Category Archives: best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley

A mountaintop experience at Central Grille in Glendale, CA

Monster burger and tortilla soup Central Grille GlendaleAfter climbing Mount Watermen, we three men were hungry. “Monster” burgers were the order of the day.

As famished as we were, probably anything would have satisfied. But instead, we pulled into one of those destination restaurants that you drive miles for because it’s that good.

Monster Burger Central GrilleMy serendipitous discovery came as it usually does, by way of a local. Wanna find good grub without Yelp? Ask a local.

Andrew had lived nearby when the hipster joint was an oldster joint called Shakers. The owners smartly revamped it for the changing demographics of influx of professionals. Not only did they update the interior and exterior, they crafted a new menu that combines traditional classics with enticing twists: white America cheese on the burger with sweet caramelized onions to offset the salty burger and house aioli.

Central Grille Glendale hipster restaurantCrispy asparagus fries. Deviled eggs with bacon. Truffle fries. Fish and chips with jalapeño tartar. Chilled gazpacho. Burrato-tomato caprese. Sesame-almond crusted salmon. Short rib street tacos. Popcorn curry chicken.

Central-Grille-2-82(Whimper. I’m growing hungry as I write.)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Like heaven yeah! When can I get an excuse to jet over there again?

Central-Grille-2-15I’m normally a fries guy, but Nathan Williams was from Salt Lake City where soup is the thing, and he had a picture from the last time. He showed me. That was that. It looked more mouth-watering than the fries.

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Central-Grille-242Mercifully, the menu is one large page. Just one. If it were more, I would probably need to go this restaurant for the rest of my life to sample all the goodies.

central grill saladCentral Grille has one-upped the competition. They’ve shown that you need to do more than just an “e” to the end of “Grill” if you want first-timers to become faithful.

Central Grillle Glendale CA exteriorWaterman Mountain in the Angeles National Forest, about an hour north of Glendale, was an exhilarating hike with snow and ice. I won’t need to be a famished mountainman to seek the eatery again.

hike Mount Waterman

Nathan Williams on Mount Waterman (not the peak)

Final tip: Grab some zucchini bread on your way out at the cash register. Goes great with butter on it and a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Central Grille
801 N Central Ave
Glendale, CA 91203
818-246-4994
$$

Central Grille menu Glendale, California

After a mountaintop experience on top of the mounain, we had a mountaintop experience at the base of the mountain in the restaurant.

Central Grille Glendale dinner specials menu

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Hot! Hot! Hot!

bizmati rice Pakistani style Nihara House Arleta Los AngelesNihari House is pure fire — and it’s not a rap flow.

No, it’s spicy, spicy, spicy.

Nihari House ArletaIn my quest to try all the most exotic ethnic food in Los Angeles, I wound up in Nihari House in Arleta (in the Central Northern San Fernando Valley.)

Never having sampled Pakistani food before, I asked the waitress, who runs the joint with her husband, the chef. She was very personable and welcoming. Instantly, I felt part of the family.

Nihari in San Fernando ValleyBecause of her no-non sense recommendation, I tried the nihari, the house specialty. It is beef shank slow-simmered in chili oil for seven hours or so. The gravy is hot, hot, hot. There was no need to throw in the chopped jalapeño on the side. To squeeze in lemon juice would have pushed the acidic levels into radioactive. (Excuse the hyperbole, but I’m 52 and can’t take too much spicy anymore. Fortunately, there was a remedy.) It was delicious.

Lamb Karahi Pakistani food Nahari House ArletaMy wife got the lamb Lamb Karahi, which came in its own Pakastani wok (I didn’t know they had their own woks!). And that was just as hot. It wasn’t until the chef, an affable slightly overweight guy, came out to check if everything was up to our satisfaction. He explained that we could have ordered a less spicy version. It certainly gives me confidence in a restaurant if the chef himself comes out to check on our enjoyment.

mango yogurt Pakistani drink Nihara Arleta Los AngelesFortunately, there was an answer to the chili power. It was the mango yogurt drink to neutralize acids in the stomach. Even if you don’t need to chill the heat, this drink is absolutely worth the experiment. It’s delicious and different.

