L.A.'s hottest new neighborhood is an old friend

Los Angeles' Westside wasn't always the center of the world.There was a time when its beach communities were just for weekendgetaways, while the rich and famous resided in communities like LosFeliz, conveniently close to studios. Today, Los Feliz is comingback into its own.

Los Feliz sits just below Griffith Park in the eastern Hollywoodhills. Shooting south off Los Feliz Boulevard are Vermont andHillhurst Avenues, the neighborhood's two major shopping and diningstreets.

"I like to think of it as a bohemian Larchmont Village," saysMichael Moore, the spiky-haired owner of retro Hollywood HillsRestaurant ($$; dinner daily, brunch Sat-Sun; 1745 N. Vermont Ave.;323/661-3319), referring to the stretch of Vermont where hemoved his restaurant two years ago. Inside, red vinyl booths arefilled with young, pierced Angelenos finishing scripts and chuggingcoffee.

Other additions to the restaurant scene include Electric Lotus ($$; 1870 N. Vermont; 323/953-0040), serving Indian cuisineand the sounds of world music, and Fred 62 ($; 1850 N. Vermont; 323/667-0062), a mint green cornerdiner serving dishes like the No Animal Burger and Mac Daddy &Cheese Balls.

Shops along Vermont vary from alternative to sophisticated.Xlarge (1768 N. Vermont; 323/666-3483) hawks men's and women'sclothing; Show (closed Mon-Tue; 1722 N. Vermont; 323/644-1960)displays designer housewares. Farther north, Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont; 323/660-1175) offers a good choice ofbooks, plus author signings and discussions on L.A. history.

As for nightlife, choosing the best spot in Los Feliz stirs upcontroversy. Lounge lizards love the Dresden Restaurant (1760 N. Vermont; 323/665-4294), where quirky duo Marty& Elayne have been drawing crowds for 20 years. Hepcats votefor the Derby (4500 Los Feliz Blvd.; 323/663-8979), ground zero for theswing-dance revival of the late '90s. Take your pick: You'll havefun either way.

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