Dylan Recommends: The Figueroa Corridor

February 16, 2018
- Extracurriculars
Author - Dylan King

Back by popular demand, Dylan King—Funkhaus Project Manager and in-house connoisseur of LA’s finest—brings us his next rendition of Dylan Recommends.

Once considered the longest street in the United States, Figueroa Street runs from the edge of Pasadena all the way to the beach, passing through nearly every subsection of the Los Angeles sprawl along the way. Most recently, North Figueroa street in Highland Park has been experiencing a complete transformational renaissance, displacing the long-forgotten camera repair shops and re-purposed bowling alleys to deliver some of the most interesting food, shopping, and entertainment in East Los Angeles.

Here are four hits and a miss from this rapidly changing area.

The Hits

1. Afters Ice Cream

Hailing from Pasadena, Afters has firmly entrenched themselves in the Highland Park scene, giving some strong competition to Scoops. Afters has an incredible array of flavors to sate even the most scrupulous ice cream aficionado. To bolster their street cred, they sell a range of tongue-in-cheek t-shirts riffing on the logos of popular streetwear tycoons from Off White to Palace.

Their flavor selection is truly a delight, and the results are equally so—and while their design and decor definitely cater to the Instagram crowd, it is not without substance. They are creative without resorting to a gimmick, and still offer solid basics like Oatmeal Cookie Dough—which is so good, you (I) can’t stop at one scoop—and Mint Chocolate Chip to go alongside their Milk and Cereal and Cookie Monster flavors. Plus, they take credit cards: something that Scoops (somehow) still lacks in 2018.

2. Highland Park Theater

My favorite American pastime has to be going to see a movie, and I have an unspeakably strong affinity for the local multiplex. In my former days, I loved the dilapidated charm of the Vista and Los Feliz 3, and have found the same at The Highland Park Theater.

It’s not fancy, but there’s a soul in there that is sorely lacking from the big chain theaters, which then trickles down to a true community film-viewing experience. My first time here was by myself on a weekday to see 2017s Get Out and it has gone down as one of the best movie-watchings I’ve ever had. The audience was engaged and responsive and it felt like I was watching with 100 of my closest friends. Since then, I’ve seen a good dozen films here and have enjoyed each like it was my very first time. 

While Highland Park Theater doesn’t gravitate toward the indie films like the Laemmle or Arclight, they do have fair ticket prices that don’t leave you feeling gouged, and they also have all the popcorn your little heart can take. Catch me there this weekend when I sneak a bottle of Pinot Grigio in to watch Fifty Shades Freed, unapologetically shoveling popcorn into my maw.

3. Tinfoil Liquor

My first week living in Highland Park, I frantically called a friend and long-time Highland Park resident in a bid to find a nice bottle of whiskey to bring to a birthday party. Unfortunately, at the time, the best I could find was a dusty bottle of Gentleman Jack. Despondent, I accepted my fate and made the long (7 minute) trek to Pasadena to Everson Royce. This trip would become all too familiar to me for the next few years as I patiently waited for a local solution.

Much to my delight, Tinfoil Liquor swooped in to fill the void in my rye-soaked soul. Taking residence in Coldest, the rundown liquor store that didn’t card in high school, Tinfoil has brought an incredible selection of hand-picked / hand-made whiskeys (Noah’s Mill Bourbon is a must), incredible local craft beer, and various sundries and snacks. They were even there in my darkest hour when I needed an emergency bottle of Chartreuse while hosting a cocktail party.

To make this deal even sweeter, they have a not-so-secret deli hidden behind an “Employees Only” sign. Get a pound of their pastrami and then thank me later.

4. The Quiet Life

Longtime Highland Park denizen Andy Mueller started The Quiet Life in 1997 with nothing but a dream and a few t-shirts. Slowly, he has made the transition from burgeoning indie designer to a veritable force in the fashion scene, all the while championing his Midwest roots. Quirky designs with a sense of humor, The Quiet Life has expanded enough to open their first retail store right on Figueroa. 

Inside, you’ll find all the dad hats, printed t-shirts, and interesting collaborations you could hope for, as well as a healthy collection of enamel pins and patterned socks. There are also amazing little details, like the screen-printed drop cloth that was used during painting that has been repurposed into cozy couch cushions.

As a brand, The Quiet Life has always been one of my underdog favorites, and as a person, Andy comes second to none. Check out their store and if nothing else, get yourself a Highland Park pennant so the world knows you’re rooting for the home team.

The Miss

5. Triple Beam Pizza
When I first heard that Nancy Silverton was teaming up with Matt Molina to open a pay-per-ounce pizza parlor in my neck of the woods, I was ecstatic. Combined with the fact that they were attaching themselves to longstanding fan-favorite Silver Lake Wine, it seemed like I would never again have to leave the comfort of my mile radius: everything I needed to eat, drink, or watch was all within walking distance. After a few false starts (and missed openings), I finally had a chance to try it this weekend.

The waitstaff was incredible friendly, and the wait itself was more than manageable, but the slices themselves were a big miss. Along with running out of the one pie I was determined to try on recommendation of a well-placed source, the price-per-ounce model is fairly misleading. As this was a late-lunch/post-brunch taste test, I opted for two hand-sized slices (Margherita and Sausage) only to get slapped with a $14 bill.

After being rung up, I assumed that my eyes were indeed larger than my stomach, but that hardly rang true. More importantly, the pizza somehow went from a tantalizing raft of crispy dough and melty cheese to a congealed lukewarm soggy slab of bread in the mere minute it took for me to take my seat and pull out a napkin. Apparently the gimmick is to serve “room temperature” pizza just like they do in “Rome” but I think that’s “gross.”

I’m hoping that these missteps were merely the result of a first-weekend opening, but unlike the lauded Jonathan Gold, I don’t have the patience or the opportunity to try a location multiple times before putting in my review. And with The Town Pizza, home of the best slices on the East Side, mere blocks away, I’m not immediately pressed to return.