If you are tired of ho-hum meat and potatoes like me, then Nihari House is a hotspot to excite your palate.

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 2

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 1

Here’s a big tip: try to hit the Sunday buffet 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. That way you can sample so many different flavors for one low price. Unfortunately, I missed the buffet because it didn’t coincide with date night with my wife.

nihari house Los Angeles pakistani foodI thought that Mexicans were the hot chili pepper-eating champions of the world. (I remember in Mexico City seeing a 4-year-old eating a jalapeño all by itself as if it were a banana. He didn’t cry until he accidentally wiped his eyes with his fingers.) Now I know that the Pakistanis are right up there competing.

pakistani buffet in LA

Nihari House
13920 Van Nuys Blvd.
Arleta, CA 91331
818-302-6291
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Where butter is supreme – Eclair Bakery in Arroyo Grande

eclairbakery arroyo grandeEspecially since the sugar and lard cinnamon buns from across town are such an overload, Eclair Bakery in Arroyo Grande is a positive relief for treat-seekers who don’t want an immediate cardiac arrest over a simple muffin.

eclair bakery pismo beach (arroyo grande)My wife and I discovered Eclair Bakery by chance taking a stroll down Arroyo Grande (right next to Pismo Beach). It turns out there are some quaint spots for tourists off the main drag of Pismo that are worth poking around.

huge blueberry scones eclair bakery pismo beachIn this case, it is worth the very short drive OUT of Pismo to Arroyo Grande — or AG, as locals call it. Eclair doesn’t dump sugar and lard on their pastries. But they don’t hold back the butter.

eclair bakery arroyo grande macaroonThe result is that treats are not so sweet but still mouth-wateringly delicious.

cupcakes eclair bakery coastal californiaI  had the blueberry scone. I can never resist a scone. These were HUGE. I couldn’t believe how big they were. With a decent cup of Joe, I was in Heaven.

muffins eclair bakery pismo beachMy wife ordered the coconut macaroons, which must be the biggest on the planet. There are two varieties, simple and covered in chocolate (not a thin layer).

The cupcakes were enticing, but we couldn’t eat everything there in just one day.

This spot has got to be THE PLACE you visit when you go to Pismo Beach.

Eclair Bakery
117 W. Branch St.
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
805-481-7654
$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Socorro’s Restaurant: Authentic Mexican in the San Fernando Valley

family mexican restaurant los angelesWhat are the signs of an authentic Mexican restaurant? For years, I graded them exclusively on their chips and salsa. If the chips were stale or mass-produced and thus bleh, the eatery got a low grade. Similarly, if it didn’t have a decent hot sauce (and I mean “hot” not “mild hot sauce,” which is an oxymoron), then it failed the test.

best cheese enchiladas san fernando valleyBut now that I can’t eat hot hot sauce (because I got old and my stomach turns with the fire), I have to look at other factors. Socorro’s Restaurant has the other factors. They make their tortillas by hand. The cheese on the enchiladas stretches three feet. They have frescos (or refrescos) of fruit in the clear plastic buckets. The menu above the cash register is ONLY in Spanish. Yeah, that’s real.

frescos de frutasOh man, this is authentic. The green one is spinach and pineapple juice. Mixed with lots of sugar, it’s very delicious — and somewhat healthy.  It’s actually the eatery’s most popular drink.

spinach pineapple refesco

My friend got the horchata. Of course, I went for the exotic and tasty spinach juice

Recently, I had a buddy from West Virginia over. In West Virginia, the waitresses in the “Mexican” restaurants don’t know what horchata is. The hot sauce is about as hot as ketchup. My friends, and their kids, were absolutely entusiasmados to savor the flavor.

mexican carne asada LAI was pretty pumped too. I had to get my favorite, cheesy cheese enchiladas. Forgive me for the redundancy, but they were redundant with cheese. If you are a cheese addict, I suggest you go no further. There was more cheese in those enchiladas than in a lasagna.

handmade tortillas mexican restaurant san fernando valleyOne of my sons ordered the carne asada, which he rated highly. My other son got flautas. Our friends got tacos, quesadillas. The rice and beans are very good. The vegetables and lettuce were fresh and crisp.

best tacos los angelesMan, those are big tortillas, patted out by hand by a lady in the back and cooked over a comal. It doesn’t get more authentic.

mexican tacos los angelesI just love the hole in the wall restaurants that serve good food under the radar from the snooty foodies.

birriria in van nuys

The birriria wasn’t my favorite though.

mexican food los angelesAnd of course, the kids loved it.

