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.
(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.
Red Zone Lounge / Golden State Pizzeria
7131 Balboa Blvd., near the southwest corner of Balboa & Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA
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
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)
Great! And the lunch specials are under $10
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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!!!
Top Thai (Reseda blvd north of Sherman Way) is the best Thai in the west sfv IMO. Or you could head to NoHo where there are a number of good Thai places (Swan, Krua, Sunshine, Sanamluang etc)
Firehouse is ok, for Greek I prefer Alexis at Tampa/Nordhoff. A little more expensive but food is better and fresher.
A couple other places not far from you:
Dos Arbolitos (Woodley/Nordhoff) great Mexican food
El Criollo (Victory/Fulton) great little Cuban place. Last time I was there they said they were moving to a larger space on Van Nuys blvd. but not sure if they moved yet.
I'm curious to hear which chowhound reccomendations you didn't like?
go for it. Every opinion is worth postin, if done politely. For example, wizardX DIDN'T like Golden State Pizza, and is allowed to post that, too. Look, sometimes I hate things hounds love, or am not fond of them. You wouldn't beleive what happens whenever I post that I think Mozza is a rip off, or that I think FO's policies are stupid.
Some people don't see the whole "I think" part.
If we all thought alike, the world would be a boring place.
May I ask a question about Dos Arbolitos? My question would be, while I love Melody's (on Reseda north of Victory) salsas (LOVE- we buy quarts of each of their salsas) there always seems to be a little bit of sweet in their food. I can't pinpoint it but I think it might be a little ginger added? Melody's food is fantastic, but it's not the border Mex I grew up with.
I would love to find a border Mexican place like Benito's in West LA/ and other locations, up here -- is Dos Arbolitos that kind of border Mex place i.e., shredded beef tacos FRIED in a corn tortilla, beans with lard, rice?
We used to live within walking distance of Benito's and Monte Alban (Monte Alban has amazing Oaxacan food, but not border Mex -- ask for the green salsa) but up here in Van Nuys/ Lake Balboa I haven't found border Mex. Just a lot of carne asada in not fried corn tortillas.
Any suggestions as to where to find border Mex food near Sherman Way & Balboa? Thanks!
You might try Carrillo's Deli on Sherman Way around Corbin, just west of the Smart & Final on the SW corner. I drive from Sherman Oaks to get their takeout for parties, and not one complaint, ever! Their guac is fabulous! Get handmade tortillas, fresh drinks, and superb food.
Not tried their posole or menudo, yet hear both are very good. Never there on the weekend mornings, though, either.
I know this is heresy around here, but we didn't like Alcazar (and I saw that the L.A. Weekly Pulitzer Prize winning food reporter put it on his best of L.A. list. I'm not sure for which year but it was within the last few years).
I didn't like "That's All Good" the Iranian restaurant on Reseda. Although the hummus was REALLY nice.
I like Melody's and its sister restaurant, I'm blanking on the name, but it's around the corner and owned by the same family. But again there's something slightly sweet about the food, which I don't like. But obviously it's very popular and deserves to be, and their salsas are just.....MMMMMM good.
I like Chili My Soul on Ventura and Balboa, but oddly enough, though I LOVE garlic, I thought their garlic chili was too garlicky. I liked the Rio Grande.
Chili My Soul
4928 Balboa Blvd.
Encino, CA 913016
(in the Smart & Final shopping center)
818 981 7685
But again, these are my personal opinions
I wouldn't go that far. I actually love Alcazar's mezze, but have never been particularly enthused about their dinners. The last time we went, between four of us, we got a very overcooked salmon, a so-so chicken kebab, another unmemorable fish dish, and some amazing hummus alcazar, kbbe, and sujuk. So I could definitely see someone who has only tried entrees at Alcazar disliking the food.
The original Nat's is on Burbank and Hazeltine, NW corner strip mall. Owned by Victor, orginally a busboy there. A classic story written up in the Valley Daily News a couple of times. VERY family friendly. Homemade goods. Very nice people and I've been eating Sat. breakfast there for about 20 yrs. Don't come too early, the place is busy enough!
Won's food I'd say is good, not great. HUGE portions which attracts the "working man." However, the Wor Won Ton Soup is very good. A huge portion is served scalding hot but it will cure what ails you.
The calamari at Firehouse is good too. I could use some now.
