It’s a tired story in Los Angeles: Neighborhoods dubbed the next big thing price old businesses and residents out, and then the process repeats in each adjacent area. But Historic Filipinotown has the potential to do things differently. Yes, it’s in an early but rapidly-progressing period of change. And yes, young chefs opening casual eateries have turned it into one of the city’s most exciting dining destinations. But right now there’s a sense of community and cultural identity that runs through HiFi that’s missing from most other evolving neighborhoods; pop into some of our favorite businesses and you might spot a postcard that highlights other Asian-American–owned restaurants in the area. It’s a neighborhood where traditional Filipino recipes feel at home next to ’90s hip-hop vibes, with a convergence of cultures that feels authentically L.A.
Though Filipino Americans first started opening businesses, churches and other organizations in the area in the mid 20th century, it was only officially dubbed Historic Filipinotown in 2002. The borders blur a bit depending on who you talk to since HiFi sits at the nexus of a few other neighborhoods: Echo Park, in particular, as well as Silver Lake, Westlake and Rampart Village. In general, though, it’s a safe bet to consider HiFi anything south of the 101 freeway and west of Glendale Boulevard; its southern border then follows Beverly Boulevard to that road’s intersection with Temple Street (you’ll find a sign just up the block from there marking its western gateway).
Wildly colorful murals and casual new eateries keep popping up here and there along otherwise unshowy stretches of Temple and Beverly, but you’ll find the most concentrated activity along two walkable blocks on opposite ends of the neighborhood: on the western edge, identifiable by the ever-changing artwork along Gabba Gallery’s exterior, and on the Echo Park Lake-abutting eastern edge, easily spotted by the oasis-like patio at Tribal Cafe and purple-painted, floral-fronted facade at Bloom & Plume.
We’ve picked out our favorite spots all across the neighborhood, including alleyways full of street art, a tour in a colorful jeep and a stop at one of the best bars in L.A.
No matter how tired you are, this charming bakery and café offers all-day fare that’ll energize you in no time. That’s not to say you won’t want to linger here—the plants and streaming natural light make it a comfy atmosphere for a slow start, too. Owner-baker Naomi Shim’s creative, seasonal pastries and desserts go great with Doubting Thomas’s killer lineup of pour-over coffees and specialty lattes. Looking for something more substantial? The casual but thoughtful—and locally sourced—menu of granola bowls, breakfast sandwiches and toasts should do the trick, and they’re all at the forefront of L.A.’s already-advanced café fare.
Once a month, you can hop aboard a 1944 Sarao Motors jeepney—a colorful, stretched-out jeep that’s one of the most ubiquitous modes of transportation in the Philippines—and immerse yourself in the story of Historic Filipinotown. Operated by the Pilipino Workers Center, the guided tour includes stops at mainstay Temple Seafood Market and Unidad Park, home to Eliseo Silva’s building-sized mural dedicated to the legacy of Filipino-Americans.
Run by the Concordia family, who’ve been mastering the art of BBQ for generations, the Park’s Finest spices up traditional American cuts with Filipino flavor, weaving coconut into BBQ sauce and 16-hour–smoked round top into a luscious adobo-like curry. Known for their “50% mom, 50% pop, 100% L.A.” mantra, this one-of-a-kind restuarant has grown from a small catering company (in 2009) to a popular eatery (since 2012), and a global destination. Come with a big group, because between the smoked and grilled meats and the heavenly, decadent sides (never skip the cornbread bibingka), you’re going to want to try it all.
Step into the Gabba Gallery to find an art lover’s dream as boldly colorful as the gallery’s ever-changing exterior. With artwork displayed across all disciplines—photography, street, design, collage and fine art—this contemporary gallery is a cultural haven that maintains eclectic cool while appealing to many.
Keep your art streak going and explore HiFi’s explosion of street art, part of a beautification project spearheaded by Gabba Gallery owner Jason Ostro. Head across Beverly Boulevard toward an unmarked alleyway off Dillon Street. You really can’t miss it: Every surface of this narrow stretch is completely covered in paint, with murals of polka dots, playful critters and superheroes; empty out onto the other side to find a floral-adorned ultrarealistic portrait.
This women-owned and -run cocktail bar is intimate, sleek and focused on gin, though that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find other, darker spirits, too. Rare and name-brand bottles alike make their way into one of L.A.’s best seasonal menus here, and even the most gin-averse visitors should at least sample a few of the infused libations, which incorporate green tea and even butterfly pea flower into gin for light, herbacious and complex notes in your cocktails.
Minh Phan’s gourmet, small-batch porridge is like a hug from the inside. Between long-simmered ingredients like soy-braised chicken and heirloom rice paired with delicate touches, the chef manages to spin bowls of homey comfort food into something truly artful and flower-topped. Her temple to funk, fermentation and simplicity has fast become a HiFi staple with its savory porridges, salads and pickles, plus the fried rice-flour “puffs” to scoop it all up. Just promise us that whatever you do, you won’t leave without the mochi cakes in caramel sauce.
