There’s a few inconveniences that come with living near the start of the LA Marathon, including street closures, parking restrictions. But for the most part, it’s completely doable.

And then come the helicopters.

The news ‘copters arrive as early as 5:00 am to film the crowds in Dodgers Stadium, the start line for the LA Marathon. While we’re a little used to the police helicopters that fly overhead, the trouble is that these ones STAY there. For hours. The noise is insistent, and unforgiving. They hover just a short distance from our quiet, sleeping homes, in the wee hours of the morning, until finally departing some time after the start of the race to follow the runners to the finish line.

We knew it would happen – and even asked Dodgers Stadium to remind the news media there are actual neighborhoods surrounding the stadium, but still it happens every year. Call me Mr. Scrooge, but it’s impossible to sleep despite ear plugs and a pile of pillows.

Time for a nap!

Now that Halloween is officially over, we’re reflecting on the crazy weekend full of parties, drink specials, and drunken hipsters shouting about the girl’s number they almost got at the Little Joy. We had a lot of fun at a couple of neighborhood parties, ultimately avoiding any questionable driving by staying in the ‘hood.Yet there was something that was just driving me completely nuts about the whole weekend – as The Eastsider LA put it, the “oontz, oontz, oontz” heard all over Echo Park for not just one, but TWO nights through 2:00 am. Not knowing where it was coming from, the incessant repetition of bass got a little on our nerves (yay for earplugs!).

The strongest theory was actually about the Halloween event at the Shrine Expo – sounds far fetched, but we’ve heard events such as the Electric Daisy rave back in 2009 from the Coliseum (no joke). Sadly, the Echo Elysian Neighborhood Council forum thread about the noise turned into a series of finger-pointing and complaining about Halloween parties in the neighborhood.

And the finger-pointing got really specific, listing actual addresses of people who had parties (one of which I know for a fact, spoke to their direct neighbors about the party that they ended at midnight). The “oontz, oontz” noise was blamed on local venues like The Echo and the little tiny art gallery Sancho – neither of which were to actually blame despite really strong call-to-actions against the venues on the forum (we walked around the neighborhood, it wasn’t these venues). It’s really unfair to blame these businesses, asking everyone to call the cops on them.

So all this finger-pointing isn’t unusual for the forum – the noise from the Electric Daisy rave back in 2009 spurred so much debate, one venue actually issued an apology letter (it wasn’t their noise). So is Echo Park really that anti-fun? I mean, does one night of partying for a Halloween holiday put you on neighborhood watch? Should the police be called on you even if you communicate with your direct neighbors? If you had loud parties every weekend until 2:00 am – sure! But some Echo Park residents had some parties, celebrating for one night, so what’s the problem?

The ironic thing after all of this? I was the one who actually started the thread on the forum! But I think next year instead of handing out candy for Halloween, we might deliver some Costco-size packages of earplugs to the neighborhood.

But seriously, read the forum thread and you’ll see what I mean. I just hope next year we’ll all be a little more neighborly.

Some weird weather the past week, eh? There’s been a little bit of humidity in the air as of late (I’m not complaining, having just come back from Virginia a few days ago), causing some “monsoonal” rains in the dessert and bulbous (cumulus?) clouds over the mountains.

Nearby neighbor Will Cambell posted this photo of the Silver Lake sky the other day on his blog, and there was even a report of drops of rain Elysian Heights/Echo Park on Tuesday. This weekend promises some nice, sunny, and cooler weather with a high of 80 degrees. Sounds like a perfect weekend for some Elysian Park BBQs?

We had been at the pre-opening festivities for families and friends (oh yes, and press!) for Mohawk Bend, the newly renovated movie theater-turned 230 seat restaurant in Echo Park. But we still really, really wanted to check it out again as it functioned as a truly open restaurant, so we dropped in last night for the grand opening of Mohawk Bend!

It was definitely exciting – all the blogs and news blogs and websites that write about Los Angeles food, news, and pretty much everything covered this opening. We’ve definitely been keeping close tabs since the Spacecraft walls were up, shielding us all from the amazing renovations going on inside. So of course we’ll go and check it out on opening night!

