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Oct 7, 2012 08:45 PM

Quick Cheap Good Lunch After Golf at Encino/Balboa/Woodley?

I drive from Westwood to the SFV for golf often. I'm not very familiar with the Valley at all. So far I've found Philly's Best on Ventura Blvd. for a pretty good cheesesteak. A current thread has mentioned Firehouse on Victory at Reseda for good gyros -- I'm definitely going to check them out this week.

I'm interested in some of the best inexpensive fairly quick lunches I can grab in this area that will still get me back home easily via the 101/405. Particularly interested in a good Chinese combo lunch -- and please mention which dishes are best (I like spicy). A great burger, with really good fries or onion rings? A good sandwich place? Thai? Please let me know where to go to celebrate a good round or drown my sorrows with good food after a disappointing one.

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  1. Amirs Falafel in Encino (along Ventura, a little west of Balboa) is a good choice. For Vietnamese, I like Pho So 1 on Sepulveda near Victory (in the 99 Ranch strip mall).

    For Chinese, there's Tampa Gardens (http://www.tampagardenchinesedelight....). You can find various mentions of it on the board. The last (and only) time I was there, I stuck w/ the *less* prototypically fast-food type items and was quite satisfied. Mandarin Deli in Northridge ( is also quite good. Neither of these two places are really that close to the recreation center at Burbank/Hayvenhurst (which is where I assume you play golf?), but they're quite tasty.

    For Thai, I think the best thing to do is to drive all the way to North Hollywood (which isn't super far from Encino, if there's no traffic on the freeway....). Sanamluang and Sri Siam get good reviews. I've been to both and prefer Sri Siam. Vinh Loi Tofu (vegan Vietnamese) also gets good reviews.

    And for a good sandwich, I'd actually head down to Gelson's (Hayvenhurst/Ventura), but that isn't particularly celebratory (or consolatory), so....

    16 Replies
    1. re: ilysla

      The Northridge places make no sense for Chinese, because they are ridiculously out of the way. In the general vicinity of the golf course, consider either Sam Woo BBQ at Victory and Sepulveda of Bamboo Forest at Kester and Magnolia. Sam Woo is in the center with the Ranch 99 and hs good roast duck and roast pork, which are available to go, as well as a sit-down area with a good variety, though I am less familiar with the offerings. My go-to Chinese is Bamboo Forest, which is a hole-in-the-wall place not too far on the other side of the 405 from the golf course. They have excellent hot-and-sour soup, very good kung pao, aromatic shrimp (a sweet-spicy shrimp), and Mongolian beef. It's pretty Americanized and won't make you forget the San Gabriel Valley, but its food is consistently good and I think it is among the best Chinese in that part of the valley. The lunch specials -- with soup, egg roll, won ton, and entree -- are well-priced. I think it is probably exactly what the OP meant by a cheap combination lunch.

      For Thai, Thai 'n' I is good for bbq ribs or chicken. (Ignore everythine else.) You can get them in a combo with mee krob and pad thai. The North Hollywood places are far superior and have much better variety, but they are not easy to reach from the golf course.

      If you like pho, there are two places on Sepulveda in the block north of Victory, so close to the golf course. One is in the center with the Ranch 99 and Sam Woo. The other is across the street. Both are quite good and inexpensive.

      Do you like Mexican sandwiches? Don Adrian at Kester and Victory has very good cemitas. For a knock-your-socks-off sandwich, Takatis Peruvian is a little farther -- on Van Nuys, just south of Victory -- and has a sandwich called the sanguchon, which is rotisserie chicken, fried egg, fried yam, lettuce, tomato, and spicy peruvian sauce (you can get extra). It's a huge sandwich for under $5. The problem is that it can take a long time to make, so I recommend ordering ahead. You also can get tortas at the Vallarta market on Woodley near the golf course (the roast chicken and tacos there also are great, cheap eats).