By the way, you can tell the authenticity of the Mexican food by the amount of sugar in the refrescos. There’s a lot. They’re sweet. Enjoy!

socorros restaurant los angelesSocorro’s Restaurant
14853 Sherman Way
stocking stuffer miniVan Nuys, CA  91405
818-785-0505
$

The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

The chicken and beef enchiladas were also outstanding.

beef and chicken enchiladas van nuys

 

Frozen custard and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

what is the difference between frozen custard and ice creamFrozen custard, I learned, was slow-churned for a smoother, creamier-than-ice cream delight with no ice crystals because of the painstaking preparation. Custard, a virtually unknown quantity in L.A., was what brought me into Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers when I was visiting my daughter in Salt Lake City. The throwback eatery throttled me: Was there one in L.A.? Yes, but it is far. It is in Thousand Oaks.

It turns out that frozen custard is more than slow-churn. It has more egg white and less oxygen, which makes for a denser product that doesn’t melt as easily as ice cream (the science). In short, it is a significant step up from ice cream (the non-science). You can find it scarcely around L.A., but I’ll only vouch for the quality of Freddy’s. When I was inducted into the wonders of frozen custard with my relatives around East Rochester (who schooled me as to the advantages), I embarked on a quest to find it on the East Coast. I have found it.

freddy's steakburgersFreddy’s, as I discovered in Salt Lake, doesn’t specialize in dietary or healthy. While other burger joints have made strides to cut calories or limit trans fats, Freddy’s wallows in the goodness of the way things were cooked in the 50s. (Quantities of salt and sugar, I think, register on the Richter Scale.) So don’t make this splurge a regimen regular.

bamboo steamer best[The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

I went for the custard but discovered Freddy’s has more than just custard. Originally from Wichita, Kansas. This is part of the swath of America that likes Fry Sauce.

what is fry sauce

Wichita Freddy's Frozen Custard

What is Fry Sauce?

I asked. When I was in Idaho visiting my brother.

Fry sauce? Fry Sauce is Fry Sauce.

I’m not kidding. That’s what they told me.

I suppose those Idahoans never imagined life without Fry Sauce. Nor had they ever imagined there might be a barbarian who had never tried or even heard of it.

It’s worth a try.

Freddy's Frozen Custard hamburger and hotdog combo

The hamburger and hot dog combo. The side sliced pickles.

I’ve been a straight ketchup-and-fries man myself. So the prospect of something new and exotic is tantalizing. Could there be something better — or at least equal to — ketchup with fries? Some people swear by it.

freddy-s-frozen-custard-amp-steakburgersFry Sauce is mostly mayonnaise with a touch of ketchup, vinegar, pepper and seasoned salt. Freddy’s has a variety with jalapeño. The wheel has been reinvented. Break out of boredom and give it a try.

deep fried cheese curds at Freddy's Frozen Custard

The steak burger with the deep-fried cheese curds

Freddy’s shoe-string fries, which give more surface area for salt to cling to, will force you to fire them fast into your mouth to fill up. There’s no slow-eating those shoe-string fries. If you are a cheese lover, as I am, then skip the fries altogether because they have a thing I didn’t even know existed: deep-fried cheese curds.

Oh my!

The steakburger, too, is a notable break from routine. The patty is squared and comes with charred edges. It seems to hold together more loosely, giving the perfect circle patties with uniform thickness of other restaurants the feel of rubber hockey pucks, by comparison. The pickles are sliced lengthwise (even that is different from the norm!)

freddys-front_750xx1500-844-0-77To complete the exotic experience, sprinkle on some Steakburger & Fry Seasoning, which is made of salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, turmeric, onion salt, and garlic salt.