But I’m realizing now that I might be a little too old to show up at a grand opening of a HUGE Los Angeles project at 9:00 pm, without any dinner in my tummy. Hence the reason for the “but” in my headline – this wasn’t a doom-and-gloom moment for me and my future obsession with Mohawk Bend’s beers and cuisine whatsoever. But after putting our names on the list, and waiting 10 minutes at the bar for a beer, and realizing I had probably another 10 minutes to go before placing my order, I realized I could just not compete will all the opening day traffic.

And that’s not a bad thing – it was a huge success and I can’t even imagine how crazy it was for the kitchen and the front of the house staff to work that many people, to make them happy and put on a good first impression. I just happened to be a little more hungry than I realized (okay, we went to Masa and had a delicious caesar salad, my fave, and got to talk with Manny, a favorite Masa employee) – but this will just be a lesson to me and any other hungry and hungrily impatient future Mohawk Bend-goers out there: Perhaps go a little bit early? Leave the 9:00 pm crowd to the younger ducklings… or at least scope out a seat!

So now it’s day two of Mohawk Bend and here’s the new news that you should take note of before going (apart from going early…):

Reservations made prior to this announcement are being honored, but because last night was so crazzzy they are no longer accepting new reservations. Instead, as the Mohawk Bend Facebook page announced earlier today:

Last night’s opening was so very encouraging! We so are glad to be in the neighborhood, and want to be able to accomodate walk-ins each and every night. As a result, we have decided to put a hold on reservations for the time being. This does not meet we are booked; just that much of our seating is reserved for walk-ins. Hope to see you soon, and thanks for your patience!

The new Mohawk Bend website no longer says “coming soon,” thanks to Echo Park graphic designer Heather Perlato who designed the site. Launched just today, the new website has the full menu for both booze and food, so check it out!

All that said, we’ll be the old people at the end of the bar, on a weekday, once we punch out from work…

Need to catch up? Read about Mohawk Bend throughout the months.

We have a bit of a July 4th tradition now after living in our Echo Park pad for a few years: A little barbecue party in the yard, and then a walk around the ‘hood for some crazy fireworks action. Our street used to be like a war zone – teenagers darting into the middle of the street between cars to set of some obnoxious spinner or rocket, and plumes of smoke constantly hanging in the air. This year, our street was pretty tame, but there’s a few around the bend that ALWAYS put on a good show.

First up, Dodger Stadium had fireworks following a loss against the Mets, so we walked up the hill to a little viewpoint where a few locals sat in their beach chairs with the kids and enjoyed the show. Next up, that street around the corner that never fails to wow us with their fireworks (where the heck do they get those?!). They had some chrysanthemum-shaped ones that thankfully didn’t set fire to any of the tall palm trees. This street was pandemonium, kids running around, teens lighting their own little firework bombs, and an all-around good time.

Speaking of pandemonium: The finale, the one thing I’d promised all our friends will never fail to amaze and awe, something you have to see it just once – Fourth of July at Echo Park Lake. And the best word to describe it is indeed just pandemonium, because every year at the Lake are crowds of people lighting roman candles, bottle rockets, spinners, even home-made bombs. You name it, the firework was there, big and small. Last year, dozens of parachute shells lingered in the air while we watched a roman candle launched straight into a palm tree on bird island, lighting it on fire. Every direction you looked was some spinner or sparkler going off, and there was definitely a lot of questionable parenting going on as young kids ran rampant and lit some pretty dangerous stuff. But that aside, it’s kind of fun!

This year sadly, the Lake lacked fireworks and any crowd at all. It was deathly quiet, and strange – a small group of residents who live just up the street told us cops had come by about an hour before announcing the closure of the lake, ordering everyone to leave.

A quiet Echo Park Lake

But that’s happened before – cops come and over loudspeakers tell you to leave. Everything goes on as usual until they show up in full force. But this year they must have done something different, perhaps? Echo Park Patch writes officers had a strong presence (we didn’t see any when we arrived), and “according to officers on duty, there were no incidents at all of people using fireworks in the park.”

