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May 18, 2008 02:39 PM

Great Eats-San Fernando Valley

We moved into the San Fernando Valley (Lake Balboa/ Los Angeles) about a year ago and have been looking for good cheap eating since. We didn't end up liking most of the restaurants chowhound users recommended.

So here are GREAT restaurants that we love - and you can get a meal for less than $10 at many of them. World class cheap eats.

Tangy Thai
(best Thai food outside of Thailand-- and I spent two months in the country)
16045 Sherman Way #D in a strip mall on Sherman Way and Woodley near the Van Nuys Airport.
(818) 994-6383

Red Zone Lounge / Golden State Pizzeria
7131 Balboa Blvd., near the southwest corner of Balboa & Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA
(818) 782-8809
or (818) 442 0900

This place is such a treasure. The pizza is just YUMMMMM. The crust is like pastry - they use the best flour from Canada. And the people are SO nice.

Best Philly Cheese Steak (the one I love is called the "Steak Special" -- it's not the "Philly Cheese Steak" on the menu) that I've had outside of Philadelphia itself.

Firehouse Restaurant ( Greek
)18450 Victory Blvd., Reseda, CA 91335
(818) 881-3118

What we love at the Firehouse are the gyros, and the Greek salad. We've had less luck with other menu items, but that could be just us.

It's a family run place and the people are VERY nice!

Pine Tree Inn (Korean)
8322 Reseda Blvd. (Roscoe)
(818) 886-1512
Great! And the lunch specials are under $10

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  1. I like Firehouse.

    You need to head east on Sherman Way -- there is a stretch from about Woodman to the 170 freeway that is chockablock with some incredibly good Thai food -- Bua Siam, Khun Dang, Sunshine, Swan, Sri Siam (OK, that's on Vanowen, so sue me), Sanamluang, Cha Chaa, Krua...

    Also in the area is excellent Peruvian food -- Las Quenas and El Hatuchay spring to mind, though the best rotisserie chicken is at Super Pollo in Van Nuys Boulevard.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      Sunshine Thai was sold and is now called Rainbow Thai, with the same phone numbers as before. Not tried yet, though.
      Have you tried Springbok B&G on Victory around the golf course yet? Would love to hear about it if you have.

      1. re: carter

        I liked it as a pub... the food was tasty but I don't know that I'm going to be craving South African food anytime soon.

      2. re: Das Ubergeek

        Thanks! I LOVE Peruvian food.

        The problem is that we're lazy, so tend to order anything that we can get delivered. Which is why we've been so delighted to discover Tangy Thai and Golden State Pizzeria/Red Zone, the latter of which we can walk to. Again we're in the Lake Balboa/ Van Nuys area around Sherman Way & Balboa Blvd.

        I've been a lurker on Chowhounds since we moved to the San Fernando Valley last year, we lived in Encino initially -- but we have tried a lot of the local legends, especially on Reseda, and have almost consistently been disappointed.

        I don't want to shut any of the family-run restaurants down, so won't say which ones disappointed us. So I'll continue just to post the ones we love, as we work our way through the restaurant flyers dropped daily at our door.

        What did surprise me most is that my favorite local places in our new spot, Lake Balboa, like Tangy Thai and the Golden State/ Red Zone Pizzeria, have not been mentioned on Chowhound as far as I can tell.

        At Tangy Thai try the Kung Pao chicken -- it's not Chinese style, it's got some kind of bready, fried coating on it -- but YUM. Also try the "All Day Special" Chili Fish -- also breaded but the sauce on both is just great, and the fish was SO tender. Spicy Mint leaves are excellent, as are the garlic shrimp dumplings, which you can only get if you go to the restaurant -- all the dumplings at the restaurant are excellent. And if you tell them that you have been to Thailand, and ask for it, you can get prik nam pha and relatively fresh sambal as condiments.

        OK, just waiting for my pizza from Golden State.

        Again, SAVE THE FAMILY RUN RESTAURANTS!!! And smile.

        1. re: ValleyGal

          Haven't been to Golden State, though I was sorry to see the wonderful family owned market there get torn down for a hookah lounge, of all things. The Thai restaurant next door, however, is excellent, as good as one is likely to find west of the 405 (though not as good as the sublime Krua Thai in North Hollywood).

      3. How about Won's Coffee Shop?
        In addition to old style American Cantonese they have some traditional American items....big portions and cheap prices.
        City workers and cops eat there......must be OK?

        Won's Coffee Shop
        14440 Gilmore St (1/2 block from Van Nuys Blvd.)
        Van Nuys, CA 91401
        (818) 780-8859

        1 Reply
        1. re: monku

          We just went to Won's this afternoon. Service was ridiculously fast and efficient, coffee was good and hot, my wife was happy with her Tomato Beef Chow Mein (which is her favorite dish, she always orders it at Sam Woo's), and my BBQ Pork and eggs was an experience. I got the big pile of fried rice instead of hash browns, and chopped up the pork and mixed it in with said rice. Eggs were properly cooked. Toast was respectable. Whole meal was around $20.

