By Tracy Castillo
When foreigners, or even non Southern Californianers, hear someone mouth the word “Los Angeles”, their immediate thoughts are probably overtaken with images of palm trees and the Hollywood Hills, but there is actually much more to Los Angeles than the popular tourist attractions. Over the last decade, Los Angeles has created a large cultural hub that spans from countries and cities all over the world. There’s Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, and the list keeps going on and on. All of these hubs are filled with great cultural vibrancies consisting of great restaurants with native dishes, and stores stocked with the country’s native products. I am lucky enough to live in one of these cultural hubs just five miles north of campus, Echo Park.
Being in a situation in which I had to a find a home that did not require a one year lease, I ended having to look for housing outside the USC area and in the Echo Area area. Though I miss the convenience of living just a couple blocks from school, I enjoy living in this colorful neighborhood more. Echo Park is filled with taco trucks, coffee shops, and health food restaurants (seemingly on almost every corner). You may wonder what cultural category Echo Park falls into, but it doesn’t quite fir into any one box. I would say that it has a culture of its own, a Los Angeles culture where all walks of life have come together to respect and coexist within each other’s customs. For example, is it not uncommon to see a young artistic crowd patiently waiting to order authentic Mexican food from the taco truck camped out in front of the Ralphs’s, or a native Latino family walking into a vegan donut shop. These are instances that show how two very different sets of people are embracing each other’s customs.
So if you ever find yourself stumbling into Echo Park, here are some suggestions. If you want great inexpensive Mexican food, you must try the taco stand off of Alvarado St and Scott St. This stand is set up every evening in a vacant parking lot next to the Autozone. Here you will find a simple yet refined menu that can whip out anything from tacos to mulitas. If you’re curious to try an ever-popular vegan restaurant, Sage is the perfect one. Sage is an all vegan restaurant that serves everything from Biscuits & Gravy to a Cauliflower Steak Dinner and a Brownie Sundae, but don’t let the word, “vegan” scare you, trust me, it is all very tasty!
And after dining at Sage, you can walk down to Echo Park Lake and rent a peddling boat and float around the lake or you can hang out by the grassy patches and read a book, listen to music, or simply gaze at the lake.