It’s easy to see why Westsiders hate leaving their part of town. It’s basically never above or below 72 degrees, and there’s enough beach for everyone to have their own private plot of land. Plus, LA isn’t the kind of city you want to drive across willingly - at rush hour, it can take an hour to go four miles on the 10.
Of course, none of that makes it any less frustrating whenever your Santa Monica friends bail on another night out in Silver Lake. After all, you live on the Eastside for a reason - be it the fantastic Thai food, the huge variety of excellent bars, or the crowds of people who are actually from Los Angeles - and you know your Westside pals would love it over here, too. All it takes is a little convincing. So just send them this guide.
This isn’t just a collection of the best restaurants and bars between Los Feliz and Highland Park. These are spots that Eastsiders should want to show off to their friends, and places those Westsiders just aren’t able to find on their side of town. So for anyone in your life who thinks West Hollywood is “too far east,” here are some places guaranteed to get them to the actual Eastside, into the land of misguided mustaches and hills as steep as the rent.
Be careful taking these friends to All Time - there’s a good chance that they’ll start making up excuses to stay at your place. Nearly the entire dining room is on a tiny candlelit patio in Los Feliz, where they serve fantastic lamb ragu, pork belly confit quesadillas, and a burrata with tomatoes dish that we firmly believe should be on the state flag. They’ve also got one of the best wine lists in town, including impossible-to-find French bottles sourced from the sommelier’s European road trip. This is the kind of restaurant that causes spiritual awakenings.
Jitlada is one of the best restaurants in LA. It’s also one that - for no apparent reason - a lot of people still haven’t heard of, especially if they live west of the 405. This Thai Town spot gets visitors from around the country, so a drive across the city on Sunset is nothing. It’s best to come with a group that’s not afraid of spice, so you can go big with your order and split everything. And by everything, we specifically mean the crispy catfish salad, the Jazz Burger (it’s not on the menu, but if you ask for it, they’ll make it for you), the pad Thai, the Jungle Curry, and about four rounds of Tsingtao.
A lot of LA rites of passage suck - having someone rear-end you on Beverly, for example, or attempting to hike to the Hollywood Sign without a water bottle. But going to The Dresden to watch house performers Marty and Elayne is the rare rite of passage you’ll want to do more than once. The cocktails here aren’t going to blow you away, but they’re perfectly serviceable for sitting in the lounge and watching the couple do what they’ve been doing since 1982 - singing jazz standards until 1am, five nights per week.
It’s counterintuitive to drive away from the water to get good fish, but when you need to convince Mike that there are more interesting seafood dishes than the broiled salmon at Water Grill, take him to Ceviche Project. This spot on Hyperion in Silver Lake is serving incredible fish, prepared right in front of you like a sushi bar, in intense and interesting ways. That includes dishes like kanpachi tostada with spicy sorbet and avocado creme, raw scallop shooters with pomegranate seeds and uni, and simple, but still excellent, snow crab claws with chile de arbol. It’s all happening in a space that looks like a Wes Anderson set, and with a great selection of Mexican craft beer and natural wine, too.
Arcade bars have felt played out for a very long time - but Button Mash isn’t any regular arcade bar. Beyond the rows of retro games like Rampage, Donkey Kong, and Addams Family pinball, this place has an entire menu of Thai bar snacks that we’d go out of our way for even if they weren’t served at an adult arcade. These include fried balls of tofu, spicy Thai chicken wings, and an absurdly good burger. The craft beer list is also among the best in town.
The Westside has plenty of good dive bars - but none of them are quite like Tiki-Ti, the Sunset Junction tiki bar that’s smaller than a Silver Lake studio apartment. This place is a throwback to old school LA bars - it’s cash-only, and there are plenty of surly regulars, but these are some of the best-made and strongest drinks around (don’t even think about driving here if you have more than one). We always order the Ray’s Mistake or the Uga Booga - we really don’t know what’s in either of them besides rum, but they’re both excellent, and ordering the latter results in the entire bar chanting “UGA-BOOGA” at you. That’s an experience everyone needs to have at least once.
There are a lot of restaurants on the Eastside with design-magazine decors and playlists that feature plenty of N.W.A. - but none of them serve martinis and Reubens as good as Freedman’s. This Silver Lake spot’s modern take on Jewish deli food includes trout roe popovers, and an incredible, massive brisket that they bring out on a cart and cut tableside with an electric carving knife. And if they like you, don’t be surprised if they bring over a carafe of their homemade Amaro at the end of the meal.