After reveling in the diet-busting, throw all restraint to the wind and get what you came for: the frozen custard. Savor it. Admire it. Bite it. Look at the denseness of the cream. I got the chocolate, and my buddy got the vanilla. (He’s not close enough of a buddy for me to ask for a bite of his ice cream.) They have sundaes, shakes and malteds.

Freddy of Freddy'sFreddy soldier WW2 Freddy's Frozen CustardInitially, I thought that Freddy, a World War 2 veteran, was the founder of his throwback restaurant. It certainly adds mystique to the experience. But, as it turns out, it was his son, who named the restaurant after his dad. Pictures of dad and his farming and war hero life are featured on the walls of Freddy’s.

When I found out that the nearest Freddy’s to me (in L.A.) was Thousand Oaks, I despaired because that’s a bit far. I was told there are only three Freddy’s in California. When my buddy moved to Thousand Oaks, I began to plot my visit. I will be back with my family.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Westlake Village, CA
(805) 497-3344
$

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House

A delight for trying new restaurants is finding something new. In the case of a Persian restaurant in “Tehrangeles” called Flame, my wife and I discovered sumac salt, which zipped up an already delicious boneless chicken kabob with saffron basmati rice.

My infatuation with Middle Eastern food started when I had a serious falling out with Mexican food. You see, I turned 50 and my stomach turned — with the chili sauce. Without the picante, Mexican fell out of favor, and I needed to move on. I made some friends among the Arabs and Middle Easterners — and the rest is history.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House beckoned me for years on Santa Monica, its flames dancing on the sign. But it either appeared too expensive or traffic was too strong (it’s right next to the Santa Monica Blvd. on-ramp to the 405 freeway — as in “four or five hours to get anywhere on it”). Friday was the day. Here’s what we discovered:

The place has a lush and garish look that the Persians love, but the price wasn’t too bad. They have the absolute best humus, which I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish but demolished with the nan bread. Not sour, like Yankou’s. Slightly accented with some kind of spice. Just perfect.

My wife ordered the lamb shank with eggplant, which was very tomatoey. Tasted like an Italian entrée.

I was  delighted by the pink mayonnaise given as dressing for my salad. The colorfulness of the presentation was inviting, and I accordingly dove in. The pink color came from beet juice. The salad had beets, which I like and don’t often find.

On the walls the restaurant has a four panels showing nature images, presumably from Iran, alternatively waterfalls or thermal waters bubbling up in rivers. This, which the New Agey music, has quite the calming effect.

What really caught my fancy was the sumac. It’s bright red like paprika but provides a strong flavor. Ground into powder from the dark red drupes, the tart lemony herb adds garnish color and flavor to salads, rice, beef or chicken. Where have you been all my life?

Basmati rice with sumac

You go about your life thinking you know it all, and then wham! something totally new and delicious invades your horizon. It causes me to know that Heaven will have limitless new delights for us.

By the way, at least 300,000 residents of Persian descent reside in Los Angeles, many of whom are clustered around Westwood Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd, about a mile from where Flame is. While “Little Persia” is an official nod from the city, “Tehrangeles” is a fun and common reference even recognized by Wikipedia. Tehran is the capital of Iran.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House – $$
11330 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
310-444-0045

The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Cheesecake Factory cheesecake

IMG_4144Special memories for my wife and me. The Cheesecake Factory is where I asked her to marry me — 29 years ago. Dianna and I went for our anniversary.

Don’t go to the Cheesecake Factory for Mexican Food. Or Chinese. Or Italian. Yeah, the food at the Cheesecake Factory is, at best, decent. But the ethnic food is meh.

IMG_4142Go to the Cheesecake Factory for cheesecake. Nobody does it better.

