You've never heard of the Mideast Side? That's probably because I made it up as a term to describe the neighborhoods of LA between the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, Midtown, South LA, Downtown and Northeast LA. A stretch of neighborhoods west of the LA river between the peaks of Griffith Park and downtown, in other words, Angeleno Heights, the Byzantine-Latino Quarter, Crown Hill, Echo Park, Elysian Heights, Elysian Park, Franklin Hills, Historic Filipinotown, Frogtown, Los Feliz, Pico-Union, Silver Lake, Solano Canyon, Temple-Beaudry, Victor Heights, and Westlake.
It has yet to really catch on, but unlike that concept, Mideast Side provides a nice compliment to the universally accepted Mid-City West. If you like, there is a Mideast Side Facebook group, a Mideast Side art print (from Echo Park's 1650 Gallery), a Mideast Side T-Shirt, a Mideast Side Foursquare page, and an online Mideast Side Primer.
Some have suggested North Central, the West Bank and the Near East for the area but none of those have ever really taken off.
"North Central," I suppose, is meant to be a reflection of South Central, so named because it's situated along South Central Avenue. North Central Avenue goes through Glendale so that's just silly.
I sort of like the sound of "The Near Eastside" but it's geographically relativist. It's only nearer if the user is from the Westside, Hollywood or Midtown, really. If one is in the actual Eastside, the "Near Eastside" is really the "Near Westside" (which actually has more precedent. The neighborhood of Westlake was named as such to compliment Lincoln Heights, which used to be known as Eastlake).
"The West Bank," of course, will forever be associated with the occupied Palestinian territory. Imagine the results you'd get if you were trying to Google a decent mechanic or restaurant in the West Bank? Your Silver Lake results wouldn't make the top 10,000.
That's why I coined "Mideast Side," which is, I think, a nice counter to Mid-City West that respects all the people that (wrongly) consider it the Eastside without favoring Midtown as much as Mid-City East would. More importantly, it doesn't appropriate and erase the culture of an entire region of LA east of the LA River. And if you Google "Mideast Side" you'll pretty much only get relevant results.
The Mideast Side is a region of varied neighborhoods, with working class populations dominating the southern end and richie riches in the northern hills. It has especially large populations of Armenians, Chinese, Filipinos, Guatemalans, Mexicans and Salvadorans. And now a little about these neighborhoods.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in LA, Angeleno Heights has a number of absolutely beautiful Craftsman and Victorian homes. It used to have four grocery stores but three have been converted to residences. To read more about Angeleno Heights, click here.
The Byzantine-Latino Quarter is a small district within Pico-Union. Historically it was nicknamed Greek Town due to a concentration of Greek residents and businesses. Although few Greeks live in the area today, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral still draws Greek churchgoers since its founding around 1908. The Greek immigrants were largely refugees of war, poverty and political oppression at home. Many of the newer immigrants were fleeing similar situations in their homelands and nowadays the area is home to large numbers of Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Hondurans. To read more about the Byzantine-Latino Quarter, click here.
Echo Park is a neighborhood located north of downtown Los Angeles in the hills along the western shore of the LA River. Echo Park has long associations with several arts, most notably literature and film. It's one of the city's oldest neighborhoods and is full of many old (by Angeleno standards) Craftsman, Spanish, and Victorian homes built between the 1880s and 1930s. To read more about Echo Park, click here.
Elysian Heights, along with park of Echo Park and Silver Lake, used to be part of the historic Edendale neighborhood. It was nicknamed Red Hill for the large numbers of commies that lived there. It was also home to Room 8 the Cat, the most famous cat in the country during his storied lifetime. Oh yeah, the Baxter Stairs, the longest in LA, can also be found there.
Elysian Park is LA's oldest and second largest park and still includes a few homes within its border. It used to be the location of Little Mexico (Chavez Ravine) but that was torn down and replaced with Dodger Stadium. It's the home of LA's Police Academy. During the day it's popular with joggers, lowriders, footballers, BBQers, piñata-smashers, etc. At night it's popular with dudes on the DL.
Elysian Valley is a tiny neighborhood sandwiched between the LA River and the 5 Freeway. The community was first known as Gopher Flats around 1900, when it was established for railroad workers. It got its nickname of Frogtown in the 1930s. Back before the river was flood controlled, there were thousands of Western Toads (not frogs) that invaded the neighborhood, with the last wave occuring in the 1970s. To read more about Elysian Valley, click here.
Franklin Hills is a small, mostly residential neighborhood that was once a big part of the American film industry. It was home to both Vitagraph Studios (later Warner Brothers) and Walt Disney studios. It's also recognized for the iconic Shakespeare Bridge and the "Snow White cottages."
Griffith Park is LA's largest park (more than five times the size of New York's Central Park). It's home to Griffith Observatory, the Greek Theatre, Bronson Canyon, Wilson Golf Course and the LA Zoo. To those that say, "it's a park, not a neighborhood," I say, get your own blog!" (Also, I'm not sure where the park's western edge ends and the Hollywood Hills begin.)
When tour guides and websites write about Los Feliz they tend to throw around words like "young," “funky,” “hip” and “trendy." In reality, it's a largely Armenian neighborhood with a median age of 36. It's not the first time the media image of an LA neighborhood has had practically nothing to do with reality. It's the first home of Walt Disney studios and the current home of Glenn Danzig. To read more about Los Feliz, click here.
Solano Canyon is a tiny neighborhood nestled in the southern part of Elysian Park and bordering Chinatown to the south. The heart of the neighborhood is San Conrado Catholic Mission. It's a tight-knit community with its own community garden that's almost completely residential and a bit like Rivendell except when Dodger games are on and traffic chokes its few streets.
Sunset Heights is home to the bar The Short Stop, where hoards of authenticity-seeking bridge and tunnel slummers bafflingly queue up on weekends just to pack a nice but unremarkable dive. Same for Little Joy Jr. It's also home to the Tom of Finland Foundation and the beautiful Saint Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
I'm not sure why Temple-Beaudry warrants designation as a separate neighborhood but I'm glad it is. I'm pretty sure it's synonymous with Colton Hill, on which is located. The tiny neighborhood boasts Show Cave, Dinner House M [now gone], the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre, the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, Vista Hermosa Park and some freakishly hideous architecture.
Westlake derives its name from the lake in what is now MacArthur Park. Westlake's eastside counterpart was Eastlake Park in Lincoln Heights, which was re-named Lincoln Park back in 4-2. Once home to a wealthy white population, after the destruction of Bunker Hill and Chavez Ravine, many Mexicans moved to the area. It's now increasingly home to Guatemalans, Oaxacans and Salvadorans.
*To see and purchase a T-shirt based on the map of the Mideast Side, click here!