Happy in Los Feliz

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

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

Los Feliz sits just below Griffith Park in the eastern Hollywood hills. Shooting south off Los Feliz Boulevard are Vermont and Hillhurst Avenues, the neighborhood's two major shopping and dining streets.

"I like to think of it as a bohemian Larchmont Village," says Michael Moore, the spiky-haired owner of retro Hollywood Hills Restaurant ($$; dinner daily, brunch Sat-Sun; 1745 N. Vermont Ave.; 323/661-3319), referring to the stretch of Vermont where he moved his restaurant two years ago. Inside, red vinyl booths are filled with young, pierced Angelenos finishing scripts and chugging coffee.

Other additions to the restaurant scene include Electric Lotus ($$; 1870 N. Vermont; 323/953-0040), serving Indian cuisine and the sounds of world music, and Fred 62 ($; 1850 N. Vermont; 323/667-0062), a mint green corner diner 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's clothing; 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 of books, plus author signings and discussions on L.A. history.

As for nightlife, choosing the best spot in Los Feliz stirs up controversy. 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 vote for the Derby (4500 Los Feliz Blvd.; 323/663-8979), ground zero for the swing-dance revival of the late '90s. Take your pick: You'll have fun either way.