This story comes courtesy of LA Weekly's Squid Ink.
Ah, Silver Lake. Home of hipsters, celebrities and -- not very many good restaurants. Or, more accurately, a whole lot of pretty bad restaurants. But while Silver Lake hasn't had the food boom you might expect, given the price of housing in the neighborhood (seriously, a tiny Spanish bungalow with a million dollar mortgage ought to get you 10 great restaurants within walking distance), there are actually quite a few great places to eat. Although we could fill this list with vaguely decent, hippy-tinged eateries from up and down Sunset, we've tried to make it a bit more eclectic, both in terms of cuisine type and geography. Turn the page for the 10 terrific places in Silver Lake that are helping to ease the pain of all that rent money, and all those hipsters.
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It's easy to miss Speranza on Hyperion Ave. -- it looks a lot like a house covered in tarps. But pull back the tarps and you'll find a patio hideaway, leafy and cozy and shabby-romantic. The food here is much like what you'd cook at home if you were throwing together something easy and Italian, though the handmade pastas might make the word "easy" a stretch. Lasagna, grilled fish, caprese, tiramisu -- all the classics are represented. For a while it was no-corkage BYOB, but no longer; now they have a good selection of mainly Italian and US wines. Warning: Good for families, meaning big tables, a neighborhood feel, and occasionally toddlers run wild. 2547 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles; 323-644-1918. Pictured: Linguine con Nero di Seppia. Fresh linguine with baby squid in squid ink
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While Pho Cafe certainly isn't destination-worthy pho in and of itself, it's a mighty fine place to live up the street from, and a great, cheap lunch or dinner option if you find yourself nearby. Completely unmarked and located in a sketchy strip mall on Sunset near the corner of Silver Lake Blvd., the spare modern room is usually packed with hungover Silver Lake types slurping down pho or gobbling bun, both of which are fragrant and soul-satisfying. 2841 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 213-413-0888.
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Forage is the epicenter of Silver Lake's locavore aspirations, its Sunset Blvd. corner storefront packed with diners lining up and spilling out the door, waiting to order quinoa and barley salads at the counter before they fight for a rickety seat on the sidewalk or in the long, thin dining room where you have to carry your tray above you so as not to clonk your fellow diners in the head. Built originally on the idea that much of its food might be made from the back yards of its customers, the restaurant quickly ran up against pesky health laws that required purveyors to be certified growers. Nonetheless, the restaurant's commitment to local foods remains, and the farms and foragers used are prominently featured on the day's menu. The restaurant operates much like a cafeteria for the gourmet-minded, and is especially useful when you're looking for something creative and quick and nourishing. The 3-sides plate, with choices like barley with chickpeas, kumquat, mint and pomegranate vinaigrette, or black kale and arugula with feta and breadcrumbs, is an especially attractive deal. 3823 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-663-6885.
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When Silver Lake Ramen opened in September of last year, the ramen was decent -- straightforward, perhaps a little bland by the time you were done with the bowl. In the intervening months, the ramen has improved significantly, the broth richer, the meat more juicy. There are even specials some days now, with black garlic ramen offered occasionally. It's turned into a neighborhood lunch staple, a true godsend when the ramen itch hits and driving doesn't appeal. 2927 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-660-8100.
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The Fix serves one of L.A.'s great under-loved burgers, 8 oz. of natural, humanely-raised beef, a towering hunk of burger goodness. We love the original Fix burger, but there's something perversely exciting about the Seoul burger, which comes with mushrooms, kimchee, Korean BBQ sauce, jack cheese and lettuce. It's salty as hell and quickly devolves into a too-wet sloppy mess, but damn it's fun and tasty in the meantime. They also offer wild boar and buffalo burgers, but that kind of isn't the point here (neither is the turkey burger, which was a mushy disappointment). The point is beef. Lots of delicious, glutton-satisfying beef. 2520 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles; 323-661-8494.
