On the Town: Silver Lake/Los Feliz

By Derek Schlom and Mac Taylor

    When we arrived at Intelligentsia Coffee (3922 W. Sunset Blvd.), a noted café that branched westward from Chicago to Silver Lake last August, we started to get a feel for the local culture, as an eclectic mix of 20-something hipsters, 30-somethings with babies in tow, and 40-something gay couples waited eagerly under a massive brick-red archway. 
    Rather than lining up for the limited seating amid a huge crowd, we followed the lead of the locals and took our coffee down Sunset Junction in the heart of Silver Lake.
    Shortly after Academy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Elliott Smith committed suicide in 2003, his fans began to gather at Solutions, an electronics store where Smith posed for the cover of his 2000 album Figure 8. We walked to the Figure 8 cover wall (4334 W. Sunset Blvd.). A striking and intricate mural of red, white and black swirls, the site has become a memorial for Smith, with thousands of notes and poems in Smith’s honor scribbled over the wall. 
    Less than a mile away, we stopped in at Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave.), which has earned a reputation for its expansive collection of books and periodicals. An independent bookstore, Skylight’s array of literature runs the gamut from popular fiction to graphic novels to rare coffee table books.
    For lunch, we stopped by the Mustard Seed Café (1948 N. Hillhurst). Mustard Seed is a really simple neighborhood eatery — we seemed to be the only non-locals there — with tasty but simple soups, salads and sandwiches. Seating was limited and the wait was long, but the service was friendly and the café’s physical charms — folksy art on the walls, dried-flower arrangements in pots on each table — pick up the slack.
    Down Hillhurst, in the heart of Los Feliz Village, we found the quirky secondhand clothing store American Vintage (1750 Hillhurst Ave.). An unassuming exterior provides little insight into the treasure trove of hand-me-downs lining the store’s wood-paneled shelves. Fedora caps, ties, cardigans, corduroy coats and a spread of polo shirts and Converse shoes were available when we dropped by, and prices generally do not exceed $40 for any item. 
    Our final stop was the Droste House (2025 Kenilworth Ave.), designed by the noted Austrian architect RM Schindler in 1940. The Droste House is perched on a hill high above the Silver Lake Reservoir, and the steep topography forced Schindler to build a two-story living room on top of two garages, which anchor the structure. The home is not open to the public, but the exteriors of the Droste House are spectacular.