After moving to the San Fernando Valley in high school, the LA metropolitan area has always had a special place in my heart. There’s no weekend where you won’t find me out of the Valley. Even in college and early twenties, which I considered my “party days,” have consisted me going over the hill to Hollywood, DTLA, etc. If you ask people what to do here, they’d probably be like “Why?”.
I don’t really venture out in the Valley but have recently because I spend my days and nights here more often than not.
Trying to find really good food here is a challenge. I don’t know how much taco and burger places I’ve found by using Yelp! that it just felt overwhelming. Finding really good Asian food is also such a pain but there are some here that are reasonable if you don’t want to fight your way to the OTHER Valley (SGV). Oh how much I crave for dim sum!
Here are some places I’ve found. (Note: I won’t mention franchises. Most of these places are good ol’ mom and pop shops or hole in the walls – literally) Don’t let the facade fool you ;).
1. Cici’s: People come over the hill just for this. I had a friend that doesn’t wake up early and she drove here (well, her boyfriend did) to meet me and my other friend for breakfast. On weekends it gets packed by 8:30 am! The wait can go for 1 – 2 hours.
My dad even makes me drive to the closest Starbucks because he needs coffee while he waits lol. We’ve even cancelled a couple of times just because the line was just too long.
They’re known for different types of pancakes, toast and crepes. My friend and I usually split the Airbus (steak and eggs) and upgrade the pancake to the Night Rider (red velvet pancakes with Nutella, bananas and whipped creme). You can’t go wrong with the Nutella. If we don’t feel like getting the steak and eggs, the Green Forest Omelette is always our next choice. They do have a Dutch pancake! Ask the server when you put your name down because it takes 20 minutes to make. My other favorite is a the green tea tiramisu! They just have a lot of good things on their menu.
2. Johnny Pacific: Flanada!!! that’s all I have to say about this place lol. JK. They have about 4 plates and the rest of the menu is empanadas; from beef, chicken, pork, veggie, and dessert empanadas. I went here because my friend recommended me getting the Flanada; pretty much the Empanada with Flan and caramel sauce. It’s so delicious. Also, all the empanadas come with a side sauce. The best one I think is the chimmi churri!!!
3. Ninong’s Pastries and Cafes: This place has the pancake flight with Ube, Buko, and Mango. Just add the Coconut Syrup!!!
4. Cafe Tamal: When my high school friend had her Quinceañera, she gave me some pupusas to eat. I never really liked it because it didn’t really taste like anything to me. I mean it was a tortilla with melted cheese. Plus, I’m not a big fan of cheese. That event deterred me from eating pupusas ever again. However, after looking at this place online, I was kind of sold. I went there and got the pupusas (at this place, they call it Churrasquitos). But this time, the pupusas came with pinto beans with added guacamole and steak. I think this place just converted me in eating more pupusas.
5. 786 Degrees: When looking at yelp, this place kind of reminded me of 800 Degrees. However, what sold me was the different types of pizzas I could get here. A must get is the Bombay Tikki Masala. It totally reminded me of the CPK’s BBQ Chicken Pizza except better! The only regret I have is taking it to go and not eating there. Although I only live like 3-5 miles away? maybe less? it kind of got cold.
6. Pita Kitchen: I’ve been going here for years. The pita bread is just really good. I mean it’s fluffy and comes out hot! I usually get the Beef Kafta Pita with French Fries on the Side.
7. Bon Bon Teahouse: There’s rarely any good boba tea shops out in the Valley. Bon Bon Teahouse is an exception. This place kind of reminds me of Half and Half especially with the glasses that your drinks come in. Other boba places seems a bit watered down or have hard to chew boba. This place is consistent.
8. Szechuan Place: I personally like the side dishes. A lot of people on Yelp! raved about the Dan Dan Noodles. However, since we got the noodles, we opted to get the Dan Dan Dumplings. The ‘peanut sauce’ kind of threw me off and I’ve had better. A must get is the braised beef noodle (Intestines if you’re up for it!). It looks a bit intimidating at first, but trust me it’s not that spicy if you stay away from drinking the broth lol.
9. Costa Grande: This was the only Mexican Restaurant in Van Nuys where I saw great reviews for! especially with all the Mexican Restaurants in the Valley. I’ve had my fair share of searching for tacos on Yelp! and 100s of restaurants came up (but then I ordered a burrito lol ) . All the good reviews were pretty good; but in those good reviews, you have those bad reviews. I mean having an expensive taco and the food not being authentic Mexican just doesn’t cut it for me. Then after reading the reviews here, I was pretty much sold!
I got the Chicken Burrito with Green Chili Sauce, a large bag of chips, and guac. The burrito was massive. I can probably pass on the rice next time. I’m not a big fan of rice in my burrito and it’s not only here but anywhere. The chips are pretty fresh and crispy! and I got the 2 oz guac that was probably too little for me to taste. Next time probably get the 8 oz lol
10. Happy Days Cafe: Churros, Churros, Churros!!! It comes out hot!
11. Helados Pops and Ice Cream: I’m really bad with names, but the guy behind the counter was really nice. I had a really good experience and he knew it was my first time being there. Based on reading other reviews and seeing pictures online, my goal was to get the Pineapple Sundae. The guy was really helpful in helping me pick out the flavors.
I thought the pineapple sundae was reasonably priced. However, I don’t really know why the pineapple is needed. It’s basically just a holder/decoration. I mean I think it could be more useful? (Probably, use some of the pineapple as a topping?) I got the Mango and Pineapple with Chile topped with Chamoy and Tajin. The flavors were there and it was really good that I got it 2x. Of course, the second time, I just opted for a double scoop instead of getting the sundae with the pineapple.