Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Three Hours in Los Feliz - Part I

Los Feliz is a Los Angeles neighborhood just east of Hollywood, south of Griffith Park, and west of Silver Lake. Los Feliz once housed movie studios, including Walt Disney's first studio in Los Angeles, and movie royalty including Cecil B. DeMille and his family. Today, Los Feliz's apartments and Victorian, Queen Anne, and Mission Revival homes house twenty-something singles, thirty-somethings just starting families, and retirees. Residents enjoy an eclectic neighborhood of trendy boutiques, sidewalk cafes with hardly an empty seat to be found, and classy old bars that hearken to a previous era. The Village is the heart of this bohemian neighborhood and is bordered by Vermont Avenue on the west, Hillhurst Avenue on the east, Los Feliz Boulevard on the north, and Sunset Drive on the south. This article covers a walking tour of the Village along Vermont Avenue.

I started at Franklin Avenue and walked south on the east side of Vermont Avenue. I first passed the Electric Lotus, an Indian and Punjabi restaurant with outdoor seating (1870 N. Vermont Avenue at the corner of Vermont & Franklin. phone: 323-953-0040). Peeking in to the shadowed interior, I could see candle lit tables covered in white linen and surrounded by dark brown chairs. I also glimpsed stautes and painting depicting Hindu gods. Next door is Psycho Babble, a coffee house with outdoor seating and a wall painting showing the Tower of Babel.

Further down, I passed Palermo Italian Restaurant (1858 N. Vermont Avenue. phone: 323-663-1178). The interior is separated into sections by faux archways and columns. A skylight opens above one section, natural light flooding in. Patrons sit on overstuffed leather seats in booths, or at tables surrounded by metal chairs. Red linen covers all the tables. Beautifully detailed wall paintings depict the Italian coast. Palermo is open every day except Tuesday.

Fred62 is difficult to miss with its bright green exterior, orange awnings, and sidewalk tables (1850 N. Vermont Avenue. phone: 323-667-0062). The extensive menu features an extensive selection of colorfully named breakfast omelettes, sandwiches, pancakes and cereals. Try the Dime Bag if you're hungry or the Fred McMurray if you're not. Lunch and dinner also offer many choices of sandwiches, burgers, pastas, salads and entrees. The Manhandler is a classic Sloppy Joe, the Hippy Sandwich goes meatless, and the Noo-Deli Noodles are almost Pad Thai. Wash it all down with fruit juice, shakes, sodas, beer, wine, or even champagne and finish up with Red Velvet Cake (the best kept secret in Los Feliz). Fred62 is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The Los Feliz Theaters are at 1820 N. Vermont Avenue (phone: 323-664-2169). The theater marquee announces that the theater has been here since 1934. Today, its three screens show first-run and independent movies.

Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Avenue. phone: 323-660-1175; web: is one of the last major independent bookstores in Los Angeles. They specialize in literary fiction, books on film and theater, alternative literature, and Los Angeles and regional culture and history. Skylight has nearly nightly readings by authors and I have found numerous autographed books on the shelves. Stop in, call, or visit their website for a calendar of events. Oh, and there's a living fifteen-foot tall tree in the middle of the store under which you can sit and read.

Figaro Bistro (1804 & 1802 N. Vermont Avenue. phone: 323-662-1587; web: takes up two storefronts and has ample sidewalk seating that was nearly full when I visited. The interior provides leather booths and table seating on a red and beige tiled floor and can be a pleasant oasis from the noise outside. Dressy waiters take lunch orders of croque monsieur (toasted bread, French ham, Swiss cheese topped with bechamel sauce), pastramis et mozzarella (sliced pastrami beef with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and mustard), salad de mangue et crevettes (mixed green salad served with beet, heart of palm, hard boiled eggs, sliced tomato and feta cheese) and other sandwiches, salads, pizzas, soups, and entrees. Come for dinner for richer French fare like Cote Beouf pour deux (grilled boneless Rib eye steak served with French fries, green beans, and cognac). Figaro Bistro is open Sunday through Thursday from 8:30AM to 10:30PM and on Friday and Saturday from 8:30AM to 11:00PM.

Y-Que Trading Post (1770 N. Vermont Avenue. web: sells ironic t-shirts, action figures including ones of Jesus and Edgar Allan Poe, vintage lunch boxes (I knew I should have kept my Pac-Man one from 2nd grade), incense, and ruffled panties. The 20-something to and 30-something hipster crowd soaked up the humor and barely noticed the well-pierced cashier dancing to 80's era Madonna music booming over the speakers.

The Dresden Restaurant (1760 N. Vermont Avenue. phone: 323-665-4294, web: has operated since 1954. Its lounge has been shown in Swingers, That Thing You Do and other movies. Caricature sketches of famous Los Angelinos line the lounge's stone walls. Marty and Elayne perform Monday through Saturday from 9:00PM to 1:15PM. Don't forget to try the Blood and Sand, the Dresden's signature drink. Next door, the dining room holds only cozy white leather booths -- no tables -- surrounded by dark reddish-brown walls highlighted by something like mother-of-pearl. The menu is small, but offers seafood, pasta, beef, and Italian specialities. Dinner served 4:30PM to 11:00PM Monday through Satuday and 4:30PM to 9:30PM on Sundays.

Half Off Clothing (1748 N. Vermont Avenue. phone: 323-665-1626) at the corner of Vermont and Kingswell sells new T-shirts, button down shirts, jeans, and accessories for men and women. They stock independent designers. I saw a lot of Dragonfly, Chaser of Los Angeles, Kinetix, Zoo York, D-Soul, and Helmet Off The Wall. Ask friendly associate Joseph for help.