FROGTOWN

If your idea of LA is all Santa Monica Pier and stars on the Walk of Fame, you likely haven’t heard much about Frogtown. This northeast neighborhood, named for the red-legged frogs that used to live along the edges of the LA River and appeared in droves seasonally, is a small community of about 8,000 residents. It was also isolated from the rest of the city for much of the last five decades, boxed in by three freeways and the LA River.

But a recent $1 billion LA River restoration project has changed all that. It’s brought new development and attention to the small neighborhood along the river, intensified by the growing interest in nearby Atwater Village, Glassell Park, and Echo Park. Like so many other gentrifying areas, Frogtown wants nothing to do with terms like “hip” or “next hot neighborhood,” as longtime residents worry about the affordability and character of the community when people and money pour in.

For now, you can still walk the path along the river in relative quiet — and the neighborhood couldn’t be more pedestrian-friendly. Bicycle rentals abound, most businesses are located along the river’s bike path, and the size of it all makes it easy to get from one side of Frogtown to the other. And you’ll see a broad spectrum of folks in the neighborhood — Latino families, young artists, middle-aged white couples. There’s no Whole Foods, no $10-a-pop artisan juice bar. Community groups have managed to slow some of the development with new zoning laws. The re-discovery of the LA River has been an exciting shift in the city over the last few years.

So come enjoy a different view of Los Angeles, one beyond the sweeping panoramas you see in blockbuster films. Just don’t forget your bicycle.

Stop 1: Spoke Bicycle Cafe

This cafe started as a small bike shop and coffee stand, with the idea of creating a gathering spot for local bicyclists to eat and hang.

They recently expanded and re-opened with all day breakfast, outdoor seating, and a menu of local beers and cider kombucha (cuz OF COURSE). We were joined by two of our friends (one who moved to Frogtown last year and was psyched about exploring with us!), and ordered a diverse cross-section of the menu to share: a California chopped salad, farro bowl, breakfast toast, and a grilled cheese sandwich. The toast was a favorite — rustic sourdough with ricotta, pan-seared tomatoes and a sunny-side up egg.

Enjoy a cold beverage outdoors, rent a bike to traverse the neighborhood, or chow down with fellow bicyclists and neighbors.

(3050 N Coolidge Ave, Los Angeles)

Stop 2: The Frog Spot

We hopped on our bikes and rode about three minutes to our next stop: The Frog Spot. This riverfront cafe and visitors’ center is run by Friends of the LA River (FoLAR), the nonprofit organization leading the way for river revitalization. It’s the perfect place for a pitstop along the bike path: outdoor furniture for a quick rest, games to play (including a giant Connect 4!), free water, and snacks (the popsicles were popular on the hot summer day we visited). They also host live music some evenings.

(2825 Benedict Street, Los Angeles)

Stop 3: Cafecito Organico

This hipster-friendly, farmers’-market-favorite coffeeshop now has a pop-up in Frogtown — with the possibility of a more permanent space in the future. The espresso is always on point, and our iced lattes were much needed as temperatures surged past 95 degrees. In what could now be called “Frogtown-style,” the cafe has a counter in a small three-walled overhang, but the majority of seating is outdoors.

(At the intersection of Gilroy and Ripple, close to the LA River Bike Path)

Stop 4: The Left Bank

This charming resale and vintage shop has been in the family since 1969, when the current owner’s grandfather opened it as a tool shop. They’ve been part of the Frogtown community for decades, and the budget-conscious boutique has everything from artwork to books to jewelry to vintage t-shirts. We were especially enamored with the $5 rack outside, and the plethora of adorable earrings. Warm and welcoming owners were a huge plus — they even gave us restaurant recommendations!

(2479 Fletcher Drive, Los Angeles)

Stop 5: Salazar

A colorful and vibrant outdoor restaurant, Salazar is THE place to be in Frogtown at the moment. Known for its tacos and grilled Mexican meats as much as it is for the patio scene, the Southwestern vibes are strong on all fronts.

It was Sunday, it’s summer — so we ordered a michelada, a fresh pineapple jugo, a prickly pear margarita, and a Bloody Maria (a Bloody Mary but with TEQUILA).

The cocktails were divine and the tacos were just as good as everyone had raved, with spongey tortillas and smokey carne asada. With a beautiful and breezy patio, and 360 days of sunshine in LA, this is the place to spend long weekend afternoons.

(2490 Fletcher Drive, Los Angeles)

The Details:

The neighborhood is less than one-square-mile, and the bike path is the best way to get around. Bring your bicycle or rent one at Spoke Bicycle Cafe.

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