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A good restaurant mid-way between North Hills and Irvine?

I will be visiting friends in Irvine and I would like to meet a woman after her work who works in North Hills and is willing to drive half way. So I would like to find, with 'hound help, a good-value-for-the-money restaurant (any but the highest price point, as this is our first meeting) of any ethnicity that is mutually convenient i. e. close to a freeway. Any suggestions? TIA!

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    1. I hope she works unconventional hours. Trying to get out of Irvine in the afternoon/evening on a weekday is pretty rough.

      1. Flossies, great Soul Food at great prices just off the 405 in Redondo Beach Closed Mondays

        a little more $$ Houston's Manhattan Beach would be a good meeting place.

        Pann's is a wonderful 1950's dinner off the 405 near LAX,

        1 Reply
        1. re: wienermobile

          One other thought for something farther off the more well traveled culinary path: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/...

        2. When I googled the trip, it wanted to send me up the 5. What's half way on that route is Pico Rivera. Unfortunately the only thing worth noting for something like this is Dal Rae and I think that would not be a good first date place.

          If you are willing to add 10 or so miles to your trip and subtract those miles for her and you don't want to go up the 405 Downtown LA will significantly open up your possibilities.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

            Gentleman that I am, I should be willing to drive the extra 10 miles. Around 6 P. M., that shouldn't take more than an extra half hour, should it?

            1. re: Joebob

              What's traffic like and which route are you taking? Driving from North Hills southboud shouldn't be in an issue on the 170 to the 101 until you hit Hollywood. Not sure what it might be like on the 5 (which would be more direct). Just *don't* take the 405 to the 10.

              How about Colori Kitchen or Wood Spoon? Check hrs, though, b/c I think Colori especially has some "non-standard" closures. Both should easily fit your budget.

            1. re: wienermobile

              For a first date, I'm thinking $100 or less total for the two of us.

              1. re: wienermobile

                You could do MB Post in Manhattan Beach. Wonderful food. Wonderful chef.

                  1. You are talking about a traffic nightmare of epic proportions. Do not listen to anyone who suggests you meet in Orange County or the South Bay. By the time she gets there, she will already hate you.

                    As you are visiting, and presumably not working, then I would bite the bullet and meet her in the valley (she will love you for it). Get there before rush hour and kill time. Catch an early movie. It will be better than sitting in rush hour. Heed my words. You will be sorry if you don't.

                    The Valley Inn is supposed to be very nice, I've never been. And then if you've driven all the way up there, well she can't expect you to drive all the way back again, can she...?

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: MarkC

                      Yeah North Hills to Irvine weekday rush hour is 2.5 to 3hrs!!!! Horrible horrible drive.

                      1. re: Sgee

                        Is this on a weekday? If so, I wouldn't ask the OP to make the trip from Irvine to North Hills on a weekday. The OP will need to leave Irvine presumably by 1PM or so. One of my clients tried to get to my workplace in Encino during a weekday from Irvine. She left at 4PM; she arrived by 7PM. North Hills, during traffic hr, it probably at least another 20-30 min north during traffic.

                        Yes, leaving early will reduce the traffic you hit, but you'll be wasting 1/3 of a day in the Valley....

                        I live in WLA and work in Encino; the southbound trip is 20-30 min at 7PM. Traffic is only very bad southbound once you approach the Westwood exit and, if you're leaving North Hills even later, it you can make it all the way to the Mar Vista area w/o much of a problem.

                        I've only made the trip downtown from Sylmar; it also wasn't very long (probably about the same amount of time).

                        I think meeting in Downtown or West LA is a pretty good compromise; you'll drive further to impress her and yet still might have your sanity intact by the time you reach your destination.... And there's more interesting stuff to eat in those places than there is North Hills (trust me).

                        1. re: ilysla

                          Yes, it is a Monday, but ya' gotta' do what ya' gotta' do. She will be getting off work about 6 I would guess. When I travel, I usually bring something to read.

                      2. re: MarkC

                        That sounds like good advice. What route should I take to get the valley/North Hills, and can someone who has been to the Valley In pleases tell me about it or suggest other alternatives in/near North Hills.

                        1. re: Joebob

                          The 5 and 405 are terrible, but the times in my life I wanted to killself in traffic have been on the 5, going north in the Irvine area, moving at a glacial pace.

                          MarkC's advice is the right way to go: leave Irvine by say 1 or 2, definitely no later than 3. Kill time near your destination.

