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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).

                2. Curry Bowl (now apparently called Cafe Ceylon). http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-ceylon-t... The only Sri Lankan food I've ever had (except for stuff I've cooked myself, from recipes), which counts for a lot. The quality strikes me as pretty good -- not great by any means.

                  Curry Bowl
                  19662 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356

                  Sri Lankan Cafe
                  18845 Sherman Way #D, Reseda, CA 91335

                  1. Great Cemitas Poblanas Milanese at Don Adrian on Victory. Also, if it's available don't miss the house-made cecina, either in the quesadillas or in chalupas. As the LA Times put it in a prior review on Don Adrian get the cecina "...where it’s simply grilled, mounded on a tortilla and garnished with a sparse scattering of string cheese and dabs of mild green salsa…”

                    Taqueria Don Adrian
                    14902 Victory Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91411

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Servorg

                      +1 for Don Adrian. Outstanding cemitas.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        I moved near Don Adrian recently, and tried it once. I found their bread to be dry and stale compared to Angelica's truck on Venice near Culver City. Was I there on an off day?

                        The meat/cheese/salsa chipotle were great, but the bread just wasn't as moist and soft as I'm used to.

                        1. re: hhewitt

                          Hmm . . . I haven't been back to Don Adrian since I moved to Pasadena two years ago, so my appraisal may be dated.

                          1. re: hhewitt

                            I agree with you about the bread at Don Adrian's. I had a problem with it , too.

                            1. re: mucho gordo

                              i was just at don adrian. except for being bitterly disappointed with them leaving the papalo off my cemita, it was excellent. especially the bread.

                        2. Fish in the Village, a kosher fish market/cafe in the strip mall on the southeast corner of Whitsett and Burbank. Excellent quality, nice people closed on Saturday and you would expect.

                          The original Skaf's Grill, northeast corner of Oxnard and Laurel Canyon.

                          Nat's Early Bite, breakfast heaven on the northwest corner of Hazeltine and Burbank.

                          Skaf's Grill
                          6008 Laurel Canyon Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91606

                          Nat's Early Bite
                          14115 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91401

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: ebethsdad

                            Nat's Early Bite is great... particularly their love muffins (with coconut & chocolate) if they have them... they're not always listed, so it's worth asking.

                            Nat's Early Bite
                            14115 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91401

                              1. re: ebethsdad

                                OMG, I just ate at Fish in the Village for the first time on a friend's recommendation. It was wonderful. One of the best pieces of grilled salmon I've ever eaten! The grilled veggies were also delicious, as was the side of hummus and pita my friend and i shared before our fish arrived.

                              2. 1) Mom's BBQ House on Vanowen and Hazeltine
                                2) Zano's (Italian) on Ventura just east of Topanga
                                3) Gio Cucina on Ventura just west of Sepulveda (2nd floor)
                                4) Kung Pao Bistro (moved from stand alone bldg to small strip mall near Tujunga)

                                Kung Pao Bistro
                                11402 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                  Emles Restaurant. Good homemade meals all day long at good prices. It is near A&W Seafood.

                                  Emles Restaurant
                                  9250 Reseda Blvd Ste 1, Northridge, CA 91324

                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                    I second Gio Cucina. It is actually about a mile west of Sepulveda next to theLand Rover dealership. I also like empanadas at Johnny Pacific at Winnetka and Saticoy.

                                  2. Here are a few just to start:

                                    Bamboo Forest (I guess it's not in a strip mall, but it's pretty close), Sherman Oaks, for Chinese.

                                    Thai 'n' I in Encino for BBQ ribs and chicken.

                                    El Taco Llama -- two of the ones in NoHo are my favorites, though I go to the one at Vanowen and Haskell when I'm craving their smokey salsa roja.

                                    Alberto's -- for the California burrito (carne asads and french fries wrapped in a tortilla) in Van Nuys (on Vanowen, just west of Van Nuys).

                                    San Marcos Grill in Van Nuys for tacos and chile rellenos on Thursdays.

                                    El Carrusel, as mentioned above, is good for pupusas.

