The Ultimate Guide to Highland Park’s York Boulevard

A melting pot of Latinx cultures, get to know this bustling NELA strip on foot.

Image by Grace Han for Thrillist
Image by Grace Han for Thrillist

Bordered by the Arroyo Seco and wedged between Eagle Rock and Pasadena, Highland Park was annexed to the city in 1895, making it one of LA’s earliest suburbs. It attracted creators and visionaries from the start. At the turn of the century, writers, intellectuals, and artists of the Arts and Crafts movement called the area home and helped build the Craftsman-style homes that came to define the neighborhood. Their creative legacy and bohemian spirit are still very much alive today—with one of the West Coast’s oldest liberal arts schools, Occidental College, located just off York Boulevard, which has long served as the main thoroughfare and nexus of the neighborhood.

The latter half of the century spurred a major demographic shift; as other suburbs developed, white families moved out and Mexican-American families moved in. The ‘70s sprouted an exciting Chicano arts movement in Highland Park, while civil conflicts in Central America during the ‘80s drew Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Honduran, and Nicaraguan immigrants. As these first-generation newcomers lived and worked alongside more established Mexican-American residents, a dynamic, flourishing, and tight-knit Latinx metropolis began to take shape—one whose cultures, customs, and perspectives are still deeply embedded in this vibrant Northeast LA community.

Rich in history, art, architecture, and great food, this progressive neighborhood has always maintained a culturally significant identity in LA. It continues to serve as a hub for advocacy and community involvement too.

“York is a breeding ground for activism, with anti-gentrification demonstrations, Black Lives Matter protests, and festivals raising awareness about anti-Asian hate taking place on the street in the past,” said former Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council President Estrella Sainburg.

As development reshapes York and its neighboring streets, some residents—like homegrown restaurateur Gabriel Paredes of Nativo—chafe against the displacement of long-established locals who feel priced out of their homes and Highland Park’s newly minted reputation as a hipster haven. “We were here when there was a lot of gang violence, when it was considered a ‘bad’ city to some,” Paredes explained. “We gave back to the community and helped the youth. Now that Highland Park is nice, shiny, and attractive, [some] forget that there were people who worked hard to make it into what they perceive to be ‘hip.’”

York Blvd | Tiffany Tse

In large part thanks to people like Paredes and Highland Park Chamber of Commerce President Yolanda Nogueira, there’s more desire than ever to preserve the neighborhood’s heart and soul. Nogueira, who created the El Mercado York Village Arts & Craft Festival to honor traditional Mexican-American and Chicanx cultures, says neighbors come together and look out for each other. “What I love most is how our long-standing mom-and-pop businesses are still thriving alongside the new,” she remarked.

Fortunately, many of Highland Park’s newer entrepreneurs are committed to enriching the community—whether by hiring locals, collaborating with youth programs, or giving back. Taiwanese restaurant Joy pays homage to its previous tenant, a fabled fixture called Elsa’s Bakery, by baking Mexican wedding cookies and donating proceeds from sales to Highland Park-based nonprofits or the greater NELA area. Local watering hole The York supports schools and libraries in the neighborhood, including funding the Arroyo Seco Regional Library’s summer reading program.

Thanks to initiatives like these, York Boulevard remains an eclectic thoroughfare where everything—from auto repair shots to street murals, Mexican mini markets, vegan sports bars, record stores, and more—seems to converge. The street is walkable urban gold, greeting you with possibilities around every corner.

Covering approximately eight blocks from Avenue 50 to 57, we’ve compiled 20 of our favorite food trucks, restaurants, shops, and watering holes to check out on your York walking tour. As you stroll down this iconic stretch, you’ll be sure to stumble upon even more gems—which is, of course, the beauty of exploring LA on foot.

Parking: Free street parking.
How to Get There: Highland Park Station is served by the Metro L Line (formerly known as Gold). Head to Figueroa to jump on the 182 toward East Hollywood.

kumquat coffee kiosk
Photo courtesy of Kumquat Coffee

4936 York Blvd.
Fuel up at this sleek space, which brews a range of Asian-inflected espresso drinks at the perfect temp and texture: Hong Kong milk tea, a hojicha latte, and a cloud-like beverage of espresso poured over cold milk and crowned with peanut butter foam—sort of like a Snickers bar dressed as coffee. If you feel like making a cup at home, their bagged beans are curated from hard-to-find and unique roasters like Seoul-based Fritz Coffee and Osaka-stationed Lilo Coffee.

marionette theater
Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber

4949 York Blvd.
Named an official Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, this charming theater honors and preserves the art of puppetry. Founded in 1963 near downtown, it moved to Highland Park in 2014, where it continued producing original entertainment for families and children. The theater pivoted to offer Zoom performances during the pandemic, but live, in-person shows resumed at the end of July.

sip snack interior
Photo by Tiffany Tse for Thrillist

5003 York Blvd.
An airy neighborhood corner store that curates your favorite brand of oat milk, gluten-free crackers, and coconut oil, Sip Snack is like LA’s answer to the bodega. Every Saturday, it offers a seasonal farmers market produce box, farm-fresh eggs, and bread, alongside its usual assortment of pantry staples and snacks sourced from indie producers and local brands.

