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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Silver Lake restaurant owner expands into Echo Park

Site of new new Echo Park restaurants

Cafe Stella owner Gareth Kantner, who has played a major role in turning Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction into a dining and shopping hot spot, plans to transform an Echo Park discount store and snack stand into a pair of new restaurants.

Kantner has purchased the Sunset Boulevard building that is now home to E-Pack Family Clothing Store and the Sunset Snack stand. Work will soon begin on renovating the Sunset Snack stand into Dinette, a take-out sandwich shop featuring foods from Vietnam and Cuba as well as American classics, like Lobster Rolls and Po’ boy sandwiches. Dinette is expected to open by February of next year, he said.

Meanwhile, Kantner is also working on plans to build a much larger, restaurant and bar, called Libre, in the adjoining E-Pack store, which will remain open for the time being. Kantner plans to create indoor and outdoor dining spaces within the 6,500-square-foot building, including a dining area facing Sunset Boulevard. Customers can expect a menu with grilled meats, vegetable dishes, salads and oven-baked pizzas. He said the price range will allow diners to “afford to have a nice meal without it costing them $80.”

Libre, which is probably 18 months to two years away from opening, and Dinette are Kantner’s  second attempt to expand into Echo Park, where he and his family have lived for about 25 years. A previous attempt in 2008 to open a restaurant a block away in the historic Jensen’s Recreation Center failed to materialize.

Kantner is credited with helping revive Sunset Junction through his renovation of a Mediterranean-style shopping complex at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Sanborn Avenue. Over time, Kantner renovated the complex  – painted terra-cota red and crowned by the iconic Sunset Junction sign – and filled the spaces with upscale tenants – Intelligentsia Coffee, Cheese Store of Silver Lake and his own restaurant, Cafe Stella.  Early last year, Kantner was criticized by many residents for building a walled-in patio in front of his new corner bar.

Can Kantner trigger the same kind of change in Echo Park, where the block in which he will open his restaurants has so far shown few signs of gentrifying? Since Kantner’s last attempt to expand into Echo Park, several new, restaurants, some with ambitious menus and high prices,  have opened nearby. But Kantner said he has a casual, straight-forward approach in mind. “I am tired of everything being so precious.”

73 comments

  1. Sad to see Sunset Snack go…the owners were such sweet people. But this is great news, I always thought that was a great space with potential for a great patio area. Great retro futuristic architecture too. I will not miss the discount store at all, we don’t need 3 big ones within 2 blocks!

  2. in B4 angry wall commentary.

  3. It is nearly impossible to eat outside at a sidewalk cafe in Los Angeles without being terrorized by the people who are allowed to live on the sidewalks.

    • Impossible? In all of LA? Seriously?

      This spot may be problematic initially because homeless folks do use it regularly at night. But come the fuck on. L O L

    • Being asked for spare change by homeless folks is being terrorized?

    • “Allowed to live”?? Are you fucking kidding me? Lets kill them off! Better yet, why dont you go back to whatever land-locked shit hole you moved to my city from? You dont move here and get to customize it for your ignorant, classist, transplant trash needs. Go back to the midwest or wherever you came from if the culture here is too much for you to handle.

      • While the original poster may be out of line with his views, I don’t think you made anything any better Leslie. You sound like a horrible intolerant and angry neighbor. I’m glad I don’t live near you. Also, since when are homeless people considered “culture”? I’m sick of this “go back to your homelands transplants!” attitude that I see so often on these boards. Get over yourself Leslie. There were others here before you.

      • Wow Leslie, take a chill pill. I would rather live next to a “transplant trash” than someone with your unwelcoming attitude any day. You didn’t build Los Angeles.

        • I find it quite rude for one to come up to your table and beg while you are eating. I think “terrorized” may be a bit harsh of an adjective but hopefully I never get on “Leslie’s” bad side while I’m out and about. sounds like she’d be the terrorist!

      • Lovely! Just lovely!