                                    Sweet 1 Bakery and Kebab Factory in Sherman Oaks (On Oxnard, by Woodman) -- This is a combo market/restaurant that I recently discovered. They do a variety of middle eastern/Armenian items, including very good lamajeune and some excellent grilled meats at ridiculously low prices. I usually get the meats ala carte. Succulent little quail are $1.99 each and four small lamb chops are $7.99.

                                    Anarbagh in Encino has a great set of lunch specials.

                                    Spumoni in Sherman Oaks and Gio Cucina in Encino for Italian.

                                    Krua Thai in North Hollywood for some of the best Thai in the city.

                                    Fab Hot Dogs in Woodland Hills.

                                    La Baguette on Reseda is my favorite valley spot for Banh Mi.

                                    I'm sure I'll come up with some others.

                                    Krua Thai Restaurant
                                    13130 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605

                                    Fab Hot Dogs (location as of May 2010)
                                    19417 Victory Blvd, Reseda, CA 91335

                                    Spumoni Restaurant
                                    14533 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

                                    Gio Cucina Napoletana
                                    15826 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91436

                                    Thai 'N I
                                    17544 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA

                                    La Baguette
                                    7245 1/2 Reseda Blvd, Reseda, CA 91335

                                    Bamboo Forest Chinese Restaurant
                                    14834 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91411

                                    El Taco Llama
                                    10501 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601

                                    El Taco Llama
                                    11511 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605

                                    San Marcos Mexican Grill
                                    5937 Hazeltine Ave, Los Angeles, CA 91401

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Jwsel

                                      +2 Fabs, El Taco Llama (Cahuenga/Magnolia)

                                      1. re: Jwsel

                                        Fab's is the bomb- and now they have the roasted corn covered in cotija cheese as a side- holy cow! that plus bacon-wrapped dog plus tots. mmmm. :)

                                        1. re: valleygrrl

                                          wow, that's awesome.

                                          I started making those corn on the cobs at home.

                                      2. If I may include the South Bay;

                                        Mottainai Ramen in Gardena. Flavor bomb.

                                        Havana Mania in Redondo Beach for good Cuban and their great Tuesday (After 5pm) special
                                        Lechon Asado, Cuban Style Roast Pork. 11.99

                                        Teresa's Mosaic Cafe in El Segundo. Great homemade tortillas.

                                        and Saigon Dish in Lawndale for local Pho where everyone knows your name.

                                        Saigon Dish
                                        15725 Hawthorne Blvd Ste 108, Lawndale, CA 90260

                                        Havana Mania
                                        3615 Inglewood Ave, Redondo Beach, CA 90278

                                        Teresa's Mosaic Cafe
                                        150 S Sepulveda Blvd Ste G, El Segundo, CA 90245

                                        Ramen Mottainai
                                        1630 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Suite #9, Gardena, CA 90247

                                        1. I have a suggestion. This was a request for strip mall gems in BOTH the Valley AND the west side. I think it would be broken up.

                                          And there's isn't one contribution to the west side here anyway.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                            Sooner or later someone will mention Monte Alban...

                                            Monte Alban
                                            11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                Some catching up to do on the Westside:

                                                Hole in the Wall


                                                Blue Marlin

                                                Hurry Curry

                                                Curry House


                                                Hop Woo

                                                Mandarin Kitchen

                                                Kabab Grill


                                                Thai Boom

                                                Sushi Zo




                                                Scoops Westside

                                                Sweet Rose (nice strip mall :))

                                                Simpang Asia was already mentioned - they are gradually becoming a strip mall...

                                                Sushi Zo
                                                9824 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                                                Thai Boom
                                                10863 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

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

                                                11921 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                Hop Woo
                                                11110 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                9240 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                                                Mandarin Kitchen
                                                1822 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                                                Scoops Westside
                                                10640 Woodbine St, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                                              2. The Valley:
                                                Tampa Gardens
                                                Mandarin Deli (which isn't *amazing* but definitely quite respectable)
                                                Los Tres Hermanos
                                                Amir's Falafel (the Encino one)

                                                West Los Angeles:
                                                Eduardo's Grill (kind of tex-mex but the people know how to grill meat...)
                                                The place next to Blue Marlin (the name of I forgot and which appears to have 100 variations on tuna, eel, and rice bowls; the food's not fantastic but the bizarro ambiance alone deserves a visit....)