There’s a good chance that Carly won’t like the idea of driving from the Marina to East Hollywood just to go to a strip club. But any apprehension she has will fade as soon as she walks in. For starters, Jumbo’s isn’t actually a strip club - it’s a burlesque spot. And also a really solid dive bar. The energy is great, the drinks are strong and cheap, and the dancers on stage are clearly having a whole lot of fun. Carly will, too.
Fantastic restaurants where you can just casually order the entire menu simply don’t exist on the Westside. Which is why your friends will be so surprised when you take them to Mh Zh. Just say “Fire Menu,” and for around $130, you’ll get everything, like lamb chops, branzino, prime rib, and braised cabbage. And once you get your food, the hour you spent waiting for a table will be a distant memory. Just be sure you don’t tell your friends that they’ll be sitting on milk crates - they just left Santa Monica for the first time this year. You don’t want to overwhelm them.
Bar Caló is a uniquely Echo Park kind of place - it’s overwhelmingly trendy, and feels specifically designed for day drinking. Yet it’s also a place that highlights the Eastside’s intentional weirdness in the best way, with a cool-but-low-key crowd, a patio that’s just a strip mall parking lot, and fantastic mezcal cocktails served in Topo Chico bottles. Bar snacks like peanut chipotle salsa, crab queso, and ceviche are ideal for a Saturday afternoon when you’ve been drinking, and if this place was in Santa Monica, we suspect it wouldn’t be long before its crowd was full of Bungalow-runoff. So we’re very thankful it’s in Echo Park.
Hail Mary is the kind of place Eastsiders should want to show off, and not just because it will definitely make your Santa Monica friends jealous. A meal at this Atwater Village pizza spot feels personal, from the chef serving you a pie along with a story about his recent motorcycle trip, to the moment at the end of the night when he comes out from behind the counter to give you a leftover loaf of sourdough. Oh, and did we mention the pizzas? They’re great, but Hail Mary isn’t just about the food, it’s about the feeling that you’re connected to the people who made it.
This German biergarten/biker bar has been a Silver Lake staple since long before most Silver Lake residents were born, and that’s what’s so charming about it. The servers are surly, but that’s fine when they’re bringing you glass boots of beer alongside sausage platters, and a pretzel that’s impossible not to order. The downstairs dining room is dark, and perfect for a nightcap after a long night out, but in the daytime, the upstairs patio is the place to be.
We get it - driving across the city is the last thing your friends want to do on a Saturday morning. But a trip on the 10 seems a lot shorter when they know that a sorrel pesto bowl is at the opposite end of it. This Virgil Village spot is a LA institution, with near-constant lines around the block, and food that’s inventive and fantastic. The classics, like the rice bowls, brioche French toast, and avocado toast are great - but don’t be afraid to branch out and try something newer, like the flat tot (basically a big potato latke) or the turkey breakfast sandwich.
The Eastside, admittedly, does not have the benefit of a seabreeze. But it does have Block Party, a day-drinking spot with alcoholic (and, sometimes, CBD-infused) slushies, a great craft beer list, and misters on the patio for particularly hot days. And after a couple slushies, you and your Venice friends will absolutely make up your own rules for the shuffleboard court in the back. Be sure to take advantage of the bring-your-own-food policy - both Joy and Hot Gai Chicken are on the same block, and both are highly worth your time.
It’s difficult to overstate how great a patio can be. And Spoke Bicycle Cafe in Frogtown has a really great - and really massive - patio, plus a good beer list and a solid selection of food you’ll want to eat any time of day. Their vegetarian burger makes us think we could give up beef forever, and we also usually order the simple-but-excellent breakfast bun with soft-scrambled eggs, and the really good California chop salad. Spend a couple hours playing board games and drinking beer on their patio, and Mike from Santa Monica will start to wonder if he shouldn’t look at real estate in Frogtown - a sentence you never thought you’d hear.
Bowling alleys aren’t generally the coolest places to hang out - but Highland Park Bowl is definitely not just another bowling alley. This spot was recently restored to its original 1927 form, complete with a Rube Goldberg-esque pin-setting machine. The cocktails here are strong, and the pizza is way better than pizza at a bowling alley deserves to be. The lanes can get expensive at night (up to $70 per hour during peak hours) but during the day on Saturday, it’s only $25.