          The place looks like a dump. Apparentlly they spent about a buck and a quarter on decor 20 years ago, and decided it was a waste. But the staff was friendly, the vibe is very working-class and laid back, and the food was awesome. Who cares what it looks like?

          Sam Woo Cafe
          727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

          Won's Coffee Shop
          14440 Gilmore St, Van Nuys, CA 91401

        2. Just wanted to add that Golden State Pizzeria is also a HOOKAH LOUNGE/ restaurant with a DISCO BALL -- way too COOL, FUN, GENUINE, YET HIPSTER, KITSCH. PRICELESS. And the PIZZA !!! -- my mouth is watering!!!

          We usually order in (ordering now - just posting this has gotten my saliva glands worked up) from Golden State Pizzeria, so this was the first time we'd actually been to it -- WHAT FUN!

          It reminded me of that place, the piano bar, I used to go to on Vermont just south of Franklin in Silver Lake -- can't remember the name but its famous for its chick kitsch and has been in many movies.

          Anyway, please do check Golden State Pizzeria out -- do it for me because I'd be HEARTBROKEN if the best pizza joint I'd ever been to, and I've lived all over the country and the world, went out of business.

          Let's keep family-run places alive!!! This incredible place that doesn't look like much is near a Quiznos -- what place will the uninformed people go first? When this AMAZING, QUIRKY place WITH SUPREMELY DELICIOUS FOOD (and cheaper too!!!) is right next door!!!

          Save the family-run food places!!!

          Golden State's pastrami was excellent too, and I used to live on the Lower East Side of NYC so I know my pastrami.

          It's just south of Sherman Way on Balboa Blvd. on the west side (7131 Balboa Blvd 818 782 8809

          11 Replies
          1. re: ValleyGal

            I think you mean the Dresden Room?

            1. re: perk

              Yes, that would be it. But I don't recall eating there, maybe because the drinks were strong...

              1. re: perk

                The Dresden Room is on Vermont in the Los Feliz area. The bar/restaurant on Sherman Way is the Sherman Room. It's been there forever.

              2. re: ValleyGal

                Red Zone Lounge / Golden State Pizzeria

                I knew this was a set-up, I sensed she was a shill ... but it was pizza, possibly very good pizza, in my neck of the woods! I just couldn’t help myself; I had to try this "great pizza joint."

                Well to Carter, Debra and Diana and all my other fellow Valley chowhounds, save your money, do NOT go to this quirky, twilight zone inspired mess of a Russian mafia bar / pizza joint / hookah lounge.

                As a chowhound I usually love quirky but this is right up to the edge of scary, although I was eyeballing some sort interesting looking, Russian potted meat for 7.00....

                I won't go into much detail about the pizza itself, but suffice to say.. I think this pizza is vying for that 2nd to last pizza spot right next to lamppost or papa johns. The bread ... I mean crust is almost inedible, far worst than most of the better frozen varieties available. The sauce actually wasn't that bad but then again along the same lines as a good frozen pizza.

                All in all it was an adventure that I don't want to repeat for awhile.

                Oh there was one bright spot; the special is a "large" pepperoni pizza for only 6 dollars, so while it isn’t quite worth that much, 6 bux isn’t that bad to take one for the team.

                1. re: wizardx

                  I'm not a shill -- I've lived all over the world, as well as all over L.A.

                  We're stuck in Van Nuys for the next few months, and I really like Golden State's pizza -- it reminded me of the pizza I used to get back when I was in college in Northampton, MA. I can name restaurants all over the L.A. area that I like (and have). Check my profile. And BTW --what's life without adventure?

                  I'm ordering from Golden State again tonight. I like the crust, I like the sauce, and the man whom we order from calls me "honey" and gives us specials-- what more could I ask for? We pick it up fresh, hot and great, and then we eat.

                  I went to Ralph's on Saticoy and Louise and got a pre-made pepperoni pizza for many more $ -- why should I do that when I honestly LOVE the pizza available within walking distance?

                  In fact, we're going to order it for my birthday party next weekend.

                  1. re: ValleyGal

                    Hey, you eat what you like. Sometimes, you gotta have the crud, cause you like the taste. There are certain foods I gotta have now and again that other Hounds would look down thier noses at me for having!

                    But don't stay you're STUCK in Van Nuys. It isn't the ritziest area, but the people are nice and the secret food spots are good.

                    I do encourage you to actually leave the house and go a little farther.

                    I think you might like some of the other places mentioned on here. El Katracho (affordable as all get out), Kyushu Ramen, Pho So 1 or Pho 99, Pico Pica Rica, Carnival, Simon's Place, Leda's Bake Shop, Billy's Grill, and more are all close to you and worth a trip, as well as more!

                    1. re: Diana

                      Thanks for the suggestions!

                      I would like to try the Vietnamese restaurants, which one is better in your opinion?

                      Do either of them do the grill on the table with the thin slices of beef and/or shrimp and then you wrap it yourself into paper-thin rice "crepes" with lettuce, carrots, pearlized onions?

