Named for its twin reservoirs, Silver Lake is one of Los Angeles’ most popular neighborhoods. Home to Walt Disney's first large studio, from 1925 to 1939, it has since become a colorful community continuously in flux, with a population diverse even by LA's multicultural standards.
Today’s Silver Lake is also known for its vibrant art and music scenes, stylish dining options, and eclectic bars and boutiques offering lingering glimpses of its bohemian past; beloved by celebs, creatives, and young families alike.
While Silver Lake doesn’t have as many gay bars as it once did, Akbar has survived as its hetero-friendly hang at the corner of Fountain and Sunset for more than 20 years. Open ‘til 2 a.m. daily, with rock 'n roll on the jukebox and a dance floor ready for spontaneous takeovers, it’s happening here seven nights a week. The busy Akbar calendar includes karaoke, trivia, bingo, and live music performances, as well as DJs spinning anything that gets booties shaking, from house and dance to goth and ska. Make Akbar your love-it-or-leave-it Silver Lake oasis for cocktails and non-judgmental good times.
Mixing cocktails at home was hip well before the pandemic, but lockdowns and bar closures palpably accelerated its popularity. Established in 2006, at the beginning of the mixology movement, the cozy Bar Keeper carries glassware, bar tools, and a highly curated selection of small-batch spirits. Every member of the knowledgeable staff samples everything they stock and so can offer first-hand recommendations catering to customers’ specific desires. Yet there’s no know-it-all snobbery here, and they’re always available for patient cocktail-related advice, even over the phone. Bar Keeper is also great for gifts, regularly re-stocking its vintage wares and the latest cocktail books to keep the mixologist in your life, actual or amateur, on their game.
Broome Street General Store
Broome Street General Store straddles Rowena Avenue, with its original location – a store-cafe with outdoor shaded seating and serving Gimme coffee paired with gourmet pastries and sandwiches – plus a newer spot, a curated home goods store that has expanded its vintage sensibilities to include clothing, furniture, and kitchenware. Despite the name, you're not in New York; you're in Silver Lake, with access to local products like delectable chocolates from Valerie Confections. In short, a throwback neighborhood general store that’s also looking forward, with a percentage of proceeds donated to organizations that champion equality, sustainability, and public education.
Step into this iconic mauve Cuban café at the corner of Sunset and Parkman, where the coffee is bold and the classic guava-and-cheese pastries and Cubano sandwiches to die for. Tropical Cuban Café’s neighborhood vibe is created by its eclectic mix of musicians, writers, artists, and more, many of them native Spanish-speakers – perfect for people-watching or, even better, mingling. A Silver Lake staple since 1975, open 6:30a.m. ‘til 5 p.m., Tropical also offers to-go bags of single-origin, organic and fair trade Cuban-style espresso beans. Free WI-FI makes working or Web surfing a breeze at this authentically Havana-esque hang in the heart of L.A.
Jay’s Bar is a gastrodive that defies its humble strip mall location to attract Oscar-nominated celebrities and Silver Lake locals alike with its array of craft beers, signature mixology, and delicious food. Savor one of the creative cocktails while perusing an impressive pub fare menu, including multiple vegetarian options, and lately enhanced with Japanese-American fusion dishes (owner Mayuko Easton also co-owns My Ramen Bar in DTLA’s Little Tokyo). Mayuko’s husband Jason suddenly passed just a week after reopening Jay’s Bar in early 2021, and she now operates the bar in his memory. All the more reason to seek out this nuanced Sunset Junction sanctuary.
The cleverly named Recollection LA carries an incredible selection of women’s vintage clothing and accessories, vinyl records, books and more, with a subtly boho atmosphere apt to its Silver Lake surrounds. Specializing in minimal ‘90s style, natural fabrics, and neutral colors, this small and easy-to-miss store (look for the rolling sidewalk rack beneath a red parasol) also carries some highly desirable, one-of-a-kind designer vintage pieces on its crammed rails. Recollection LA’s unfussy interior conveys its owner’s labor-of-love passion for the place and its customers, including now offering them a small but expanding selection of menswear.
Despite its name, Rockaway Records sells so much more than just recorded music, and the store’s singular expertise and commitment to quality has earned worldwide customers for over 40 years. Owners Wayne and Gary Johnson travel widely to purchase private collections, offering sellers the highest market prices. The result is a stunning selection of curated vinyl and CD releases, including rare Beatles records, related posters, and autographed items, as well as sometimes one-of-a-kind memorabilia. Rockaway grades its records accurately, honestly, and conservatively, with buyers consistently thrilled to discover quality that exceeds their expectations.
Silver Lake Pool and Inn
You may be unaware of Silver Lake Pool & Inn due to its former life as an eminently forgettable 1980s motel and then studio apartments. Opened in 2019 just south of Sunset Junction, this now retro-chic expression of L.A.’s Palisociety brand features an elevated pool deck, 54 oversized guest rooms and suites, and the Marco Polo outdoor restaurant/bar. Perhaps most importantly for first-time Silver Lake explorers, it occupies a corner of Santa Monica Boulevard within easy strolling distance of some of the area’s best eateries, boutiques, and galleries.
Silverlake Wine is the neighborhood’s epicenter of high-quality artisanal wines, beers, and spirits crafted by small producers. There’s something to satiate every preference and whim at this fastidiously curated and organized store, including non-alcoholic and organic options, orange/skin-contact wines, women-owned labels, and rare and collectible wines and whiskeys with prices running well into the thousands. Yet there’s little sense of exclusivity or affectation here, with a broad selection of $20 & under wines plus free delivery to sixteen area zip codes in Silverlake Wine’s distinctive little red van. The attentive and knowledgeable staff are even happy to wrap gift items and tie them with a bow!