Vintage Shops and Cool Cafes Abound in This Oft-Overlooked Enclave of LA
Frogtown is the affectionate moniker for the Elysian Valley village that hosts a thriving and creative community. It’s home to some of the coolest under-the-radar shops, restaurants, galleries, and hangouts this side of the Hollywood sign. From modest cafes to an ever-expanding selection of funky eateries, it’s easy to munch your way through the eclectic menus that comprise the local food scene and enjoy the artistic flair that makes this neighborhood that runs along the Los Angeles River truly unique. Centered around a shared desire to do good—for the body, the greater community and the planet—this tight-knit, like-minded colony of visionaries converges on principles of wellness and sustainability. With so much to explore, consider this your official guide to Frogtown in Los Angeles.
Spoke Bicycle Cafe offers both a technical fix for your 10 speed and a full menu to fix those hunger pangs. What began in 2015 as a traditional bike shop (conveniently located along the LA River Bike Path) that also featured local events on the weekends, has blossomed into a full-service restaurant for the breakfast and lunch crowd. From classic toasts and scrambles to tacos, salads and burgers, this is the perfect pit stop for fueling up before a day on the trails.
Here to perfect the art of the sandwich is Wax Paper—a small but mighty sandwich shop with a meticulously designed menu that includes freshly baked local bread that’s delivered daily. Operated by a husband and wife duo, each of the 14 sandwiches, curiously named in honor of various NPR and public broadcast radio hosts, is carefully crafted and overseen by a team of 12 (who politely decline requests for modifications or substitutions). Pro tip: Be sure to come early to stake your claim because the entire menu has been known to sell out in a day.
When it comes time to slug down some suds, head on over to Frogtown Brewery. With a perpetually rotating selection of beers on tap, this independent craft brewery and taproom offers a curated collection for sampling to suit an array of tastes—from light and hoppy to dark and malty. Taste something familiar? Many favorite flavors are distributed to popular restaurants across Southern California, including appearances at food truck pop-ups around the city (check the schedule online to plan ahead). Hard seltzers and non-alcoholic options are also available for those seeking traditional brew alternatives.11/21
Those in search of a more elevated dining experience will adore Loreto—a celebration of seafood that pays homage to the flavors of the Californian peninsula. The Barra de Peninsula offers a selection of south-of-the-border fare, including ceviches and tostadas, botanas and zarandeados (a Mexican fish dish that literally means “shaken or disarranged” due to its unique style and presentation). Also expect plenty of shrimp, clams, scallops and yellowtail, among other Baja-style must-trys. Slide over to the sleek bar for some sublime sips, or reserve a red corner booth in the chicly minimalist dining room.
For all of you vegans who love a good pun, this hip bakery is for you! Conceived by Justine Hernandez of Highland Park, this shop hits the sweet spot with proudly produced vegan and gluten-free pastries, bagels, sandwiches, cookies, cakes and other unique and seasonal goodies. Reimagining classic confections by eliminating animal byproducts, Hernandez’s creations are both artfully imaginative and full of flavor—no easy feat. From deconstructed, fruit-festooned flat cakes to frosting-filled triple deckers, nothing is out of reach for this full-fledged baking dynamo and her team.
Since 2012, this delightful shop (backed by fierce female founder Jacqueline Goodman-Lean, who opened in the same space as her late grandfather’s tool shop) has been offering fun gifts and housewares that won’t break the bank. Replenished daily, the inventory includes everything from apothecary candles and stoneware espresso cups to Turkish throw blankets, gua sha facial massage stones, incense, French soaps and gourmet chocolate—and all items typically run for less than $40. You can also purchase directly from Instagram, while a clothing consignment arm allows you to drop off your unwanted wearables approved for resale with a cash payout. Score!
Next stop: home refresh! If you’re looking for some decor inspiration, stop by Suay Sew Shop to peruse the high-quality revitalized home goods. Besides being colorful and creative, everything is crafted with deadstock textiles (aka the surplus material that isn’t used or sold) to encourage repurposing and sustainability. Living under the mantra “Pillows for the People,” you can shop for festive throw pillows, floor cushions, quilts and bedding in fun styles, huggable fabrics and eclectic patterns. Even more interesting: A monthly community dye bath allows folks to bring in stained or otherwise discolored clothing and fabrics for a material makeover. Choose from the monthly selection of available hues and dyes, and you can give your designer duds a full color overhaul!
Bike Along the LA River Trail
Grab your best two-wheeler, or rent one at one of the local Frogtown bike shops, and get ready for a day of hitting the trails. Clocking in at just under 10 miles, the Los Angeles River Trail runs parallel to—you guessed it—the LA River. This picturesque path is classified as not difficult in terms of terrain and elevation, so riders of all experience levels can enjoy a leisurely lap along the peaceful river; it’s a rare patch of nature within the bustling metropolis that is the city of Los Angeles. If walking is more your thing, grab your pals for a stroll or leash up the pups and make it a family affair.
Join fellow Frogtown residents and local vendors for an afternoon of cruising the abundance of eclectic wares on display. Get to know the community and mingle with more than 100 artisans and makers, where you’ll find everything from repurposed clothing, innovative artwork, vintage trinkets and nostalgia, fresh fare and baked goods, and local delicacies from surrounding eateries. No matter what you’re looking for (or even if you’re looking for nothing at all), you’re sure to walk away with some unexpected treasures!
Keep that zen feeling flowing and pop into Roam Meditation Center for a session of deep mind cleansing. Led by expert teachers, the guided group classes focus on wellness and mindfulness, aiming to declutter those pestering thoughts and leave you feeling blessed and refreshed. Yoga for all levels (both introductory and advanced practice) is also a great option for keeping muscles feeling fresh and flexible. Dive into your best downward dog or strike some new poses to treat tired tissue and keep your body and mind aligned. Want more? Work with an instructor for specialty bodywork, including Reiki, breath work, cupping, energy therapy and more to offer your body whatever it’s craving.
Based in Los Angeles, Kandace has spent the past ten years in the fashion and lifestyle space, and recently in entertainment at Sony Pictures Studios. She has a Masters in Journalism from Emerson College and has studied in Paris, Firenze, and Washington DC, beginning her career as a style editor and tastemaker for NBC. She is an internationally award-winning filmmaker, having studied screenwriting for film and television at UCLA, and her work has been celebrated around the world, in cities like London, Nice, New York, and Montréal. Paying homage to her French heritage, she is also the creator of The Chic American--a style and culture editorial destination for Francophiles, dedicated to the art of living an elevated, French-inspired lifestyle.