Frogtown has been an “up and coming” neighborhood since at least 2014, when big-name artists Mark Grotjahn and Shepard Fairey moved their studios into the tiny riverside community.
At that time, the hype was a little premature, given that there were few retail businesses operating in the area. But along with a $3.2 million transformation of nearby Marsh Park and the approval of a luxury housing development, it was a sign of things to come. Three years later, after several new openings including indie venue and Brooklyn transplant Zebulon, and with more on the way, there’s a new wave of hype for Frogtown in 2017.
If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. You may have driven by the odd collection of warehouses and suburban homes wedged between the LA River and the freeway behind Silver Lake, but if you blinked, you probably missed it. Originally named Elysian Valley, it became known as Frogtown in honor of the amphibians that would invade its streets during the rain.
Frogtown’s days as a hidden enclave are long gone. With an eclectic collection of art and performance spaces, cafes, restaurants, and community centers, it’s more or less become an extension of nearby Echo Park and Silver Lake. If you’re keen to see what the hype is about, here are seven reasons to visit Frogtown.
Zebulon’s opening night set the tone for things to come with a performance by legendary New York psychedelic outfit Endless Boogie. The venue is open daily from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and features a bar area, an outdoor dining patio, and a dedicated performance space focused on indie and electronic acts. Zebulon has also partnered with Cinefamily to bring retro and art house cinema over to the East Side.
Clockshop was founded in 2004 by filmmaker Julia Meltzer as an artist-run organization, and regularly hosts literary readings, book launches, music, and performances in their Bowtie space in Frogtown and along the LA River. Previous events have included everything from chamber music to poetry and even a performance for “three parked cars.”
Founded by husband and wife duo Lauren and Peter Lemos in 2015, Wax Paper is a tiny sandwich shop with a focus on gourmet baguettes. The duo knows their way around a sandwich, bringing experience from LA establishments like SPQR, Étoile, L&E Oyster Bar, the Ace Hotel, and Sweet Lady Jane. As a bonus, everything is made from scratch daily.
Be warned: Salazar has topped many local best-of lists, so you may be in for a long wait if you show up without a reservation. The core of the up-market Mexican menu is tacos and mesquite-grilled meats, but the real treat is sitting in the garden dining area on a warm LA night with a margarita.
Frog Spot is an initiative of Friend of the LA River, a nonprofit that has been advocating for a “publically accessible and ecologically sustainable” river since it was founded by LA poet Lewis MacAdams in 1986. This riverfront outreach center is designed to provide education through entertainment, and features a weekend bar, live music and events, LA River tours, and yoga and meditation classes.
It might be a pipe dream to get Angelenos to give up their cars, but that’s not stopping Spoke Bicycle Cafe from trying. Founded in 2015, it claims to be the first cafe/bike shop in LA. While the space is specially designed for cyclists who come via the riverside bike path, you won’t be turned away if you arrive on foot (although they do discourage motorized forms of transport). The cafe boasts a sunny outdoor space that regularly hosts live music and a sustainable menu featuring burgers, breakfast, healthy salad bowls, and a selection of local beers and wines.
Frogtown Brewery is a relative newcomer to the LA craft brewing scene, but even though it only opened in 2016, it has already made a name for itself. The interior has a no-frills warehouse vibe, because the focus here is on quality brews. The brewery is open to the public from Friday through Sunday, with rotating seasonal and experimental brews mixed in with Frogtown staples. Oh yeah, and you can bring your dog along.