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The Lime x L.A. TACO Guide to Silver Lake

5:20 PM PST on November 15, 2019

    Los Angeles is a city defined by neighborhoods you move through. But it’s hard not to feel isolated and stuck in your bubble. We created this guide, in partnership with Lime, to spotlight the tried-and-true spots that tie locals together.

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]t’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Silver Lake could’ve been the site of Disneyland. Even if you squint hard past the packed third wave latte shops, body sculpting studios, cannabis dispensaries and $15 salad emporiums, you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence that Walt Disney built his first major studio at the intersection of Griffith Park Blvd. and Hyperion Avenue. in the aftermath of his Steamboat Willie breakthrough. But the bones are there, a lost animated ark buried beneath a Gelson’s Market with its own wine and tapas bar.

    During the Depression, Walt would have called this neighborhood Edendale. That was long before it would become a working-class Mexican enclave and alternately, the epicenter for the fledgling Los Angeles gay rights movement.

    It was in Silver Lake where Disney and his team conceived Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, even modeling their homes on the charming cottages located behind the studio (which still exist). In the wake of Snow White’s success, Disney decamped to Burbank, bought up a ton of Orange County land for the theme park that bears his name, and bailed the neighborhood to its ultimately fate: a youth-pollinated district of independent hangouts, ironic styles and artsy experimentation that can hold its own with Williamsburg.

    If you breeze through Silver Lake on any given afternoon, you’ll see an alloy of old and new cultures mingling amongst its celebrated nooks and crannies. Between Disney’s departure and its re-emergence as the setting for millennial neo-noir mysteries starring Andrew Garfield, Silver Lake has served as a bedroom community for first and second-generation Latinx families, many of whom worked in downtown manufacturing jobs. Accordingly, the roots of the neighborhood’s most prominent Mexican food spot, Tacos Delta, traces back to an era when Spanish was the most commonly spoken language in the surrounding blocks.

    Founded in 1981, Tacos Delta might be the platonic ideal of a Southern California Mexican food stand for a lot of people. Affordable and family-owned, open early and closed late, with recipes that span generations. The fish tacos and burritos are delicately breaded, with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream. The chilaquiles are a neighborhood obsession and come weekends, you can cure your hangovers with menudo. A local meeting spot for decades, it attracts both bearded film executives playing weekend bohemian and grand-folk who remember the halcyon era before one-bedroom apartments started going for $2995 a month.

    Los Angeles may be overrun with boutique coffee shops that make their cappuccinos with the solemnity of someone splitting the atom, but Tropical has been cranking out singe-your-eyebrows strong café con leche since the Ford administration.

    Suzanne Goin, the venerable chef, and owner behind restaurants including A.O.C. and Lucques, once aptly described Tacos Delta: “Sitting out on that makeshift patio with the eclectic mix of fellow Delta fans is simply the best. Although everyone comes here for the delicious tacos, especially the charred carne asada or al pastor, my all-time fave from this genuine Mexican family-owned place is the menudo they make on Sundays…and such a great crowd at the community tables.” If you’re looking for a civic connection or communal vibe, their patio is the place to bond with Silver Lakers over a heaping platter of those chilaquiles.

    Over the last decade, Silver Lake was transformed from a nexus of small mom and pop restaurants, panaderias and donut shops, to a top-tier destination for culinary pilgrims. There’s the absurdly packed Sqirl and Thai staple Night + Market Song. If you’re looking for insanely delicious white-tablecloth Italian food, head to Alimento for masa gnoccho frito and fusilli with clams, serranos and smoked butter.

    If you actually live in this neighborhood or are just stopping in for the afternoon, a trip to Café Tropical is mandatory. Los Angeles may be overrun with boutique coffee shops that make their cappuccinos with the solemnity of someone splitting the atom, but Tropical has been cranking out singe-your-eyebrows strong café con leche since the Ford administration. Attracting everyone from aspiring screenwriters to recovering addicts straight in from the meetings next door, it is a genuine Mos Eisley cantina of caffeine buffs. A place to recover from the harsh sun while sitting underneath rainbow bunting and paper lanterns, imbibing Cuban coffee so good it makes you Google “tours of Havana.” What’s more, their Cuban sandwich is so peerless that the dearly departed food critic Jonathan Gold hailed it as his favorite in Los Angeles.

    Just across the street is Silversun Liquors, the store that gave the band the Silversun Pickups its name. It’s a reminder that up until recently, Silver Lake was a cradle of West Coast indie rock, producing bands like Local Natives and Lord Huron in excess. This is where Elliott Smith settled after leaving the Pacific Northwest, and where he famously took the Figure 8 cover photo in front of what is now a Filipino fine dining restaurant called Ma’am Sir.

    A few doors down is Sunset Junction, a fabled intersection that once hosted the esteemed Circus of Books (since converted into a literary-themed marijuana dispensary), and currently the site of Intelligentsia Coffee and perennially cool sneaker spot, Undefeated.

    Beck might be the most iconic musician produced by this neighborhood, notably opening up the storied neighborhood venue Spaceland in 1995 (alongside the Foo Fighters). Rechristened The Satellite in the early part of this decade, the venue remains a local nightlife mecca, hosting the popular indie night, Dance Yourself Clean, as well as LGBT dance nights and Sunday standup shows featuring the likes of Neil Hamburger and Brandon Wardell.

    Few neighborhoods can track the swift movements of Los Angeles' evolution as starkly as Silver Lake. In the last decade, it transformed from a mecca for all things cool into a destination for cooler than average tourists—the place where your incubator-lord acquaintance from the Bay rents an Airbnb when visiting L.A.

    Of course, any quarter famed for its sonic heritage needs a record store to keep residents’ crates stocked. For over 25 years, Rockaway Records has been the area’s go-to, weathering the transition from vinyl and tapes to CDs, and back to vinyl again. Though it has downsized from its formerly cavernous digs, it can still go toe-to-toe with any spot east of Amoeba. What really gives it character is its memorabilia, doubling as a veritable Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Here you can gawk at signed Beach Boys 45s, old Led Zeppelin promo blimps, Pink Floyd contracts and Neil Young promotional displays from the Rust Never Sleeps tour.

    Few neighborhoods can track the swift movements of Los Angeles' evolution as starkly as Silver Lake. In the last decade, it transformed from a mecca for all things cool into a destination for cooler than average tourists—the place where your incubator-lord acquaintance from the Bay rents an Airbnb when visiting L.A. As you might imagine, the area’s nightlife has changed dramatically, with fashionable newcomers like Tenants of the Trees and The Friend Bar competing with veteran standbys like Cha Cha Lounge and The Thirsty Crow.

    However, the most dependable spot remains one of its oldest bars, the Teutonic-themed Red Lion Tavern. Built in 1959, the Red Lion has a bucolic patio built for sipping one of their dozen imported German draft beers on warm summer nights. The fish and chips are so delicious, they make you forget the dish has little to do with The Rhineland. The waitress uniforms and the bar’s décor hew to the feel of old Saxony, as though you’re in a hofbräuhaus dropped smack the middle of Silver Lake through some sort of Bill & Ted-style technology.

    It isn’t quite Disneyland, but it’s endearingly whimsical; the sort of place that fosters an exceptional sense of connection. A bar where you can picture the seven dwarves coming to sip brews after a long day of digging for diamonds.


    The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Silver Lake
    The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Hollywood
    The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Leimert Park
    The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Downtown L.A.
    The Lime x L.A. Taco guide to Venice & Santa Monica

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