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Nov 5, 2013 02:32 PM

Lunch Near Van Nuys Courthouse

Meeting a friend in two weeks. Van Nuys court is south of Victory near Van Nuys Blvd. Looking for a place with good food, well under $20 pp for a weekday lunch, relatively easy parking, hopefully table service.

My default is a suggestion i got on this board about a year ago requesting lunch options after Encino/Balboa. I really like Bamboo Forest, on the south side of Burbank just east of Kester. Great family-run Chinese place -- lunch specials range just under or over $6, including soup, a small salad, a big entree, eggroll and fried wonton. Their lightly fried pungent shrimp with broccoli in a sweet'n'sour sauce is very good -- I ask for the broccoli to be cooked in the sauce. Their orange chicken has white meat, thinly sliced pieces fried crisp-tender -- probably the best version of this dish I've had. And I like the mongolian beef ordered spicy. Best hot'n'sour soup I've found in SoCal.

So if you can challenge that, I'd love to try your suggestions.

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  1. Outlaws Cafe:

    I've been dying to try this place. Friend of mine LOVED it.

    1. Just up Van Nuys is Puro Sabor, a lovely Peruvian place. Excellent ceviche, and be sure to try their chi-chi morada, a purple corn drink. Up the street a little is El Criollo a nice Cuban place. Further afield is Lola's (northeast corner of Kester and Victory which has excellent wood-fire roasted Peruvian chicken. Diagonally across from Lola's is Don Adrian's a good cemitas poblana place. On Sepulveda and Victory you'll find two pho places, PHO 999, and Pho So 1, and a Sam Wo Chinese BBQ outlet. South of the courthouse on Van Nuys is Smoke City BBQ, a pretty good BBQ, if a little pricey. If you want to go north to Sherman Way there are a number of good Thai places, but its a bit more of a drive than these others.

      9 Replies
          1. re: Galen

            I've looked at Puro Sabor's menu online, read a couple of previous Chowhound threads, and it looks like a definite possibility. Questions:

            Do they have a special lunch menu?

            Do they take and will I benefit from reservations?

            Any favorite dishes? I dislike beans and have to avoid plantains.

            1. re: nosh

              I don't think they have a lunch menu. Don't worry about reservations - hardly anyone knows about it. You will probably be the only English as a first language speaker there; which in my experience is a very good thing. Ceviche in all its iterations is great, as is the fried seafood platter. I have never been able to get past the seafood, but be forewarned the portions are large. My niece is very fond of their mussels; as am I. They serve a lovely green hot sauce with a forgettable bread before your meal. When I asked the waitress for the name she said it was "aji" which is, of course, the name of a yellow Peruvian hot pepper aji amarillo. Whatever, its addictive. Others I have been with have raved about the meat dishes, but I have never been able to get beyond the fish...shellfish...octopus...pickled onions...whatever. Enjoy, and if this has leads you astray I apologize as thing change. I never would have thought 101 Noodle Express would be criticized for their beef roll...Sigh.

              1. re: ebethsdad

                The best choice is definitely Puro Sabor. It completely fits the bill and the food is fantastic. I always get ceviche. That and the bread with the hot sauce i more than enough to fill me up, though the loma saltado is good and I had a special pumpkin dish once that was great. (I recommended Bamboo Forest last year, so hopefully that counts for something.)

                Smoke City has great brisket, probably the best in town, and massive beef ribs that can induce sticker shock (they charge by weight). I find the pork ribs very disappointing and the sides are underwhelming. You order at a counter and then sit at communal tables. I suspect it's not what you're looking for.

                The two pho places are good, certainly better than most westside and valley pho places. I prefer the one on the east side of Sepulveda (sorry, I can't remember which is which). Sam Woo is very unusual for San Fernando Valley Chinese restaurant. It's much more of a type of place you would find in San Gabriel, with ducks hanging in the window and a menu that is not geared toward Americanized tastes. I took some friends there few weeks ago and they were pretty intimidated at being the only non-Chinese in the restaurant, but the food was great. It's cash only.

                I've been unimpressed with El Criollo. I din't find it much better than Versailles the two times I tried it.

                Of the other recommendations from ebethsdad, Don Adrian's and Lola's are counter order and probably not nice enough for what you want. (Don Adrian's is really low on ambience.) In a similar vein is Takatis, a Peruvian chicken place on Van Nuys, but the really spectacular dish is the sanguchon, a sandwich made with rotisserie chicken, fried yams, egg, and a spicy sauce.

                1. re: Jwsel

                  Adding on, I like the regular fish ceviche at Puro Sabor better than the mixto, though several of my friends disagree with me. The lomo saltado there is also delicious, and they actually also have a bunch of Chinese-Peruvian dishes that I've yet to try but will get to one of these days. I agree with Jwsel that Pho So 1 (next to 99 Ranch) is slightly better than Pho 999 across the street, but your mileage may vary. The bun bo hue is better at 999. If price is an issue, the Pho places are the cheapest of the options listed so far.

                  I do love Smoke City, and if you're willing to go that far from the courthouse then maybe also check out San Marcos Mexican Grill on Hazeltine just south of Oxnard, Nat's Early Bite on Hazeltine and Burbank for diner food, and Star Falafel kitty corner to Nat's. All are very good--probably a 5 minute drive from the courthouse.

                  1. re: Tyus4pt8

                    lately i've been digging the pho at pho 999 more than pho so 1, and it's usually much less crowded.

                    1. re: Tyus4pt8

                      Thanks for this. I will check out San Marcos Mexican Grill. My preference is Pho 999 but its largely based on their superior spring rolls. I am a sucker for crispy food. As far as falafel goes I find Skaf's (Oxnard and Laurel) better than Star, but I am willing make the trek to Joe's on Cahuenga for Lebanese. The laffa is worth it. BTW thanks to everyone for tips in my hood and nosh I hope you have a lovely lunch.

                    2. re: Jwsel

                      Jwsel, I am indeed grateful for the rec of Bamboo Forest -- never would have found it on my own I get there probably every two weeks and am recognized now. They know to do the orange chicken or the pungent shrimp "my way," with extra sauce, spicy (a few of those dried little red peppers added in), and the broccoli cooked in the sauce (more tender). The place appears to be doing well -- once or twice I've had to wait a couple minutes for a table and a few other times others have had to wait while I'm eating.

                      I have tried Smoke City a couple of times and I like it. The brisket was my favorite. Their "chili" was unusual -- small chunks of beef with similar chunks of tomato in a thin tomatoey broth. No real chili flavor. But tasty in its way, andI always appreciate no beans. Note that if you sign up for their email newsletters, at the end of each one is a coupon you can print for 10% off of your next visit.

                      If my friend is unfamiliar with Puro Sabor, I'll take her there. Otherwise I'll introduce her to Bamboo Forest, I think...

          2. Nazca, at the corner of Victory & Sylmar:

            Delicious ceviche, Peruvian.

            1 Reply
            1. re: crocodileguy

              Nazca is owned by the owner of Puro Sabor.

            2. Try Golden China on Van Nuys Blvd across from the courthouse

              2 Replies
              1. re: srgx2

                What do you order there that's good?

              2. El Pollo Nortenito, on Van Nuys and Vanowen.