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!!!
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).
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
22330 Sherman Way, Los Angeles, CA 91303
Mercado Buenos Aires
7540 Sepulveda Blvd, Van Nuys, CA
17713 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA
14500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
14531 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
19346 Rinaldi St, Northridge, CA 91326
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 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.
10433 National Blvd 2, Los Angeles, CA 90034
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.
19662 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356
Sri Lankan Cafe
18845 Sherman Way #D, Reseda, CA 91335
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
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.
6008 Laurel Canyon Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91606
Nat's Early Bite
14115 Burbank Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91401
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.
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
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
14533 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Gio Cucina Napoletana
15826 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91436
Thai 'N I
17544 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA
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
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.
15725 Hawthorne Blvd Ste 108, Lawndale, CA 90260
3615 Inglewood Ave, Redondo Beach, CA 90278
Teresa's Mosaic Cafe
150 S Sepulveda Blvd Ste G, El Segundo, CA 90245
1630 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Suite #9, Gardena, CA 90247
Some catching up to do on the Westside:
Hole in the Wall
Sweet Rose (nice strip mall :))
Simpang Asia was already mentioned - they are gradually becoming a strip mall...
9824 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034
10863 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034
10433 National Blvd 2, Los Angeles, CA 90034
11921 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
11110 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
9240 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
1822 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034
10640 Woodbine St, Los Angeles, CA 90034
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
2121 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Los Tres Hermanos Restaurant
1049 San Fernando Rd, San Fernando, CA 91340
8241 Tampa Ave, Reseda, CA 91335
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
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
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.
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.
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.