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Sherman Oaks: is there any place worth crossing the hills for?

  • d

I was born and raised in West L.A. I have spent a lot of time exploring far south and far east in LA but I have avoided the valley like rotten fruit. It seems semi ridiculous that I have been so close though and yet I am still so ignorant. So I am putting out a call for restaurants, dives, and stands for which it is worth traversing up the 405. I of course and not talking about chain restaurants of any kind. Show me the errors of my ways.

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  1. You are correct. I have lived in Encino for 30 years. There is lots of o.k. food but not worth a drive. Not one great destination place in my opinion.

    1. i'll make the drive for two israeli restaurants in the valley:
      itzah hagadol in encino
      hummus bar and grill in tarzana.

      there are no similar restaurants on the westside.

      1. If you want ethnic, head for the Valley. If you are talking about high-end palaces with bills to match, stay home.

        On the higher end I enjoy Max's and the zillions of sushi-ya in Studio City.

        As for ethnic dives, if you'll tell us what you like we can guide you better. In general, Middle Eastern other than Persian, Thai, Central American and Vietnamese are better in the Valley than the Westside.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          i'd avoid max.

          here is the very short review of my last experience there:

        2. For a unique pastry experience, try Natas on Ventura Blvd. While they do have some pretty standard standards, we go for their Portuguese-style pastries, both sweet as well as savory. I am sure others exist, but Natas is the only place I know of around the general LA area that offers this collection of goodies.


          Natas Pastries
          13317 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA

          1 Reply
          1. re: bulavinaka

            Definitely unique and authentic pastries. Just be prepared to scrape the lard (I think) from the roof of your mouth.

          2. Simon's Cafe at the bottom of the Sepulveda pass has great Parisian syle couscous.

            For Israeli food I like Sassi Mediterranean Restaurant at Ventura and Haskell in Encino and the Golan on Victory between Fulton and Coldwater.

            The Mexican food in the valley is also excellent. As are the Thai places in North Hollywood. And there are tons of very good Pho restaurants. Most of these places are more reasonably priced than places on the westside.

            Simon's Café
            4515 Sepulveda Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

            Golan Kosher Restaurant
            13075 Victory Blvd North, Hollywood, CA

            Sassi Restaurant
            15622 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91436

            6 Replies
            1. re: caille en sarcophage

              what mexican food in the valley is excellent?

              1. re: perk

                Poco's Mexican Restaurant in Canoga Park.

                1. re: perk

                  I like Salsa & Beer on White Oak and Vanowen. Las Fuentes is good also and seems to be a Chowhound stand-by.

                  1. re: perk

                    Love the beef (machaca) tacos at La Fogata on Van Nuys/Magnolia. $2 each. I just wish they gave some chips away for free. parking is a bit of a mess.

                    1. re: dip22

                      Parking at La Fogata is a breeze compared to most places on the Westside. Though the undersized lot is usually full, there's always been street parking within 1/2 a block in my many, many visits. The bean & cheese burrito, served wet (you have to ask), is simply fantastic. They actually have exceptionally good refried beans, as crazy as that may sound. And the fresh-made chips and salsa are great, and cost all of fifty cents for a two-person-sized order.

                      La Fogata Mexican Restaurant
                      5142 Van Nuys Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

                  2. re: caille en sarcophage

                    Agreed about Simon's. The lamb tagine or couscous royale (including homemade merguez sausage) are my favorites. It's one the places I've found worth driving over the Sepulveda Pass for.

                  3. I'm not sure I have my Los Angeles geography correct. But Studio City/Ventura Blvd. is in the area you're talking about - yes? If so - definitely worth a trip for sushi (I'm an occasional visitor to Los Angeles - but always find myself dining there at least once). Robyn

                    1. I live in WLA but wife's family that live in valley

                      there are some good sushi places in the valley (I think asenebo?) - a friend loves it.

                      alcazar for lebanese is decent - i prefer carousel in hollywood.

                      vien loi tofu is really good vegan vietnamese

                      there's a bbq place in ventura blvd (it's well known but the name escapes me) by Woodland hills

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: travelingmansoul

                        not only does vien loi tofu serve reallly good food, they are so inexpensive that you can order everything on the menu and still not break the bank. amazing bargain.

                      2. Another place just came to mind - Puro Sabor, a Peruvian eatery. We gave them a try for the first time last weekend, and enjoyed their food. Excellent food in general - very Peruvian. The Peruvian places I typically enjoy have a Chinese or Japanese angle to them - not this place. And not that I favor one over the other, but if you want great straight-forward Peruvian cuisine, give them a try. They're in Van Nuys - a couple of minutes further down the 405 from Sherman Oaks - on Van Nuys just south of Victory...

