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Jan 7, 2009 08:49 PM

chowhound in thousand oaks

okay about all those great restaurants that you just can't believe you've never heard of before and would travel 10 million miles to eat at? I know alot of you live more in the greater los angeles area....but how about the outskirts: woodland hills, calabasas, agoura, westlake village, thousand oaks, simi valley....what are your favorite places in these areas?

My faves:

-The Ranch: Westlake Village, CA best burgers ever!

-Santa Fe Cafe- Calabasas, CA - hole in the wall Mexican food....oh yeah!

-JV's BBQ- Calabasas, CA - great bbq....better than woodranch...tri tip anything!

The Ranch
30843 E Thousand Oaks Blvd, Westlake Village, CA 91362

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  1. While TO, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills are not an oasis of culinary delights, there are some good to nice places to dine.

    For fine dining The Grill on the Alley reigns supreme. We’ve been going once a month since it opened in October and we’re going again on Jan 18th and have Valentines reservations already! I’ve tried something different every time and have never been disappointed. I liked the blacked lamb chops, the rib eye was unbelievable, but the best so far were the short ribs. While I’m tempted to have them again on the 18th, I’m going to try their Prime Rib Special, can’t wait. Good drinks too! If you go, tell Jay Les sent you, he’s the best.

    Next for lunch or a casual dinner we go to Brent’s (2799 Townsgate Rd, Westlake Village). Huge menu; we’ve always liked everything we ordered, but service can sometimes be spotty (especially in the bar). It’s one of the few delis with a full bar. Their bus boys are well trained and many should be promoted to waiter. Love the black pastrami!!

    For breakfast we love Harold’s House of Omelets. Big portions, and very crowded on weekend mornings.

    For Mexican we like Lupe’s (1710 E Thousand Oaks Blvd). There are many who dislike this place, but for the price it can’t be beat. Food is consistently good, more authentic than all of the others around, nice size portions and good service. This place can be noisy as it is compact, crowded and if the Juke Box is going, forget it. However, they are in the middle of remodeling so hopefully that will change. Also, it’s very crowded every day. Unfortunately they only serve beer, so it’s more of a lunch place for us. We occasionally go to Cisco's (1712 E Avenida De Los Arboles) but it’s just okay, nothing exceptional but works in a pinch. We like their fajitas best, and we don’t like their drinks. Avoid the bar scene at the entrance; we sit far back or on the patio (in the summer). We tried the new one in Oak Park but didn’t like it.

    There are tons of Japanese places in the area. We like the food at Akio’s Sushi (215 N Moorpark Rd); we just don’t care for the atmosphere. To us the atmosphere is an important part of dining, and while I have nothing against families, Akio’s is just too casual and noisy. We don’t like the coffee shop/Chuck-e-Cheese atmosphere. If this doesn’t bother you, then go, their food is very good. Cho Cho San (400 E Thousand Oaks Blvd) has a notch nicer décor but also kind of a zoo. We prefer Osaka Sushi (668 Lindero Canyon Rd, Oak Park). It’s a small neighborhood family run place, the food is good and we enjoy the quiet atmosphere. I enjoy a restaurant where they're glad to see you, great you enthusiastically and remember when you're a return customer. They have a great selection of Sushi and their prices are the best in the area.

    For Chinese there really isn’t anything outstanding. Our two favorites are Hunan (3825 E Thousand Oaks Blvd) and Lakeview Gardens (4697 Lakeview Canyon Rd, Westlake Village). Both nice places with very acceptable food, good and friendly service, sometimes some dishes can be very good.

    We don’t do much Italian, but when we do we like Vivoli (Where Louise’s Trattoria used to be, 3825 E Thousand Oaks Blvd). Again, if possible we get the patio seating, but it’s comfortable inside.

    For Thai food there is really only one option: Westlake Thai (900 Hampshire Rd) (AKA Pookie’s Thai) in the Water Gardens ( Pookie is adorable and their food is the best (Thai) around. We like going in the summer and sitting on the patio by the water.

    While there have been many glowing remarks about Leila’s (706 Lindero Canyon Rd, Oak Park, we did not like it the first (and only) time we tried it. Atmosphere is good, food was okay (but overpriced), but just nothing special to warrant a return trip. Our favorite in this area in this genre is Café 14, in Agoura Hills (30315 Canwood St). Very lovely restaurant (we always sit on the patio since inside is all banquett (sp?) seating), nice people, decent food. We go often, and have never been disappointed.

