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70 Things to Love About the Valley

Things You Should Know

70 Things to Love About the Valley

Picture Courtesy of William Garrett

70 Things to Love About the Valley

No joke, this list started off as “50 Things To Love About the Valley.” It’s not my fault—there’s a lot to love in this 260 square mile spot I call home. Never mind the valley haters…

No joke, this list started off as “50 Things To Love About the Valley.” It’s not my fault—there’s a lot to love in this 260 square mile spot I call home. Never mind the valley haters. Here, in no particular order, are 70 Things To Love About the Valley.

1. Cheap sushi everywhere- The valley has its regular contenders for the best sushi in the valley, but let’s not overlook the sheer abundance of affordable, easy, uncrowded sushi joints. Ventura Boulevard has innumerable sushi bars, but the east-west conduits are sprinkled liberally with great places where you can walk out with a sushi dinner for less than $20.

2. The Great Wall of LA Mural– One of the longest in the world, this mural runs parallel to the walking path on the Tujunga Wash on Coldwater Canyon between Burbank and Oxnard. Showcasing the ethnographic history of the area, it was started in 1974 and continues today.

3. Living Conditioned Homes– Burdened with its uninspiring name, the Living Conditioned subdivision of Northridge was designed by pioneering modern architects Palmer & Krisel in the mid-50s and has some of the best preserved and liveliest modern homes of the era. The tract is a crash course in Contemporary Ranch rambler style: board and batten, swooping lines, and butterfly roofs. While the homes are privately owned, architecture geeks can still do a drive-by going north on Devonshire Street and just east of Reseda Boulevard.

4. Circus Liquors– The 32-foot tall neon clown with x’ed out eyes has been fueling the nightmares of valley kids for decades and it’s even made a few on-screen appearances: it’s where Cher Horowitz is mugged in “Clueless” and it’s the crime scene for Snoop Dogg’s “Murder Was The Case” video. But the greatest crime is assuming that Circus Liquors lives up to its rap: it’s one of the area’s highest caliber wine and liquor stores.

5. Laurel Canyon Dog Park–  Just off Laurel Canyon and Mulholland Drive is one of the best dog parks in LA. Panoramic views of the hills, three acres of wide open park space, an attached playground for humans, a parking lot, and friendly, attentive owners put this park at the top of the list.

6. Foxfire Room– Foxfire had a great supporting role in “Magnolia” as the home of bartender Brad, the object of William H Macy’s affections. Wood panels, red vinyl seats and unpretentious patrons make this a valley favorite.

7. Body Theory Fitness– With a workout that’s less like grandma’s aerobics class and more like an early morning rave, Body Theory’s high energy “Drenched” group classes are an exhilarating way to get a hardcore cardio sweat.

8. Gentle Barn– For 17 years, the Gentle Barn has been a sanctuary for rescued animals previously suffering abuse and neglect. The 6-acre Santa Clarita property now works with children from inner city programs, foster care, and group homes to give children a chance to connect with the animals. The Gentle Barn is open to the public for a donation of $20 per person.

9. Taking Victory or Vanowen to avoid 101 congestion.- See ya.

10.Brent’s Delicatessen– Sorry Canters, but Brent’s is Los Angeles’s best Jewish deli by far. Try the triple-decker pastrami, matzo brie, and celery soda.

11. Sardo’s Karaoke– Monthly events like Porn Star Karaoke, where adult industry folks mingle, meet fans, and belt out karaoke jams, put Sardo’s on the map for LA’s best karaoke bar.

12. Ranch 99 Grocers– Feeling caged in by the meager selection at Ralph’s “Asian” section? Welcome to Ranch 99 where the is an entire aisle dedicated solely to ramen variations. Ranch 99 has a dizzying selection of Asian grocer products and one of the valley’s best (and cheapest) fresh fish and seafood selections.

13. The last of affordable housing– With central LA prices skyrocketing to an average $1760, the valley is one of the last places where it’s possible to find an apartment in the three-digits.

14. Valley Plaza 6 Theater– This $3 theater somehow grabs up movies while they’re still playing their first run in other theaters. The selection is hit-or-miss, but they tend to run comedies, horror, and kid’s films.

15. Maui Sugar Mill Saloon– Tucked into an unassuming strip mall in Tarzana, the Maui Sugar Mill has been keeping it rocking since 1976. It’s a hot spot for Chevy Metal, Dave Grohl’s 80’s cover band and gets drop ins from the likes of John Doe and Slash.