                        Puro Sabor
                        6366 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          I second Puro Sabor and Daichan! Both fabulous places!

                          1. re: Galen

                            Third for Puro Sabor. Great ceviche.

                        2. Daichan has become one of my favorite places. I really like the atmosphere of the place with all of the trinkets on the wall. It is not a high end place but it is somewhere to go to just sit and enjoy the food.

                          1. People (especially, but not only vegans) drive from all over LA to eat at Vin Loi Tofu in Reseda. I think a branch may be opening in Silverlake soon.

                            Second the Israeli recommendations, though wouldn't drive over the hill to go to Golan. Also agree with getting sushi on Ventura Blvd in Studio City.

                            El Katracho is a great Honduran place.

                            Call me shallow, but I adore Senor Fred's for the rich dessert hot chocolate with cookies.

                            1. Brent's Deli in Northridge is well worth the trip over the hill. This is one of the best delis in LA. Try the Black Pastrami Ruben.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: wienermobile

                                I've always lived in the valley and never go over the hill. Heavy bills and heavy traffic all in the same day....who needs that! Plenty of great food in the Valley. As Das Ubergeek says it's the place for Vietnamese and Thai for sure. I also enjoy Daichan, Puro Sabor and Hummus Bar and Grill - they're on my regular round. Raised on Brent's (40 years) - the very best in Deli. Far better than Juniors! Heed some of these suggestions and you'll be glad.

                                1. re: Kitchen Queen

                                  "I've always lived in the valley and never go over the hill".

                                  Not even to cool off once in awhile? It's like an inferno most of the summer.
                                  Beyond that though...what is your opinion on f 'great Thai' in the valley?
                                  I'd love to find some good places there.

                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    You didn't ask me, but that's never stopped before.

                                    Go up the 170. Get off at Sherman Way. Turn west.

                                    Before you hit Woodman Ave. you will have passed:

                                    Swan Thai
                                    Sunshine Thai
                                    Khun Dang Thai
                                    Cha Chaa Thai
                                    Bua Siam - order from the $2.50 menu even if you can't read it, and be surprised
                                    Sanamluang - noodles and the "small eats" menu from 10 PM to 3 AM
                                    Krua Thai - house special pad thai (not the regular pad thai), plus papaya salad with raw blue crab

                                    ...all of which are as good or better than places in Thai Town. Also don't miss the khao soi at Sri Siam, which is half a mile south of there, on the NE corner of Vanowen and Coldwater Canyon.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      Thank you. I'm left wondering why there are so many Thai restaurants in the valley. I'd love to know the background. San Gabriel has the great Chinese restaurants and I know the history. But this is news to me with Thai.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        The Thai Buddhist community built a beautiful wat (temple) in North Hollywood when land was very cheap, and as the community has grown (estimates vary between 500,000 and 750,000 Thais in LA) more have left the original Thai Town for the Valley.

                                        On a food note, until two years ago the Wat had the most amazing food stalls outside, like the original Red Hook ball fields vendors in Brooklyn, but cheaper and their profits went to the Wat. It was one of the seminal experiences of eating in LA but unfortunately the neighbours complained about the awful effect on parking and the stalls shut down.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          Thank you, Das Ubergeek.
                                          Much appreciated.

                                          It's so interesting to learn about cultures and how they bring their food and traditions to certain regions. Why/how people ended up where they did is fascinating. I don't know how you gathered this information but I'm very grateful you did.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            The temple used to be our weekly adventure out into the Valley when we lived in Westwood. We were able to get full on $10 for two people! It was so much fun. I miss it. :(

                                        2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          Agree with all that and add Rainbow Thai Cuisine. Great Thai little plates at $3.25 a piece.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            Bua Siam's $2.50 menu is now a $3 menu, the number of offerings has shrunk to around 15-ish, and they're translated into English. The pork soup (second from the top under soups) was fantastic, sweet and nicely spiced over noodles and topped with four or five different types of pork and a large fried cracker-thing. The green curry with chicken over rice was pretty generic, and the fish curry over noodles and without coconut has lots of coconut in it and no identifiable fish, but otherwise was worth ordering.

                                          2. re: latindancer

                                            Thanx again to Das Uber you have your "f'great Thai"
                                            I work in Camarillo so, at least during working hours I don't suffer.
                                            Come to the valley in the evenings, save yourself from a melt.