      If you are open to Indian, Anarbagh at Louise and Ventura (in the same center as Amer's Falafel and a block from Philly's Best) has very good lunch specials. The menu makes it sound like you can only get a generic "curry" but you can pretty much choose from the different chicken or lamb offerings and they will make the food spicy if you ask.

      For burgers, there aren't a lot of great options that come to mind. Billy's Grill on Van Nuys Blvd. at Magnolia is probably the best in the area.

      For drinks and celebratory, consider Larsen's steakhouse at Woodley and Ventura. It's a bit upscale, so it definitely doesn't fit the "cheap" part. But the bar is nice for drinks. Less-expensive options are Springbok Bar, the South African bar on Woodley, which isn't great for food (though they do a good fried calamari), or Robin Hood Pub at Burbank and Woodman, though it is a bit farther east (but does have some of the best fish and chips in the city).

      1. re: Jwsel

        Thank you both for taking the time to reply.

        ilysia, i have used your link and i'm definitely going to try Tampa Garden. They have the combos i want to try. do you have a favorite dish or two there?

        Jwsel, thank you so much for your lengthy reply. I will definitely check out Bamboo Forest -- some of the dishes you mention are my go-tos. You reminded me of Amer's Falafel (is it Amir's -- i'll look it up) and i will check out several of your other recommendations.

        I'll post here as i sample these. thanks.

        1. re: nosh

          I always thought it was Amir's, but they changed the name a few years ago to California Mediterranean Grill by Amer's Falafel and the website is

          1. re: nosh

            Alas, I didn't have any of the combos! The threads about the restaurant at the time suggested that the combos were nothing special. I had the XLB (dough was a bit too thick), one of the dumplings (perhaps the 3 ingredient dumplings?), the sin jian bao or guo tie (which I don't see on the menu, although I imagine they must still have it), and the cat ears (ditto; in case you're unfamiliar w/ it, it's like the Chinese version of orchecciette). The last 3 were very good (esp the cat ears... yum...). And the matron of the family (who literally started rolling out the dough after we placed the order) was so sweet and gracious.

            I think it used to be Amer's (not to be confused Amir's Falafel in Studio City, which is apparently totally different). I do vaguely recall when I went there once that it had "California Mediterranean Grill" written, uh, somewhere.

            1. re: ilysla

              If you go to Tampa Garden, don't bother with the regular Chinese menu. Stick to the Northern Chinese dumplings and the cat ears noodles (though I agree that the ELB dough was a bit thick). The Chinese offerings that you can get at most SFV places like kung pao, orange chicken, etc., were at best average fast-food Chinese.

              1. re: Jwsel

                Their homemade noodles made chow mein style are delicious too. Make sure you ask for the handmade noodles otherwise you get the usual dry boxed kind.

                1. re: Jwsel

                  I have eaten multiple times from both menus and have to respectfully disagree with your last sentence. The regular Chinese menu blows away average fast food Chinese. The shrimp with broccoli is fantastic. The shrimp are big and tasty and the broccoli is so fresh and green and flavorful. The orange chicken makes Panda Express weep with shame. And I don't know how they do this, but when you re-heat the leftovers, the orange chicken stays crispy.

                  The bacon ginger fried rice is delicious and I have not seen that at any other Chinese restaurant.

                  I am also a big fan of the cat ear noodles. Especially with chicken. The chicken just melts in your mouth and has so much flavor.

          2. re: ilysla

            For something spicy and cheap (sorry, not Asian), try Salsa & Beer, 6740 White Oak Ave, Reseda, CA 91406 - according to Google Maps, it is 8 minutes away. Not fancy, often crowded, generally fast and above average American Mexican food (not La Super Rica but also closer).

            1. re: Ave

              Thanks, Ave. I love spicy -- is their salsa or hot sauce good? I've looked at the menu -- everything seems to be paired with rice and beans (rice is boring filler, and I don't like beans) but they do give a salad option. i wish I knew how much they charged for soft tacos and such by themselves... What are your favorite dishes? I go to Tacos Por Favor (al pastor, carnitas, and chorizo and cheese tacos, and their great hot sauce) or Taqueria Sanchez (shrimp tacos) on the westside. I will give it a try.

