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Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Silver Lake

Silver Lake. Say the (unequivocally two) words, and the first things that come to mind might be the $5-a-cup third wave coffee cafes, felted hats with wide brims worn by self-awarely-dressed denizens, or Schindler- and Neutra-designed architectural gems nestled in the hills up Micheltorena. Better yet, maybe all those three things within one scene.

The history of Silver Lake, predating its new A.P.C. and now-mainstay blue-tiled Intelligentsia, is tied to its namesake,Herman Silver, the president of L.A.'s water commission in the first decade of the 20th century, who was involved in founding the reservoir. Since the reservoir was completed in 1907, the neighborhood's identity has coincidentally conformed to the story of L.A.'s evolution throughout most of the 20th century -- the flag that the film industry posted in this city during the first half of the 20th century, the nascent LGBT movement in the 1960s, and, today, a representation of an L.A. that is quickly maturing and having to address the problems that come with puberty (read: housing).

Unsurprisingly, the history of restaurants in Silver Lake similarly reflects its position as a solidly L.A.-proper neighborhood. The list of restaurants span a bit of the gamut but are also comfortably familiar.

 

Café Tropical | Photo courtesy of @mistercontinental

Café Tropical | Photo courtesy of @mistercontinental

Café Tropical: This place on a busy corner on Sunset isn't that old (it opened in 1975), but Café Tropical showcases how a local haunt can satisfy the diverse desires of an entire neighborhood. Pick up a Cuban ham-and-cheese sandwich, and wash it down with a refreshing papaya smoothie. Their selection of baked goods is also pretty tops -- everything from eclairs to turnovers. 2900 Sunset Blvd., (323) 661-8391

 

Photo courtesy of @nolanfarrell

Photo courtesy of @nolanfarrell

Millie's: One of the oldest restaurants in Silver Lake, this diner-type restaurant, established in 1926, around the time when Walt Disney built his studio along Hyperion (where the Gelson's now sits), this haunt on Sunset is a reliable spot for all-day breakfast. This is where your eggs come, by default, with a side of potatoes and a piece of bread. American breakfast. While the menu at Millie's honors the tastes of the Angeleno circa 1920, they've also updated their offerings with circa 2015 desires, such as egg whites and vegan dishes. 3524 Sunset Blvd., (323) 664-0404

 

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Photo courtesy of @kar0shi

Photo courtesy of @kar0shi

Red Lion Tavern: There are a few places in L.A. where you could still get a potato pancake and a Franziskaner delivered to your table by a waitress wearing a dirndl. Red Lion Tavern is one of those places. (It might be the only one, actually.) Established in 1959 by the guys who owned Cole's in downtown, the intention of Red Lion was that it was to be a British-themed pub. Never mind that intent, because it became a solidly German-themed biergarten a few years later, in 1963, when it was purchased by a new owner whose wife hailed from Germany. This is where you can really go all-out with bratwurst and a pitcher of beer in a communal, raucous setting. 2366 Glendale Blvd., (323) 662-5337

 

Photo courtesy of @misskellyrobyn

Photo courtesy of @misskellyrobyn

The Black Cat: Did you know L.A. had its own Stonewall before Stonewall? In the 1960s, Silver Lake was regarded as a refuge for gays in a city that did not yet accept them. On New Year's Eve 1966, plain-clothed LAPD officers raided the bar, beat up revelers, and arrested 16 people. In response to this flagrant and violent targeting of gays, hundreds of people -- from those in the LGBT community to black and Latino citizens of the city -- protested against the epidemic of police brutality. The restaurant went through various name changes since the iconic 1960s event, but it was recently re-established as the Black Cat. It's now a place where you can get your biscuits and gravy or shrimp and grits. 3909 Sunset Blvd., (323) 661-6369

 

El Cid: If L.A. is good at one thing, it is making ersatz everything. El Cid envisions itself as a Spanish tavern circa some time definitely not in the 20th century, where Flamenco dancing still happens with a live band. Built on a site that hosted the filming of D. W. Griffiths' problematic but groundbreaking Birth of a Nation in 1915, this cavernous restaurant and entertainment venue will satisfy your craving for tapas and various paella, all while you watch the fast feet of Flamenco onstage. 4212 Sunset Blvd., (323) 668-0318

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