When you’re exhausted from theme parks and dazzled from the stars, devote a day to another side of Los Angeles – the brilliantly blended neighbourhood of Silver Lake. Rebecca Zephyr Thomas, whose work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, recently spent time capturing its unique charms in this photo essay.
As a tourist destination Los Angeles’ main attractions are immovable cultural objects known around the world: Hollywood, Disneyland, Venice Beach and Rodeo Drive. But after a few days gorging on the city’s polished main attractions, it’s nice to draw breath with a day away from their slick presentation and kinetic pace.
That’s where Silver Lake comes in. Named for the engineer who created the reservoir at its heart, the central city neighbourhood was for decades a middle class Latino enclave. In recent years, like nearby Echo Park, those residents have been joined by a young and artistic set, creating distinctive twin cultures. Many traditional Hispanic businesses remain, but they’re set alongside the kind of boutiques, cafés and bars you get with a gentrifying – but certainly not wholly gentrified – neighbourhood.
That blended character is what gives the suburb its soul. The Latin side means numerous dirt cheap and entirely delicious burritos, served from caravans and hole-in-the-walls, along with dive bars and flea markets. The architecture and colour schemes remain too, giving it a character and visual chaos which makes every street a delight.
The musicians and artists who first colonised the area have brought with them record stores, galleries and venues, creating a sense of community inside the vast city, where bicycle can feel like the dominant mode of transport. That works everywhere except the steep inclines which rear up at its edges, traversed by staircases with evocative names like Descanso, Redcliffe and the Music Box.
Climb those hills for stunning views and residences as pricey as any in the city – part of the blended charm of an area which is off the tourist trail, and as a result a great place to while away a more relaxing type of L.A. day.
Tacos Delta, 3806 Sunset Blvd.
Come here for incredibly cheap and tasty Mexican food. Order the breakfast burrito (scrambled egg, rice, beans and chorizo, ham or potato) and you basically won't need to eat again that day.
The Evil Rock n Roll Cat, 4679 Hollywood Blvd.
This shop-cum-gallery is run by film director Julianna Sorelli and sells classic West Coast punk inspired T-shirts and jackets under the label Hollywood Savage Society, and photographic prints from the 1970s of rock legends like Debbie Harry and Joan Jett.
Projection by Vincent Lamouroux, 4301 Sunset Blvd.
The name of this art installation is Projection, but it's more commonly known as the 'whitewashed motel'. The building had sat empty for a decade until French artist Vincent Lamouroux covered the structure, signage and palm trees with bright white lime wash, turning a decrepit motel into a local landmark.
Paper Moon Vintage, 4516 Hollywood Blvd.
Paper Moon sells a mouth watering selection of men's and women's vintage clothing from last century. There are bargains to be found outside on the sale rail; head inside for beaded flapper dresses, vintage jewellery, accessories and books.
Intelligentsia Coffee, 3922 Sunset Blvd.
This is one of the most popular coffee destinations in Silver Lake, so be prepared to wait 15 to 20 minutes during busy periods, but as one of the neighbourhood's original hipster hang outs, it's a must-visit. The coffee's great too.
Dean Leather Accessories, 3918 Sunset Blvd.
Dean's sells simple and classic bags and accessories for men and women, all handmade in the USA.
Vacation Vinyl, 3815 Sunset Blvd.
This is the local record shop many of us dream about but thought had disappeared forever, like the store from High Fidelity – but with far friendlier staff. It sells a mix of classic albums by the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Led Zep alongside recent releases.
Cheese Store of Silverlake, 3926 Sunset Blvd.
A little bit of Europe in the middle of Silver Lake. The shop sells a large selection of cheese, as well as olive oil, vinegars, chocolate and has a daily changing menu of sandwiches - scrumptious!
The Black Cat, 3909 West Sunset Blvd.
The Black Cat is a cosy but upscale bar and restaurant that stays open until 1am most nights. It's a comfy place with traditional booths and wood panelled walls, and they served me one of the best (and strongest) margaritas I had tasted in LA. There's also a street-facing bar area perfect for people watching.