              1. re: nosh

                The last few times I had a spicy chicken salad. I have not tried the salsa or hot sauce so I can't help there.

                By the way, I believe there are 2 locations but I have only tried the one in Reseda.

                Have you tried the hot sauce at Yxta (or the west side version called Mercado) or Tlapazola on Gateway?

                1. re: nosh

                  For quick tacos in the area, consider El Taco Llama in the strip mall at Haskell and Vanowen. I won't say the tacos are great, but the birria and asada are decent and what really sells the place is the salsa roja, which has great spice and a smokey flavor. (An even spicier version of a smokey salsa roja is at Rigo's tacos at Oxnard and Woodman, but that is a bit farther.)

                  If you like chorizo tacos, I enjoy the chorizo tacos at Alberto's on Vanowen just west of Van Nuys. They are known for asada fries and California burrito (a burrito with meat and french fries), but I like their tacos Their weakness is the salsas, which I find don't have a lot of flavor though they do have spice. They have a five-taco special for under $5.00.

                  1. re: Jwsel

                    For Mexican, I'd also consider Tacos Corona (7213 Balboa Blvd @ Sherman Way). I've only eaten there once, but their salsa bar (especially the grilled onions) was particularly impressive, and their prices seemed very fair. It's a mile or two up Balboa, pretty close to golf courses.

                    I also second Sam Woo, Vinh Loi tofu, and Don Adrian for cemitas (although their bread is a littl dry for my taste).

                    1. re: hhewitt

                      Tacos Corona can be a little hit or miss for me. But their beans are always great. They are the closest thing to my great grandmother's refried beans, so it's a definite comfort food for me. But their enchiladas left a funny taste in my mouth. Their breakfast dishes are always decent, though.

                    1. re: nosh

                      The have a decent salsa bar and a few of them are really spicy and good. They have them labeled by heat and the hot ones definitely have a kick to them.

                      i would recommend anything with chicken. They grill the chicken and it always has a great flavor. I have been eating there for over 10 years and have never had a bad meal. And they are such a great value. They must make money in volume because the dishes are really cheap and plentiful. But always very delicious.

                      The shrimp tacos are a personal favorite. The shrimp is grilled very well.

                    2. re: Ave

                      I personally LOVE Salsa & Beer (though I go to the one in NoHo so this recommendation is based on those experiences). It IS Mexican-American but really great! I like the Tacos Al Carbon - the steak and chicken all has a great smokey taste. I have had the carnitas and the adovada as well! I have also had the chicken molcajete (they serve it on TWO huge platters). Awesome bottomless spicy bean dip (I do not like bean dip normally but theirs!!!). Under $7.00 for 2 really huge steak tacos (fresh charred to order) pile of spicy beans and rice. A bargain. I know you are driving but if you can hang for awhile, try the fresh margarita on the rocks. Really inexpensive..

                  2. OK, I tried Firehouse Gyros (at the corner of Reseda and Victory) after golf today. A lamb/beef gyro with fries and a drink was $11 including tax and change tip -- it is an order and pickup at the counter sort of place. It was very satisfying. They gyro was HUGE and well-filled with meat. I quickly gave up trying to pick it up and slipped off its paper/foil cover and ate it with knife and fork on the plate. Meat was plentiful and tasty, but it lacked caramelization either from the rotisserie or being fried on the flattop. Fries were skin-on but it appeared my order for well-done was ignored. Service and mood of the place was pleasant. I'll probably come back...

                    1. Try Smoke City Market for pretty good BBQ. It is located on Van Nuys Blvd just north of Magnolia, and Billy's grill.Try the Moist brisket.