      • Yes, Leslie, and may I add, your attitude suggests a fundamental lack of understanding of the roots of snobbery like shtan’s — who’s far more likely to have been raised in Brentwood or the Malibu Colony than to be a “midwest transplant.”

      • Yeah, definitely no classist snobs native to LA. None at all. Plenty of neighborhood snobs though.

    • “Terrorize” might not be the best choice of words – especially today, don’t you think?

  4. Garth Vader arrives

    Silverlake is about a year away from feeling like melrose thanks to Garth, and now the hawk has his hooks in echo park. This guy is a total buzz-kill. No thanks. Where money comes bull&*^# follows.

    • I love that comment. So true. I could tell stories about this well known local irritant, but I won’t.

    • God forbid neighborhoods get nicer. I wonder, do those of you complaining, really want EP and Silver Lake back to how it was 10-15-20 years ago? I tend to doubt it.

  5. Mr. Gareth Kantner, i admire that you are helping to revitalize the area, but I am deeply concerned about the displacement of local, mostly Latino workers from stores like the ones that you will shut down. Please tell us, will you commit to giving jobs – including the better paying front of the house jobs, to local Latino workers? Especially those workers whom you will replace?

    Please commit to this.

    Thank you.

  6. Garth Vader arrives

    yeah, that’s him. I was at his restaurant Stella and he sat down and dominated the conversation (all about him) insulted my friend, offered to act as the ‘surrogate father’ to a woman at the table, then ordered a bunch of food and wine. The fool got up and left the table with a burp and left us to explain to the waiter what was ours and what was his. That was the last time I will go to any of his spots.

  7. Does anyone know if the exterior edifice of the building will remain intact?

  8. Gentrification happens. If you owned property anywhere near gangland EP, this would be a savior and a boon. Please don’t romanticize poverty. Drive 2 miles east and it’s all yours in all it’s low-brow glory.

  9. Seems like that block of Sunset is doing pretty well already. The sidewalks are usually busy with people shopping, walking, waiting for the bus and so forth – does it need to be revitalized?

    • Yes! It’s already vital. The question is: vital for whom? Right now, that block is very Latino-centric, with businesses that serve mostly Latino families. Gareth will retool things toward the creative class — though it sounds like there will be food places that cater to every price point — and the USC-slash-bridge-and-tunnel types who like to visit the Disneylike world of “Eastsideland” on the weekends.

      • “creative class”. Wow, that is really mean. Like somehow the Locals are not goof enough. It is very ignorant to say they only serve the Latino community. The stores are runned by Asians and it serves everyone. In fact the food places that will be made are not going to cater to everyone, and you know this. Why must they insist on making these cafes, there are already a bunch of them in that one area!!!!!!! AND Parking is gonna be a horrible.

    • The block may look vital (perhaps because of the bus stop at the corner), but I don’t think the E-Pack can be considered part of that vitality…I rarely see people going in and out. I’d say that the bakery and the market, and perhaps the tattoo parlor, are the great anchors of that block, and the new Angelus Salads seems to be a good bridge between the old-timers and the new. There surely is room for this kind of business on the block. Though one important thing that needs to be taken care of: overflowing trash cans! Seems like the problem, which used to be in front of Fashion of EP, is now in front of Bank of America. It’s disgusting!

    • You actually walk around there??

  10. ‘ He said the price range will allow diners to “afford to have a nice meal without it costing them $80.” ‘

    Yeah. Knowing Garth and Co, the subtext is that it will only set you back $79. UGH. Go away.

  11. He was intoxicating, or intoxicated? Or both?

  12. Yay. Awesome. Clap clap clap. Finally a restauranteur who knows what he is doing in Echo Park. Just so you “epgirl” know (but you don’t because you just sit on your couch you found on the street yelling at your PC) but the owners of Stella’s and its complex have been fighting the good fight against development in SL for years. These are the best kind of people for the job. They are putting their money up and will bring the neighborhood with them. As for why do “they” need to change a vital area, which I agree it is, they haven’t decided to change anything its the folks selling the building that have decided to change The Stella folks have just jumped on a opportunity. Good for them and good for Echo Park.

