Great places in Van Nuys area?
Coming to LA this weekend & staying next to the Van Nuys airport. Looking for great food in the vincinity - I don't want to fight huge lines of traffic and hours of gridlock but we will have a car. Especially interested in great Latin and Asian, cheap and hole-in-the-wall is fantastic! I'm from Wisconsin, so brats, burgers, cheese, and beer are not as interesting. I have a list of a few places, can anyone comment on these choices or add to them?
Beeps Fast Food for breakfast
DeFrankos for lunch
SpringBok for an unusual bar & grill
India Sweets & Spices
Pho So 1
Little Siam Thai
Sushi Ichiban Kan
Taqueria San Jose
Salsa & Beer
Casa Don Rolando
Mi Casita Salvadorena
La Nueva Portena Del Sur
El Taco Llama (the one on Sherman in North Hollywood)
Thanks for your help!
The El Taco Llama on Magnolia in North Hollywood is the best of the bunch. At all costs avoid the one on Vanowen and Haskell, it's terrible.
Puro Sabor is excellent, El Criollo too. I'd throw in Super Pollo because there's something about the way the rotisserie chicken drips onto those fries. Don't drop other things off the list to eat there, but if the chicken calls... If you go to Puro Sabor you should get the causa rellena (cow-sah re-yay-nah) which is a huge potato that's stuffed with spiced ground beef and baked. I like their chicha morada (purple corn-based drink) better than other places, it's got a strong hit of clove.
Agree that you should hit the Sherman Way Thai places hard. Also recommend Skaf's Lebanese Grill on Laurel Canyon and Oxnard (next to 7-Eleven) in North Hollywood (closed Sundays). Order off the specials menu for the best food. At Krua Thai, get the house special pad thai (called Pad Thai Krua Thai), and if you like spicy food try the som tum (shredded green papaya salad) with blue crab.
I prefer Pho So 1 to Pho 999. You don't need to hit both, they're not so different. Also, Pho So 1 has bun dau hu ky, which is cold (er, room temp) rice noodles with hot fried tofu that's been stuffed with shrimp paste, and mixed with herbs and pickled vegetables. You throw the sauce on there. Also excellent is their bun cha gio thit nuong (boon cha yaw thitt nerng), the same noodles but with grilled pork and excellent Viet-style spring rolls (which you can order a la carte -- they're called cha gio and you eat then wrapped up in herbs and lettuce and dipped into sweet garlicky sauce).
I travel into that area every few months (from a place with no tolerable Asian food), so I kind of understand where you're coming from. I'd hit the North Hollywood Thai places hard; that's your best-quality Asian bang for you buck in the area.
My personal faves are:
--Krua Thai: pad thai krua thai (extra funky pad thai) and pad see ew.
--Khun Dang: beef nam tok (spicy beef salad)
--Sri Siam: crispy rice salad
--Lum Ka Naad (Northridge): kao tang na tung, a creamy dip of pork, shrimp and coconut milk with puffed rice crackers.
Others have posted much more abundantly on these restaurants.
For banh mi, I'd also consider Sandwich Express in Reseda, especially early when the bread is fresh (open at 7am).
At India S&S I recommend the snacks...the samosas and aloo tikki ("patties") are fantastic when hot and fresh. The other stuff is pretty good and interesting but I don't know that it's a real destination place.
On the pricier side, I'd also recommend al-Cazar for the great Lebanese appetizers. Baba Ghanouj, hummous, grape leaves, fried kibbe, muhammara, manti, etc. The entrees are also good, but IMHO not as good as the apps. Not Mexican or Asian but it's a real gem.
I have eaten at kyushu ramen for over 10 years. They serve a good basic shoyu based chasu ramen. They also feature a pork stock version but I do not think its as good. They have expanded to a sushi/sake bar next door. Between the two restaurants, they offer a wide variety of dishes at reasonable prices. I like the fact that it is one of the few Japanese restaurants that is still owned and operated by Japanese.
I have eaten lunch at sushi ichiban Kan three times since it opened. I did not care for one of the hot dishes. It was not cooked properly. The last time I was there I had the $40 dollar omakase. There is also a a $70 omakase. the sushi is clearly superior to their cooked dishes. The omakase was enjoyable in its creativity and taste and reasonably priced. The decor is modern and fairly new. Parking can be an issue.
If money is no object, I would recommend Sushi Iki. Its near Ichiban Kan on Ventura. It is expensive because it features live seafood. Live Uni, clams, shrimp, and lobster are usually on the live seafood menu. They also feature real wasabi. grounded in front of you on the traditional shark skin grader. You can check out their menu on their website. As I recall when I was talking to the owner who was behind the sushi bar was that a customer the night before spent $700 on omakase. I did not spend even a fraction of that much but what I had was excellent not only in taste but to the attention to detail.
for Mexican food, Salsa & Beer and Las Fuentes are both solid choices.
Salsa & Beer makes amazing chicken dishes. they grill it and it always has the best flavor and is never dried out. you can't go wrong with their chicken flautas. i also love their cheese nachos from the appetizer menu. it's only $4 but it sure ain't appetizer sized. it's a massive plate and they use real cheese, not that nasty nuclear orange stuff.
Las Fuentes - i almost always get the chili relleno burrito - it's a full meal in itself. their refried beans are my favorite. they have a great pork flavor.