                      1. Tried Bamboo Forest today, which is on Burbank at Kester. Pleasant little place, and the service was very good. Scent of incense a bit strong. Had the lunch combo with shrimp in szechwan garlic sauce as my entree. Hot 'n sour soup was ok, a touch overthickened. They include a small salad mainly iceberg with a touch of a vaguely asian dressing -- nice touch. Entree was nice-sized and pretty generous with the shrimp. But though I asked for spicy, the sauce and the whole dish, which included zucchini, carrot and water chestnut, was a bit bland. Certainly a good deal of food at $6.25 + tax + tip.

                        I'll try it again -- certainly convenient to the course and the freeway -- and order the kung pao.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: nosh

                          They will definitly make the food spicy if you ask. Just emphasize that you really want your food spicy. I prefer the kung pao to the garlic sauce. Also make sure you try their aromatic shrimp, which is a available as a lunch special.

                          I like my hot 'n sour soup thick, so I love their soup. What I particularly like is that it actually is sour. So many versions in the area are just too bland.

                          1. re: Jwsel

                            Thank you -- I will get back there and try their kung pao and the aromatic shrimp. Definitely willing to give them another try or two to find their best dishes.

                            1. re: nosh

                              Went back to Bamboo Forest today. Had the kung pao chicken -- better than the garlic sauce, but even though I asked for spicy still no burn at all. Asked for hot chili oil, they brought me a garlic chili paste and then told me they don't have hot chili oil -- bad sign. I definitely prefered the fried rice to the bland and a touch gummy steamed rice I tried last time. Hot'n'sour soup was better -- did indeed have a sour note. Will put sorta low down on my post-golf rotation -- filling and very inexpensive when I need a change from my cheesesteaks.

                              1. re: nosh

                                For Hot & Sour soup, Kung Pao in Studio City, not Sherman Oaks, is what you are looking for. Actually all their soups are very good, their chili oil very powerful, and their lamb, tofu, shrimp dishes are all superb.
                                You like veggies not called onions, baby corn or shredded carrots - welcome to Kung Pao. The rest of the competition uses those ingredients for filler as they are cheaper than ....!
                                But in no way is it competitive with ANY cheesesteak, one of the truly gross food products on the planet.
                                One or, but not both!

                                1. re: carter

                                  OK, Kung Pao gets the occasional rec for Chinese in the Valley. Not terribly inconvenient, so I can see checking them out. The Mongolian lamb on the lunch special menu is appealing -- I like Mongolian beef and lamb can only make it better. Do they have their own parking lot?

                          2. re: nosh

                            Chinese restaurants with carrots or baby corn or water chestnuts should definitely be ignored.
                            Not only non- authentic, which may or may not matter, but are cheapening in the food costs. they are filler, just like onions are.
                            Yet you might like them, but try the real places where those items are not even in the building.
                            then you will realize the difference.

                          3. Tried California Mediterranean Grill today, in the CVS minimall a block west of the one with Philly's Best on the south side of Ventura. Got the shawarma pita sandwich, with the turkey/lamb meat, without hummus. Garlic sauce and hot sauce on the side. A HUGE sandwich for just under (or was it over?) seven bucks total. Lots of meat. Pita disintegrated after a couple of bites so had to unwrap it and eat it knife and fork. Really wanted to like it, and it was filling, but a lot of problems. First, the meat -- while there was some caramelization, the meat lacked taste and spice. I understand the rationale for turkey rather than beef with the lamb, but for me it didn't work. Too bland. And wrong mouth feel. Had high hopes for the white garlic sauce, but couldn't taste the garlic. Just like a very white, gloppy mayo. Hot sauce was ok. Might come back to try something else, but hard to choose this over the good cheesesteak so close...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: nosh

                              One word: FALAFEL. I haven't tried any of their other items, but the falafels were the only things I ever wanted from there (esp if the old man was making them). Perfectly crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside. Yum, yum, yum...

                              1. re: ilysla

                                Thanks, ilysia. I could see that pita being better with some hot-out-of-the-fryer falafel. (And some garlic sauce -- from Zankou!! ;-) )