It’s a strange contrast to previous years, and with the upcoming rehab project shutting down the lake for two years, we’re wondering if 2010 was the last time we watched the incredible illegal fireworks show at Echo Park Lake.

It’s literally quite gorgeous outside, but I’m stuck inside with my second cold in the past month. Since I can’t concentrate long enough to write a decent article, the website is on a bit of a hiatus for a couple of days.

But have no fear! Here’s all the great stuff I’m working on to keep an eye out for:

  • Red Hill: The owners of the new restaurant in the old Phoenix Bakery on Echo Park Avenue are going to update us on their plans for the space.
  • CRES14: LAUSD has been building this school on Alvarado and Sunset for quite some time, and with an opening of Fall 2011 coming soon, there’s a lot to be done. We’re gearing up for some meetings at the end of the month about the project.
  • Flashback Fridays: We’ve got some awesome new stories about Echo Park history to share.

Stay tuned! And feel free to share your best cold remedy in the meantime.

Flickr photo by Echo_29

Everyone has a series of New Year’s Resolutions – weight loss, healthier eating habits, quitting smoking, saying “I love you” more often. Ours aren’t that different, but we really want to get out and do more locally. That brings us to our Echo Park resolutions, perhaps you’ll join in:

Read The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

The author grew up in the neighborhood and witnessed a much different Echo Park in the ’70s and ’80s. Everyone says it’s amazing. It’s on Oprah’s list, so it’s on ours.

Support local produce and sign up for the CSA

Community Supported Agriculture is a subscription service for locally grown produce. CSA came to Echo Park in fall 2010, but moved to nearby Silver Lake Natural Foods Market when Mooi, where CSA was delivering to, cut back its hours. Or you can also just shop at the Friday Farmers’ Market in Echo Park (closed today for the holiday but coming back January 7).

Climb all the stairs in Charles Flemings’ book

“Secret Stairs” is a great guide for finding hidden stairways in Echo Park and beyond. Of the six Echo Park stairway loops he offers up in the book, the toughest one looks to be Walk #15 : Avalon-Baxter Loop. With almost 700 steps and a difficulty level of 4.5 (that’s out of 5!), we will have to work our way up to this one.

Spend more time at Echo Park Lake

The lake rehab project is bittersweet – it needs to be cleaned and updated (though we wish they’d keep the historic qualities of the lake), but the two years it will take to clean things up will be horrible. Starting in April, they will dredge the lake and rebuild, so we don’t have long to enjoy its beauty, and it will never be the same.

Go to Stories more often

Stories in Echo Park is a really cool bookstore – free wi-fi, $5 mac-n-cheese Mondays, and a great atmosphere, I’ve really got to start spending more time there.

Publish more articles

With a full-time job and a wedding coming up, things are getting pretty crazy around here! But if you’re interested in joining in on the fun, send us an email with your information and what sort of stuff you’d like to write about. We’d love to bring more contributors in to Echo Park Now in 2011!

Graphic from Curbed LA

Popular website Curbed LA took on renaming the “not Eastside,” that is everything east of Western and west of the Los Angeles River including Echo Park, earlier this year by putting it to a vote (they now call it North Central). Now they are working on the annual “Curbed Cup,” where eight neighborhoods compete for LA’s best neighborhood by popular vote. Echo Park is not only one of those neighborhoods, it made it to round two – beating South Park in round one (no competition there).

The question is, will Echo Park defeat Old Bank in round two, which opens up for voting tomorrow?

Curbed LA has a colorful description of Old Bank for your voting education:

Even though the Old Bank District/Historic Core is a previous winner, so the neighborhood returns again to the competition. The area saw plans submitted for the Spring Street pocket park, while up the street, a new park unrolled at the site of the LAPD headquarters. Developments like the El Dorado and the Medallion opened, while Barry Shy’s animal kingdom painting distracted everyone from the large holes he blew in his building. With The Last Bookstore drawing patrons, and the new restaurants drawing diners, the Old Bank District still remains a popular contender. Bonus points for its always-lively street scene–good place to people watch.