Cafe de Leche exterior
Photo courtesy of Cafe de Leche

5000 York Blvd.
Housed in the building that appears in the famous Reservoir Dogs shootout scene, Café de Leche is considered one of Northeast LA’s first specialty coffee shops and small-batch roasters. Since opening their doors in 2008, owners Matthew and Anya Schodorf (Anya hails from Nicaragua, which inspired the name of the shop) have served horchata con espresso and campesino lattes to throngs of caffeine-thirsty, laptop-wielding locals.

Photo courtesy of The Pop-Hop Books & Print

5002 York Blvd.
Indie bookstore Pop-Hop has greater ambitions than specializing in books and art publications. It’s applying for 501(c)(3) status to operate as a non-profit community arts and education space, providing resources for artists, activists, and orgs to gather and mobilize. While they’ll continue to sell new and used titles, as well as locally made goods, they’ll also promote awareness of issues like economic inequality, racial injustice, and the displacement of social systems by capitalist structures.

5006 York Blvd.
If you find yourself at this dive bar, which prides itself on being open every day of the year, look out for its resident feline prowler Watson. Patrons recently raised money for the kitty’s surgery—and now she’s back to her old tricks at this neighborhood haunt, where you can enjoy strong drinks, craft beer, and darts.

The York interior
Photo courtesy of The York

5018 York Blvd.
Northeast LA folks have been tossing back IPAs and cheeseburgers at this welcoming watering hole ever since it opened its doors 14 years ago. After weathering the pandemic, The York is back to staying open until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays and 12:30 am every other evening, making it one of the few late-night establishments along the street. If you’re more of an early bird, weekday happy hour runs 3–6 pm with $6 draft beers, well drinks, and wines.

Photo courtesy of à bloc

5025 York Blvd.
York is a densely caffeinated street, but à bloc is the only spot serving micro-batch brews along with bicycle repairs—thanks to ace mechanic and NELA local Olsen, who runs Roost Cyclery within the space. To connect their passion for cycling culture, coffee, and community, à bloc owners Jenny and Kjeld organize group rides and sell cycling apparel, accessories, and spares—all while feeding the neighborhood sourdough boule and strong cups of joe. Pro tip: While it’s best to make an appointment, Olsen will try to make time for anyone who wheels their bike inside.

Photo courtesy of Joy

5100 York Blvd.
The sister restaurant to Silver Lake’s Pine and Crane, Joy crafts feel-good regional Taiwanese dishes with a modern slant. Rooted in both night-market-inspired street eats and Northern-style Chinese cooking, the menu is a study in comfort food with sauced noodles, thousand-layer pancakes, and fresh-baked sesame scallion bread. They’re also intent on making a positive impact on the community; in the past they’ve partnered with local programs like Optimist Youth Homes and AMP Los Angeles, a youth arts program located on York.

5105 York Blvd.
Owner Tai Kim’s artisanal creamery (which made its debut before “artisanal ice cream” was even a thing) has been scooping in Highland Park since 2012. This outpost is where the ice cream for all Scoops locations is churned—with mind-blowing flavor profiles like sea salt chocolate Oreo and green tea horchata competing with raspberry lychee, Mandarin coconut sorbet, and their famous O.G. brown bread flavor.

5123 1/2 York Blvd.
Highland Park’s long enjoyed a rich indie music scene, with several well-known musicians calling the neighborhood home. Although beloved venue The Hi Hat is now shuttered, York is still full of gems—including the recently opened Arroyo, which is earning a reputation as a go-to for well-curated collectibles.

The Hermosillo
Photo by Tiffany Tse for Thrillist

5125 York Blvd.
A neighborhood bar that takes its craft beers seriously, The Hermosillo boasts an expansive patio good for solo drinkers and big groups alike. With a focus on fresh and local beers, this spot has a brewery in back, as part of its partnership with Highland Park Brewery, and 20 thirst-quenching taps on rotation—all of which pair well with smash burgers, sandwiches, and fried pickles.

