For many Angelenos, a trip to Hollywood Boulevard might not seem like an ideal way to spend an afternoon. There’s the traffic. The tourist attractions. The selfie-stick-wielding tourists ...
But along the easternmost stretch of the iconic thoroughfare, past the throngs of out-of-towners, sits a diverse neighborhood that’s a must-visit for those looking to explore a less-heralded part of Los Angeles.
This mile-and-a-half-long section of Hollywood, east of the 101 Freeway overpass, cuts through Thai Town and Little Armenia, boasting a variety of regional Thai cuisine and long-standing Armenian bakeries and restaurants. In recent years, new bars, coffee shops and vintage clothing stores have popped up in the area, drawing an artier crowd similar to what you’d expect to find in nearby Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
The hipper businesses may be a sign of coming displacement, with a trio of residential developments planned near Barnsdall Art Park. But for now, at least, the area’s boxy strip malls remain home to hidden gems both old and new.
Noon: Start your trip in the heart of Thai Town at Sapp Coffee Shop at 5183 Hollywood Blvd., a restaurant the onetime Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold described as serving “Thai food cooked for people who eat Thai food every day.”
The unassuming cash-only spot is best known for its boat noodle soup, a dish Gold called a “funky, spicy, glowing compendium of beef broth, ground blood and offal,” adding that it may have been his favorite dish in Thai Town. (The soup can be ordered sans innards.)
Another favorite is the jade noodles, made with puréed spinach and topped with barbecued pork, duck and crab meat.
12:45 p.m.: Next, make your way a couple of blocks west to Bhan Kanom Thai, a Thai dessert store at 5271 Hollywood Blvd. Order the kanom bueng, crispy street crepes made with rice flour and meringue and topped with either sweet fried egg yolk (yellow) or shredded coconut and shrimp (orange).
The traditional snacks are cooked fresh each day over a large skillet at the family-owned shop, which also sells Thai sweets including mango sticky rice and kanom krok, a coconut-rice pancake.
1:15 p.m.: As you eat, walk west a few more blocks to Junior High, an art gallery at 5656 Hollywood Blvd. that showcases the work of women, people of color, and queer and gender-nonconforming artists. L.A.-based illustrator and designer Faye Orlove opened the volunteer-run gallery in 2016. The space hosts weekly events and workshops in addition to publishing a quarterly magazine featuring conversations with artists and activists.
“We foster a community for young and marginalized artists by prioritizing their safety, expression and work,” Orlove said in an email.
The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.
2 p.m.: Your next stop, Paradise City Records & Stuff, is about a mile east at 5009 Hollywood Blvd. If you’ve had enough walking for the day, hop on the bus or in your car, order a rideshare or grab an e-scooter and head to the record shop, which opened this spring.
The store offers an impressive vinyl selection aimed at both collectors and DJs. It features curated hip-hop and library music sections as well as more obscure genres, including Italian disco and Japanese city pop.
In addition to vinyl, Paradise sells vintage collectibles such as still-boxed Star Wars figurines, back issues of Heavy Metal magazine, Super Nintendo cartridges, and VHS copies of “Heat” and “Blade Runner.”
“I want it to be like nerd heaven,” said co-owner Brian Smith.
2:45 p.m.: For your final stop, walk a few blocks east to Barnsdall Park atop Olive Hill at 4800 Hollywood Blvd. to take a tour of Los Angeles’ first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hollyhock House, which was awarded the designation in July, was designed by seminal 20th century architect Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1921. Drawing inspiration from pre-Columbian designs, the striking concrete residence set the stage for modern architecture in L.A.
Tickets are available Thursday through Sunday for guided and self-guided tours. After the tour, lounge awhile on the front lawn to enjoy one of the best views of the Hollywood Hills in the city.