On paper, Glendale seems like just another sprawling suburb of northeast Los Angeles: traffic-filled streets, corporate shopping malls, and the nearest location of whatever chain restaurant you secretly want to eat at tonight.
But dig deeper and you’ll find a city teeming with excellent food. There are old-school Italian delis, classic dim sum palaces, and one of the largest collections of Armenian restaurants in the country. These are the spots to prioritize.
Carousel might not have the absolute best Armenian food in Glendale, but this iconic restaurant is the social center of the neighborhood—and arguably Southern California's Armenian community at large. Its massive, belly dancer-filled dining hall is a party almost every night of the week, and the massive kebab platters, assorted meze, and shawarma are guaranteed to feed any sized group. There’s also a location in East Hollywood.
Between the Galleria and Americana At Brand feeding into each other’s corporate mall chaos, downtown Glendale can get overwhelming. Zhengyalov Hatz is the antithesis to all that. This tiny, counter-service shop only has two things on its menu—sweet paxlava and its namesake zhengyalov hatz. And while we’re always down for a midday dessert moment, your focus should definitely be on the latter. This warm, savory flatbread that’s wrapped around 15 different herbs and sunflower oil is a delicious, perfectly constructed wrap. It’s the kind of quick lunch that fills you up without putting you to bed in the process.
If you aren’t familiar with Din Tai Fung by this point, here’s a quick recap - this massive Taiwanese soup dumpling and noodle palace is one of the most popular restaurants in all of Los Angeles and has the endless lines to prove it. If you come here for a weekday lunch, you’ll be fine. But given its location in the Americana, weekend wait times are counted in hours, not minutes. Is it worth it? Unequivocally, yes.
Even though the Porto’s in Glendale is technically its second location, this legendary Cuban bakery has been in the neighborhood for over 40 years and is every bit the institution as the original (and long defunct) Echo Park location. Expect the same great guava pastries, potato balls, Cubano sandwiches, and long lines at pretty much any point in the day. Good news - this place is a well-oiled machine and wait times somehow never go over 15 minutes. If you’re in Glendale for even an hour, a visit is mandatory.
You’re going to Mini Kabob because the kebabs are really, really good. But you’re also going because Mini Kabob is a Glendale institution, and getting to spend even five minutes talking to the eccentric elderly couple who run the place is guaranteed to improve your day. Most of the kebab platters hover under $20, and if you’re able to eat the entire plate in one sitting (it comes with rice, vegetables, hummus, and pita), you’ve earned our unwavering respect. Also, be sure to try the eggplant caviar and tarragon soda.
Din Tai Fung isn’t the only dumpling house in Glendale you need to be aware of. Khinkali House is home to traditional Georgian soup dumplings that comes either boiled or fried (go the boiled route) and stuffed with Georgian cheese, ground beef, or spinach and mushrooms. The place itself is a little more high-end than nearby spots, but with prices that are still reasonable for a big group dinner. The quiet patio tucked behind a big building is ideal for a low-key date night before catching a movie at Americana across the street.
Fish King Seafood
Fish King is a Hawaiian market with a massive selection of fish and specialty goods that any home cook should know about. That said, it’s also a great spot to stop off for a quick lunch. When we’re here alone, we usually order some poke, which is true Hawaiian-style (a scoop of fresh fish over rice and seaweed salad), or go for something off the “fried” section. We love how the breaded oysters still hold their brininess and the “Crunch” fish sandwich is a lesson in simplicity—just fried whitefish, tomato, mayo, and lettuce on a toasted roll. It’s like a Filet-O-Fish, if the Filet-O-Fish actually tasted good.
If you ask 10 people where the best kabab in Glendale is, you’ll get 20 answers. If you ask us, we’ll tell you to at least check out Moon Mart before making any sweeping proclamations. This tiny strip mall spot makes a beef luleh kabab that’s warm, herbaceous, and requires very minimal work from your incisors. Plus, the $11.99 plate also comes with rice, a roasted tomato, and a side salad. Be sure to pick up an extra side or two of the mast moosir (creamy lebni) for all your dipping needs in the week ahead.
Glendale is a place that lives and dies by its neighborhood staples, and Raffi’s is one of the very best. This Middle Eastern restaurant’s specialty is kabobs, and the barg, which is thinly-sliced filet mignon, is our favorite. Most dishes run above the $20 mark, which seems a bit high until you realize Raffi’s portions will feed you and your roommates for a week. The space is festive and truly massive, perfect for a friend or family dinner of any size.
Located on a quiet stretch of Glendale by the Burbank border, Sushi Nishi-Ya flies under the radar. But this is easily some of the best sushi you can get in the area. The power move is to roll up to the bar and go all in on the chef's omakase. Depending on what's fresh that day, it's an experience that'll easily set you back over $100, so it isn’t your once-a-week sushi binge either. You can also sit in one of the diner-ish booths and order a la carte, a far more accessible experience for your lunch hour.
