By Tori Barnao

Tori480x480To me, Echo Park represents the Eastside at its best, a diverse, colorful neighborhood full of energy, pop-up boutiques, amazing restaurants, coffee shops, inventive graffiti murals and lots of exciting real estate (with prices fast on the rise). Flanked by Silver Lake to the west and Downtown to the east, Echo Park is where I spend most of my days when not in New York, and it has a walkable, village feel not unlike Brooklyn.

I like to start my day by grabbing coffee at The Fix, a great local coffee shop tucked into a residential neighborhood, with a Modernist design and a large outdoor patio. They make a really nice single pour-over coffee with beans from Intelligentsia, Handsome and Verve, and serve a variety of fresh pastries from Susina and Breadbar. It's not unusual to see celebrities at this popular hangout.

For groceries, I’ll stop by Cookbook, on Echo Park Blvd. They’re your neighborhood green grocer, specializing in locally sourced veggies, fruit, poultry, lamb, beef, eggs and more. It's not a huge selection, but everything they have is of the highest quality and will get you through the staples. Their bread and cheese selection is fantastic. And one of my favorite perks is filling up empty bottles with their California Olive Oil – yes, bring in your empty bottle and they will fill them up!

When meeting up with friends or clients for lunch, I’m a big fan of Red Hill Restaurant. You can opt to sit at the kitchen bar if you like and watch them prepare your food (you might learn something, too). Red Hill has fresh pastas, decent portions, and they always carry at least a couple fish dishes.

If I want something more casual, El Prado usually does the trick. This wine bar on Sunset Avenue features a great selection of California wines and microbrews, which you can enjoy either inside or on their mini back patio. Owned by some of the same people who brought you Malo, Mas Malo, and The Echo, this place is intimate but at the same time, very, very cool. It’s right across the street from The Echo and The Echoplex, too, which makes it a great place to grab a drink before a live show.

For a fancier meal, check out Allumette. This farm-to-fork eatery – one of Los Angeles Magazine's 10 Best New Restaurants 2013 – features mouthwatering prix-fixe menus of inventive Californian cuisine, and chef Miles Thompson has a strong commitment to local, organic and sustainable ingredients. A word to the wise: make reservations well ahead of time, especially if you want to dine here Thursday, Friday or Saturday night.

Another Echo Park perk is all the festivals that take place in the neighborhood. From “Record Day” (celebrating vinyl – big in Echo Park) to “Culture Collide,” there’s plenty of community spirit here. Every summer I’ll spend at least one day at “The Echo Park Rising,” an all-ages outdoor music extravaganza that happens in August, featuring over 100 bands and DJs over a span of two days. It’s pretty incredible, especially for a free event.

For late-night drinks and weekend brunches alike, I’m really into Mohawk Bend. It's an all-California wine and spirits bar, and they have a full veggie kitchen, inventive desserts (try their S’mores), and an awesome NYC-style thin crust pizza with an LA twist. This crew also owns Golden Road Brewery and Two Boots pizza.

Exercising outdoors in LA can be tricky at times, but with Echo Park being nestled by hills, I can make my way over to Baxter Stairs to get my cardio in whenever I like. Baxter is one of the steepest streets in LA – as you climb the stairs you can actually see the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory. From the top of Baxter, you get that special Echo Park feeling, the city spread out before you, like you’re the middle of it all. Which you sort of are.


Tori Barnao's background in the restaurant business and entertainment industry provide his customers with a strong entrepreneurial attitude and interpersonal skills that result in a successful transaction for every client, from showing to closing. For the past 10 years, Tori has overseen dozens of remodels of high-end homes in both construction and design. His keen eye for architecture means that his clients will have a knowledgeable and experienced broker by their side when they choose to buy a home.