    Lastly, while again I may get flamed for this, we do like Wood Ranch (28632 Roadside Dr, Agoura Hills). We’ve always found the food to our liking (I like their beef ribs & BBQ Chicken). There can be a wait at peak times but we’ve always had good service and great drinks. It’s not my favorite BBQ of all time, but it’s the best in the area by far.

    I hope I’ve given you somenew places to try. I realize that everyone does not have the same likes and tastes as we do, that’s what make CH so great. What I’ve tried to do is suggest to you the places we like. If you try any of these places and like them, terrific. If not, report back on what you disliked and what places you’ve tried that you enjoyed. In fact, please report back on any places you like or dislike.

    Happy eating!!

    6 Replies
    1. re: LesThePress

      great tips and insight!
      love brent' atmosphere for lunch with big bowls of soup...always a part of the criteria!
      Haven't gotten to try the alley as they are a little expensive. Would love to go out but its so easier to find the "hole in the wall" to die for food that beats it all....and you don't have to dress up and look proper ;)
      I'm a Wood Ranch fan too....I love their tri tip soup but they don't serve it everyday! Don't care for their eggless ceasar dressing, though....tasteless and too fishy for my likes. They have a pretty good housesalad with corn that meets my tastes

      You gave such a good description for the places you mentioned that I'll do the same for mine

      The Ranch: a little restaurant in the TJ Max parking lot on Lindero and T.O. blvd. The best food ever....everything is spectacular and the prices are pretty good! They are mostly known for catering but their grab and go food is fantastic. They deluxe cheeseburger is phenomenal made with homemade buns that are so light and fluffy ....topped with a secret sauce that is out of this world. You won't crave any other burger....that's my take on it! They also have items not on the a skinny menu for dieters and will even accomodate you based on your likes/dislikes.....veggie buger, burger salad, etc....soooo

      Santa Fe Cafe: Las Virgenes Rd. by the liquor store on the corner of T.O (Brittney Ct.)
      GREAT mexican food that is known by all the locals....huge burritos and out of this world fajitas.....way good salsa out Baja Fresh!

      JV's BBQ: Las Virgenes Rd. (same strip as Santa Fe). This place exploded after they opened because their tri tip is scrumptious! Tri tip sandwich, tri tip salad, tri tip soup....all worth it! They do big dinner meals for parties and family dinners that you can order and pick up! Their garlic rolls are doughy and just the right texture....bbq sauce makes the meal!

      1. re: wifelywhisper

        Hey Wifelywhisper, glad to see we agree on some things.

        First, yes the Alley is a little pricey, but I go home for lunch every day and use the saving to go out once a month to a nice dinner. Works out nicely.

        Santa Fe Cafe, is this near JV's BBQ? I used to go to JV's a while ago but for some reason stopped (probably when I started eating lunch at home). I don't remember seing a mexican restaurant there, is it new? I tried JV's tri-tip and ordered it rare but came way well done so I never ordered it again. I used to have their beef ribs which were okay. I liked that they had tables out front, which as you can probably tell from my previous post I like patios.

        I wasn't crazy about WR's tri tip, but then I'm very fussy about Tri Tip and don't like most restaurants, only my home made bbq'd. Guess I'm spoiled. I will say WR is much better than Claim Jumper in just about everything.

        The Ranch, this is funny!! I work on Russell Ranch Road, right behind Costco on Lindero. I go the the strip mall by TJ Max all the time since my cleaners is there. I've seen The Ranch truck in the lot, but it says catering so I never knew you could get any food there!! I will definitely try it next week. Thanks.

        I'll try the Ranch next week and let you know what I think.

        1. re: LesThePress

          Santa Fe Cafe is in the same strip as JV's on the opposite end...hope you can find it next time.
          Maybe I just like meat too much and I haven't really sat down to think about how the trip tip might vary....i should probably eat slower instead of devouring it :)
          I enjoy JV's tri tip soup alot which makes a big difference when it is surrounded by vegetables and a great juicy broth

      2. re: LesThePress

        My first post here. Just discovered this site and have got lot's of great info so far! We recently moved to Westlake so I've been exporing the food options here. What I've found so far:

        My two cents as far as steakhouses in this area- We've tried The Grill on the Alley, Mastros, and Ruths Chris in Woodland Hills. Have yet to try Mortons there. For the steak Ruth's Chris is my favorite. I always get the ribeye. The Grill and Mastros just seemed kind of tasteless compared to Ruths Chris. Maybe it's because Ruths uses a rub or marinade and I can't appreciate a plainer steak- not sure. Mastros has the best French Onion Soup I've had.