                                            1. re: Kitchen Queen

                                              I actually like the valley.
                                              The search for great Thai food is is a reason to go more often.
                                              Thanks for starting the conversation about this subject.
                                              I"ve actually learned a few things.
                                              As far as the heat? It's what airconditioning is for.

                                      2. I think the Boneyard Bistro is a destination place. Great food, great beer selections. Puro Sabor and Brent's are both great suggestions as well.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                          I'd take a miss on Boneyard Bistro due to the hostile service, the dull ambiance, and the average food. I'd choose Mr. Cecil's, or the old standby Dr. Hogly Wogly's, or the more exotic Gyu Kaku over BB—or even better, hit one of the barbecue vendors at one of the farmer's markets. You could do that on the westside, of course, but the parking will cause less grief here.

                                          1. re: farmertomato

                                            I wouldn't choose Mr. Cecil's over McDonalds, honestly. I like Dr. Hogly Wogly OK.

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                              yes, aron can be a dick, and some of the food is heavy at bb but some of the food is great like the venison topped with foie gras and mashed potatoes and an amazing sauce to boot.

                                        2. Puro is divine Peruvian with ceviche so delicious you could leave home for it. Then our most favorite of all French restaurants Mistral is a definite worth-the-drive. It has it all: ambiance, wonderful food, a scrappy host just like in Paris, good service and you feel like you have had an evening out. On the minus side, the noise factor is pretty high. Great place, great food Monsieur makes the place hum.

                                          15 Replies
                                          1. re: ZoeZ

                                            Mr. Cecil's or Gyu Kaku over Boneyard Bistro? Really??? I don't agree at all! Maybe if you're strictly talking BBQ, but otherwise you're not even close to BB's quality and creativity.

                                            1. re: compucook

                                              I'd rather go to Jack in the Box than BB. I see the hype, and I guess some folks find the food to be okay, but I won't subject myself to that place ever again, and I can't imagine someone coming any kind of distance for an experience so mediocre.

                                              1. re: farmertomato

                                                Absolutely agree. Owner is an arrogant A** H*** and won't be getting any of my business. Food is okay but way overpriced.

                                                1. re: LesThePress

                                                  I've never eaten there. I've tried twice. The first time was my own fault for trying to get a table without a reservation. The second time I had a reservation and the confirmation but they managed to lose it and were not gracious about it at all.

                                                  There are too many restaurants in LA for me to stand in any one of them begging for a table like a dog who wants a scrap of meat.

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    They didn't lose our reservation the first time we went, they simply didn't honor it. But I feel your pain.

                                                    I was going to apologize for being extra-grumpy in my previous post--my most recent bad meal is traditionally viewed as my "worst meal ever"--but a couple of quick responses made me feel that I wasn't being unfair.

                                                    The bottom line is that BB seems to be loved by some and really hated by others. I wouldn't suggest that someone drive across town to take a chance on a place like that.

                                                    1. re: farmertomato

                                                      Wholeheartedly concur with farmertomato. I am an easy pushover to please -- I enjoy 90+ percent all chow that is set before me, anyplace/anywhere (though that may be as much a fault as a blessing on my part; just wheel the trough up to my sty, and I'm a piggy-piggy :-). I even like BB's food, mostly. But I'm bone-weary from feeling bad about myself for not ordering esoteric beers and libations, and the subsequent relegation to second-class status. The diminuation is palpable, and I'm through with it. I'm glad that take-out exists, as I like their chow...

                                                      1. re: silence9

                                                        Hey, don't misunderstand, I'm not rushing back myself, but I did have an awesome burger and good salads. That said, it's very pricey and if I can't eat outside, its too noisy. The service can be slow but the last time I was there-- a while ago, it was fine. I just wouldn't put GyuKaku or greasy Mr Cecils in the same category. GK is fine, but once in a long while-- the prices add up and the wait can be torturous. But we ate at Cecils once and only once. None of us wanted a return visit. That was a few years ago, but the prices weren't cheap and the quality of the food wasn't for us.

                                                        1. re: compucook

                                                          Wow. My experience at Boneyard Bistro (and I don't ever need to eat at Mr. Cecil's again) was SO different.

                                                          Not only was the food fit t'eat (a mongo rib-eye and onion rings to die for) and the service pleasant but the chef/owner came out and chatted with us about his menu, the smoker and the type of wood he uses (mostly white oak.)

