My belief is that every state and every large county has an area that thrives on shared intellectual energy and individualism. These areas are usually void of corporate dominance and sustain their economic independence from the support of the local community – who appreciates the opportunity to stand strong on their own. In Los Angeles, the area that best fits this description for me is Los Feliz.
Los Feliz is like a return to a world before the Internet grabbed us by the hand and forced us to communicate through an electronic prism of thumb approvals and status updates. Intimate by choice, the commercial ambition of the area is non-existent. Small restaurants, a movie theater, a newsstand and a bookstore operate as they should – on their own.
East of Hollywood, art, culture and independence are all kissing cousins. Corporate muscle doesn’t carry any weight here. If you’re looking for a Gap clothing store or a Barnes & Noble, you’ll be disappointed and the community wouldn’t have it any other way. Geographically, the area is too tight for an enormous consumer appetite. Taking their place is Skylight books – what a neighborhood bookstore should be and Bru Coffee bar. No socializing allowed seems to be the unwritten rule; this place caters to the writer in you.
In Los Feliz, less is more. The area is primarily residential with a small retail and dinning square, which serves as the heartbeat of the neighborhood. I’ve probably eaten or had a cocktail at most of the establishments there. Favorites of mine include the Dresden Room and Fred 62, which specialize in comfort foods – 24/7.
The independent theme is the ethos thru and thru. The Los Feliz 3 movie theater operating independently since 1934 stays within an arm’s length of big budget movie releases, but you can bet that documentaries and small budget releases are what they want you to enjoy. You would never guess that Walt Disney drew his first image of Mickey spawning the Disney empire right here. Traveling 2 blocks north on Vermont leads you to the Griffith Park Observatory and the Greek Theater. Like to hike? The Santa Monica Mountains are there for the taking with multiple trails to challenge and burn you out.
Nice neighborhoods are great. Cool neighborhoods are rare.