                      Do either have that sweet fish dipping sauce? How are the chao giao (the spring rolls)?

                      Do either make you feel like you're in Vietnam in terms of the authenticity of the food?

                      My favorite Vietnamese restaurant is a hole-in-the-wall in Phoenix. Get this -- it's McCain's favorite Vietnamese restaurant too. I would love to find something similar here.

                      The reason we don't get out so much is that my husband drives all over L.A. all day, so doesn't want to drive when he gets home ( and I HATE to drive -- decades of living in L.A. has made me a drive-a-phobe) and I work from home so I do delivery for lunch.

                      That's why I go through all the menus dropped off in the mailbox, and plan to sample all delivery food in the area before we leave. Well, anything that looks good, and I will, of course, let you all know if I think I've found a cheap hidden gem.

                      1. re: ValleyGal

                        I have to say, you want to really hound, even in just the SFV, you gotta drive a little.

                        Sorry :(

                        1. re: ValleyGal

                          Either Viet place will do you fine. I like Pho So 1 just a tiny bit better. Every Viet restaurant has the sweet dipping sauce. It's called nuoc cham. Most Viet restaurants have cha gio (also called nem ran in Northern Vietnamese places), and you'll get nuoc cham with it. And the thin slices of beef are part of a set meal called "bo bay mon", or "seven courses of beef", which is available at Pho So 1 but not Pho 999.

                          Neither place is as good as your average place in Little Saigon (OC) but they're both quite passable and you won't be disappointed at either.

                          I concur, BTW -- you want good food, you have to leave your "home" now and then.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            When we lived in West L.A, I tried the two Vietnamese places around there. I think one was called Le Saigon on Santa Monica Blvd. It was near the movie theater and was very popular, but except for the soup, I didn't like it. The other one was Pho something on Wilshire, east of Bundy. I really didn't like that either.

                            Thanks for your recommendations, I will try Pho So 1.

                            1. re: ValleyGal

                              Pho 999 and Pho So 1 are each better than Le Saigon and Pho Bac Huynh put together.

                2. Try :
                  Sako's on Corbin in Reseda

                  Woodlands on Topanga Canyon in Chatsworth

                  Red Ballz pizza in Canoga park on Topanaga Canyon

                  Alexis Greek Cafe in Nrothridge on Reseda.

                  Il Tiramisu in Sherman Oaks on Ventura

                  Carnival on Moorpark/Woodman in Sherman Oaks

                  Daichan in Studio City on Ventura

                  Kyushu Ramen on Sherman Way in Van Nuys

                  El Katracho on Burbank in Van Nuys

                  Caoti on Tujunga in Studio City/ Toluca Lake.

                  Amer's Falafel in Studio City on Ventura

                  Hummus Bar in Tarzana on Encino

                  Asanebo Sushi on Ventura in Studio City

                  More than Waffles on Ventura in Encino

                  nat's West on Topanga in Woodland Hills

                  there are plenty others, too. many of these are family owned. Try to get over the laziness, and get out and explore!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Diana

                    Oh yes! Ding ding ding! Diana, I'm backing you (because I know you mentioned it in a couple posts and it went overlooked) on Carnival, one of my absolute favorite restaurants. That's one of those places where I pick the items I've never heard of and the specials because I trust everything they make.

                    More Than Waffles is a great little breakfast place, especially if you feel like hitting up a matinee at the Laemmle Town Center 5 which is about 20 steps away. Beware the crowds on weekend mornings (just like any other breakfast establishment) but they really move things along very quickly. Their homemade jams are always a treat!

                    Viva la Valley!

                    1. re: Diana

                      I agree about Caioti. Their chicken is cool, and they often have a steak on special that's good. My wife loves their Margherita pizza...

                    2. It's been awhile since I lived in the SFV but some of my favs were

                      Pho So 1 on Reseda Blvd. near Sherman Way (great duck curry!)
                      Any of the India Sweet & Spices
                      Pine Tree as you mentioned
                      Mandarin Delii on Reseda in Northridge
                      The Thai Wat Temple on Sherman Way in North Hollywood. On Sundays after Service food stalls are set-up. It's like droping into a Bangkok street food market

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: SeaCook

                        Wat Thai Temple has shut down the food stalls. I believe the woman who sold the mango and sticky rice has a place in the big King Seafood market on Sherman Way.

                        1. re: Jwsel

                          I'm heart broken! Do you know why? Geez I have been out of the SFV too long. :-(

                          1. re: SeaCook

                            My understanding is that it was a barage of complaints from residents of the surrounding neighborhood regarding parking problems etc. plus an adult volunteer at the school was up to no good. I say to the monks, please fix it and bring back a true cross-cultural gem to the whole community!!!

                        2. re: SeaCook

                          Will try the Thai Wat Temple -- that's exactly the kind of Thai food I love. Do you know what time the food stalls are set-up?

                            1. re: Diana

                              The neighbours complained about the noise and parking so they closed down to maintain good relations with the area.