Stroll around Highland Park these days and you’ll see how this onetime sleepy family neighborhood rocketed to a hipster haven, edging out Silver Lake, that other hip hood.
Stories have been written about soaring rent prices driving out mom-and-pop Latino-owned businesses in favor of high-end boutiques, cafes and yoga studios.
It’s all true, but there’s still much that’s authentic, especially along North Figueroa Street, such as the Highland Theatre. which opened in 1925 as a vaudeville house.
Much of the vintage decor inside the Moorish-style building remains, and the iconic rooftop sign still looms large, but now the venue is a place to catch a popular movie at a budget price.
Know this: Highland Park is no less culturally and artistically interesting than before the hipsters moved in.
Noon: Start your tour at the Prohibition-era building that’s now the Highland Park Bowl at 5621 N. Figueroa St. Built in 1927, the structure in 1966 became a music venue called Mr. T’s Bowl. After renovation it reopened in 2016 as a bowling alley.
Sip cocktails and order a bite before bowling on lanes made of wood from the 1920s. Pay attention to other finishing touches, such as chandeliers made from repurposed pinsetters, vintage bowling photos and old-school banners.
Be sure to reserve a lane in advance. For savings, book a lane from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays for a discounted rate of $25 an hour.
1:30 p.m.: Head across the street and snap a selfie with Chicken Boy, a 22-foot-tall fiberglass statue dating to the 1960s that is perched atop the Future Studio Gallery.
Then enjoy a snack at La Palapa at 5560 N. Figueroa St., which has been in the neighborhood for nearly 20 years. It serves bionicos, the popular Mexican fruit salad topped with granola and cream; raspados; and numerous other munchies for less than $10.
Owner Cesar Valle said he’s watched the neighborhood change dramatically in recent years. “Business is a little low because a lot of my customers moved,” he said. “I hope I’m still here for more years.”
1:45 p.m.: Now it’s time to (window) shop till you drop. Walk a few blocks northeast down North Figueroa Street, stopping in boutiques including Charlie Roquette, a curated vintage store, and the Owl Bureau bookstore.
Peruse bins of obscure vinyl at Gimme Gimme Records, and let your nose be the guide at Wild Terra, a community apothecary offering bulk herbs, teas and spices.
2:30 p.m.: Relax for a bit on the large patio at Triple Beam Pizza, a pay-by-the-ounce, Roman-style pizzeria at 5918 N. Figueroa St. that also offers wine and beer. Measure out the size of your slice using your hands. Most pizzas are about $1 per ounce, and the average slice of pizza is about 4 ounces.
3:30 p.m.: Walk across the street and head southwest back toward Highland Park Bowl to meander through more shops, such as the Juicy Leaf, which sells designer terrariums and succulent arrangements, and Prelude & Dawn, an apparel-handmade goods boutique.
3:50 p.m.: If you’re still hungry (and even if you’re not), don’t miss popping into Delicias Bakery & Some, a traditional Mexican panaderia at 5567 N. Figueroa St. owned and operated by the same family for nearly 30 years. Fill up your tray with pan dulce — there are even vegan options by the register — and take home a snack for later.
Fill up your tray with pan dulce — there are even vegan options by the register — and take home a snack for later.