                          1. re: Joebob

                            North Hills is in the generally Hispanic corridor that stretches from Sylmar to Van Nuys. Also big Filipino community there. So lots of good ethnic, but nothing I would put in the date category (when you get to know her better you can take her to La Asuncion for mole).

                            Valley Inn is a good selection geographically, because it's on Ventura Blvd right off the 405, easy for both of you to find. It's one of the oldest restaurants in the valley, and has the romantic ambiance going for it. If you don't like that than Studio City is probably the best restaurant destination in the valley. A number of high end sushi spots there. I don't have a specific recommendation, but maybe someone else does, or you can do a Yelp search.

                            1. re: MarkC

                              Coming from Hawaii, where there is no Mexican food worth feeding to pigs, a good mole appeals greatly. Is La Asuncion fancy and accessible enough? Where is it exactly?

                              1. re: Joebob

                                For good mole, I'd still suggest West LA. ;) Monte Alban. Not far from the 405, and it has a small lot (and very plentiful metered street parking). Not super romantic, but fine for a first date (aside from the hard seats).

                                1. re: Joebob

                                  For fantastic mole go to Rocio's Mole de los Dioses There are 2 locations. One is in Tarzana and the other is in Sun Valley. Either one is not too far from North Hills. While the atmosphere and price point may be a bit lower than you are looking for, it is one of the few places in the Valley I would consider worth the drive from Irvine.


                                  1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                    A place worth driving to from Irvine is a concept I can relate to and the menu is very interesting. I assume the food is equally good at both locations? Would one be easier than the other for me to get to?

                                    1. re: Joebob

                                      From what I understand Yes. I had only been to her former location in Huntington Park. One of my Co-workers has family near the Sun Valley location and goes almost every time she is up there. Reports on the Tarzana Location have been for the most part very positive. One of these days I have to make the trek up to the Valley for my mole fix.

                                  2. re: Joebob

                                    La Asuncion Family Restaurant
                                    8712 Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91343

                                    This place has as good or better mole than anywhere in L.A. Festive d├ęcor, typical of many Mexican restaurants. I've only been during the day. If it's mole you're after, than there's no reason to leave North Hills.

                                    One thing I'm not sure they have is a liquor license, always a nice accompaniment to a first date. I don't know what kind of tone you want to set here, but food aside, there are definitely better places for a night on the town.

                                    If you're interested in Mexican, and want to dial up the sex appeal a little, I would think of Casa Vega, on Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks. Lively bar scene. It's one of L.A.'s old restaurants, been around at least fifty years, so it has some charm, and you can linger over margaritas and chips in your own booth before ordering dinner. In all the mole places mentioned you'll be in and out very quickly, and on a weeknight it might be fairly dead. No, it's not the best Mexican food in L.A., but for a date, I would choose that over culinary perfection.

                                    Save La Asuncion for a weekend brunch.

                                2. re: Joebob

                                  I can't think of a single first date type of a place right in North Hills itself, though I spend a fair amount of time around there since it is my daughter's home. I agree with those who say to look a bit further afield if you want to come to the SF Valley to meet your date (also good advice, IMO). One specific suggestion: last year hubby and I needed a date night option as a break while on grandparent duty, and went to Panzanella in Sherman Oaks. Not inexpensive but has the right vibe. We enjoyed good food, excellent service and a nice break.

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    While the interior setting is nothing fancy the food more than makes up for it at CF Food Kitchen http://cffoodkitchen.com/ - right in the midst of North Hills.

                                    CH review here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8992... (thanks to our intrepid hound, PaulF).

                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      +1. Even if there *are* a few good first date places in North Hills, I feel like the place is just so gosh-darn boring (I worked there for many yrs) that the OP's date might actually not mind taking a short trip elsewhere just for a change of scenery? Might make for a nice evening out....

                                      Ventura isn't that far. Even Simon's Cafe would be a very respectable first date place. Ambiance is quite casual, but the food is good, the price is right, it's close to the freeway, and it's got easy parking (inexpensive metered parking right in the back). Also w/i walking distance of the Arclight, in case the OP decides to catch a movie (or two).

                                      1. re: ilysla

                                        well, to nit pick, CF Food Kitchen, is in Granada HIlls, and unless my geography is off it would put OP a little further north than his date's location (whereas somewhere like Sherman Oaks would be much closer to the date but not quite as far for OP)...

