The restaurants in the San Fernando Valley are much like the Valley itself, eclectic and unassuming. Some are hole-in-the-wall cafes while others are family-owned businesses that locals have grown up with.
While the Valley isn’t often recognized for its culinary offerings, we hope this list of the best places to eat will spark inspiration for you be make the trek (or maybe just go down the street if you already live there) for some new and exciting food adventures. The diverse ethnicities of Valley dwellers are reflected in this list from Thailand to Mexico to Vietnam to all-American classics that will satisfy all foodie cravings.
As always it’s hard to please everyone with a list like this so let us know in the comments section about your favorite Valley restaurants.
Rundown starts after the jump (in no particular order).
1. Follow Your Heart
This vegetarian hotspot has been the go-to restaurant for vegetarians/vegans in the Valley since 1970. From tempeh tacos to a “meatball” sub the dishes can make even the most devoted carnivore appreciate the unique flavors.
2. Sol y Luna
Many restaurants advertise fresh guacamole but how many make it table side? This authentic Mexican eatery serves green corn tamales made from scratch and their signature Molcajete includes strips of chicken, steak, and grilled shrimp with fresh cactus leaves and panela cheese.
3. Humble Bee
This hole in the wall is home to the delicious Panwich- a pancake sandwich stuffed with their delicious housemade turkey sausage and eggs and topped with mascarpone cheese. What else is there to say?
4. Joe’s Café
Chef Joe Wetherbee is a local celebrity after beating out his competition on an episode of the Food Network’s “Chopped”. Since opening his eponymous café in 2012 he’s been serving up his now famous stuffed French toast and croissant sandwich filled with thick-cut bacon, Gouda cheese and a fried egg. The restaurant is small so be prepared to wait a while before being seated – it’s worth the wait.
5. Brats Bros
This place brings together German cuisine with L.A.’s fresh food mentality to bring handmade gourmet bratwursts. For a taste of the various traditional bratwursts, check out the sampler platter that includes German, Swiss, Black Forest, and Hungarian. For more adventurous foodies, there’s the smoked kangaroo or smoked alligator and make sure to pair it with favorites Bavarian tator tots or cheese spaetzle, a homemade pasta with Swiss cheese.
6. Bamboo Cuisine
The word pungent may not sound delectable but this restaurant has made a name for itself with their sweet and pungent sauce served with shrimp or chicken. Their extensive menu includes Kon Pao San Yan and local favorite aloha fried rice.
7. Pampas Café
Come for the delicious Argentine chimichurri sauce and empanadas and enjoy the hospitality of this small, family-owned café. Owner Osvaldo Decoud, a Buenos Aires native, has more than 45 years of restaurant experience serving up family recipes including empanadas filled with mushroom, beef, chicken, or spinach.
8. Brent’s Deli
Though it’s located in a strip mall the renowned deli isn’t hard to find as there’s usually a crowd near the entry waiting to get their hands on the famous black pastrami reuben. The family-owned restaurant has been around since 1969 with an extensive menu that includes traditional favorites such as matzo ball soup and latkes to American classics including the patty melt with curly fries.
9. Cici’s Café
Pancake connoisseurs will not be disappointed with their famous tiramisu pancakes. The extremely popular café has made a name for itself courtesy of their fluffy and scrumptious pancakes with unique flavors- the green tea is also renowned. The menu includes sandwiches, salads, and pastas but the pancakes and French toast are must-haves.
10. Crave Café
The crepes include sweet (strawberries and Nutella) and savory (grilled chicken) all made with fresh ingredients. Other favorites include the grilled chicken panini and the crunchy French toast and make sure to cap off your meal with a red velvet cupcake.
11. More than Waffles
For decades this café has been serving homemade strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream atop Belgian waffles. But like the name states there’s more to them than their perfectly squared waffles from traditional breakfast combos to wraps and home fries.
The walls in this Tarzana-based restaurant are lined with images of Greece yet it’s the gyros that will make you fee like you’ve been transported to the Hellenic Republic. They’re the Greek equivalent of the Chipotle burrito, both in size and rich flavors.
Two words: crispy olives. It’s not that olives need any improvement but, like most foods, they’re even better when fried (and accompanied by whipped garlic crème fraiche). The menu at this upscale eatery includes unagi risotto, ricotta gnocchi and chicken liver pâté and desserts including the aptly named Beautiful Disaster, an ice cream dish that’s a Pollock-inspired work of art.
This family-owned Lebanese restaurant is easy to miss situated in a strip mall but it packs big flavors. Start off with the lentil soup, a house specialty, followed by the Arabic salad and the chicken shawarma.
It’s hard to miss the bright purple and blue sign of this Van Nuys-based diner serving all-American dishes with prices that haven’t changed much since their opening in 1956. Their chili fries are topped with their slightly spicy, no-beans chili and onions and go great with the Big Beeper (a ½ pound cheeseburger) if you’re really hungry.
16. Makoto Sushi
It’s a hole-in-the-wall that’s been around since 1994 serving up fresh fish sushi that can stand up against the more famous L.A. sushi spots. Their baked green mussels with dynamite sauce (smelt fish egg sauce) stand out along with the baked scallop on California roll and the hanabi, a spicy tuna on top of a baked rice ball.
17. Les Sisters
For a taste of the South look no further than this family-owned institution established in 1986. The menu is a mix of Cajun/Creole/Soul food with stand-outs including the jambalaya, smothered chicken, hush puppies, and buttermilk pie. The exterior is unassuming and the restaurant is small so prepare to wait but once inside you’ll be greeted by the friendly staff and the sweet scent of Southern cuisine.
18. Bun Me!
This tiny restaurant near CSUN can get crowded with hungry college students craving authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The food is flavorful and affordable with the lemongrass chicken bun me being the favorite along with pho noodle soups.
19. The Fresh Potato Factory
Their mantra is “Educate Your Mouth” and this organic vegetarian restaurant does just that with everyone’s favorite vegetable. Who knew a sweet potato panini could taste so good? They offer a variety of housemade dipping sauces including curry sauce, wasabi, and pesto and even the soda is organic.
20. Lum- Ka-Naad
The name means delicious and Thai food lovers can’t get enough of their Northern and Southern Thailand cuisine. Items are divided by the region of origination with dishes like Pla Pling (grilled fish in a curry sauce wrapped in a banana leaf) representing the South and the spicy pork sausage, Sai Oua, representing the North. A local favorite, Tom Kha Kai, is a spicy chicken soup with vegetables and chilies with coconut as the key ingredient, a marker of Southern cuisine.
21. Il Tiramisu
Not surprisingly one of the best dishes at this Italian restaurant is the Tiramisu alla Katerina served in a tulip made of dark and white chocolate, it tastes even better than it looks. Their Mac ‘n’ Cheese, served in a martini glass, is made with fontina and mascarpone cheese sauce with grilled shrimp and the crespelle di zucca, a crepe filled with butternut squash with a light sage and cream sauce is a must-try.
Do you have a favorite spot to eat in the valley that we missed in the above list? Let us know in the comments below!