                                                          I'm nobody important (unless you ask my dog and that's only because I take him out to poop), didn't bring any celebrities and wasn't throwing $100 dollar bills around. There was no mercenary reason for the "special" attention but there we were.

                                                          Sucks that this experience isn't the norm but I suppose it can happen anywhere. I just hate seeing a place (with some seriously good chow) get a bad rap because a handfull of folks had bad experiences.

                                                          1. re: Steve2 in LA

                                                            Boneyard offers an experience unavailable anywhere else in Los Angeles: carefully prepared barbecue served in conjunction with a mind-bending selection of artisanal beers and appropriate, hard-to-find wines. If the bliss offered by smoked brisket enjoyed with a $100 zinfandel sounds like something you'd enjoy, this is your place. If you'd rather go to Bludso's, that's understandable too. But Hogly-Wogly's? I shudder

                                                            1. re: condiment

                                                              Duly noted, but with the caveat that many here have described Boneyard as a horrendous experience due to the rude and clueless staff. I'd suggest one of the fine BBQ stands at local Farmers Markets, particularly the one in Atwater, thus taking the service issues out of the equation.

                                                              1. re: farmertomato

                                                                The day that the stand at the Atwater farmers market is prepared to pour Titus Petite Sirah or Allagash Curieux alongside excellent ribs is the day that I will admit that Boneyard is obsolete. Until then, it's pretty much a pick-your-poison proposition.

                                                                1. re: condiment

                                                                  I'll gladly bring my own bottle in order to get better food and no nonsense from the server. But I see that we're using altogether different yardsticks on this, and that's cool.

                                                                  1. re: farmertomato

                                                                    I am not sure what Boneyard Bistro some of you are going to. I went to boneyard initially due to some great reviews here, yet the amount of derision is overwhelming. Not only is the food fantastic, the servers are great and Aaron one of the main reasons i go! He has a passion for food and drink that is 2nd to none. i have eaten almost everything on the menu- filet- catfish-ribs- burgers- kangaroo- pork chop- and have never left anything short of elated. You want to hate due to the price? great- more for me.... my favorite casual place in town.

                                                                    1. re: kingpinjava

                                                                      I don't hate on the price. I hate on the attitude. You're welcome to a heaping helping of it, because I can't be arsed.

                                                                      1. re: kingpinjava

                                                                        Hello... Yes, many folks (you among them) unequivically love the Boneyard Bistro experience, and a much smaller delegation (me among them) have found the experience frustratingly disappointing (for varying reasons). Frankly, I think that my own gripes about the staff/attitude would have been significantly less potent, had I in fact opted to imbibe in the esoteric beers and libations (and benefitted from their lubricating effects) that so many champions of this restaurant find enamoring. An excellent couple of beers or a bottle of swell wine would, I would hope, both compliment the food and soothe any rough spots in my own dining experience there; ideally, good drink and good food can do that. Like I stated, i liked my food. Maybe I'll simply consider dosing myself with Ecstasy before my next visit there, and end up proposing marriage to the entire staff ;-) (unless a beer with that particular ingredient already exists)...

                                            2. A vote for El Criollo., fine Cuban food [Ropa Vieja!] on east side of Van Nuys blvd a block north of Victory. Good food, prices, & service.


                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: JTea

                                                I vote for El Criollo, too. My favorite Ropa Vieja since they first opened. Love the place!

                                              2. What a mistake if you were to miss Mistral Or Max. Mistral has in my estimation the best steak tartare in Los Angeles and anything that is a special of the day is special. Max may hve the only burger I will pay $18 for and his hangar steak is outstanding. Put these two on your must list.

                                                2 Replies
                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    I have eaten there recently and I simply have to disagree with you. No really good to great restaurant should have an off night but nobody does it right all the time. My experience there was very good.

                                                1. I love Mistral in Sherman Oaks. It's a bit of a drive for me, so I don't get there too often, but def. worth the drive over the hill.

                                                  1. i was quite impressed with chili my soul in encino. i am sure that there is plenty written about it elsewhere on this board, suffice to say i can't think of a comparable place anywhere else in the city.

                                                    Chili My Soul
                                                    4928 Balboa Blvd, Encino, CA 91316

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: ronsilverado

                                                      I visited Chili My Soul a lot when it first opened. They kept promising they would add a Cincinnati-style chili to their list, but they never seemed to do it. After a while, I found the endless varieties Texas-style chili to be as one-note as the un-eclectic "Morning Becomes Eclectic," and I haven't returned in a long time. In your recent visits, is that still the case or have they broadened their offerings? I would be excited about a source for Greek-style chili in this town.