        For Italian- Vivoli, Farfalle, and Piatti.

        BBQ- I've had JV's many times and prefer Wood Ranch. JV's is pretty spotty when it comes to how done the tri tip is. They don't have mac n' cheese! I like the Wood Ranch beef ribs, tri tip, and burgers.

        Burgers- I love burgers! Haven't tried The Ranch yet although its very close to our house. The Counter just opened on Lindero and it's really good most of time. I'll build a BBQ, bacon, cheese, onion ring, mayo, and pickle burger. I tried making a Fathers Office burger there too even though I've never been to FO. Like i said I like the Wood Ranch burgers. Outback Steakhouse has a good burger too.

        My favorite right now in this area and one I haven't seen mentioned yet is Blue Table in Calabasas. What an awesome hole in the wall! If you are a cheese fan you have to go- they have a cheese closet with some nice looking cheeses. I think they are known most for their sandwiches- most popular seems to be the Elen's Special which is fantastic. I've also tried their Italian sandwich and their pizza with prosciutto, both very good.

        Chinese- Lakeview Gardens is the only one we've tried and it's pretty good- better than most.

        Mexican- Need to try Lupes. Havn't really found any good mexican around here and we've tried several places. My favorite is in Reseda called Las Fuentes.

        Pho- Pho So 1 in Reseda is very good. I love the eggrolls too!

        I'm getting further away from Thousand Oaks though- for Sushi we go to Banzai Sushi in Calabasas- its ok though I've had much better in Little Tokyo at Sushi Gen.

        Deli- Just tried Brent's in Northridge and the Black Forest pastrami Reuben was awesome- I assume the Brent's in Westlake will be just as good.

        That's all for now- thanks for all the rec's! It's almost lunchtime!

        1. re: PatrickH

          There's a Pho So 1 in Simi Valley. Depending on where you live in TO, it might be slightly closer than the one in Reseda. On Cochran near Sycamore behind an abandoned Mervyn's.

          Pho so 1
          2837 Cochran St, Simi Valley, CA 93065

        2. re: LesThePress

          Possibly the WORST Mexican food I've ever had. Yes, it's very reasonable, but most Mexican restaurants are. Watery refried beans, overcooked meat, nothing at all traditional about the menu selections. Service is friendly, but that's about it. AND the only drinks available are beer and soft drinks - no margaritas, which to us, is one of the fun additions to a Mexican meal. We much prefer Agave Azul.

          Lupe's Mexican Restaurant
          1710 E Thousand Oaks Blvd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

        3. I've enjoyed a few lunches at the Agoura Deli. Not up to Langer's pastrami-wise, but theirs is pretty good, and their store-baked rye bread is very nice. Coleslaw and potato salad both exactly to my liking as well. I discovered this place one day when I was taking appraisal pics of the shopping center it's in, arriving just as I was beginning to feel terminally lunchy, so it was obviously Meant To Be...

          1. This is my first response so try and be gentle on me. I usually don’t like to let people know about our restaurants in this little area because I don’t want them to get to busy, but with the economy the way it is, let’s help.
            First we have Leila’s. As good as any restaurant in L.A. I have been going there since they opened and it is fantastic, the food is always prepared perfectly and has wonderful flavors, the chef also changes up the menu for every season. Along with the food, Leila’s has a great wine list so don’t hesitate going.
            We have Mastro’s, what else is there to say about a wonderful steakhouse. Every time I have dined at Mastro’s the food and service have been superb.
            You want Italian, it does not get much better than Tuscany, it may be in a strip mall but the food is in the heavens.
            I don’t want to get too winded here so I will run off a few more that a surely worth a visit.

            Zin Bistro, great for outdoor dining by the lake
            Café 14
            Moz Buddha Bar
            Rustico………Italian, same owner as Tuscany

            There are more, but that should be a nice beginning and best of all there is a new Sushi bar that just opened I just can’t remember the name….sorry.

