Where to eat in Encino area?
Not familiar with the Valley....Looking for a nice place to eat this weekend after a conference. No chains. We will not be in dressy clothes, probably neat jeans. Would like to keep the bill under $150 for 4 (not big drinkers.) Open to any suggestions, any food type. I was thinking the Sportsmen Lodge as it has been there forever but the reviews are all reallllly baaaaaaad!
Yamato is in Encino Town Square, it is a Benihana type place with significantly better food. Across the street is Alcazar, a very good Lebanese restaurant. Slightly further west is Versailles, albeit technically a chain, many people like their garlicky chicken and fried plantains.
If you're willing to go as far west as Woodland Hills, Gorikee would be a nice option. Do a search here for lots of favorable reviews and comments.
re: Bob Brooks
Alcazar probably has the best combination of food and ambience in Encino. If you like Lebanese, a combination of mezze (hot and cold tapas-style dishes) would be great and well within your budget.
Chili My Soul is probably a little more casual, but if you like chili, it has good food. A selection of different flavors of chili (you can taste as many as you want). You can then have the chilis in a variety of different ways -- over a burger, on a potato, in nachos, or just in a bowl. You order at a counter and they bring the food out to you.
The Stand may now be a chain, since there is one in Century City, but it is good for burgers and hot dogs, including somewhat more upscale dogs and sausages. Again, it is an order-at-the-counter place.
Gochi in Encino (west of White Oak) is a grill your own Japanese bbq place. They have nice dinner specials that come with soup, salad, and your choice of spicy tuna roll or california roll of under $20. You also can order meats and vegetables. You have a charcoal grill on your table. It is similar to Gyu Kaku, but I find it more reasonably priced and better quality.
I strongly dislike Yamato, so would never recommend it. It is sushi/teppan, but neither has ever struck me as particularly good. For better meat, I would go to Gochi. For better sushi, I would go to one of a half-dozen other places on Ventura, but they probably would not meet your price range.
In Sherman Oaks, just east of Sepulveda, is La Frite, which has nice French bistro food. Most of the entrees are under $20.
Also in Sherman Oaks is a nice little, casual Italian restaurant called Spumoni. It is a half-block west of Van Nuys. The pastas are pretty inexpensive, but very good. Service is friendly, and every time I've gone, we have received a complimentary serving of tiramisu. I went last week with a friend and dinner of two pastas (gnocchi and lasagna) plus the shared tiramisu was under $30.
re: Bob Brooks
I'd consider heading east toward Stanley's in Sherman Oaks
I personally like Yamato, but I think if you're looking for real conversation, it's hard to do that there as it's loud.
I'd second Al-cazar.
I fear Il Tiramisu will be too expensive, though w/o drinks...
Cheaper over on Woodman is one of my faves... Carnival.
The Great Greek is also on Ventura in Sherman Oaks,
Cucina Bene on Sepulveda.
You've got Coral Tree Cafe, Rio, Tempo, and simplest yet Zankou on Sepulveda.
Its on the edge, but their pasta's are not teeny servings, so usually sharing a few apps and desserts suffices. Plus bringing your own wine will definately help. Its a favorite of ours when we want somewhere nice but dont want to break the bank. I guess it definately depends on how you order.
If you are Ok with driving near the Sportsman Lodge I would suggest Il Tiramisu in Sherman Oaks. Great italian food, nice ambiance, very good prices for what you get. I would suggest a reservation though. Oh and they have $5 corkage so if one of you brings wine then you will be well within your budget.
As others have stated, Encino is the kiss of death for quality dining in the valley, by and large. Heading into Sherman Oaks will improve the odds signifcantly, Alcazar notwithstanding. Chile my soul is way too casual for your needs, and has no alcohol.
jwsel and emme below offer many good suggestions, but the Italian on Ventura Blvd. is all too much of the same old, same old, so I would suggest another cuisine. The patio at Stanleys (www.stanleys83.com) is really nice, yet depending on time of day, may be warmer than you want, but inside it is quite pleasant and prices are very affordable. It has been there since 1983 for a reason.
WOW, so many choices. Thank you for the replies!
OK, I did take a hit for the team, LOL. I did some sleuthing after I made the original post, that is where I read about Cafe Carolina and that is where we went. Very small Italian restaurant in Encino on Ventura, the Italian owner is the chef. I was alarmed to see it was across from a huge 99 Cent Store and down the block from an adult bookstore but it was cheery and cute inside.
We all (4) had salads, entrees, and dessert for $110 (with generous tip and corkage). My husband was wild over his sole, he said it was cooked to perfection (in parchment paper.) I had fettucini with sauteed cantaloupe! The others had stuffed shells. We had salads, gazpacho, delicious tiramasu, and coconut sorbet.
This is a very simple cafe, maybe 10 tables. Friendly service. I am not a gourmet
and cant really give expert testimony on food, but it worked out A-OK for us.
(I was fretting about being in unfamiliar territory --the Valley!-- and rendezvousing with other out-of-towners for dinner that I had never me before, that's why I wanted an exact address and reservation.
In encino, I like Gochi (well, almost in tarzana) for grill your own Japanese food.
Alcazar, mentioned here tons is really good!
I like Tempo mediterranian, as well as Sassi (kosher, open only after sundown sat and all day sun-not on friday.
I love Sushi 4 on 6, but the bill might go over your limit.
Betweeen Encino and the sportsman's lodge, you get good options.
Valley Inn is a great old-time steak place.
Clay Oven has great Indian.
Simon's Place has good Moroccan without the belly dancers to get in the way.
Great Greek is good Greek food.
Cafe Bizou has affordable french, and Cafe Cordiale has american french bistro dishes.
Stanley's has amazing salads
Il tiramisu has blow your mind food and service (I'm going for my Birthday this Sat) at great prices.
Boneyard Bistro has good upscale BBQ for a higher price.
La Fondue Bourgonione is scuzzy looking, but has fun fondue.
Sushi mac has conveyor belt Sushi at 2.50 or so a plate.
Midori Sushi does all you can eat for $28-or so for dinner, and it's pretty good stuff for AYCE. Kyoto Sushi offers a similar deal.
All of these places are on Ventura Blvd.
If you like Thai, there's a great strip of Thai places just a little north on Sherman Way between Hazeltine & Coldwater. Krua Thai and Swan Thai are my favorite.
There's also Sam Woo (only good Chinese I've found in the Valley) on Victory and Sepulveda - cash only. Also for Vietnamese, there's Pho So right next door to it.
You can also take advantage of some decent neighborhood Mexican food, e.g. Soccoro's or La Playita. Finally, one of my favorites is Skaf's, a little Lebanese place on Laurel Canyon & Oxnard. Great homemade dishes, high quality ingredients.
Hirosuki right across from the Yamato that was previously written about. If you like sushi they have some classic rolls but also some innovative and creative ones. I just went yesterday and they have great rolls like the spicy albacore roll and the spicy tuna biscuits are amazing. Another great sushi place is Katsu-Ya. There are two right on Ventura Blvd. One is in Studio City. You mentioned the Sportsmen Lodge in Studio City. Katsu-Ya in the Studio City location is more east but its the original one. The one in Encino is just west of Hayvenhurst. I've been to that one and its pretty good.
Not sure if they're still open (haven't been by there in a couple of years), but Stevie's on Ventura Blvd. (west of Balboa) used to have decent "soul" food. The fried chicken was delightfully Roscoe's-esque; killer mac-and-cheese, great assortment of classic sides (okra, mustard greens, black-eyed peas, etc.). Supposedly owned by Motown pioneer Stevie Wonder; good thing he's not in the kitchen.