The adult customers are mostly bland and billable, tapping their laptops and holding hushed cellphone conversations about “escrow” or something. But who needs quirky grown-ups when you’ve got kids? Swork’s major innovation is “Sworkland,” a play area wherein wee Kierdra and li’l Seattle can rock the abacus as Liz Phair’s “Fuck and Run” plays overhead. There’s another store in Montrose, with more opening nationwide in 5, 4, 3, 2…



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Dave's Chillin-n-Grillin
None would accuse service-industry Angelenos of taking their jobs too seriously, and we would hardly encourage anyone to over-identify with his or her trade. However, when sandwich-shop employees hold court with friends, ignore unknown customers and thoughtlessly botch orders, it's not mellow, it's insulting. Running a truly laid-back establishment means maintaining a gezellig environment for the customers as well as the staff, and striking that balance takes a bit of effort. Dave's Chillin'-N'-Grillin' comes as close to that ideal as anyplace else in Eagle Rock. The shop's namesake owner can often be found prepping subs himself. He's not LA's most conspicuously mellow character, with his unsolicited rants about terrible West Coast service and his competitors' questionable practices. However, like everyone else on the DCNG payroll, he's deeply informal without being at all aloof. The sandwiches are a solid value (and can be effortlessly customized), and the attitude could be a new model. By default, it functions as a take-out operation, because all the seats are usually taken. Perhaps it will reconfigure its dining area, buy some more second-hand arcade machines, and discover its destiny as a hang-out.




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Restaurants (32)
Nightlife (7)
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