16. Saddle Peak Lodge– If you’re looking to splurge for a special occasion, Saddle Peak’s selection of elk, bison, and boar, is cooked to perfection with a jaw-dropping wine list in this Calabasas treasure.

17. Hearts Coffee Shop– I swear, this Saticoy diner-style coffee shop is pure magic for when you just want to be by yourself (or maybe with your laptop) or awhile. Cheap diner fare, bottomless coffee, and a quiet atmosphere, even on weekends.

18. Rock Pool– A good old-fashioned swim hole in Malibu Creek State Park, Rock Pool dares swimmers to take a leap from cliffs ranging from 20 to 50 feet high.

19. Buffalo Bruce’s Mercantile– Coffee and BBQ seem like an odd pairing, but this funky art-centric Sylmar haunt makes it work. The space inside is limited, but it’s got a lovely pet-friendly backyard area. If you’re lucky, the neighborhood cats will stop by to say hello.

20. Game Dude– The biggest video game store in the world stocks everything from the newest released games to 80’s Atari and Nintendo games and console needs.

21. Besame Cosmetics– If you’re looking for a more personal and glamorous experience than buying your makeup at Sephora’s or the Walgreen’s counter, treat yourself to the deliciously retro boutique, Besame, for their own product line of vintage-inspired beauty products.

22. Ernie’s Mexican Restaurant– With a warm glow, wrought-iron booths and homestyle Mexican cuisine, Ernie’s has the perfect vibe for friends and date nights. They’ve been serving up icy margaritas in this classic North Hollywood location since 1952.

23. Oyster House– Love the fresh oysters the gastropubs are slinging, but deep down prefer a divier scene? Oyster House takes two great things and combines them to perfection.

24. The Red Door– Mood lighting, strong drinks, and gorgeous interior lay behind the unmarked red door of this Toluca Lake speakeasy. No password required and the attire is casual. A sprawling patio opens up onto Riverside for New American cuisine.

25. California Institute of Abnormal Arts– It’s an art-freak punk venue with a dead clown as a centerpiece. What else could you possibly ask for?

26. Republic of Pie– This Noho Arts area coffee shop is light and airy, but still manages a comfy cozy vibe. Strong coffee, great small meals, and, of course, great pie, make this a valley favorite.

27. Lake Balboa– Fresh from a million dollar revamp, this park offers areas for boating, fishing, golfing, swimming, and BBQs with plenty of playground space and parking. The shining gem is a walk around the lake itself in spring when the cherry trees bloom and the ducks are out with their ducklings.

28. Marie et Cie– This charming coffee shop’s Parisian vibe on the inside extends to its large patio area, complete with fountains and iron furniture. That the patio allows smoking only adds to its European flair.

29. Western Bagel– Yeah, there are a few Western Bagel locations outside San Fernando, but 8 out of 11 call the valley home. They’ve been making some of the west coast’s best bagels since 1947.

30. Sky Zone Trampoline Park– If you’re entertaining children or unleashing your inner child, getting your bounce on in a room filled wall-to-wall with trampolines is a great way to elevate your spirits. Rent it out for parties, join a bouncy dodgeball league or just jump around for the open jump sessions.

31. Audrey K Boutique– Audrey K is the rare retro-inspired boutique that hits the balance just right. It’s fashionably quirky, but never costume-y. The owner is kind and gracious and the shop’s novelty gift selection is downright adorable.

32. Halloween Town– Everyday is Halloween at this Burbank store. T-shirts, costumes, masks, novelty products and makeup are a delight to pursue and reasonably priced.

33. Western Costume Company– One of the world’s oldest and largest costume shops, Western Costume’s roots go back to 1912. Now in an airplane-hangar sized building in the valley, Western Costume also has a fabric store and research library. While industry clients make up the bulk of their business, Western is open to the public by appointment only.

34. Red Line Metro– The sweet release of paying Hollywood and downtown parking prices can be yours. For $1.75 each way, you’re avoiding traffic, garage fees, and the wasted time comparing parking lot rates. Parking has gotten a little competitive in recent years at the Noho station, but if you’re diligent, it’s there. Transfer downtown to the Purple line to go to Koreatown or take the light blue Expo line to a very short walk to downtown Culver City.

35. Oil Can Harry’s– Line dancing plus gay bar. No kidding. Don’t know your two-step from your shuffle? Don’t worry, take their free country music dance lessons before you hit the floor.

36. Corky’s Diner– With swooping Googie-style architecture and a bright mid-century interior, Corky’s would make the list for architecture alone. Now factor in great diner food, charming waitstaff, and a history that includes Billy Joel playing piano in the attached bar area.