As for Echo Park, well I can’t say this exactly describes why I personally live here, but just for the sake of sharing this is how Curbed LA describes our neighborhood:

Echo Park, the neighborhood the Los Angeles Times just discovered, was quite a hub of action this year. Panic! At the Disco Rocker bought in the hood, the and the area beat back a controversial townhome project (and continued its love of Tiki shacks). Numerous new restaurants and shops arrived–notably, a yuppie deli named Cookbook opened, while a micro-brewery (gentrification alert!) will open soon on Sunset Boulevard. And did we mention this region tried on a new name this year? North Central is still being tested out, but Echo Park, you’re officially so hip, the hipsters are already packing and moving to Highland Park. *Trader Joes’s expansion was in Silver Lake, not EP.

Even if Echo Park wins the fake trophy for LA’s best neighborhood, do we really want to draw more attention to us after the recent LA Times hipster article?

The LA Times published an article last Friday about how Echo Park is now a “hipster destination,” and it seems to have caused a bit of a knee-jerk reaction amongst Echo Parkians and Angelinos. It must be a case of hipsteria?

For one thing, the article, titled “Echo Park evolves into hipster destination,” implies this is a new thing and that we’ve lost its Latino roots to this mainstream subculture. “Once a largely working-class Latino neighborhood,” the author writes, “Echo Park is now home to one of L.A.’s most densely packed night-life corridors, with more than 15 popular bars, clubs and restaurants drawing crowds each weekend and often on weeknights too.”

Instead of being a new thing, this actually has been happening for quite some time now, and is also really just another cycle in Echo Park’s evolution (okay, I’m actually starting to hate that word). Call it gentrification – another scary word – but this is a discussion that has been going on in Echo Park and other older Los Angeles communities for a long, long time.

Twitter mentions exploded after the article was published, this is just a sampling

One commenter on the LA Times article writes: “Actually, the headline should read, ‘Echo Park DEVOLVES into hipster destination’. I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about hipsters OR racists. Isn’t there a way to spiff up a neighborhood without invoking either one?”

The word “hipster” causes a knee-jerk reaction in itself, especially for long-time residents who have seen Echo Park “evolve.” The skinny jeans, worn out vintage boots, rollie fingers, American Apparel sweater, iPod-wearing, super trendy, possibly with a trust fund kind of hipster. The subculture has definitely been attracted to Echo Park, where artists and activists have for a long time been a part of the community. But are is the hipster presence really that bad?

And on another note, why give the so-called hipsters all the credit for improving the community? One commenter on the LA Times article writes (sarcastically, we hope), “So next time you see me walking down echo park ave… you remember that it was us hipsters that made this neighborhood decent enough to walk with your children at night.”

Well, considering I don’t see “you” at the community meetings with the neighborhood council, Echo Park Improvement Association discussions, Echo Park trash cleanups, CCAC graffiti removals, working with the LAPD, or actively involved in the community in general, I won’t give all the hipsters all the credit for making Echo Park safer for businesses. But I also won’t necessarily shame the hipster style or lifestyle for that matter, I just think that credit should be given where’s it’s due, and not to a temporary subculture that happens to be “in” right now.

  1. Bird lovers have identified over 70 species of birds at Echo Park Lake.
  2. The only Chinese food place in Echo Park, Chinatown Express, has finally reopened after a fire in the mini-mall last year.
  3. In the Northeast Division (north of Sunset Blvd), there were four homicides in 2010 compared to 38 in 2001.
  4. Mitchell Frank is our Chamber of Commerce President – and a busy man! He owns The Echo and Echoplex, along with El Prado. He is looking for a new space after parting ways with the owners of Spaceland in Silver Lake.
  5. A lot of people do not consider Echo Park technically part of “the eastside.”
  6. The Jensen’s Recreation building sign has been unlit for about five years (but we are working on it!).
  7. Echo Park Lake is famous for the lotus flowers, but it’s been at least two years since they’ve sprouted (hey, some newbs out there don’t know about it).
  8. Don’t tell anyone: I’ve heard rumors of super-secret underground/after hours/speakeasy activities – one I would love to join if I wasn’t always in bed by 10.
  9. They filmed scenes of Gilligan’s Island in Echo Park at the Lake.
  10. Echo Park has a long history of activism, and parts of it even nicknamed “Red Hill” for the high concentration of political activists living there.