This 1930s warehouse-turned-theater (aesthetically-pleasing exposed beam ceiling and all) fills most nights of its schedule with music, but also presents some curious surpises in dance, storytelling and even wrestling. Don’t miss the free Monday night residencies, which change up each month.
The first thing you notice about this casual spot from HiFi native Justin Foronda is the ’90s throwback theme: There’s old-school hip-hop playing, and there are VHS tapes, boomboxes and turntables dotting the space—it’s all a nod to the era that Foronda grew up in, a tiny marriage of then-and-now Historic Filipinotown. He does it in the rice bowls, too, replicating his Filipino-American recipes with a few modern twists. We love the straightforward lechon, but come on, how can we deny the vegan cauliflower la’ing with shrimpless “faux-go’ong”?
Blume & Plume is admirably, gorgeously, fantastically colorful in every way. Artist Maurice Harris expanded his successful, long-running florist shop to the café next door, where greenery spills over the doorway to the “drank ministry” of lattes, cortados, cappuccinos, matchas and more, and onto the tight menu of sandwiches and toasts. In the process of building one of the city’s cutest coffee shops, Harris also created one of the most welcoming, accepting and unapologetically Black spaces, one that feels more like a community that simply a spot to run in for a cup.
Dessert queen, celebrity chef and neighborhood champion Valerie Gordon opened her HiFi sweets shop more than a decade ago, and her pint-size Valerie outpost is just as much a boon to the community as ever. Peruse the extensive truffle selection to see Gordon’s beautiful handiwork, snag a slice of cake (or a whole one), or stop in for a pantry item or four (we’ll personally take 12 jars of seasonal jams, thank you very much). Her HiFi location also happens to sell our platonic ideal of baguette sandwiches: packed with artisanal, fresh, creative combinations, and all under $10 a pop.
Name a more iconic mother-and-son duo, we’ll wait. Keegan Fong whips up generational recipes from his mom, Julie—alias “Mama Fong”—in a casual, minimalist setting that matches the vibe of Woon’s to-the-point menu of Chinese classics. Speaking of to-the-point, we’ll get right to it: The pan-fried, homestyle beef noodles are chewy, nostalgic and one of the tastiest dishes in the neighborhood, best enjoyed with some pork-belly bao and some sake or a Hong Kong milk tea from the fridge. Don’t skip them (or really, anything else here).
Once you smell the grilled meat skewers from down the block, you know you’ve almost reached your destination: Bahay Kubo, HiFi’s old-school “turo-turo” (“point-point”) joint. What’s in a name? The method: Walk in, take a gander at the full spread of Filipino curries, adobos and skewers waiting on the hot bar, then point to what you’d like to have scooped over rice. There’s always a bevy of house-made Filipino baked goods, too, like biko, rainbow puto flan or maja blanca (and, oh yeah, halo-halo for dessert). Looking to snag some sisig for your party? Good news: This spot’s also a popular catering operation for the community and beyond.
The cool factor of Historic Filipinotown isn’t exactly a secret anymore, but somehow, one of the neighborhood’s coolest hangouts still is. Since 2010, the beer and wine bar—offering food from neighbor Tamales Alberto as well as live music—has been blessedly flying under the radar with quirky events like old-timey piano ragtime nights (never change) and a beverage list that spotlights California makers and indie global labels alike. Intimate, candlelit and casual, this is a bar that feels like home—tell your friends, but not too many friends, you know?
This longstanding bakery and café isn’t just a cornerstone of the community—it’s one of the best Cuban restaurants in the city. Jump in line for a blend of Salvadoran, Mexican and Cuban pastries, cakes and other sweets with a cup of café con leche, or opt for the all-day breakfasts, tamales, Cubanos, burgers, rice and beans, and maybe the best potato balls in town (yeah, you heard us, Porto’s).
Leave it to Eric and Mike Yi to do things the hard way; they certainly hope you will. Don’t be fooled by the minimalism of this Beverly Boulevard coffee shop—the brothers behind it go to great lengths to make Tactile special: They blend their own chai, they make all of their own syrups and they bake biscuits and bread in a tiny oven behind the counter. Whether you’re in the mood for molasses lattes, chai cream sodas, sandwiches piled with seasonal ingredients or a biscuit with house-made apple butter, you can tell that the Yis didn’t cut any corners. You can taste that they didn’t.
Anywhere advertising “FRIED CHICKEN” and “ICE COLD BEER” is just fine by us, but Crawford’s goes the extra mile to make a neighborhood dive that’s worth frequenting no matter your neighborhood. Red plastic baskets of fried chicken and sides contain two options—regular or Nashville-style hot—and there’s pie on hand, too, plus local and craft beer in addition to the usual sudsy subjects. Tuck into a booth or a stool at the bar to take it all in, or use it as fuel for another round of pool.