    • Gareth vader arrivés

      The good fight is laughable, unless you mean the good fight of a shark lining his pockets with cash. Either you are on the teat or on the sauce. Who are the ‘stella folks?’ Gareth is a strong-armed goof with deep pockets. You think he is the genius behind Stella? Ha.

    • re: “you don’t because you just sit on your couch you found on the street yelling at your PC”

      Right. Because I couldn’t possibly have an opinion worthy of consideration any other way, so let’s go with your off base, incorrectly assumptive character assessment. :: eye roll, please ::

  13. While I like many aspects of ’50s design, I hope they restore the original facade of the building.

  14. The only thing you really can count on in this city is CHANGE. I was born and raised in LA. The neighborhood where I grew up was mostly Jewish with some Italians and Irish. It is about 80% Persian now. I have no problem with change. Echo Park has been Cuban, Italian, Mexican, you name it. There will be new cafes, taco stands, fancy stores, new libraries, fixed roads, improved lakes, etc. I welcome a new business as long as they care about community and get involved. Change happens. Dynamic, morphing, crazy LA. Home.

  15. I’ve heard gnarly stories about Gareth, but he’s improved property values, rents and he’s always been gracious around me. NIMBYs should go to Altadena if they want a boring stagnant neighborhood.

  16. This might be slightly off-topic, but I’m pretty sure this is Gareth Kantner’s father on guitar:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvTmeJabmmw

  17. I’ll lodge the bittiest of quibbles with these restaurants being “Kantner’s second attempt to expand into Echo Park”….

    …whatever happened to the community garden he said he was opening on the hillside by the Baxter stairs? From May 2011, http://echopark.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/caf-stella-to-farm-in-echo-park-classes-continue-at-cookbook:

    “Kantner and his wife Christine also recently purchased ¾ acre of property in Echo Park at the corner of Avon and Baxter streets–by the Baxter stairs–which they plan to turn into a community farm.

    “In addition to farming the land to supply Café Stella with seasonal produce, Red Star Farms (named for Stella’s logo) will include anywhere from 10 to 20 12-by-12 foot gardening plots that will be available for rent. The fees, which Kantner estimates will be around $100 a month, will be used to maintain the property and pay property tax.

    “Early plans for the space also include olive trees and a public deck at the top of the property. Still 90 days from escrow on the land, local residents will have to wait awhile for this exciting new addition to the neighborhood.”

    Did nothing come of those grand plans, either?

  18. “Libre, which is probably 18 months to two years away from opening, and Dinette are Kantner’s second attempt to expand into Echo Park, where he and his family have lived for about 25 years.”

    This is far, far from true, as for many years, Kantner (with & without wife) lived above the Silver Lake Reservoir, above Hyperion near Lyric and above Stella itself.

    Sounds like the writer is hard creating a case that Kantner is and has been part of Echo Park (especially the flats, where the po’ brown folk live, work and shop vs. the fancy, mid-century hills) since time eternal. Ain’t true, carnales.

  19. oh darn, i really like the Korean couple that runs the food stand and the man that runs the discount store. Sad, but i guess i saw it coming. They are good people.

  20. So this store is called Epack? All these years I thought it said Epoch (which is an actual word, after all).

  21. great news. keep the restaurants, and retail coming. now if only that Walgreens can be dealt with that thing looks like a prison such a blight on what is slowly becoming a fun funky bustling street. Too bad Lassens is moving in next door and not a Trader Joe’s. but oh well. A good Indian restaurant, korean bbq joint, and sushi place would be swell, be nice if lotteria grill would open up a little spin off.

  22. mark my word one day as you and a friend are eating a 80 dollar bacon and egg sandwich supplied by cisco
    you will miss sunset snack

    and you criticize cortez….. you fools

  23. Any updates on Dinette? We’re way past ‘early 2014′ and there’s no sign of life behind the construction wall…

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