When it comes to eats in LA, most people won’t even consider the San Fernando Valley. But since I’ve been living here for three years, I’ve found some restaurant gems (only non franchise restaurants). Here are the highly recommended hidden treasures of “The Valley:”
Pita Pockets –
9127 Reseda Blvd.
Don’t be put off by the unpretentious name or the low price. For exotic Mediterranean, this joint’s the real deal. For starters, the proprietor Fatin Elmor is a friendly Palestinian Israeli. He speaks a half a dozen languages and combines cultures for some of the most audacious and tangiest fusion food creations.
You’ve got to try the feta fries, which are other-worldly delicious. The lamb gyro transported me to other side of the planet for a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. He bakes his own bread right there on the spot, which means it’s crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Try the dessert with Nutella, which is a Mediterranean approximation to a churro.
The joint is located to cater to the students of CSUN. College students are usually looking for good, cheap, exotic food — and Pita delivers on all three. The good news is you don’t have to be a college student go there and enjoy the concoctions dreamed up by Fatin.
Corner Grille –
8261 Sepulveda Blvd.
I had a hard time believing this store front eatery — in modest digs, and in not the best of neighborhoods — had 976 reviews on Yelp with a 4-and-a-half star rating. I wouldn’t say it looked from the outside like a dive. I just never would have ventured in had it not been for the ratings on Yelp. That caught my attention and made me want to give it a try.
The place features fusion Mexican tacos made with Korean barbecue beef. The exotic mix sounded enticing and the delectable morsel did not disappoint. You might expect such audacious fusion food from a Michelin-ranked chef at a five-star hotel. But no, it’s right here in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, at the crossroads of Nowhere and Anonymity. This is definitely a hidden gem. There’s also Korean barbecue beef fries to die for.
And it’s cheap.
The Corner Grille is now my go-to for a quick and cheap meal whenever I’m in the neighborhood and hungry. What’s more, it’s the place I surprise my Westside friends with when I take them.
Crave Cafe –
14505 Ventura Blvd.
Does your husband want a burger and you want sushi? No worries. There’s a place that caters to both.
No, I’m not kidding.
Crave is definitely pushing the outer limits of the envelope of “eclectic.”
There are actually two Craves because the owner sold them to two different buyers. I’m talking about the one at Van Nuys Blvd. in Sherman Oaks is the one that has the Crave sushi house right next to and with a door between the two so that you can order from. So it’s easy to savor both sushi and hamburgers at the same table (not in a Food Court).
As a kicker, Crave has gourmet coffees and pastries. I’ve spent a nice evening spooning in a smooth and creamy cheesecake while watching American Ninja with my wife. The ironies were not lost on me.
And it’s open 24 hours, which is good to know because your options for a late, late dinner are few and far between in the Valley.
Chio’s Peruvian Grill –
7755 Sepulveda Blvd.
To live in LA is to enjoy exotic food. Now that Mexican food has spread across the U.S., Angelinos are now in a quest for new tastes from the remotest parts of the globe. Apparently over a 1,000 Peruvians call Van Nuys their home, so you can find a cache of Andes-styled eateries. Among them, Chio’s stands out. The restaurant started on Sepulveda Blvd, the grubbery is opening restaurants elsewhere in the Valley.
I can see why they are expanding. I had the Lomo Saltado, which dares to put the French fries right in the savory beef slivers with liquidy sauce. There’s a healthy dollop of white rice too. I was impressed that the serving size was generous for the price — no leftover hunger. The inadequate parking reflects the humble immigrant beginnings of this gem. Let me assure you, it’s worth the trouble to get parking once you’re inside the cozy restaurant watching flames leap up in the kitchen grill. They have Peruvian beer, but being a teetotaler, I can’t opine on its craftsmanship.
Les Sisters Southern Kitchen & BBQ –
21818 Devonshire St.
You can find Cajun/Creole food far, far away from the South. Here’s New Orlean’s-style smothered chicken, catfish, fried chicken, jambalaya, hush puppies, hot links and corn bread. Their “Muddy Waters” is a house tea and lemonade.
The restaurant was started by two friends who argued over everything and couldn’t agree on a name. Someone observed they argued like sisters, so he suggested the hook in a bit of French (since New Orleans has French origins), and the name has stuck for 30 years. Les Sister’s doesn’t have a huge sign or sit on a large parking lot. If you’re driving down Devonshire on the Northwestern corner of the San Fernando Valley, it’s easy to miss. I suggest you follow your nose — or your GPS.
The day my wife and I went here, the waitress sat down at the table with us to take our order. Far from being an “invasion of our space,” the gesture gave us a homey, family feel that took off the professional distance in almost every restaurant. It was a nice change of pace.
15520 Devonshire St.
Supposedly all the mom and pop restaurants have disappeared off the face of the planet, victims to the tsunami of multinational food franchises. The mom and pop joints can’t compete, we are told. They can’t maintain the consistency or keep prices down compared the economies-of-scale wholesale purchasing power of McDonald’s and crew.