            Good luck and enjoy

            6 Replies
            1. re: gdodgerfan

              thanks for posting, gdodgerfan. We agree on a couple of places (Mandevilla, Cafe 14, Zin Bistro), and I strongly disagree with Mastros, Fins, and somewhat with Galletto. It's been 3 years since we tried Leila's maybe we're do for a re-visit, maybe we'll have a better experience.

              Wifelywhisper, I went to the Ranch today and I see what you mean. The bun (which was huge) was nice and very good. I liked the hamberger, but probably would have liked it more if it came as I ordered it (Med Rare, came well done; no lettuce, yup big hunk of lettuce). Also, next time I'll order the sauce on the side, it was a bit overkill on the sauce. I also found it on the salty side, but all in all, it has possibilities.


              1. re: LesThePress

                My work recently moved to Westake so we're trying different place in search of good places to eat in the area. We went to the Ranch today and I think my expectations may have been too high based on wifelywhisper's review and the photo on their website. I agree that the bun was huge, fresh and quite tasty but overall, I was disappointed with the "famous" Ranch Deluxe Cheeseburger. The patty was too thin for my liking (probably stretched out to fit the huge bun). The website photo looks like a nice thick homemade patty but what I got had the texture of a pre-formed patty (like the ones you get in those frozen chub packs). There's supposed to be two kinds of cheese but it tasted like American and American and it seemed to overwhelm the meat (but that could also relate to the too-thin patty). Still, I'm not giving up on the place because some of the other items on their menu look promising.

                1. re: carolnag

                  You're so right, carolnag!! I was also disappointed in the thickness of the patty expecting it to be much thicker. Also, due to the thiness it was not medium rare, not even medium (no pink at all). I was there at 11:40am, might have seen you!!

                  What places have you tried? How long have you been in WLV? Do you want some lunch recs? What kind of places do you like? I'll try to make some suggestions for you.

                  1. re: LesThePress

                    ooo...sorry to give too high expectations! I am glad you guys won't give up on are obviously the *nice* chowhounds :)
                    I agree....the Ranch patty could be thicker and that would add alot....i would imagine its difficult to try and make up cost with such a big bun and a thicker patty...maybe more customers will bring in a bigger budget to help increase the patty...haha!
                    I heard a rumor that Mastro's is closing.....have you all heard anything?

              2. re: gdodgerfan

                I've always wanted to try Zin Bistro....what do you recommend there?

                1. re: wifelywhisper

                  We tried Masto's a little while after it opened (in Feb), and we weren't overly impressed. First, there were just two of us, and there was just way too much food. Maybe in a group of 4 or 6 it would even out the portioins a bit, but for just 2 of us, it was way too expensive and I like the steaks much better at Morton's (Woodland Hills) . We thought the sides were oversized and ordinary, my steak (bone in Rib-Eye) was huge, but the flavor was not knock-your-socks off, especially for the price.

                  We brought two bottles of wine and with tip it set us back $250.00.

                  We used to go to Zin Bistro and sit out on the grass by the lake and enjoyed the atmosphere a lot. We stopped going there when: Too many kids running around spoiled the atmosphere and 2) we discovered Mediterrano. It's not right on the water but the patio is calm, quiet, and the surroundings are very green and pretty.

                  All I can recall about the food at ZB was that everyting was always okay but nothing was spectacular. I suggest you try it when it's a nice warm evening, maybe the kids won't be out for you.

              3. oh yeah, i forgot to mention an italian favorite.....

                Pomodoro in Woodland Hills- a nice Italian restaurant- we love the broiled garlic bread, minestrone soup.....and the best part of that place is their killer fettuccine tastes like they make the noodles themselves....if you try it please report back because i am eager to hear whether or not my taste buds have been deprived of any pasta you think might be better :)

                1. As a thousand oaks native, I can't say I dine in the area much. I usually head out to the valley/los angeles if i'm looking for a great meal. There's a few places though that i find above mediocre in thousand oaks/westlake/agoura/etc.

                  Mandarin express in agoura- In the center with Ihop. Hole in the wall. Great chinese fusion. Extensive vegetarian menu. The owner's always been extremely friendly to me as well.

                  Vivoli Cafe in westlake- center with trader joes. absolutely amazing italian food. Wonderful tiramisu, decent prices for the food you get as well. I hear they have a great brunch, i have yet to try it though.

