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Jul 11, 2011 04:15 PM

Strip Mall Hidden Gems in the San Fernando Valley and West Side?

Looking for really good Mom & Pop shop-type restaurants generally found tucked away in strip malls (although strip mall not absolutely required if you have a good place!).

I'll start off with a little Portuguese Bakery (or so I thought). It's called Natas Pastries at 13317 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks (right next door to Casa Vega) A couple of tables outside, but not being a bakery person, I never paid much attention. From the outside it looks like a casual cafe for breakfast and lunch, but then driving by there was a sign that said $10 dinner specials. Now I was curious so I checked it out.

As you approach, all you see is basically a tiny little shop with a bakery case (and the pastries all look terrific -- but as I said, I'm not a bakery person), but THEN low and behold, through an archway to the left, the cutest little dining room!! Done beautifully with Portuguese tile, I was SHOCKED at what a great little dining room this was. And fairly elegant for what appeared to be a little cafe.

I had the $10 special (also available at lunch) which was half a chicken, salad and baked fries. The fries were actually rosoemary red skin potatoes that were cubed; not fries at all and they were not very good....too much oil and not cooked in a hot enough oven to get crispy. But the chicken was good and the salad, typical side salad stuff. The toasted homemade bread in the basket was exceptional however; and a neighboring table was slurping down a Portuguese vegetable soup that certainly looked very good. Menu items are intersting and large entrees ranged between $12 - $16. So while I can't say it's a home run on exceptional food quality yet....the jury is still out, I'll definately go back and try other things on the menu. The ambiance was certainly wonderful. Beer and wine are available.

And on the other hand, went to a little pizza place that looked like it could be a gem, Santino's NY Pizza on Woodman (jusst in from the corner of Ventura) and it was AWFUL! Now we did NOT order pizza and after seeing reviews on other sites, maybe this is the only thing they can do (but a lot of complaints on the pizza front too). We had a ceasar salad that was basically a bowl of romaine lettuce with crutons that tasted like they came out of a box at Ralph's. Totally worthless. I ordered eggplant parmesian...there was no parmesian! A few slices of breaded eggplant (dry!!!) sitting on a pile of spagetti with red sauce. The red sauce was ok, but the eggplant is clearly held on the side so it can either go on a plate or on a bun. My husband's chicken parmesian was dry and partially burned as were the cookies in the case on the counter. Santino clearly has no sense of quality, I think he'll just shovel anyting out to unsuspecting custoemrs. So ignore all the celebrity photos on the wall and avoid this place!

Let's hear what the other hounds have to say!! Let's find some great places!!!

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  1. I LOVE Vinh Loi Tofu. The corner it's in is not even big enough to be considered a strip mall - but the quality is high and the pricing low - I can't say no to that!

    Vinh Loi Tofu
    18625 Sherman Way Ste 101, Reseda, CA 91335

    3 Replies
      1. re: happybaker

        another *yes* to Vinh Loi in 2012. ;) It's such an odd little place and sooo good. Open at random hours though so check in advance.

        1. re: valleygrrl

          They used to be really consistent as far as their hours were concerned. 9 AM to 9 PM, every day. Has that changed? Or was this during August when folks from French influenced SE Asia tend to take a few weeks off perhaps?

      2. The best carnitas are at a small place called Metro Balderas. The original is in a teeny strip mall across the street from Vallarta Supermarket on Reseda between Roscoe and Parthenia. They only make carnitas on the weekends and make 12 different kinds of carnitas (who knew!). There are also two other locations in Panorama City and Van Nuys.

        These guys had a great review of Metro Balderas (not my blog).

          1. I second Go's Mart but it'll cost you.

            Cheaper "everyday" type options:
            San Carlo Deli, Chatsworth
            Angelo's Ristorante, Chatsworth
            Kinnara Thai, Van Nuys
            The Pho place next door to 99 Ranch Market, Van Nuys
            Mercado Buenos Aires, Van Nuys
            Cafe Graikos, Porter Ranch
            Pita Kitchen, Sherman Oaks
            Aromi Cafe, Sherman Oaks

            Go's Mart
            22330 Sherman Way, Los Angeles, CA 91303

            Mercado Buenos Aires
            7540 Sepulveda Blvd, Van Nuys, CA

            99 Ranch
            17713 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA

            Pita Kitchen
            14500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

            Aromi Cafe
            14531 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

            Cafe Graikos
            19346 Rinaldi St, Northridge, CA 91326

            4 Replies
            1. re: boogiebaby

              Ate @ Pho So 1 and Pho 999 in th same week, for this vietnamese guy Pho 999 > Pho So 1. May have been an off day but the noodles were terrible.

              1. re: ns1

                I couldn't agree more that Pho 999 (across the street from Ranch Market) is MUCh better than the Pho place next to Ranch Market. (Love the Sam Woo duck place though; we're talking about the other side). Food quality at Pho 999 is excellent. I had a beef Pho at the Ranch market place and we had to feed it to the dog it was so fatty! And while I can appreciate the family dining style, Pho 999 is so much more ogranized and you can get a nice big booth instead of being squished in to tables at the other. Once I dined at Pho 999 I'll never go back to the other again (and I shop at Ranch Market all the time).

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

                1. re: cimero

                  yep. Also @ Pho 999, the che ba mau (sp?) 3 color bean dessert is AWESOME.

              2. re: boogiebaby

                I third Go's Mart. I really love it.

                Go's Mart
                22330 Sherman Way, Los Angeles, CA 91303

              3. 1 Westside, 1 Valley

                In Palms, Simpang Asia is the best strip-mall Indonesian I've had. It's been slowly expanding, and taking over its strip mall (which is pretty small anyway). Mie Tek Tek noodles, Sayur Bungkus mixed veg in banana leaf, and Croquette for appetizer... yum!

                In the Valley, El Carrusel makes great pupusas, and good horchata too. Make sure to get curtido, too (not the best curtido I've had, but good stuff). Prices for pupusas are very reasonable too. There's 1 at Victory and Kester, and another at 6800 Reseda Blvd.

                Simpang Asia
                10433 National Blvd 2, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                1 Reply
                1. re: hhewitt

                  we eat at that El Carrusel all the time. It's VERY good for being a hole in the wall, and so very affordable. I find it's best to ask which pupusas they just made and go with it (otherwise they sit for a bit and aren't as melty good).