The great danger of the Cheesecake Factory is the calorie count. An entre usually is more than half you daily max, and the the cheesecake is at least half. If you order a soda and an appetizer, you blasting into the 4000 calorie range — IN JUST ONE MEAL! (The menu I saw said “2,000 calories is recommended daily, but intake may vary from person to person.” This is MISLEADING, meant to lull you into lowering your guard with the doubt that you might need more. If you play high school football, are a boy and a teenager, then you need more calories. If not, forget it.

IMG_4143

Looks healthy? It does. But HOW do they get more than 1,000 calories into a salad?

Anyhow, you can splurge once in a while. I skipped the fries because they weren’t fresh, and I saved calories.

But Dianna and I did good with the cheesecake. We ordered the mango key lime. It was mid-range calories — 1280. And it was sensational! The graham-cracker pie crust was laced with coconut. The tart lime was counter-balanced perfectly by sweet and creamy with sweet mango.

I have tried almost every cheesecake they offer. My favorites are the chocolate and raspberry ones.

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Savory Indian cuisine at Urban India Grill

Urban India Cafe North HollywoodHankering for some quick Indian food but can’t afford the plane ticket to India? Try Urban India Grill on Sherman Way in North Hollywood.

The favorite item on the 2-year-old restaurant is the Chicken Tikka Masala, which we ordered super mild because we’re — without mincing words — getting old and can’t stomach the hot, hot, hot fare we used to love. The thick, sweet tomato-based gravy in which the chicken chunks are generously bathed was so good that we were spreading it on our bread and into our basmati rice. My wife and I couldn’t get enough of that sauce. It is the kind of thing you look for in an Indian restaurant, that authentic Indian flavor.

chicken tikki masala san fernando valleyWe also delighted on the Mixed Tandoori, a smattering of lamb, chicken chunks of the tikka and tandoori style served on a sizzling iron skillet over a thin bed of sauced, grilled bell pepper and onion slivers. They served us two dipping sauces: one a sweet tamarind and the other mint with lemon.

nan prati indian breadThe bread really is something. Baked in house, you have choose either nan or prati, which is a little thinner. The flatbreads have the best of all worlds, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. You could go to this restaurant just for the bread.

vegetable samosa fried turnover IndiaShireen, the proprietor, works the restaurant with her whole family. An immigrant from Bangladesh, she met and married her husband from Indian in America. Their adult children were both working the night my wife and I visited. They are both working on master’s degrees, he in marketing, she in biology, but they’re making money to pay for their studies. The son has helped establish restaurants in Dubai and Oman for an uncle. With a husky voice, Shireen made us feel like we were in family.

indian food san fernando valley

Shireen prevailed on us to try, insisting we try the vegetable Samosa, which was a deep-fried turnover filled with a pureed paste of an assortment of vegetables, again with the red and green dipping sauces.

On top of all the pluses, Urban India is way affordable. Way affordable. Apparently, before Shireen and family purchased it, the eatery was a teriyaki joint, so they still serve some Asian fusion.

Urban India Grill
12907 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
$

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #11

partea-boba-400x787Partea Boba –

15355 Sherman Way
Van Nuys
$

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.

Read the rest of Best (secret) restaurants of the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #10

Weiler’s Nosh & Bakery –

9028 Balboa Blvd.
Northridge
$

witch's brew cold coffee weilers san fernando valley

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.

avocado toast spanish olives sunny side up egg weilers san fernando valleySince 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. Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #8

papillonPapillon International Bakery –

17305 Roscoe Blvd.
Northridge
$

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.

ponchikFortunately 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… Read the rest of Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #7

o (1)It’s all good House of Kebab –

6800 Reseda Blvd.
Reseda
$$

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 saffronRead the rest: Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #6

best pastrami sandwich in the San Fernando ValleyHoliday Burgers

15520 Devonshire St.
North Hills
$

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. Read the rest Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #4

oChio’s Peruvian Grill –

7755 Sepulveda Blvd.
Van Nuys
$$

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.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #3

crave cafeCrave Cafe –

14505 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks
$$

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. Read the rest of Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #2

korean mexican tacosCorner Grille –

8261 Sepulveda Blvd.
Panorama City
$

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.

Good thing.

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. Read the rest of Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.