The Kal bi Chim & Japche at Pine Tree was excellent, but a little bit more than $10 for the lunch special.
The only beef (pun not intended) I have with Pine Tree is that they don't seem to have fresh spicy been curd like they do at Soot Bull Jeep in Koreatown. I think the spicy bean curd is called "Daen Jang" - otherwise I LOVE Pine Tree.
You might want to check out Tony's Mexican Grill on Coldwater and Magnoila. Carney's on Ventura for burgers and hotdogs cant be beat. For good salads try Stanley's on Ventura in Sherman Oaks (although might not qualify as under $10.00).
Went to Dos Arbolitos for the frist time this evening, and have to admit that I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be. It seemed to me like (and stick with me on this one) an Americanized version of a "Mexican" Mexican restaurant (as compared to something like Sol y Luna - which is American/Mexican Food - or Carillos, which is the real deal). I had the Camerones a la Diabla and found the flavors to be tame and the shrimp to be a bit on the small side. I also notied that their horchata comes from the machine instead of handmade and then served out of the big glass (or plastic?) container like real quality agua frescas are. All in all the place wasn't bad, put considering the amount of really good Mexican food to be had why should anyone settle for just "eh".
Maybe that there wasn't a single Mexican family eating at the place should have told me something.
OK, I've changed my mind about Golden State, not because of the food (I still love the Philly Cheese Steak) but because of the strip mall that it's in, which at night gets scary. I suggest delivery, especially if it's after sunset, although I don't think that delivery is free.
I second the complimentary comment about the Thai restaurant "Thai Tom Yum"
It's is in the same strip mall on the southwest corner of Sherman Way and Balboa.
7139 Balboa Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91406
It's YUMMY, and run by what seems to be the nicest Thai family, so the food matches what I got in Thailand. Also, they give you prik nam pha (tiny, very hot little chilis in fish sauce, which is a standard condiment in Thailand)
Their lunch specials are a real deal -- right now they're $5.95 with free delivery if you live within three miles. They come with salad or wonton soup (and while it's a little salty, I love the soup) and fried rice like what you'd find on the street in Thailand.
I like the Spicy Mint Leaves and the Drunken Noodles. My husband likes the chicken sate (VERY generous slices of chicken) and the Spicy Vegetable soup, which was a little too sour for my taste, but he slurped it down.
They don't make it spicy enough for me, but now that we're becoming regulars I think that they'll understand that when I say "hot" I mean HOT.
Again, I would suggest delivery after sunset, but I don't think anyone who likes real Thai food will be disappointed.
Before the current owners of Thai Tom Yum took over, the place was called Friend Thai, and was under the same ownership since I think the early 80's. Their food was awesome; I've met a number of people who don't even live in the SFV that knew about and went there on a regular basis. Luckily I live a few blocks from there, so I had it delivered every couple of weeks. Thai Tom Yum, I'm sad to day, is not the same at all. I've tried it twice; both times I found the egg rolls to be tough & most dishes not done well at all.
After the suggestions here, however, I will be sure to try Golden State Pizza; I haven't been in there yet.
Don't bother with Golden State Pizza, I made a mistake. It was great the first few times and then sometimes just not good in my opinion (and I'm being kind).
I've had really good food from Thai Tom Yum and then food where, while the veggies seemed fresh, the meat/ chicken, I did not like.
We live near all these, gonna try the pizza Friday night and maybe the Thai next week...the only Thai we like is in a small shopping center on Riverside and Coldwater? be nice to have something closer.
Been to Firehouse. Wifey had the Gyro it was good, I had the fish and chips (why the heck would I go Greek and order that!!! <nodding head> It was not really good. YES, the greek salad made my meal...very tasty, and yes, the peeps that served us were very very nice. Kids had burgers...they were pretty tasty.
Do you know the name of the Thai restaurant that you like at Riverside and Coldwater?
We have tried many along that same route, specifically many on Sherman Way. Actually, it was the first one we tried years ago that I thought was the best, but I can't remember which one it was. Since then we have tried quite a few that have been good but not great.
I'd love to hear a current rave review for what might be a really good Thai restaurant in the northeastern part of the Valley.
I would seriously not go to that strip mall that has Golden State Pizzeria and Thai Tom Yum at night (SW corner of Balboa & Sherman Way). It's VERY scary.
Get it delivered! I don't want you to get hurt picking-up food that I recommended.