37. Verdugo Aquatic Facility– Did you draw the short straw and get an apartment without a pool? Never fear, there are plenty of valley pools open to the public. But the Verdugo Aquatic Facility in Burbank scores extra points for cleanliness and sheer size. Plus, lots of cool playground stuff if you’ve got little ones in tow.

38. Magnolia’s Vintage Row– The stretch between Hollywood Way and Catalina Street on Burbank is a vintage shopper’s dream. Shops like It’s A Wrap, Bearded Lady Vintage, Playclothes, Pinup Girl Boutique, Hubba Hubba and Scavenger’s Paradise offer a vintage and retro-inspired wares.

39. Calabasas Hiking– Having a trail mostly to yourself and only passing the occasional other hiking party makes hiking feel like, well, hiking. Stoney Point, Red Rock Canyon, and Malibu Creek State Park are great hikes to actually be alone with your thoughts.

40. Japanese Garden– Speaking of being alone with your thoughts, the Japanese Garden feels very far away from the grind of Los Angeles. For just $5, you can take in birds, waterfalls, trees, and relax in a tea house.

41. Bob’s Big Boy– The oldest remaining– it’s been in Burbank since 1949– Bob’s Big Boy is an iconic Burbank landmark. David Lynch wrote here and it apparently created an impression on Mike Meyers. Grab a two-patty burger here on Friday nights and take in the classic car show that fills the parking lot. Or come in Saturday or Sunday nights and enjoy car hop service.

42. Carter Sexton Artist Materials– A knowledgeable staff, curated quality product selection, and
local art shows make this independently owned-and-operated shop one of the valley’s best.

43. Tapia Bros Fresh Produce– Tapia has been slinging fresh seasonals for three generations in this open-air Encino market. There’s a corn maze, petting zoo and pony rides in the autumn months when visitors pick out their pumpkins.

44. Laemmles Theater– Newly released mainstream films, indie, documentary, and foreign films are carefully curated in this theater. Laemmles also does Q&A sessions, events, and, sometimes even free screenings.

45. Sherman Oaks Castle Parks– This charmingly constructed park, complete with dragons, moats, mini-golf, batting cages, and an arcade is actually run by the city of Sherman Oaks. It’s a really fun get-away for just $6.50 a person.

46. Doc Johnson– Founded in 1979, Doc Johnson is the largest American manufacturer of “adult products” and they’re lovingly crafted right here on Sherman Way and Laurel Canyon. The old days of the San Pornando Valley are largely fading, but we still got the civic pride of Doc Johnson.

47. Idle Hour– The classic barrel shape of the Idle Hour Cafe was meant to draw the attention of passing motorists of the 1940s. After 75 years of disrepair, it’s been gut renovated and is back as the Idle Hour, a beer and burger joint with an impressive back patio area. Be sure to look for the bulldog, a recreation of a bygone LA cafe rescued from demolition in the Peterson Museum.

48. Fireworks at the Warner Center– Park anywhere at the Warner Center structures in Woodland Hills and enjoy 20 vendor booths, food trucks, and a 20-minute fireworks display for the 4th of July.

49. The Inn of the Seventh Ray– A super romantic ambience and some seriously good vibes permeate this restaurant. It’s big enough to be a popular wedding destination, but cozy enough for a romantic table for two. It’s open for brunch daily for spectacularly calming views among the lush greenery. For dinner and cocktails at night, chandeliers, lanterns, and fairy lights set the mood.

50. Leo Carillo State Beach– A beautiful getaway destination, Leo Carillo is perfect for exploring. Tidepools full of crabs and starfish are scattered among the rocks and the beach is welcoming to on-leash dogs.

51. Complex– Glendale’s favorite goth bar hosts live bands several times a week with goth karaoke ever Monday night. The music’s dark but the crowd is friendly and welcoming.

52. Paradise Cove Beach Cafe– Sure it’s a little cheesy, but after the grind of LA, a mini-vacation might be just what you need. Grab a fruity cocktail and warm your bare feet in the sand at this super casual seaside Malibu restaurant. For the location, the prices are really reasonable.

53. Hummus Bar and Grill– Homemade laffa, fresh Israeli salads, falafel, grilled meat, and, of course, to-die-for hummus make this unassuming grill a worth the trek down Ventura Boulevard into Tarzana.

54. Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee– Whatever weird, schlocky, rare, and vintage movie you’re after, the encyclopedic knowledge of Eddie Brandt’s staff will help you track it down. It’s also home to the world’s largest archive of movie, TV, and news stills for public sale. As we say goodbye to more and more of the video stores each year, Eddie Brandt’s stands out as one of the remaining greats.

