In honor of our new VICE Guide to Los Angeles, we asked some LA-based musicians, artists, and generally cool folks to act as our virtual tour guides and fill us in on the best spots in the city. This time, we hit up pro skater Don Nguyen to talk about his favorite neighborhood, Silver Lake.
VICE: How long have you lived in Silver Lake?
Don Nguyen: Two years. I've kind of lived everywhere in LA. I think this is my favorite place so far. The neighborhood is just awesome. It's really dog friendly. We have a lot of dogs at the house. There's a lot of shops and coffee places and bars and restaurants in the neighborhood that you can just walk to.
How many dogs do you have?
I have one, but I have two roommates and they have dogs. So there's three dogs at the house.
Do you have dog parties?
Yeah, we have dog parties. And a lot of dogs come over because a lot of our friends have dogs. They know it's a good place cause there's a huge yard in the back so they can all mesh and hang out.
Where should you go if you have a dog?
In Silver Lake you can walk around the reservoir that the neighborhood is named after. The lake itself is actually gone now, but there's a dog park right there. And right down the street from there is Echo Park lake, and you can walk around that, too. During the summer, it just goes off. People BBQ and there's a huge area where you can just chill, picnic, do whatever. Dogs running around everywhere.
What neighborhood spot do you recommend to first time visitors?
Restaurant wise, I go to Cafe Stella a lot, and across the street Black Cat. And they both have bars in them, good food and good drinks. Solid vibes.
There's this other place down the street, this small place called Tiki Ti—it's only open Wednesday to Saturday, and it's family owned. It's really tiny. They serve Hawaiian drinks, a lot of fancy cocktails. They come in coconuts and shit, you know?
What are your favorite places to eat?
I always go to Blossom, it's a Vietnamese spot right down the street, like I can just bomb the hill to it in one second. Down the street from that, there's Silverlake Ramen, that's really good too.
Cafe Stella has really, really good breakfast and brunch—Sunday hangover style. There's a benedict that I get there—but instead of being served on an english muffin, it's on a nest of hash browns. It's insane and comes with poached eggs, bacon, avocado toast, and a mimosa and coffee.
Describe the vibe of the people you'll meet in Silver Lake.
There's a lot of young people. It's a great, friendly neighborhood. I walk my dog and everybody's really nice—they say hello. It's not super fake, the way it's made out to be. I know all my neighbors. It's pretty rad.
What do you think is the most distinctive characteristic of Silver Lake?
The art scene is really going off, with young people doing their crafts. There are a lot of artists, musicians, and skateboarders around here too. Everybody's trying to have a good time and make a living. I feel really inspired just living around here—I like waking up and getting out of my house to do stuff because everyone is out thriving.
What's the best thing you can do in Silver Lake for free?
Sunset in the hills. The sunset vibes up there are so sick. There's a good solid view off my porch. There's a good sunset every night.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood character?
There's this one guy—he's RIP now, sad to say—but he used to cruise on a bike and we'd just skate around. He's an older dude, I think his name was Dwayne? He used to always ride his bike around everywhere, and would always stop to watch us skate. He got hit by a car on his bike, but he is a legend. They hung up his bike in the parking lot at Stella's. It's a gold bike in his memory.
Is there anywhere you like to drink or party?
I like Stella the most, and it's connected to Bar Stella. It's the perfect spot to eat and then you have the bar right next door. They make really good drinks there. They got those giant rocks, so when you order whiskey it's like one giant cube—it's the best thing ever.
I go to Black Cat a lot. And then Bar Black, which is right down the street. It's where all the skaters go and it's owned by a bunch of friends. That's home base pretty much. Every now and again they'll have a guest bartender come by. Me and my other homie did a guest bartending spot there last night. It's pretty fun.
Check out more from the VICE Guide to Los Angeles.