Thank God, there’s Holiday Burgers to prove that Mom and Dad can find a niche and beat the big boys. Specifically, this joint offers a pastrami sandwich absolutely glutted with mouth-watering pastrami that causes competitors to pale. Holiday Burgers is a needle in a haystack. You probably wouldn’t pick it just driving by. No, this restaurant runs on word of mouth. That’s how I found it.
Just forget about the recommendations of other websites purporting the “best pastrami” in LA. Go to Holiday.
It’s all good House of Kebab –
6800 Reseda Blvd.
Want to visit Iran? You don’t need a visa. Don’t worry about the State Department’s travel ban. You can go to Iran simply by visiting It’s all good House of Kebab. The decor covering the wall of the small eatery comes from old Persia, such items as license plates, old style shoes and even some scourges used by fanatics to punish themselves to appease Allah (not exactly appetizing, but legit).
But what’s really good in this restaurant is the food. I had the The bread, or nun, is crisp on the outside and chewy and warm on the inside. Had it not been for some Iranians with me when we went, I never would have ordered the deezy, a stew of beans, lamb chunks, cinnamon, lemon, pepper, salt and who knows what else magic goes into it. The Persian have imported and toned down from Indian Beryani, an outstanding curry dish. The rice all comes with saffron.
Papillon International Bakery –
17305 Roscoe Blvd.
Somebody needs to explain the rudiments of publicity to these guys. They recently had billboards up saying “Best Ponchiks in Town.” No picture of a ponchik. No explanation. The picture was of some Armenian dude, I think. No idea.
They could have posted a picture of a ponchik, let’s say opened up and oozing out with Nutella. They could have publicized a picture of someone eating one and being transported to Seventh Heaven. No. They didn’t do that.
Fortunately for me, somebody — bless his soul — tipped me off to this Armenian pastry. It is a dough ball stuffed with filling and deep fried. Think of a jelly donut that is deep fried like a churro, and your imagination still won’t scratch the exponential blast of sweet goodness.
What Papillon lacks in advertising savvy, they compensate for with sheer taste bud pleasure. If this is “comfort food,” then you just got one week’s worth of comfort in one mouthful. The effect is about the same as a cream filled chocolate Easter egg.
The only downside to these treats — and the reason why I don’t eat them more regularly — is they probably contain about 50 kabillion calories each. But once in a while…
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream –
8850 Corbin Ave.
The owners of Handel’s tout their constant long line as their best advertising. The wait is worth it.
Try their maraschino cherry in vanilla in a double scoop or the vanilla caramel brownie. What is clear is that they splurge, not scrimp, on ingredients. There are chunks of banana in the banana cream pie and an overload of Oreos in the Mud Pie
They call it “home made” because the cream is frozen and creamed up on site. And it’s done daily so the freshness is max. They have frozen bananas, ice cream sandwiches made with cookies, shakes and sundaes — if the 106 flavors are not enough for you (I don’t think
all 106 are available
every day, but imagine enough different flavors for you to try a new one every day of the year for a third of the year ! On second thought, that’s not a good idea. I’d wind up as a whale.)
The odd thing about this cold cream hot spot is their location. One would expect to find them in the Northridge Fashion Center or in a busy corner mall within walking distance of CSUN. But no, it’s in a Target center with a huge parking lot. Never mind though, it exercises its own gravity. It pulls customers to Target, not from Target. People flock to this parlor from far and wide and rave about how it competes and beats other, more well-known craft ice creameries.
Weiler’s Nosh & Bakery –
I was going to present Gayle’s Perks, which offered “witch’s brew” cold coffee with coffee ice frozen into the bottom of the glass. It was novelty, dark and delicious. Tucked away into a corner of the corner mall, this homegrown coffee shop was the perfect hideaway for those burnt out on standardized, automated coffee shops.
Since then, the coffee shop merged with its parent restaurant Weiler’s, which lost its lease. The menu has diversified to include sandwiches, deli lunch and avocado toast with sunny-side-up eggs and ground Spanish olives in a paste. Weiler’s is not doing the Monte Cristo sandwich anymore. They made me a similar one. It had 58 layers of ham and 49 layers of chicken deli meat and with some provolone cheese. They covered in egg and fried it. I guess the authentic Monte Cristo is deep fried, and in their new, smaller space, they’ve done away the deep fryer.
Partea Boba –
15355 Sherman Way
Get it? Party, but spelled All the drinks are good. The boba is never stale. My favorite is pineapple mango slushee with boba. It’s not overly sweet and is greatly refreshing for hot summer days. There’s also a great lychee slushee. Their milk tea is amazing.
This is my son’s favorite study spot.
And unlike so many boba joints, this one has wifi! (There are also board games like Jenga, Uno and Connect 4). The people attending our very nice, never rude. They get their drinks out fast.
Missed your favorite restaurant? Did we miss a favorite dish? Write about it in the comments. Maybe my next article will include it.