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Angelus Salads Plus adds spice to Echo Park

David O'Kelley and Fernanda Kelley work the counter at Angelus Salads Plus in Echo Park.
(Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times)

The bustling 1600 block of Sunset Boulevard is the cosmic heart of Echo Park. It sustains a genuine mix of new and old. The well-trafficked stretch of road displays the swiftly changing face of the neighborhood as nearby Sage vegan restaurant bursts to the seams with nouveau denizens of the intentionally rumpled kind, vying for sidewalk space with streetside flower vendors and patrons of aromatic mainstay Celaya panaderia.

Joining the scene recently is an unassuming storefront restaurant called Angelus Salads Plus, which strikes a neat balance between the two worlds.

Opened by Fernando Barreto (who has a dental practice a few doors down on the same block) and run by his son-in-law David O’Kelley and wife Fernanda Kelley, the shop serves healthful salads, smoothies and natural juices alongside traditional Latin treats like raspados (flavored shaved ice) and diablitos (basically raspados fueled with fiery chili salt).

Fernanda grew up in the area, speaks fluent Spanish and knows what’s what when it comes to her customers.

“It’s an immigrant-heavy community and some of the menu is based on Mexican and South American staples,” she said on a recent Saturday while the increasingly hectic Echo Park Rising Music Festival raged in the streets all around. “But at the same time we’re seeing a lot of younger hipsters and we’ve adjusted to incorporate that as well with items like the watermelon-feta salad and the rosemary chicken salad.”

Salads are made fresh and are affordable (about $4.99 for a small and $6.99 for a large). There is also a spicy chicken salad with celery, bell peppers and field greens tossed in a hot vinaigrette; mixed fruit salads; and plenty of sandwiches (Cuban, caprese, tuna salad, ham, turkey, salami and grilled cheese, all for about $4.99).

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It was the diablitos, however, that really got me going. I’m a huge fan of spicy Mexican candy -- saladitos, chamoy, Pica Limon -- and the diablito is like a giant glass of Mexican candy, only with delicious chunks of fruit mixed into the ice. I tried a mango one and it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

Sipping on it as I walked through the darkened streets -- alive with music, street vendors and playing children -- I hoped that the neighborhood would always strike the same perfect balance that Angeles Salads Plus has managed.

Angelus Salads Plus, 1620 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. (213) 977-7525

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