This house has better luck, except for the window... Flickr photo via iamrob

When I first moved to Echo Park, I had just graduated from college and moved into the cheapest apartment I could find. At $550 per month and with a roommate I found on Craigslist, I learned (after moving in) that my very first, very cheap post-college apartment had a bit of a, well, cockroach issue. And then we found the hole the mice were coming through. And the street this first post-college apartment was on had a bit of a crime issue. Suffice to say it wasn’t the best living, and not all streets in Echo Park are like that, but it worked at the time.

(Note: My first day there, with my U-Haul parked out front, an LAPD car pulled up. One of the officers asked us, “Who’s moving in?” I replied in my usual bubbly tone, “Me!!” They shook their heads and continued on… a sign of what to expect perhaps?)

Whatever the cockroach issues or the crime issue, one of the things I could never solve, however, was the LA Times newspaper delivery. While I realized it could be due to my zip code or maybe just because my street was really that bad, that Sunday Times never arrived, and after a couple of months of calling I couldn’t get a straight answer from the LA Times.

One of my fave blog reads, Franklin Avenue, posted about this issue today and revealed that the LA Times is now allowing subscribers to “opt-in” on receiving the LA Times Magazine along with their Sunday paper. Apparently the Magazine was only available in certain zip codes, and, as the blog describes: “…but, ahem, apparently Franklin Avenue HQ isn’t in an upscale enough part of SoCal.” We feel ya!

So now those “undesirable zip codes,” as Franklin Avenue describes it, can no receive both the Sunday Times and the Magazine… That is, if you can get the Times to deliver in the first place.

Flickr photo Theron Trowbridge

For our readers: We recently added an “Opinions” category to the website as a way to separate out our posts from our more, well, opinionated articles. This would be one of those…

Wednesdays are rough days for me. They are not nearly close enough to Fridays, and the heavy workloads usually make me want to start drinking during the week again. But mostly, they are exhuasting as I just don’t get enough sleep in the mornings. They wouldn’t be, except for the lovely sounds of our neighborhood trash trucks.

Now before you comment on this article saying, “Kelly, why do you hate city services?”, let’s be frank. I actually like having my garbage picked up and the streets swept clean for (even if the street sweeping is half-halfhearted and infrequent). But sometimes… sometimes you’re just not so into it.

Here’s why I, and those who live above the alley in an apartment complex can feel me, despise trash day: My street seems to be a main thoroughfare for trash pickup in our part of Echo Park. Dozens of trucks come by, and by around 8 or 9:00 am they’ve all done u-turns below our bedroom window – squeaky breaks piercing through our single-paned windows, “beep, beep, beep” with every reverse, loud diesel engines working hard against the steep hill. It’s like shrill bombs going off every few minutes outside the window (again, single-pane windows).

And the beeps are the worst – because there are so many trucks needed in our high-density neighborhood, they start by 6:00 am, if not a few minutes before. Earplugs always ready by my alarm clock, I typically catch a glance at how early it is when I’m shoving those things in. I keep thinking, there’s just no way these guys can be in Echo Park at 5:54 am, beep-beep-beeping and crashing the heavy plastic cans against the curbs. But they are – and they can.

A quick Google search reveals city noise ordinances allow garbage trucks and such services to operate between the hours of 6:00 am and 9:00 pm. So much for my letter-writing campaign to the LA Bureau of Sanitation.

So some day, hopefully, my dear trash truck drivers: fix those incredibly squeaky, shrill brakes, spray some WD-40 on those arm thingies that lift the cans up and down, and maybe lightly (or less forcefully) place the trash cans on the curb. Then maybe on a Wednesday, I’ll be cheery at work from a nice, uninterrupted night of sleep.

Yep, it’s already getting close to the holidays and time to start thinking about Christmas shopping for your favorite Dodgers fans.