Sipan is located on the northern fringe of Glendale, uncomfortably close to America’s largest IKEA, but don’t let that deter you - this small, Middle Eastern bakery is a must-visit. It’s hard to go wrong with anything off Sipan’s menu, but ordering a bunch of beoreks - Middle Eastern pastries filled with everything from feta cheese to spicy beef - needs to be a priority. You’ll buy a dozen for your office and then eat half of them in your car before you get back.
Glendale Pho Co. is easily our favorite bowl of pho in the neighborhood, and also one of the most underrated pho shops in the entire city. The portions are enormous, yet the light, airy broth guarantees that putting in several more hours of work afterwards is entirely doable. We usually go for the brisket, flank, and tripe-filled phở dặc biệt, but they also have vegetarian options as well. If you're in more of a sandwich mood, try the banh mi with pork that's been marinated overnight in a sweet soy-based sauce.
Rincon Argentino is one of those places where you go in looking for one thing, and end up coming out with enough snacks to last you an entire hibernation period. And that’s because this small Argentinian shop really has it all, from a stacked wine selection to a great butcher, and even pastries like dulce de leche-filled alfajores. That said, we never leave without a bag of their golden-crusted empanadas (the savory jamon and cheese is a must) and a fugazetta, which is Argentina’s answer to stuffed-crust pizza. Besides the generous amounts of ham, cheese, and caramelized onions on top, the dough is filled with more ham and cheese, just as it should be. They offer a cook-at-home version, but if you want it piping hot now, just know it takes about a half-hour in the oven—so definitely call ahead.
Skaf’s admittedly doesn’t have much of an atmosphere, but that doesn’t matter when it’s lunch time and all you want is garlic falafel and some of the best chicken shawarma in town. Even though Skaf’s is technically a full sit-down restaurant, service is quick and efficient, and a meal in under 30 minutes is very doable here.
Mario's Italian Deli
In operation since 1961, Mario’s is an Italian deli and grocery and your best bet for some old-school Italian sandwiches and hot plates in the neighborhood. Get there before 11:30am or be prepared to wait. But even if you get stuck behind the rush, it’s worth it. The Bad Boy Sub is their signature sandwich and it’s a monster: your choice of meat (get the pastrami), mustard, mayo, avocado, spicy peppers, and every other fixing available. Cue the midday nap in your car.
While you can certainly head to Akkad for solid kebab and shawarma platters, we’d recommend focusing more on the traditional Iraqi dishes. The kuzi, which is grilled lamb shank on a bed of rice mixed with almonds, raisins, and spices, is the best we've eaten in LA, and the ground beef and spice-filled kibbeh Mosul is an ideal centerpiece for a rainy day meal. That said, don't even think about leaving without an order of the perfectly crisp manti.
Joon Shabu Shabu
Joon is a very good shabu shabu spot that’s even better if you’ve never done shabu shabu before. This cook-your-own-meat-in-a-pot place is a block from the Americana and ideal for first-timers, because if you sit at the bar the waitstaff will happily guide you through the whole process. Prices are affordable, the meat is good quality, and they turn your leftover broth into a soup of your choosing at the end.
Monta Factory is a family-run shop that specializes in one thing—mante. These dumplings can be found on many Armenian menus around town, but here, they’re the star of the show. You can either order the “Hungry Monta,” which gets you a full tray of these ground beef dumplings topped with garlic yogurt sauce, or you can go all-in on the “Hangry Montra.” It’s the same exact dish, but double the size. Either way, everything’s under $20.
Elena’s is a Greek/Armenian restaurant that’s been operating just south of downtown Glendale since the 1980s. This is your spot for lentil soups, Greek salads, lule kebabs, and lemony stuffed grape leaves. Also, if you’re looking for a midday pick-me-up, one cup of their Armenian coffee will pick you up, twirl you around, and send you flying into the stratosphere.
Bourbon Steak is a very fancy and very solid steakhouse chain with a location right in the heart of Glendale. While you can certainly come here for a splurge-y big group dinner, we prefer to hang out at the bar area instead, where you'll a separate menu filled with more affordable snacks like grilled lamb lollipops, duck spring rolls, and a bacon cheeseburger. If you’re stuck at the Americana on a Saturday with your out-of-town friends, Bourbon Steak is your decompression zone.
If the idea of having a slice of American cheese wrapped around your taco is incalculably repulsive, we’ve got news for you - Taqueria El Tapatio does it and it’s great. Are these the best tacos in the universe? Of course not. But for $2 apiece, this old-school, order-at-the-window spot on the south side of Glendale is one of our favorite taco standbys in the area.
Adana is a quiet, family-run Armenian restaurant on Glendale’s northside, and when it comes to kabobs, the chicken koobideh should be your priority. We don’t usually get too riled up about chicken kabobs in general, but Adana’s version with minced meat mixed with spices is one of our favorites in the neighborhood. It’s savory, salty, and requires minimal chewing exertion. Combine it with some of the buttery rice underneath and the rest of your day suddenly has a much brighter tint to it.