Echo Park Lake cafe is now open!

Ever since Echo Park Lake was closed two years ago for a $20-million face lift, I've been dreaming of what it would be like to have a real cafe in the park. Promises had been made that when the park reopened, its early-20th-century boathouse would serve food and coffee.

That day has now dawned. During my morning run (OK, it was more like a fast walk), I passed the boathouse and was excited to see a smattering of tables out front with a few people eating sandwiches served on simple cardboard trays.

Inside, guests will find a pleasant, spare cafe operated by Square One Dining and offering a simple, moderately priced menu including a grass-fed-beef burger on an English muffin ($5.75); a patty melt with caramelized onions, Gruyere and mustard ($7.25); an Applegate Farms organic hot dog on a whole wheat bun ($3); a vegetarian sandwich with avocado, tomato, red onion and sprouts ($6.50); potato taquitos with guacamole and salsa verde ($4); and a kale salad with hazelnuts and Champagne vinaigrette ($7).

There are also coffee drinks, lemonades and iced teas.

The presence of a kale salad and an organic hot dog on a whole wheat bun strikes a discordant note when it comes to the history of the park and the neighborhood, and I'm sure that more than a few jokes are already flying on how Echo Park has jumped the shark thanks to an influx of gluten-free, American Spirits-smoking denizens in skinny jeans.

But as someone who lives across from the lake, I'm happy to report that variety is still booming in the area. The paddle boats are out in force and a colorful cast of vendors from before the lake closed have repopulated its lovely new sidewalks, serving up a variety of Mexican corn, popsicles, street tacos, danger dogs and more.

Now if only the cafe can rearrange its tables to give them lakeside views.

Square One at Echo Park Lake, 751 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles.


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