This $35, two-slice toaster from Pangea is on my holiday wishlist for sure – and when my family from Northern California (those darn Giants fans) come to town I will happily serve them breakfast toast or waffles, butter side up. I’m not worried our team isn’t in the playoffs, Dodger fans come all year ’round!

As mentioned in my sneak peak the other week, I am in love… with Echo Park’s margaritas! A little disclaimer: I did not go to margarita school, I am just a self-proclaimed aficionado because I have had and created a lot of margaritas. There are several spots in Echo Park you can sit and enjoy my favorite mixed drink, but these are the best ways to enjoy margaritas in our small neighborhood:

Barragan's Margarita

#3: Barragan’s made the top three, but isn’t really my favorite. It’s a very, very popular spot and the best deal in town with the $2.50 margaritas served up every Wednesday night. The back patio is cozy and service is great, but the margarita snob in me keeps it from taking a number one spot. They have the necessary variety of tequila options, but the margarita mix was a stock margarita mix from a plastic, labeled bottle, so the margaritas end up being a lot sweeter while I’m more partial to enjoy a more tart mix.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t go for a margarita at Barragan’s, as one of our readers pointed out in the comments section of my first post agrees with a commenter who doesn’t like a high price tag: “I agree, $8 and waaay west of Alvarado doesn’t count. I’m all for Barrigan’s very LARGE and VERY TASTY margarita on the rocks WITH SALT at a decent price. And I can walk there…!” It’s completely true – margaritas can certainly get expensive! But it seems Wednesdays are the time to go to Barragan’s – we spent $9-10 for each margarita plus tip for mid-shelf tequila.

#2: Allston Yacht Club serves up a lot of delicious mixed drinks, wines, and recently added a couple of taps for craft beers. As an ex-bartender myself, I always sit at the bar and chat with the always friendly and well-versed bartenders.

AYC's Spicy Margarita

At AYC, order the Spicy Margarita. It’s mid-shelf tequila, fresh lime juice, agave syrup, and muddled jalapeños – but not too much. The jalapeño leaves a little heat in the back of your throat, and gets a tiny bit stronger and you drink it down. Overall, it’s refreshing and delicious, and worth the $9. But with happy hour prices Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30-7:00 pm, the $5 you’ll spend is more than worth it! Did I mention they also have a cozy back patio?

#1: El Compadre. I’m pretty sure you knew this was coming – El Compadre is a given. The ambiance is well-matched for margarita drinking, Dodger games are always on, and the bartenders are the best. At a dining table, margaritas come in their famous style (flaming), while at the bar they come sans flame (which is fine with me!). I always order a Cazadores Reposado margarita on the rocks with salt, knowing the good tequila will be more expensive, but boy is it worth every penny.

El Compadre

Cazadores Reposado is my favorite margarita tequila. Aged in oak casks, it’s certainly not a tame tequila and becomes well-balanced in margaritas. It’s particularly delicious when you have a good margarita mix, which El Compadre definitely does. They’ve had the recipe for 30 years, and try as I might I could not coax any ingredients out of the bartender.

Why pay more than a few bucks for a good margarita? Well, let’s put it this way: one margarita and you’re feeling good, two and you’re set (plus no hangover)! Why drink the several of the cheap stuff when you can have just a couple good margaritas, and enjoy it in the process?

Hopefully this helps your margarita choices in Echo Park. Remember, the bottom line is this: Good margarita mix, good margarita! And I don’t want to leave out the other guys, so the other spots you can get margaritas include the Short Stop, and, once the license goes through, even Rodeo Grill. Enjoy, and remember to walk home if you can!

Note: I pay for all of my drinks to ensure there’s no favoritism involved.

AYC's Spicy Margarita

What makes a good margarita? How should you order one? Where in Echo Park has the best margaritas?

As a self-proclaimed margarita specialist, I have been touring the Echo Park bars for the strongest and most delicious margaritas our little community has to offer. Hopefully I’ll find my way home after drinking all that tequila and publish my finds later this week!

In the meantime, share your thoughts in the comments section below! What’s your favorite kind of margarita I should be sampling?