Tennessee Hot Chicken
Photo courtesy of Tennessee Hot Chicken

5133 York Blvd.
The Nashville hot chicken trend has found its way to Highland Park. This outdoor operation is hard to miss: a flurry of activity and billowing smoke beneath bright red tents on York. Juicy chicken is expertly dredged and seasoned at varying degrees of heat (timid, hot, or crazy hot), fried to a crisp, and drizzled with secret sauce. Two tenders with fries, slaw, and two thick slices of bread will set you back only $10, while sliders made with pillowy, Hawaiian-style rolls are $12.

nativo patio
Photo courtesy of Nativo

5137 York Blvd.
Owner Gabriel Paredes, who’s also behind Boyle Heights’ Xelas, grew up in Highland Park with big dreams to open a restaurant in his hometown. Nativo is it—a vibrant space with a Guadalajaran menu based on his mom’s recipes and a name that reflects his story as a Highland Park native. By day, its dog-friendly patio is the perfect brunch spot; by night, the expansive patio’s strung-up lights set the mood for date night, complete with well-crafted libations like the Suavecita (which stars women-owned YOLA Mezcal) and Amor Es Amor (a tropical Oaxacan rum tipple, of which a portion of sales is donated to help trans, queer, and gender-non-coforming Latinxs via Familia: TQLM).

5225 York Blvd.
No visit to Highland Park is complete until you’ve stuffed your face with a huarache—an oblong-shaped fried masa flatbread named after the huarache sandal. Thought to have originated in Mexico City, this doughy, bean-stuffed beast is smothered in meat, onions, cilantro, cream, and cheese, with the option to supersize (great for sharing) or downsize (great for the kids). This 30-year-old standby has a massive menu of tortas, burritos, quesadillas, and more, but the huaraches and drinks (think cucumber lime or cactus chia) are the must-gets.

taco truck
Photo courtesy of Tiffany Tse for Thrillist

Ave 54 and York Blvd
Looking for a late-night bite? This taco truck, one of the oldest in the area, is open until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays and midnight every other night with a refreshingly simple menu: five proteins (asada, pastor, cabeza, carnitas, and lengua) in taco or burrito form. Ask for extra hot sauce if you dare; fans of La Estrella often wax poetic about the truck’s tongue-tingling condiment, which adds just the right amount of eye-watering kick to your food. Nearby Charlie’s Tacos is another locally loved fixture, especially if you’re in the mood for birria.

Leaf and Spine exterior
Photo courtesy of Leaf and Spine

5440 York Blvd.
Grow your plant collection with additions from all the nurseries along York, including Sari Sari Plants, Planta, and Echo Garden. Leaf and Spine specializes in rare, unusual plants and drops its coveted releases via Instagram—a strategy borrowed from streetwear culture. If the first-come, first-DM approach isn’t working, stop by its tiny brick-and-mortar storefront, which stocks a lush array of succulents, bonsai, aroids, and more.

Photo courtesy of Holcomb

5535 York Blvd.
From the team behind Hermosillo down the street, Holcomb is a natural wine bar that highlights responsible wine-making from all over the world. Although the wallpapered space with blue banquettes and strategically placed plants feels polished, the ambiance is, above all, inviting—helped along by a host of friendly bartenders that keep Holcomb from ever feeling pretentious. Prices accommodate a wide range of budgets, with $10-$18 glasses and $38-$160 bottles—accompanied by stellar bites that include cheese and charcuterie platters, mezze plates, and pork rillette sandwiches.

amiga amore pasta
Photo courtesy of Amiga Amore

5668 York Blvd.
Mexitalian is the name of the game at this one-of-a-kind pop-up, which used to operate out of Chef Danielle Duran-Zecca and husband Alessandro Zecca’s Glendale home. Now you can book a sit-down Friday night dinner or Sunday brunch to experience Duran-Zecca’s exceptional cooking—which skillfully elevates both Mexican and Italian cuisine in a fresh, exciting way. Whether you dive into the chorizo-stuffed calzone, elote agnolotti, or chile de arbol rigatoni, you’re all but guaranteed to eat something you’ve never had before.

Photo courtesy of Galco's Soda Pop Stop

5702 York Blvd.
Family-owned and operated since the 50s, Galco’s carries over 500 small-batch soft drinks and beers—a staggering carbonated selection that will have you feeling like a kid in a retro candy store. Speaking of candy, this nostalgia-inducing Highland Park mainstay also stocks vintage sweets, including hard-to-find varieties, and makes fresh sandwiches in their Italian deli, the last vestige of its beginnings as a small Italian grocery.

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Tiffany Tse is a contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram @twinksy.