Echo Park Lake is a Los Angeles landmark. While locals and tourists alike have flocked to it for years for its rentable paddle boats and views of the city’s skyline, coffee drinkers now have a reason to make the trip as well: Beacon.
Built in the lake’s boathouse, originally constructed in 1932, the shop opened its doors at the end of December.
“The boathouse is a historical landmark with very prominent features,” Beacon owner Jason Espiritu says. “Our inspiration for the design was to build around, and with, the elements already there. So for the interior, we maintained the historic and traditional elements, accenting with plants and historical photos of Echo Park to offer a balance between historic and modern notes.”
The lake itself has been around since 1870, and in 2006, despite having fallen into a state of disrepair, was designated a Cultural and Historic Landmark. It closed in 2011 for two years of extensive renovation, and now is resplendent again with boats, birds, and palm trees.
The balance Espiritu spoke of when describing Beacon’s aesthetic carries over to the shop’s menu, which he describes as Californian. Designed by Chef Emmanuel “Eman” Garcia, Beacon’s food features Japanese elements from his time spent cooking the cuisine, as well as Filipino flavors, owing to his familial roots. With limited space inside the boathouse, diners at Beacon enjoy popular items like the Spam breakfast sandwich—the eponymous semi-meat layered with scrambled eggs, green onions, and smoked gouda on a brioche bun—sitting at tables outside.
The menu also features LA staples, like toast with things on it—think avocado—and salads, along with a variety of vegan and gluten free options for the neighborhood’s newly health conscious population.
Although one of the more famous scene’s of Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” was shot at Echo Park Lake, a vision of the 70’s it is not.
Thankfully, Beacon plays host to an equally modern coffee program for park-goers, serving LA-based Andante Coffee Roasters and featuring a matte-white La Marzocco Linea Classic. Patrons can order from a standard espresso menu with seasonal specials that come and go, as well as pick from drip options courtesy of a Curtis batch brewer and lineup of Hario products.
Through a partnership with Art of Tea, Beacon has curated an equally robust handcrafted tea menu, even going so far as to offer a special lotus tea blend as an homage to the iconic flowers that blanket the surface of the lake. Still-thirsty visitors can choose from house made lemonades and cold-pressed juices.
“Beacon was created with the idea of making it a ‘special place,’” Espritu says, speaking to the possibility of recreating the shop elsewhere. “I feel like you can’t recreate the ambiance, location, and especially the people who lend such an awesome energy to the park. So our intention is to keep Beacon a one-off special place.”
Still, LA is a special city, and if he were to find another place with the ingredients to build a second Beacon?
“Then maybe,” he says. “But that’s a very strong maybe.”