And others have NOT liked the pizza at Golden State, so I don't want to be blamed if you don't like it. Maybe you should find another pizzeria.
I feel that I can vouch for Thai Tom Yum in terms of food, because I did spend two months in Thailand, eating mostly street food or in cheap restaurants.
It's a hole-in-the-wall, but the food is really good and cheap, and the owners are a really nice Thai what appears to be one family. I wouldn't suggest a sit-down meal there, especially given the weirdness going on around that strip mall, but I do want Thai Tom Yum to succeed for purely selfish reasons -- I love their food.
Actually, not PURELY selfish reasons -- they're nice people who work really hard and put out a great product, I want the people running Thai Tom Yum to succeed for themselves.
I made a mistake about the Thai Tom Yum website. It's:
My favorite Thai place in the valley is Sanamluang on Sherman Way and Coldwater (roughly). They're open til 4am (it's one of my favorite places to go after clubbing/hitting the bars), and pretty much everything I've ever had there is good. And, if you're adventurous, they have a few things you probably wouldn't find at more Americanized Thai restaurants.
I'm very fond of Lum Kaa Nad (http://www.lumkanaad.com/) on Reseda in Northridge. Very fresh ingredients, extremely authentic and reasonable prices.
I tried the Jackfruit salad (Tum Kanoon) this past week, very good, it's been such a long time since I've seen jackfruit on any SE asian restaurant menu.
Here is my 2 cents:
La Fogata on Van Nuys. Great crunchy tacos!
Casa Vega just because it's an institution in the Valley and they have a really good Tostada Chiquita
There's a mini mall on the cornor of Magnolia and Coldwater that has a good Chinese Restaurant the name escapes me, and a pizza place called Damore's. I think they have some of the best pizza around.
Zankou Chicken on Sepulveda. The very best roasted chicken.
Choza Mama in Burbank for Peruvian food.
Papoo's Hot Dog Show in Toluca Lake and Bob's Big Boy, if you like that sort of thing.Old Fashioned restaurants with real soda drinks and malts and shakes.
Tommy's on Roscoe off the fwy for a chili burger and fries
La Frite on Ventura in Sherman Oaks. Great standard french food.
Iwata on Ventura and Van Nuys for sushi. Spicy Tuna on a rice cracker, Yum!
California Chicken Cafe in Encino.
I second Nat's and the Waffle place.
Eclectic, but all good choices in my book!
Pico Pico Rico is on Magnolia, but you're correct that it's just east of Kester.
I agree that it's better than La Fogata, though it does not do crunchy tacos. The carnitas are usually very good, and the homemade tortillas are great for the tacos, sopes, and huaraches. My two beefs with Pico Pico Rico are: (1) the salsas are a bit lackluster; and (2) the food, particularly the asada, can be inconsistent depending on who is cooking. I would not put Pico Pico Rico in the El Taco Llama or Tacos La Fonda category, but it is good for the location.
I utterly disagree w/ you about Iwata. More interseting selection of fish than Taka, always completely fresh & full of flavor, very friendly sushi bar, etc. Taka is fine & gives very large sushi portions (maybe too big for my taste), but I've somehow not found their fish as tasty as Iwata. Also, the sushi bar is much smaller & does not seem as inviting as Iwata's (altho it does have more table space & is more appealing from that perspective if you prefer a table to the sushi bar).
Nica's Kitchen, on Victory in North Hollywood.Nicaraguan.
11640 Victory Bl.
North Hollywood,CA 90606
I am glad to see so much activity about the valley. I wouldn't worry about not seeing your favorites mentioned. There are a lot of great places that are never mention because this board is VERY LA-centric. I am usually better off using my finely honed chow instincts and wandering into one of the many obscure hole in the wall places in the valley than slavishly following a recommendation for some over hyped place in LA. It's a lot more fun, too, thinking that you've just made the best discovery in the world.
Some of my fave SFV eats:
-Mistral in Sherman Oaks (on Ventura)----more expensive, but oh-so-good--especially the chocolate souffle dessert
-Sri Siam in Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks (on Vanowen)---amazing crab rangoon and great chicken satay
-Caioti Pizza in Studio City (on Tujunga)
-Springbok in Lake Balboa---South African pub---the samosas are awesome
-Il Tiramisu in Sherman Oaks (on Ventura)---amazing lasagna
-Bollywood Cafe in Studio City (on Ventura near Universal City)