                  Simi Valley- Cafe Firenze. A bit pricey, but great food. Italian food, the owner is currently on the bravo tv show top chef (fabio) competing. That actually inspired me to go try the restaurant. Excellent greek salad. Butternut squash raviolis were great, and the spinach and ricotta dumplings. gnocci is amazing there too. fairly new restaurant

                  Cafe 14 in agoura is great too. I haven't been there in about a year- year and a half though.

                  Kohinoor - in thousand oaks indian food. pretty good if youre craving indian food. not as spicy as i like, a little americanized but overall pretty great food and the service is good, and the owner and his family are very friendly.

                  Punjab Palace in northridge is a great place for indian buffet, you really can't beat it in my opinion. (Although i have yet to try woodlands which i hear is great too)

                  places i don't like/i don't think are worth it:
                  p6 is totally over-hyped and overrated. i've been there 3 seperate times, and twice for lunch. i ordered a veggie pizza for a lunch one day. and although i can agree that this might not have been the best choice.. it was horrible. the worst restaurant pizza i have EVER had. i could have made a better frozen pizza. another time i paid 13 dollars for a salad simply with greens/almonds/ and a balsamic dressing.. a bit overpriced?. everytime i've been in there, even when its slow i've had horrible unforgiveable service. (i hear this place actually might be going out of business soon, but that might just be heresay)

                  suki 7- (owned by the same people as p6) a bit better. i hate how dark it is in that restaurant though, and once again HORRIBLE service. the food was far better though.

                  ch8- (this is also owned by the same people as p6 and suki) i haven't tried it but i hear its the best of the three. i have no interest in visiting though because of my experiences with the other two restaurants.

                  allesio's- ive only been there once, for lunch and i can't say it was a good experience at all. the food was just downright bad in my opinion, and the bread was the best part of the whole meal!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: ashleyy

                    Ashley, I agree with you on your comments except Kohinoor, which both before the fire and since just does not please the palate for Indian Food. To say it is not spicy and is a little Americanized is a huge understatement.

                    Cafe 14 continues to maintain their quality and we enjoy it often.

                    I suggest you try The Grill on the Alley, in the Promenade in WLV. I think you'll find you don't have to go the Woodland Hills or LA for a fine meal. Definitely make reservations, and if you go say hi to Jay from me (Les). He'll see to it that you enjoy your visit.

                    1. re: LesThePress

                      After spending an afternoon shopping with four granddaughters in Calabasasm, MmeZoe and I stopped for a snack at FIT2BTHAI - cute name, good food but the downer is do it yourself get water, set up, napkins etc - ie " the water is over there'. Pretty awful lightfing and ambiance but we both thought the food was good bordering on very good in the curry department; chef gave us tastes of ALL the curries and they were really differebt and very tasty.

                      1. re: ZoeZ

                        i actually ate at FIT2BTHAI, i believe it was right when it opened (the one in thousand oaks). I personally didn't like the food, but maybe now that it's been there a while it's improved, and maybe the Calabasas one is better?

                    2. re: ashleyy

                      We went to Chapter8 for the first time last Valentine's Day. LOVED IT! The inside is a lil' Vegas kitschy, but we thought that added to the Valentine vibe. There was a lovely jazz singer who was perfect (and not too intrusive). We started with the crispy firecracker shrimp (just the right spice), then each had the 8oz filets. Let me just say, we are big Ruths Chris fans and BOTH of us thought these filets topped theirs both in texture and flavor. I had the pear crisp w/ butterscotch sauce & vanilla ice-cream ( a fresh, well balanced sweet vs tart), and that man o' mine had the chocolate cake w/ vanilla ice-cream and fudge sauce ( too heavy for me, but he literally licked his plate...... don't worry, nobody saw him).. The service was attentive, friendly, and we never felt rushed. It will now be our new go-to spot for V-Day.
                      They also have quite a reasonable happy-hour w/ sliders, salmon, and lobster lollipops.

                      We've also been to Suki7 (same owners). Liked the food (although we found the cooked & robata food to be better than the sushi) and the decor. Our problem there was with the service. The server just didn't know the menu and was clearly not happy to be there. Normally this kind of thing would not keep me from returning to a restaurant.....but this case was over-the-top (and held true to our server, the server at the table next to us, and even the bartender!). Just fyi.......