Harvey Guillén's Day Off in Echo Park Is a Melting Pot Experience
The ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ actor shows us his favorite Mexican-American joints and has our outfits judged by an actual cat.
Harvey Guillén likes the Los Angeles neighborhood Echo Park so much he's tempted to gatekeep it. "I almost don't want to tell everyone how great it is," the What We Do in the Shadows actor said in a recent interview with Thrillist. "Because then it'll just get full!"
Echo Park has everything Guillén could possibly want from a neighborhood. Deep-rooted culture and history? Check. A big Latinx community? Check. Queer activism landmarks? Also check. And of course, there is a vast selection of delicious Mexican restaurants and cafes that Guillén—a proud Mexican-American—swears by.
Guillén's Echo Park embodies both Mexican tradition and American transformation, and Guillén feels at home here. A true born-and-raised Angeleno with Mexican roots, he loves walking around the neighborhood knowing it carries such a rich history. Plus, some of his go-to spots include Americanized versions of authentic Mexican food—and he just loves it when both his cultures are combined together.
In our series "Ride With Me," Guillén guides us through the culture and community of Echo Park, spilling the tea on where to find the absolute best hard-shell tacos and giving us tips on his favorite thrifting store. Juicy burritos, mango and sticky rice desserts, and gorgeous Downtown LA views are just some of what makes Guillén's Echo Park so special—and we're ready to experience every piece of it.
So pack your bags and come with us—we're going to Echo Park.
Places to Eat & Drink
The "green salsa versus red salsa" debate isn't really one for Guillén. Green salsa just wins. At Los Burritos, a long-established Mexican restaurant, he definitely always adds green salsa to his tacos.
His favorite order? The hard-shell chicken taco. Don't get him wrong, he loves the authentic soft-shell tacos, but he does like a crunch. "For me, it's a combination of both traditional and Americanized," he said. "Which is kind of like me!"
At Sticky Rice, a Thai joint featuring an open-air bar, it's imperative that you try the curries. You can't go wrong, according to Guillén.
At the same time, it's tough for him to choose his favorite items because that always changes. Besides the curries, he highly recommends the spring rolls and Tom Yum Su. "On a cold day, that's the perfect thing to have for dinner," he said.
But don't settle the bill before trying the mango and sticky rice dessert. "That one's a great way to finish everything," he said. "Like a button piece!"
Tierra Mia Coffee
Cafe Tierra Mia is a treasure trove for caffeine fans and abstainers alike. One of Guillén's absolute favorites is the Chocolate Mexicano Frappe—a cold, blended drink with the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate—because it reminds him of his abuelita's hot chocolate he used to drink growing up.
Tierra Mia is a nostalgic and cozy spot for Guillén. It makes his mind travel back to his childhood, and he loves to sit down, sip on a drink, and do some writing by the window. "It has a really great actual booth by the window," he said. "And you can do [some] great people watching there."
The Black Cat
The Black Cat is a landmark in LA, and it paved the way for queer activism. "It was the first place that actually had LGBTQIA riots," Guillén recalled. "But it wasn't really publicized—so it was actually before Stonewall."
Plus, they have great cocktails and tapas. His go-to drink? The Moscow mule, which is served in the traditional copper cup and is super refreshing.
"Just being in that room is just so invigorating," said Guillén. "Just to know what has gone down and the people who've gone through those doors and have paved the way for people like me. I'm just happy that The Black Cat is still there and you can visit it!"
Things to Do
At thrift store Sunday's Best, the store cat—named Sunday—will judge your outfit. "If you pick something and they don't like it, they'll give you a look," Guillén warned.
Sunday's Best is his go-to store when he's looking for some good thrifting finds. One time, he even found a vintage Dior cardigan from the 1960s. Owned by his good friend Denisse and her partner Adriana, Sunday's Best is a major fashion destination for the Latinx community in Echo Park. "It's become a staple to those families who depend on it to clothe their whole family for the year," Guillén said.
Guillén shops at Sunday's Best for both himself and his What We Do in the Shadows character, Guillermo. "When I auditioned for the show, I went to Sunday's Best to pick out something to help me land the role because I was trying to envision what this character would look like," Guillén said. "Eventually, I did put pieces together that ended up being the palette for Guillermo."
The Swan Boats
If you're in the mood for some scenic exercise, pedaling away with the Swan Boats is what you need. And the view of Downtown LA from the lake is just majestic.
It's the perfect date spot, but maybe avoid it on a first date. To Guillén, it makes best for a second or third date, "where you're okay with sweating in front of the person!"