Ahhhh, the Valley. That sweet, steaming dump pile of studio lots and never-ending urban abyss. With more space and lower rents, it long ago became the unhip, family-oriented answer to the glitzier chaos south of the hill. Whether Los Angelenos care to admit it or not, this is the real LA. Let that sink in, Cher Horowitz.
But unlike most other parts of our city, the Valley is actually the melting pot we Angelenos all tend to brag about. Couple that with constant influx of young broke actors and those sleepy neighborhoods on the other side of the hills are finally waking back up. And the Valley's main artery, Ventura Boulevard, is the center of all the action. From game-changing, new restaurants to old stand-bys still worth going to, the time is now to be eating on Ventura. Here is our UPDATED guide to the best of the best.
After a somewhat quiet opening, The Bellwether has emerged as one of Ventura's best new spots and a big shiny feather in Studio City's cap. Could you argue the menu's similar to other spots around town? Sure. You'll get your roasted carrots and charred octopus and of course that starter small plate of beets. But good food is good food, and this is good food. Also, that patty melt is special. Your next casual dinner spot in the Valley has arrived.
In one those typical restaurant-closes-in-Beverly-Hills-and-a-fake-unathorized-one-opens-before-the-official-one-reopens-in-Encino situations, the end result is the Valley getting a fantastic new restaurant. The entire place is essentially a 16-person bar with no waiters (the chefs do all the serving). They're going to want you to do a pre-fixe menu and you should take them up on it. No, this isn't your once a week hangout place, but it's a massive step forward for the Valley's dining situation.
When the former chef de cuisine of French Laundry decided to open up a BBQ joint in The Valley, people took notice. And with a vibe right out of HGTV that’s suitable for anything from lunch with the co-workers to a seal-the-deal date night, so should you. The menu is a meat-lovers wet dream and yet it won’t send you spiraling into a blinding food coma either. No matter, you’re washing it all down with one of the top cocktail menus in town.
The significance of Asanebo cannot be overstated. Their Tier A omakase will put a hefty dent into your wallet, but it’s one of the best versions in the city (if not the country). For a place that’s received almost every accolade you could imagine over the past 25 years, it’s remained completely untouched by the corporate crush. Asanebo isn’t your weekly sushi joint, but it’s a place you come to experience higher level eating.
Gastropubs are basically stacked on top of each other on Ventura, but Laurel Tavern remains the best. Why? Good food, a solid beer list, and excellent vibes. Every single person in the Valley goes here for after-work drinks, so be prepared to wait for a table during peak hours. But take a breath, grab a drink, and remember the alternative is sitting in bumper to bumper traffic up Laurel Canyon.
From the team that brought us Mercado comes this sleek, seafood-infused Mexican restaurant in a prime Studio City location. Much like its ever-popular brother though, Maradentro is a tad pricier than you want it to be but you put up with it because it’s delicious. And you can’t stop thinking about that lobster guacamole.
When it comes to drinking holes in the Valley, good luck finding a more up to snuff spot than Black Liquor. While the place has a well-earned reputation of being loud, it remains largely unpretentious and full of good-looking people who are serious about their cocktail intake. The interior falls somewhere between Parisian sewer system and Hobbit police station and that’s appealing after a few rounds of the best-built drinks this side of Mulholland.
Another day, another vegan restaurant? Not quite. Since opening, the Gardarene Swine has continued to produce one of the most downright fulfilling meatless menus in the city. And we’re being serious. The space is small and somewhat formal, and with a rotating pre-fixe menu, you’re served what's essentially vegan omakase. This is real life and its all happening in The Valley.
Chances are you're somewhat familiar with Texas, Memphis, or Carolina style BBQ. But Santa Maria style? Not exactly. But Boneyard has it and it's amazing. The Santa Maria red oak grilled beef ribs are a must, but don't sleep on the fried mac and cheese either. There's a great craft beer list and the relaxed, neighborhood vibes are always exactly what the doctor prescribed. Mark your calendars: Monday night is now Nashville hot chicken night.
What exactly sets a ramen joint apart these days? Well, a Michelin-starred chef is a decent start. Also, 40 hours of prep for one bowl of ramen is impressive too. Welcome to the daily norm at Ramen Omae, a 10-table strip mall ramen joint that has given the Valley some serious bragging rights. Just don’t be distracted by the ramen burger you see on the menu. You and your friends are here for the burnt miso ramen. And that’s a command, not a request.
For the same reason your family dragged you to Washington DC as a kid, drag yourself to Ventura Blvd: History. Sushi history. What started in the late 80s as Sushi Nozawa is now the birthplace of one of our city’s most iconic sushi empires: Sugarfish. Unfortunately, the place has been retrofitted to the current Sugarfish aesthetic, but that doesn’t diminish the need to go pay homage.
This classic Iranian bakery is a Valley staple and has been serving some of the best Persian cuisine in LA for a while now. But you’re in line for one reason: the sangak. The yard-long sesame encrusted flatbread is the almighty king here and you’re gonna want a lot of it. Asal isn’t really a dine-in type establishment so order in bulk and enjoy for days to come.
Tired of sushi yet? Let's hope not. Because this hidden strip mall spots is one of our favorite casual sushi spots in the city. All their rolls are solid (the Pink Panther is a must) and their main dishes are excellent. We could eat that Halibut carpaccio every day if we could. But most importantly, Iroha's rustic interior and leaf patio area gives it the relaxed vibes you don't easily get at high caliber sushi spots.
Family-friendly establishments go a long ways in family-friendly neighborhoods and Cici’s Cafe has that game on lock-down. Located in the wild west of stroller moms (Tarzana), Cici’s is a breakfast darling because of its delicious food and encyclopedia-sized menu. You can find anything you want at Cici’s, but your order should be the coco green tea pancakes.
Indian restaurants tend to know their way around a worthwhile lunch buffet but at Taj Mahal you might be staring at the best one in the city. At $8.95 this 15-item, all-you-can-eat buffet is an Encino legend and the perfect way to seek midweek revenge on your cubicle neighbor who you hate anyways.
Want restaurant and bar intel like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter here.