55. Cici’s– If the only route to your bliss is through pancakes, Cici is your spot. Even in the middle of the week, Cici’s stays busy with brunching diners.

56. The Gibbon Conservation Center– Established in 1976, the Gibbon Conservation Center houses the rarest group of apes in the Western Hemisphere. These beautiful wide-eyed apes with a penchant for singing and acrobatics are the most endangered of all ape species due to loss of habitat. The Gibbon Conservation Center offers tours for a chance to see and learn about these fascinating animals.

57. Steampunk Coffee Bar and Kitchen– A relaxed cafe vibe, thick waffles, overstuffed breakfast burritos, and lovingly drawn latte foam art make Steampunk great for grabbing breakfast or getting a little creative work done. Despite the name, Steampunk doesn’t get obnoxious with trying too hard.

58. Martial Arts History Museum– Come face to face with weapons, attire, and artifacts from martial arts traditions from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. There’s a section on Martial Arts in pop culture where you can see the original Karate Kid headband.

59. Americana at Brand– The Sherman Oaks Galleria may be the mall that put valleygirls on the map, but the Americana at Brand has taken over for the next generation. An outdoor mall experience, there are 75 retail stores, a movie theater, and dining options from Cheesecake Factory to a steak house run by former Bel Air hotel chef, Michael Mina.

60. Valley Relics– Dedicated to preserving the history of the San Fernando Valley, this unique museum houses photos, vintage neon signs, cars, clothing, and pop culture bric-a-brac from the valley’s rich past. It’s free and open to the public on Saturdays with $10 private tours available during the week.

61. Great Wall Chinese Restaurant– Despite a simple storefront, the Great Wall Restaurant’s interior is elegant with ornate lighting and chandeliers. It’s some of the best Chinese in the valley, it’s open til midnight, and it’s reasonably priced.

62. Odyssey– Restaurant and event space Odyssey in Granada Hills serves excellent fine dining, but it’s the gorgeous view that makes it truly memorable. Be sure to step out and take in one of the valley’s best sunset spots.

63. The Green Man Store– Need a little extra luck in your life? If your chi is a little out of whack, the Green Man Store has got the crystals, incense, beads, and books to get your energy groove back.

64. Eclectica Vintage and Bike Store– There are plenty of bike shops in the valley, but Eclectica stands out for its focus on vintage and retro bikes. It’s great for repairs and tune-ups, as well as shopping for a new ride.

65. Kit Kraft– Founded in 1946, this arts and craft supply store is now run by the founder’s grandchildren. They cater to a myriad of hobby specialties from kites, beading, leatherwork, candle-making, electronic and model work.

66. Captain Ed’s Heads and Highs Shop– A classic head shop, Captain Ed’s goes back to 1967, way before the valley’s run of the green stuff went legit. While Captain Ed’s peddles in the same triply gifts and pipes you’d see elsewhere, it stands out for its original hippie spirit, colorful exterior hand-painted artwork, and its high-end glass gallery of local artisan craft sculptures.

67. Dapper Cadaver Horror Props– Purveyor of “professional-grade death, science, and Halloween props”, Dapper Cadaver’s props are not only impressive (they boast an extensive film and TV resume), but they’re really reasonably priced. If a fake bird suspended in formaldehyde is what ties the room together, it’s your for just $11.

68. Miceli’s Italian Restaurant– Open since 1949, Miceli’s is Burbank’s oldest Italian restaurant. The cozy interior with string lights and twine-covered Chianti bottles has a charm that’s closer to old school than Old World, doubled for the singing waiters. It’s a wonderful comfort spot to stop by when you’re taking yourself a little too seriously.

69. Rancho Cordillera del Norte– Run by musical archeologist and concert violinist Elisabeth Waldo, Rancho’s Mission Theater hosts art exhibits, concerts, and theater productions in genres connected to Californian culture. In the past, this has included Chinese, Mexican, Mayan, and Incan performances.

70. Tonga Hut– If there’s a guide to the best of the valley and it doesn’t mention the Tonga Hut, don’t trust it. This old school tiki bar has been serving up its punchy umbrella-topped cocktails since 1958. Stone tikis, thatch roofed booths, a ‘drooling bastard’ fountain, and exotica/rockabilly from the jukebox keep the Polynesian party going strong.

Stacey Garratt

Stacey Garratt is a freelance writer and a native Valley girl who moved back to LA from NYC five years ago.

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