Best known for a sprawling Cal State campus and the 1994 earthquake, Northridge isn’t exactly a place most people would think to look when on the hunt for great food in the San Fernando Valley. Sure, this suburban neighborhood has its fair share of chain restaurants and middling fast food spots, but once you get past all that, there’s an exciting crop of restaurants that rival any in the Valley. Hot chicken sidewalk pop-ups, Lebanese bakeries, strip-mall Szechuan spots, and just about everything in between - these are our picks for the best places to eat in and around Northridge.
Brent’s has been in operation since 1967 and is among the best Jewish delis in Los Angeles. Come here any day of the week and you’ll find the massive dining room filled with large family get-togethers, hungover college kids, weekly book clubs, and solo diners sipping coffee and reading the paper. With over 650 different items (that’s not a typo), the menu is an actual encyclopedia, so it’s important to come in with a game plan. The black pastrami Reuben (swap out the steak fries for curly fries), latke and blintz sampler, and split-pea soup are all must-orders, and if you’re with a big group, tack on the ortega melt and stuffed cabbage rolls. If you don’t walk out of Brent’s with at least one bag of leftovers, you did it wrong.
If you live in Northridge, you don’t have to drive to East Hollywood to get tremendous Thai food - you can just stop in at Lum-ka-Naad. The modern restaurant has a big menu, but you’re narrowing it down to two sections: “Northern Cuisine” and “Southern Cuisine.” These are the dishes specifically from the owner’s home regions, and they are incredible. Start with the turmeric fish soup from the South and work your way up to the kang ho (pan-fried vegetables and vermicelli in a curry rub) and khao soi in the North. Delicious food and a geography lesson? Everyone wins.
There’s a sushi bar inside a fast-food burger spot in Northridge, and it’s absolutely incredible. Whether you live in the area or not, Got Sushi? is a pilgrimage every self-proclaimed sushi enthusiast should make, solely to realize that it doesn’t take hundreds of dollars or prime real estate on La Cienega to get first-rate fish. There’s no omakase here, but the menu is large and full of every sashimi plate, cut roll, and daily sushi special you want. Our favorites include the salmon belly with caviar, albacore, and shiitake, the rice-less Alex Roll, and yes, one pastrami burger for the road.
Yes, ’Saj Bakery is technically up the road in Granada Hills, but if you’re within even 20 minutes of Northridge, you need to be eating at this Lebanese restaurant/bakery. A meal at this family-run strip mall spot can be overwhelming - the menu features more than 70 dishes - so we recommend starting with either chicken or beef shawarma (both are among the best in LA) and ending it with a visit to their daily baked goods case. The saroukh (cheese, onion, and parsley-filled bread) is crunchy, savory, and just a little spicy - and you can wash it all down with some rice pudding at the end.
Operating outside of a Food 4 Less in North Hills, San Marcos is a taco truck serving fantastic beef birria tacos that people wait in line for hours to eat. These are the kind of cheesy, greasy tacos that are ideal for those foggy Sunday mornings when you need something to soak up the regret from last night. We usually order a few regular tacos, one taco dorado (crunchy shell), and a giant queso-taco for the grand finale. That said, whatever you decide to do, make sure to get a consomé as well - it’s one of the best versions in town and perfect for dipping your tacos into. Cash only.
Hawaiian Hot Chicken isn’t a restaurant, it’s a late-night food stand that pops up every night on the sidewalk along Reseda Blvd. Lines are definitely long (by 7:15pm, there will be 50 people posted up), but the hour-long wait is worth it. For one, they play music and the line of very hungry CSUN kids is fun to hang out in. Secondly, the chicken is very good. Sandwiched in a sweet Hawaiian bun and topped with coleslaw, pickles, and their house “volcano sauce,” it’s different than the Nashville-style hot chicken you see around town, and that’s not a bad thing. The sweetness of both the bun and coleslaw cuts through the heat of the chicken, but never overpowers the meat (or the spice). Definitely get a side order of the luau fries, too - they’re tremendous.
Myung In Dumplings is a long-standing Koreatown staple, and the fact they’re now operating out of a tiny space in the Northridge Fashion Center should be extremely exciting for everyone in the area. Plain and simple, you won’t find many Korean dumplings in town better than the ones served here. The softball-sized King Steamed Dumplings come filled with pork and kimchi, and though there are only four to an order, that’s more than enough for a quick solo lunch. If you’re with a group though, be sure to throw in some wang mandu (spicy pan-fried dumplings) and beef dumpling soup.
We’re going to keep this simple - if you’re looking for a go-to breakfast spot in the Northridge area, make it Joe’s Cafe in Granada Hills. Opened since 2012, Joe’s is the kind of dependable breakfast-and-lunch spot that every neighborhood in LA wishes they had. The stuffed French toast is what you’ll find on most tables, but we usually go for the pork belly hash and a sausage-and-egg-topped breakfast sandwich called The Cure. If you’re coming on a weekend, be sure to put your name down on their online waiting list, or plan to wait for about an hour.
Tucked in the corner of a large strip mall on Reseda Blvd., Szechuan Palace is easily the best Chinese food in Northridge, and one of our favorites in the entire Valley. The menu is pretty wide-ranging, with everything from kung pao chicken to beef chow mein, but we recommend sticking to the more traditional Szechuan dishes - dan dan noodles, cumin mutton, and a very spicy mapo tofu. The space itself is big as well, making it a good a group lunch spot when you need to keep a bunch of different people from the office happy.
Brick Burgers is a burger stand that pops up every night in Mobil gas station parking lot at the corner of Nordoff and Balboa. But unlike the other pop-ups in the neighborhood (mainly, Hawaiian Hot Chicken), you won’t have to wait in line for an hour to get your food. There isn’t really a menu to speak of at Brick, you just tell the guy under the tent how many patties you want (they’re thin, so we usually go with at least two), plus whatever toppings sound good, and they’ll grill it up to your exact specifications. It’s a classic American smashburger - not too greasy or filling - and a great late-night option that certainly beats a drive-thru.
When we asked our readers what their favorite secret spot was in Northridge, this order-at-the-counter waffle shop was far and away the most popular response. And after some heavy duty research, it was obvious that Waffle Love is a must-visit when you’re in the neighborhood. As the name suggests, this place is all about waffles, with a menu that’s broken up into two distinct categories: sweet and savory. While there are highlights in each section, the savory grilled cheese and tomato bisque, and the Breakfast Sammy should be your priority. Whether you’re in need of a good hangover cure or a calorie load-up after a tough break-up, Waffle Love is here to support you.