                                        Still, I'd like to thank you for this mention Servorg and PaulF, as this wasn't on my radar, but goes on the list to try on my next visit. I will confess that, since hubby and I had our first date at a neighborhood Italian place (in SF) that Italian just seems to be my definition of 'first date material'. Short-sighted, I realize.

                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                          It's actually right on the N boundary line and smack dab in the middle of the E/W boundary of North Hills.


                                  2. If you've decided to drive to the Valley, then I would suggest the areas of Encino, Sherman Oaks and Studio City as your dinner destinations. All are a short drive from North Hills. There are a lot of choices along Ventura Blvd. depending on the type of food and ambience you prefer.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: selfportrait93

                                      If you don't want to be in the valley (which is understandable) than going to Hollywood shouldn't be too bad (I'm thinking for her, you're already screwed). She can take the 170 to the 101 and get off at Highland before traffic starts getting too bad. Lots of options there. One place we really like is Cleo's. It's got a middle eastern/Moroccan theme, but chic and upscale. Food is very good, and shouldn't be too expensive if you don't go crazy with wine.

                                    2. I agree with the Hounds who recommend meeting her in the Valley. After working all day, then driving to somewhere mid-way between North Hills and Irvine, she may be a wreck! I did something like that once--I drove from Sherman Oaks to Signal Hill. After spending three hours on the 405 parking lot, I was in no mood to be charming on a date! That was several years ago when traffic wasn't as bad as it is now.

                                      I recommend meeting her somewhere in Sherman Oaks or Encino, on or near Ventura Blvd. I certainly wouldn't send her to certain parts of metropolitan LA after dark, and possibly have to park her car and walk to the restaurant alone.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                        Good point, but any decent place will have valet parking.

                                        And besides, walking her back to her car gives him the opportunity for that big, good night kisseroo (do I have to do all the thinking around here?).

                                      2. Do you like Middle Eastern/Israeli food? If she is already in North Hills and you are going to the Valley, for less than $100 try Hummus Bar&Grill on Ventura Blvd. in Tarzana. The site has a webcam so you can see if you like the way it looks ahead of time.


                                        1. ATTENTION ALL YOU HELPFUL 'HOUNDS: This latest from the female; "My suggestion is to meet in Century City, Marina del Rey or Manhattan Beach. In Century City there is Seasons 52. In the Marina there is Sapori or Cafe del Rey, and in Manhattan Beach, Mangiamo"
                                          OPINIONS OF THESE PLACES PLEASE.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Joebob

                                            Season's 52 in Century Ctiy is very mediocre in my opinion. Gulfstream would be a much better choice, Sotto is also close by and a very good choice. Craft is great but it's over your budget.
                                            In Manhattan Beach again I suggest MB Post for the best food in area. There is also Houston's with very nice atmosphere or Petro's for upscale Greek food with a very nice heated patio. Fishing With Dynamite is very good seafood and has a wonderful raw bar. Mangiamo will run you around $80 for 2 with out wine and I think the food is ok but overpriced. The new Little Sister has had wonderful reviews for their asian cuisine.

                                            good luck!

                                            1. Just leave it to the female friend to decide... after all she is more familiar with the locations.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: roro808

                                                Ditto. Its just a first date. There maybe plenty of time in the future to explore options. if I had to choose of the four, it be Cafe del Rey

                                                1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                                  Yeah, the important thing is to meet first...simple cup of coffee or a glass of wine with tapas will be just fine for the first meeting.....:)

                                                  1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                                    Yup. OP should google "westsidegal" and "Cafe Del Rey" if in doubt.

                                                2. Dear Hounds,

                                                  The flame has been re-kindled with the choice being between Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks or Sapori in Marina Del Rey. Which do you prefer (or is there better Mexican or Italian food in Sherman Oaks)?

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Joebob

                                                    Casa Vega follows the rule of Inverse Quality in Mexican Restaurants. The Quality of the Margaritas is Inverse to the Quality of the Food. That said, the Margaritas are excellent.
                                                    My wife said go to Casa Vega. It a shorter trip for her. Don't worry about the food. Have a margarita and chat, relax a bit and have a good time. Think about whether this person your type and see if you can tell if she might be willing to go a bit far a field to have dinner at places like Coni's Seafood in Inglewood which is sort of half way and worth the drive. And that is what a first date is about.