Start at Vermont/Beverly Metro Station
End at Wilshire/Vermont Metro Station
Distance: 1 mile (+ 1/4 mile with recommended Bimini Place loop)
This walk is the gateway to LA’s melting pot: Koreatown. Despite its name, along this walk we enjoyed the flavors of many countries. Our favorite spots include a Bangladesh market, a Filipino bakery and numerous Mexican taco trucks. Along the way we were surprised to stumble upon a 40-year-old commune committed to ecologically sustainable urban living and traces of the area’s elegant past.
Upon leaving the station head south on Vermont. The first block of this walk has stretches of parking lots and new construction. It gets better, I promise.
The first point of interest from the station is Virgil Middle School located at 152 N. Vermont. The school opened in 1914 and notable alumni include: Marilyn Monroe, Carol Lombard, Richard Crenna, Scott Shaw (filmmaker) and Melvin Gilbert (inventor). It seems some students never left as there are rumors that the auditorium is haunted by a glowing clown and the mysterious appearance of a rope used by a suicidal student.
When you hit Vermont & 1st Street you have a tough decision to make which is solved depending on how hungry you are. You can continue straight down Vermont if you want to head straight towards food. But I recommend veering off of Vermont for a short walk through an unexpected neighborhood.
Bimini Place loop
To access a hidden jewel of a neighborhood, arrive at Vermont & 1st Street. From there, turn left (east) onto 1st Street and walk towards Bimini Place. On your right you’ll see a mural by artist El Mac memorializing Dominic Smith. Past the mural turn right (south) onto Bimini Place. Its less than a 1/4 of a mile, but the short stretch of Bimini is a whole other world.
The first thing you’ll notice as you turn the corner onto Bimini are the old railroad tracks emerging from the alley behind an auto body shop onto Bimini Place. The tracks are paved over shortly after they join Bimini, but they are a reminder of the Los Angeles Railway/Yellow Line that criss-crossed the city between 1901 and 1963.
As you continue down Bimini you’ll enter the Los Angeles Eco-Village Intentional Community (LAEV). Founded in 1980, this intentional community includes two blocks of Bimini Place and White House Place. The LAEV is made up of about 40 people committed to sustainable urban living. The community has a funky neighborhood feel. With its community gardens, eclectic mix of yard art and a Little Free Library, Beverly compared the neighborhood vibe to that of South Austin circa 1995.
As you continue south on Bimini Place, you are heading towards the neighborhood’s roots located at the Bimini Slough Ecology Park. The park had a natural hot spring that once fed the Bimini Baths resort founded in 1903. Residents and tourists alike flocked to the area for the healing springs and resort amenities which included a bowling alley and a nightclub that regularly featured Benny Goodman. The resort went bankrupt and closed in 1951. In 2004 the Bimini Slough Ecology Park opened promising a lush green playground for the neighborhood. But when we found it, the only remaining evidence of the springs was a trash strewn gully home to a grumpy cat living in a drainage ditch.
As you exit the park, walk straight ahead, towards the Rayfield Hotel. Now apartments, the Rayfield once hosted all night dance marathons where contestants danced in the streets. As you continue past the Rayfield, the short block becomes 2nd Street. Follow 2nd Street until you bang back into Vermont.
Back on Vermont Avenue
When you make it back to Vermont, we recommend walking back up Vermont a half of a block (crossing the street and turning right/north) and stopping into Aladin Sweets & Market which Los Angeles Magazine named Best Bangladeshi Restaurant, 2013. While we usually start with something sweet on our walks, the sweets here really aren’t our thing. We are crazy about the (chicken) shammi kebabs however, and at a $1.50 each, they are an inexpensive and delicious appetizer.
From Aladin’s you don’t have to go too far to satisfy your sweet tooth. Leelin Bakery is in the next block. This is where we first tried ube, a sweet made from purple yams. For a mere 80 cents each you have to try the ube hopia (pictured below). Beverly flipped out with her first bite.
Before you leave this shopping center, take a stroll over to the Island Pacific grocery store. Island Pacific is a local chain of supermarkets specializing in Filipino cuisine. Their seafood selection is fresh and diverse!
Continuing south on Vermont, additional points of interest include the Islamic Center of Southern California, the Shatto 39 Lanes Bowling Alley (fun for the whole family!), and the Galleria Market (another small local chain serving the Asian community with loads of restaurants, bakeries and groceries).
Once you hit 3rd & Vermont, you are officially in Koreatown. On the northwest corner of the intersection is a 76 gas station with some of the few murals you’ll see on this walk. Just past the gas station is a tiny open air gift shop with a delightfully pushy proprietor hocking everything from clothing to soap. Be prepared to make a fast get-away or to purchase something – she’s not one to take no for an answer.
Continuing down Vermont to 4th, look one block over to the west and you’ll notice a Star of David with a Christian cross perched on top of it. We arrived just as Wednesday evening church service was about to begin so we got a quick peak inside, but respectfully refrained from taking interior shots (you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!) The former synagogue is now the Joohyang Presbyterian Church. Built in 1926 it originally served LA’s oldest conservative Jewish congregation. It was also a filming location for 1927’s classic The Jazz Singer. The building’s architect, S. Tildon Norton, was a prolific designer responsible for many of LA’s important Jewish landmarks as well as secular designs including the Greek Theater and DTLA’s Los Angeles Theater.
Continuing down Vermont you’ll notice a handful of taco trucks dotting the street. Look for the Vin Scully mural at 5th & Vermont. Depending on the time of day you’ll find one of two taco trucks. If you’re there during the day, pop into the tiny little store with the Scully mural. It has all kinds of random treasures including high heeled boots for toddlers. Then head over to the Mariscos Michoacan taco truck parked on the street just outside the car wash. In the evening, once the car wash closes, that truck disappears and El Flamin’ Taco takes over the parking lot along with long lines for this popular spot. They are worth the wait, but if you want to avoid lines, we also recommend Julie’s Tacos on the east side of Vermont across the street from the Island Pacific grocery store. We looked but couldn’t find a restaurant rating sign for Julie’s, but I was able to convince a skeptical Beverly to try them anyway. What’s the point of street food without a little risk?
Once you’ve had your fill of the sights and flavors, continue towards Wilshire. When you arrive at the northeast corner of Wilshire & Vermont, you will have completed this walk at the Wilshire/Vermont station. If this delicious taco crawl leaves you wanting more Mexican food there is a Chipotle at the station. Just kidding… if you’re still hungry and want Chipotle, you didn’t do this walk correctly.
When headed down to the platforms make sure you get on the correct escalator taking you to the correct platform/level; there are 2 levels, one going towards Union Station and the other going towards North Hollywood.