On paper, Glendale seems like just another sprawling suburb of northeast Los Angeles: traffic-filled streets, massive shopping malls, and the nearest location of whatever chain restaurant you actually kind of want to eat at tonight.
But dig deeper and you’ll find that this city is so much more than that. Glendale’s stock of elite Middle Eastern restaurants is overwhelming, but it doesn’t end there - from mom and pop Greek spots, to old-school Italian delis, to one of the most well-known dim sum places in the country, the food situation in this town is incredibly strong. Here are 17 of our favorite Glendale spots.
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 (Glendale’s version of The Grove), weekend wait times are counted in hours, not minutes. Is it worth it? Unequivocally, yes.
Very few restaurants encapsulate a neighborhood quite like Carousel does with Glendale. This massive Middle Eastern/Armenian restaurant on Brand Ave. is the social center of the whole town. Is the food the most impressive you can find in the area? No. But it doesn’t matter, because you’re sitting at the same table with everyone you love and there’s a hoard of belly dancers headed your way.
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.
Located on a quiet stretch in the northwest corner 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 their 11-course omakase. But at a cool $115 a person, this 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.
Din Tai Fung isn’t the only dumpling house in Glendale you need to be aware of. Tumanyan is home to the khinkali, a traditional Georgian soup dumpling 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 dinners. 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.
Glendale is a city 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 (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 any-sized friend or family dinner.
Sipan is located on the northern fringe of Glendale, uncomfortably close to the hellscape that is 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 priority. You’ll buy a dozen for your office and then eat half of them in your car before you get back.
You’re going to Mini Kebab because the kebabs are really, really good. But you’re also going because Mini Kebab is a Glendale institution, and getting to spend even five minutes talking to the elderly couple who run the place is guaranteed to improve your day. This old-school joint is cash-only, the size of broom closet, and ideal for a quick takeout lunch. Try the eggplant caviar and Tarragon soda as well.
Located in a random strip of businesses outside of downtown Glendale, Skaf’s admittedly doesn’t have much of an atmosphere. But that doesn’t matter when it’s your lunch hour and all you want is garlic falafel and some of the best chicken shawarma you’ll find. Even though Skaf’s is a sit-down restaurant, service is quick and efficient, and a meal in under 30 minutes is very doable here.
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 under your desk.
Massif calls itself a Mediterranean restaurant, and while you can certainly get a solid kebab and shawarma here, we’d recommend you focus on the traditional Iraqi dishes. The kibbeh Mosul, a giant grain pancake stuffed with cinnamon-laced ground meat, is soul-curing, and their manti dumplings with yogurt are addicting. Open all day, this is a family-run, order-at-the-counter spot that works for lunch and dinner and everything in between.
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.
Bourbon Steak is a very fancy and very solid steakhouse in the heart of Glendale. That said, you should be here for its excellent Happy Hour. Every day from 4:30 - 7pm, house cocktails are $7, bar snacks are half off, and all of their very good burgers are $14. If you’re stuck at the Americana on a Saturday with your out-of-town friends, Bourbon Steak is your decompression zone.
Elena’s is a family-run joint south of downtown Glendale that’s been serving the best Greek food in the neighborhood since the 1980’s. This is your spot for lentil soups, Greek salads, kebabs, and the greatest stuffed grape leaves you’ll probably ever uncontrollably put into your mouth. The space doesn’t exactly have a memorable atmosphere inside, but the traditional Greek music blasting over the loudspeaker and massive flatscreens airing MSNBC are thrilling touches.
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 a piece, this old-school, order-at-the-window joint on the south side of Glendale is as close to a taco standby as the area has. Also, they’re open everyday until 2:30am. Your Glendale drunk food journey ends here.
House of Joy is not on the same level as the Chinese food palaces down the road in the San Gabriel Valley, but if you’re in the neighborhood and short on time, this 30-year staple is where you head. The menu is massive and you can find pretty much anything you want, but we’d recommend the Chinese/Korean fusion plates. Their spicy cha chan main (black bean noodles) are great, and the Peking chicken wings are worth stuffing into your desk drawer for later.
Glendale Pho Co.’s portions are enormous, but their broth is both lighter and more flavorful than other pho spots, so if you need function afterwards, that’s possible. The space is modern, simple, and efficient, with affordable prices (most bowls are under $10) and absolutely delicious pho. The rare steak and meatball combination is our favorite, but you can order anything with confidence here.