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All neighborhoods deserve a Barbrix: a casual neighborhood spot with fantastic wine, a pretty patio, and fun food for grazing. Barbrix is that spot you go to when you just want some cheese and charcuterie for dinner, along with a great bottle of Nebbiolo and a waitress who can discuss that Nebbiolo intelligently. It's the spot you take out of town guests for a hungover brunch -- not the impress-the-New Yorkers with our L.A.-glam brunch, the low key brunch, the one we all enjoy far better than the glam brunch anyway. Creative vegetable sides, Mediterranean nibbles, and fresh, delicious pastas are available if you want a more substantial meal. The food here is good. The hospitality, atmosphere and wine are even better. 2442 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles; 323-662-2442.
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Cliff's Edge has a ton going for it these days: one of the city's most gorgeous patios, Matt Biancaniello (the celebrated bartender who recently left the helm of the Library Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel) behind the bar on Wednesday nights, and, perhaps most importantly, chef Vartan Abgaryan in the kitchen. Abgaryan, another alumni of the Roosevelt (he worked at Public Kitchen and Bar in the hotel), is cooking food you might expect to find at a swank West Hollywood bistro: smoked sweetbreads with snap peas and poached egg; halibut with sweet peas, ramps and artichokes; octopus with fennel, smoked paprika and grapefruit. Not everything is 100% successful, but enough of it is that Cliff's Edge earns a high spot on the list and might come in at number one were this a list titled "top 10 places to watch in Silver Lake." Keep your eye on this one, kids: It's getting better all the time. 3626 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-666-6116.
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In many ways, Blair's is as close as Silver Lake gets to fine dining. Service is hardly formal, but it's also not the casual hipster slack you get almost everywhere else: white shirts are worn, some formalities survive. The room is quieter than it is boisterous, and there's an air of refinement about the place. There are $30+ entrees and a keen sense of what California cuisine still has to offer us. Honestly, given all that, I was expecting the kind of food you find at small town upscale spots, the ones that try for fancy and don't really achieve much at all. But Blair's is far, far better than that. Good enough that I still vividly remember some creamed chard found under a juicy roast chicken dish I had more than six months ago; good enough that it's the go-to spot for people in the neighborhood when they just want to be able to count on a fantastic meal close to home, cost be damned. Yes, Blair's can be expensive -- probably too expensive for its location next to an elementary school in the most residential part of Silver Lake. But that doesn't make it any less delicious. 2903 Rowena Ave., Los Angeles; 323-660-1882.
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What began as jam-maker Jessica Koslow's "collaborative, pop-up toast and coffee experiment" is rapidly evolving into one of the most beloved quirks of Silver Lake. Sqirl opened as a tiny storefront on N. Virgil Ave., where Koslow quickly got the neighborhood's attention partnering with G&B Coffee and serving toast. Yeah, toast, but toast like you've never had it before. Toast with Sqirl's outrageously delicious preserves (like strawberry rose geranium); toast with farmers market veggies, lacto-fermented hot sauce and fried duck eggs. Over time the menu grew, and now Sqirl serves some of the best sandwiches, vegetables and sweets around. Over the summer the tiny slot of a restaurant will expand and get a new coffee operation. We don't know yet what exactly the new Sqirl will look like, but we can't wait to try it. 720 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles; 213-394-6526. (Disclosure: Jessica Koslow, the owner of Sqirl, has in the past written for Squid Ink; she has not for some time.)
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When L&E opened last year, it gave the cutest retail strip of Silver Lake a focal point, and it gave the east side of town a place for oysters and crisp wine. A year later, L&E just keeps getting better. The cooking is better: There's a seafood boudin noir on the menu right now made with spiny lobster, shrimp and cuttle fish ink that will knock your socks off, and the salads and nibbles continue to impress. The space is better too. The new upstairs bar gives the restaurant its much-needed hangout spot -- the original restaurant is lovely in its tininess, but it could be a bit of a mob scene. And the oysters are just as good as ever, so much so that we named it the best oyster bar in town, and we stick by that assertion. 1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-660-2255.