For many people, Sherman Oaks is the embodiment of suburban LA. You can buy big houses on quiet streets, decorate your backyard with high-achieving children and golden retrievers, and pretend like you’re hours outside the city even though you’re smack in the middle of it. It’s an objectively sleepy neighborhood - except for Ventura Blvd, a gigantic stretch of pavement where we wouldn’t mind eating every meal for the rest of our lives. From a legendary Mexican restaurant with lethal margaritas to more solid sushi restaurants than anybody knows what to do with, there’s no excuse to be eating poorly in “The Shoaks.” Here are the 14 places to concentrate on first.
This tiny spot on Ventura has two of the world’s greatest gifts under one roof. Not only does Sushi Note serve the best sushi in Sherman Oaks, but it’s also a wine bar. If it’s your first visit or you want to make the most of your life, get the omakase. For $80, you get 10 pieces of perfectly-cut sushi (everything from red snapper and otoro to gravlax that will ruin all other gravlax), edamame, miso soup, a starter, and a hand roll. Let the waitstaff suggest wine pairings to match your sushi - even if you just order a few la carte pieces of nigiri.
No one will tell you that Casa Vega has the best Mexican food in town, but this massive restaurant on Ventura is an LA institution and perhaps your best chance at spotting your tax guy and a Kardashian eating one booth apart from each other. This is the kind of place where drunk locals and A-list celebrities commingle without anybody making a big deal of it. The margaritas are deadly and that lobster quesadilla is a must-order. They don’t take reservations though, so get there early or prepare to wait.
Carnival is a Sherman Oaks staple where the people-watching is even more important than the solid Lebanese food. Sure, you’ll fill up on well-cooked chicken shawarma and consider ordering seconds of their fantastic lentil soup, but that’s not really why you’re at this dimly-lit strip mall spot. You’re here because it’s nice to know places where couples read newspapers in booths together and little old ladies scream “More baklava, Jeanine!” at their waitresses like it’s a family potluck.
If you live in Sherman Oaks or a neighborhood surrounding Sherman Oaks, Blue Dog is your Cheers and there’s a solid chance you’re there right now. Blue Dog is special because it feels like you stepped into a towny bar in the middle of Indiana, when in reality it’s a burger and beer spot one block off the 405 Freeway. The servers will talk to you like you’re a regular, the table next to you will ask for your life story, and all the burgers are worth traveling over the hill to eat. Just don’t leave without ordering a side salad - the salad itself is whatever, but their house-made bleu cheese dressing might be the best in the world.
Mizlala is a casual Mediterranean spot a few blocks down from The Galleria mall that works for just about every occasion. Maybe you’re craving Moroccan chicken and solitude on your lunch hour, or are trying to find a non-intimidating spot for a first date with someone who’s probably catfishing you. Mizlala’s bright, modern space and delicious food will make it work. Get the artichoke hummus, the eggplant moussaka, and the aforementioned Moroccan chicken.
Setting up a laptop and getting work done inside a fish market sounds like a nightmare we wouldn’t wish upon even our worst enemies. But Joint Eatery, the coffee shop/fish market on Ventura, proves it can and should be done. The bright, clean space is quite large, and the fish and coffee areas are separated by a wall, so if you don’t feel like looking at giant tunas hanging on hooks while you answer work emails, you don’t have to. But when you do get hungry, you’ll have some of the freshest seafood in the Valley a few yards away. The lobster roll and any of the smoked fish are must-orders.
From the same people behind Sushi Note, Augustine makes other wine bars look like they’re phoning it in. The rustic space feels like you’re drinking in a renovated hay loft, the bartenders will let you taste as many wines as you’d like before you find the right one, and the solid food menu is full ideal snacks and charcuterie for drinking your way through a bottle of Gamay. Starting your night here and then heading across the street to Sushi Note is one of the best one-two punches in the city.
You like your co-workers just fine, but some lunch hours are reserved for staring in silent defeat at a burger and a giant bowl of fries in hopes of a personal resurrection. When this is your current state, go to Psy Street Kitchen. This order-at-the-counter Kosher spot inside a giant strip mall on Ventura has solid burgers all around, but you need to concentrate on the lamb burger. Topped with the regular fixings and house-made aioli ranch, this is as good of a lamb burger as you’ll find in LA. You also get the choice between a brioche bun and pretzel bun, and you’re getting the pretzel bun if you know what’s good for you.
Ventura Blvd. is full of delicious and affordable sushi spots you can go to once a week, so let us help you prioritize - go to Dojo first. Located in a big shopping center with easy parking (a major perk in Sherman Oaks), this casual spot has excellent, fresh fish at reasonable prices (lunch specials hover in the $15 range) and massive flat screen TVs playing boring midday sports that you can mindlessly stare at. Just don’t leave without getting some red snapper nigiri. It’s $8 for two pieces and lightly brushed with addiction fuel.
At first glance, Anajak is a solid neighborhood Thai spot full of all the papaya salad, curries, and noodles you could want. But then the separate seasonal menu hits the table and you realize there’s a lot going on at this casual restaurant on Ventura. With dishes like whole fried branzino, masamman brisket, and excellent Thai fried chicken, Anajak is how you’ll convince Pam from accounting to finally branch out from chicken satay.
Even though Boneyard Bistro sounds like a place where you might eat after riding Big Thunder Mountain, this spot on Ventura is one of the most consistently excellent BBQ restaurants in LA. It’s also one of the only places in town where the meats are cooked Santa Maria-style, meaning it’s dry-rubbed and grilled over red oak wood. You can’t really go wrong with any cut of meat, but we usually order the baby back ribs plus some fried mac and cheese and pimento hush puppies on the side. If you’re looking for something non-BBQ though, they have a solid bistro menu full of salads, seafood, and some vegan options too. There’s also 42 beer taps and over 100 craft bottles, so if you’re looking to do some late-night or lunchtime drinking, this is a great place to do it.
Similarly to how you moved from a tiny studio in Venice to a three-bedroom house in Sherman Oaks, Petit Trois moved to the Valley and upgraded to a much bigger space. This second location is more of a big touristy brasserie than hole-in-the-wall, and while the lunch and dinner menu is largely the same as at the Hollywood original, the Sherman Oaks Petit Trois has one thing the other doesn’t - breakfast. That just happens to be the best meal to be here for too. The breakfast sandwich (done in the style of a McMuffin), the nutella toast, and the omelette are all fantastic, and the house-made croissants could win over French person.
Little Izaka-ya By Katsu-ya
This casual restaurant on Ventura is the kind of neighborhood Japanese spot everyone wishes they had. It’s relatively small (but you’ll still get a reservation day-of), fast when you need it to be, and doesn’t charge you outrageous prices. Start with some gyoza and crispy rice with spicy tuna, finish with some nigiri and hand rolls, and you’ll be in and out in time to catch an 8pm movie at the Arclight.
On name alone, it’s impossible to dislike this order-at-the-counter dessert shop. But their excellent Italian ice and ice creams seal the deal anyways. Their menu is broken up into three sections - traditional ice cream, Italian ice, and something they call creme ice. The guy behind the counter will explain that the latter is “75% less dairy than ice cream, but with the same exact flavor,” and he’s telling the truth. It tastes like ice cream, but you’ll still feel like you could go for a jog later. That is if you’re the kind of psychopath who works out after dessert.