                                                      1. re: farmertomato

                                                        not quite sure how to answer that. i am by no means a chili connoisseur, but i thought they did offer a pretty broad range of different varieties, both with and without beans. their website lists them all. i thought their irish whiskey chili in particular was pretty great, but every one that i sampled was infinitely better than that served at chili john's, which seems to be the valley's other go to chili spot.

                                                        1. re: ronsilverado

                                                          You're right, Chili John's isn't the optimum spot either. I know that Chili My Soul has a lot of varieties, it's just that I find them too similar for my taste. I do favor Cincinnati-style, which seems to be totally unavailable here now. The Chili My Soul owner talked about doing that style, but never came through with it. For a brief, blessed while there was a place on Van Nuys Blvd run by an alum from Skyline, but I apparently didn't go there often enough to keep them in business. These days, I just make my own.

                                                    2. Skav's Grill in North Hollywood is my Middle Eastern restaurant of choice. Nice folks, and the best baba ganoush / hummus I've had in LA.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: stuartontour

                                                        skaf's i believe if anyone is doing a google search.

                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                          For what it's worth, we were underwhelmed by the food at Skaf's, although the people were lovely. Maybe it was the night?

                                                          All the same, personally, I'll hit Pita Kitchen on Van Nuys when I have the hankering.

                                                      2. The burgers at Laurel Tavern are Father's Office-esque.

                                                        1. *For a unique & delicious experience: Nata’s Pastries. Despite the name, they have awesome non-pastries;o) Portugese food and an outstanding European vibe. It’s in a weird parking lot near Casa Vega but it’s incredible and literally feels like you’re in Europe. And their pastries are divine.
                                                          *For a hip spot: Black Market Liquor Bar. Despite the name, it’s not Liquor only. It has outstanding food. OUTSTANDING, amongst my favorite in the Valley, served in ‘small plates’ fashion meaning you and your two friends should order six dishes or so and split everything. Really cool place, good vibe. Feels like an old airport hangar (in a good way). Fairly pricey, but shouldn’t be more than $30/person (and that’s for a good amount of food).
                                                          *For a dive/sports bar - Blue Dog Tavern. The food is good bar food, and I appreciate that - especially with a vast beer selection. They do not make a pretentious effort to go gastropub; they serve burgers, sandwiches, and fries/nachos/wings - as well as some well-composed salads that are not to be confused with diet veggies. These salads are large, and they contain good ingredients - but they're heavy. This place isn't concerned about your health, but they keep the grease to a minimum and really prepare thoughtful food. Also allows dogs and has a sweet patio.
                                                          *Sushi - Asanebo. Michelin star.
                                                          *For a great spot/inexpensive lunch - Pita Kitchen. Authentic Israeli pita, shawarma, falafel, hummous & don't forget the 'skroog.' Feels like a spot in NY.
                                                          *Street - Tacos la Fonda, a literal taco truck on Vineland & Vanowen, only open late hours. Absolutely awesome, grimey, delicious, perfect Mexican street tacos with copious accoutrements including radish, multiple salsas, onions, jalapenos, pickled habaneros, etc.
                                                          *Breakfast/Brunch - Sherman Oaks is becoming somewhat of a bastion of morning spots: Blu Jam Cafe (French Toast, chilaquiles, good patio, high quality; Sweet Butter (light, salads, great environ), Harvest Moon (really fresh, really cute place with good menu), Cafe de Mexico (legitimate, authentic Mexican breakfasts + their coffee).

                                                          1. My MIL lives in Tarzana, and we live in the hills (so SO is almost faster than BH depending on traffic)...the valley is a grim wasteland of dining. My only exceptions:

                                                            Flemings in Woodland Hills...not a huge fan of Flemings, but the one in WH is pleasant and feels like a real restaurant, as opposed to the tourist trap in BH. If you have to have a "nice" dinner, this would be my reluctant choice.

                                                            Mandarin Deli in Northridge: Love the potstickers and noodles...been going here for over 20 years. Don't know if I'd make the trip, but will eat here if in the neighborhood.

                                                            Asanebo: Excellent every time I've been...very steep tariff...over $300 per couple with minimal drinking.

                                                            Katsu-ya in Studio City: Much cheaper than starck copies, with a lively vibe. Family enjoys it, even if it isn't Jiro Sushi :)