If you’re just traveling through, it’s hard to dissociate Los Angeles from the typical attractions like the Walk of Fame or the Hollywood sign. But the real richness of the city isn’t found on the silver screen, but in the many hidden treasures that bring the city to life. A neighborhood cafe where it’s easy to strike up a conversation, a bright & funky art space, a bar where local comics share the stage with the best of the local music scene…Discover LA like an Angeleno with this selection of five spots pulled from our city guide Indie Guides Los Angeles!
Vacation Vinyl: Indie record store with rare and local rock
In the heart of Silver Lake, Vacation Vinyl stays ahead of the curve with the newest and most exclusive pressings from the underground. The no-frills space is mostly crates of vinyl and shelves of cassettes with some apparel. With a rotating wall of new releases and re-pressings that frequently change, you can expect to find something different with every visit. The store is located at one of Silver Lake’s busiest intersections where you will find many other shops and restaurants including Berlin Currywurst, Intelligentsia Coffee and fine spice and tea importer, Spice Station.
3815 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 9pm and Sunday from 12pm to 7pm
Villains Tavern: pub on the fringes of the Arts District
Near the banks of the LA River, in a remote corner of the Arts District, Villains Tavern stands in defiance of posh drinking standards. Once you have departed the dusty streets and crossed the sparkling threshold embedded with gemlike liquor bottles, you will be treated to a very special bar experience. While it is a trek to get there, there is ample street parking and many reasons to linger. From burgers to brats, there’s a delicious selection of classic pub fare.
Live music almost every night sets a festive tone and makes it a destination even on the big holidays. With an ample smoking patio with low walls, you will never feel completely alienated from the surrounding neighborhood. Villains Tavern strives to create a unique social space riffing on classic western themes and old LA vibes, while remaining connected to the tough milieu who reside east of Downtown. All in all, it’s a noteworthy drinking destination.
1356 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Open Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30pm to 2am
Cafecito Organico: Fiercely local coffee shop
Set deep in the hills of Silver Lake, the quiet, shady Cafecito offers shelter from the bustle and roar of LA traffic. If it weren’t for its steepled roof rising above the other buildings, the coffee shop would be obscured by its residential surroundings.
Cafecito is by no means aggressively local. You will not find some embittered klatch in the corner staring daggers at the “tourist” invading their turf. On the contrary, you will most likely strike up a friendly conversation with the staff or another customer in the “Hoover Wilderness”—the name given to the delightful patio commons featuring artificial turf, shady palms and wooden benches. In fact, you won’t have a choice but to sit outside because, blessed with LA’s temperate weather, the Cafecito finds no reason to have indoor seating. So grab a pastry and a cup, find a spot in the sun or shade, and take respite from the strange and wild energy of LA at Cafecito Organico.
534 N Hoover St, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Open Monday through Friday from 6am to 7pm and Saturday and Sunday from 7am to 7pm
The Satellite: Indie darling of the LA music venue landscape
With fiercely local booking and anti-corporate sensibilities, The Satellite has made its mark on the Silver Lake arts community. The darkly lit bar and dance floor give the venue a weird, sexy vibe, especially with the right band or DJ bringing the heat. The smoking area on the street outside makes a good place to socialize and connect with strangers.
Most acts are local or from nearby, but the venue brings touring indie musicians as well. They also host musicians with monthly residencies. The Satellite creates opportunities for comedians and musicians alike. Local stand-up comics who produce or write content for Adult Swim and other networks are frequent guests. You might call the affordable drink prices at the bar the glue that holds this place together but, as a stand-alone venue, the Satellite is a proper nightspot.
1717 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Open Monday through Saturday from 8:30pm to 2am and Sunday from 8pm to 12am
HM 157: Historic mansion with music, dancing and other events
The Horace P. Dibble House in Lincoln Heights seems an unlikely venue for an across-the-board art space, but the HM 157 collective has made it work for themselves and the community. Their story is inspiring. After the mansion was reduced to ashes by a horrific fire in 2015, the community came together, seeking grants and crowd funding support to rebuild the venue in record time. They maintained their entire concert calendar as planned (with the exception of one show scheduled two days after the fire) and came back better and bolder than ever before.
The funky, vibrantly colored mansion features a large indoor venue as well as a large backyard for outdoor events. Musicians come from near and far to play at HM 157. It’s always a delightfully mixed crowd. The space is also dedicated to community-building and grassroots activism, as they host volunteer workshops called Trade School LA as well as other outreach and youth activities. HM 157 is a big reason to be optimistic about LA’s future and beyond.
3110 North Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031
Opening hours: see their program
Discover more alternative and cultural spots in Los Angeles with our city guide Indie Guides Los Angeles.
Photos: courtesy of the places mentioned & Marika Bortolami (main photo)