                                                Mandarin Deli Restaurant
                                                9305 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324

                                                Blue Marlin
                                                2121 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                Los Tres Hermanos Restaurant
                                                1049 San Fernando Rd, San Fernando, CA 91340

                                                Tampa Garden
                                                8241 Tampa Ave, Reseda, CA 91335

                                                1. if part of your definition of "hidden gem" requires that the food be low-priced, then this doesn't meet your criteria, because, like most excellent sushi restaurants, their prices aren't low:
                                                  echigo sushi in west LA on santa monica blvd

                                                  their quality is superb.
                                                  they are the only other sushi bar that i've found that serves monkfish liver that is as good as the monkfish liver served at sushi zo

                                                  1. I discovered Roladin Bakery and Cafe in Loehmann's Plaza Reseda. It is an Israeli gem, like the much larger and very busy Aroma Cafe in Encino, but a lot more accessible. Great sandwiches, soups, salads. The sabich sandwich is currently my favorite.

                                                    Roladin Bakery Cafe
                                                    19365 Victory Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91335

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Golem

                                                      I had the opportunity to visit Roladin last time I was in the area. I had a breakfast dish that I don't remember the name of, but it was tasty. Also, the extras that came on the plate were pleasantly unique and delightful. The pastry display looked devine. Although, I do miss Kayla's Cookie Castle that was there before Roladin.

                                                    2. I had the sausage and peppers at Santino's. It was one of the worst meals I'd had in years. I will never return.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Dogbite Williams

                                                        So you and the OP are in total agreement in that case as he too ripped Santino's a new one in his opening post to this thread. In fact, other than your mention of it that's the only other mention of the place here. It's now officially off my bucket list! ;-D>

                                                      2. I have a question about a place that I haven't tried:

                                                        At the corner of Hazeltine and Burbank there is a liquor/grocery store. It's on the same side of Burbank as Nat's but on the other side of Hazeltine. They have a yellow sign that explains the beer specials.

                                                        But ... but ...

                                                        Inside is a lunch counter serving Mexican food (or Mexican American food). I always eat at Nat's, then go across the street to buy beer and the place smells good and the guy who owns the liquor says the food is good.

                                                        But I've never tried it.

                                                        Anyone know the place and has anyone tried it? I have no idea if it's good or not, but they seem to do business, always people eating there.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: PaulF

                                                          I think it's called "Bronco Mexican Grill" and (if that's right) here is the Yelp on it: http://www.yelp.com/biz/bronco-restau...

                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                              Interesting. The Yelp indicates that it is the same Bronco .that used to on Woodman and Magnolia, but recently closed and became a different Mexican place. I was never particularly impressed with Bronco when it was a stand-alone restaurant.

                                                              San Marcos Grill on Hazeltine, just south of Oxnard, is quite good.

                                                              1. re: Jwsel

                                                                bronco and manny's which replaced it are both mediocre with the lone exception of their machaca and egg burrito.

                                                                1. re: Jwsel

                                                                  Woodman and Magnolia is all residence. Maybe you mean Moorpark or Burbank?

                                                                  1. re: SIMIHOUND

                                                                    Sorry. I meant Woodman and Moorpark.

                                                              2. re: PaulF

                                                                Also at Burbank & Hazeltine is the amazing Star Falafel.

                                                              3. May already be in here but how about Tlapazola Grill on Gateway in West LA for great Mexico City sea food and other fare?

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Thor123

                                                                  Tlapazola also used to offer a terrific selection of tequilas.
                                                                  i presume that they still do.

                                                                  1. re: Thor123

                                                                    I've always been under the impression that their food (at least at the Gateway location) was centered around the cuisine of Oaxaca (even the name of the restaurant is a town in Oaxaca which the founding chef hails from)?

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      Does anyone know the relationship between the Tlapazola on Gateway (the one with the great tequila selection) and the Tlapazola in Venice on Venice? And do either of them have a relation to the Tlapazola that was once on Lincoln in Santa Monica?

                                                                      1. re: PaulF

                                                                        Lincoln became Gateway. The Venice one took over for Pam's Thai but we haven't been to that location of Tlapazola yet.

                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                          The two Tlaps have different menus and different tequila selections, for what it's worth.