Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley

The Valley has a long-standing tradition of people who live over the hill dismissing it as a restaurant wasteland -- which has actually never been true and certainly isn’t now. For proof, we got two Valley lifers (regular Thrillist contributor Wilder Shaw, who grew up and lives in Studio City, and editor Jeff Miller, who grew up in Van Nuys and North Hollywood and still regularly visits his parents in Encino) to break down the best restaurants in the massive SFV, with an eye towards a geographic and financial spread. It’s long. Get ready.

Amir's Falafel

Amir’s Falafel

Studio City

These falafel wizards absolutely crush it at everything they do. The falafel & shawarma are as nutso as the salads (with hummus that could stand up to any restaurant in the whole city), and their house-made hot sauce will haunt your dreams for eternity. In a good way.

Barone’s

Valley Glen

No corners are cut on the square pizzas Barone’s has been serving since 1945. Since then they’ve been slicing up OG thin crust rectangular Neopolitan-style pizza much to the delight of any person who’s had the chance to eat there. And by the way, you can put meatballs on your pizza, so, you’ll be doing that.

Bill’s Hamburgers

Van Nuys

If you’re over the designer burger craze, Bill’s will rock your bones with some unbelievably tasty (not to mention cheap) burgers. Also, it’s kiiiiiiiiiinda hard to see, so don’t be surprised if you drive past it 25 times before you notice it. And also-also, get there early, because Bill closes... whenever he feels like it.

Black Market Liquor Bar

BlackMarket

Studio City

Is it a bar? Is it a restaurant? Is it a gastropub? Who cares: it’s a touchstone property in the coolification of the East Valley, and the food -- especially the chicken wings -- is crave-worthy.

Domingo’s Italian Deli

Encino

Not all great Italian delis have to be called “Bay Cities.” Domingo’s goes the other direction with their Italian sandwiches -- drippy, saucy, and delicious. Even meat lovers can’t say no to their Caprese sub (especially when you add artichoke hearts and house-made giardiniera).

Feu Pho Kitchen

Studio City

Or to the common Angelino, “Fuh-Fuh” kitchen is doin’ it big right now with some knockout Vietnamese flair. All of their banh mi choices (hangar steak, pork belly, jidori chicken confit, and tofu & mushroom) are killer, but the real treat is their ribeye beef pho. 

Boneyard Bistro

Boneyard Bistro

Sherman Oaks

If you’re sick of rip-your-own paper towels messy down-home barbeque, BB will treat you to some crazy-delicious upscale barbeque. The food is pricy but oh-so-worth it. With a chef that put in some hours in Chicago with a Michelin-star chef, you can bet your sweet bippy on these ribs and, duh, the fried mac 'n’ cheese.

Ca del Sole

Toluca Lake

These guys have been doing real-deal Italian food for forever, and it’s hard to find anything on the menu that isn’t great. You’d be a crazy person not to try their gnocchi with (depending on what they’re serving) duck or oxtail ragu. And if you’re a cioppino person, this is the place to do it. Molto delizioso!

Forman’s Tavern

Toluca Lake

ACME Hospitality has done it again with their newest Toluca Lake tavern. The permanent & rotating taps are always choice and the food is ouuuuuuutstanding. Grab some plates (like their brussels sprouts with orange citronette, Sriracha aioli, and shaved parmesan) and DEFINITELY grab their crispy chicken sandwich, which would give those Jon & Vinny guys a run for their money.

Carney's

Carney’s Express Limited

Studio City

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Carney’s still dishes out some of the best classic burger-stand food in the entire city. Their ingredients are funky-fresh and the chili knows no equal. A big yellow hooray for the big yellow train.

Daichan

Studio City

You could order something new at Daichan every time you went and never make a wrong move. They’ve been killing it with their poki bowls since before LA’s poke trend blew up, not to mention their oddly perfect “Japanese soul food” plates. Y’all haven’t had butterfish (black cod) 'til you’ve had it at Daichan.

King’s Burgers-Got Sushi?

Northridge

For a long time, the burgers at King’s were absolutely killing it. Then they thought, “Well why don’t we start serving sushi also?” Which is a helluva choice, but they seem to know what they’re doing because the sushi is as good as the burgers. Whatever choice you make won’t be the wrong one (but let’s not pretend like you can’t do both. We have.)

Casa Vega Restaurant

Casa Vega

Sherman Oaks

Casa Vega is as legendary as any place in the Valley can get. They’ve been rocking out for half a century and their nonsensically long happy hour (2:30-7pm) plies people with margs and combo plates. “Casa vega” doesn’t translate to house of dreams, but it should.

Chiba

Sun Valley

You like uni, don’t ya? Sure you do, you’ve got a brain. Chiba has kept the great-sushi-in-Valley-strip-malls dream alive for years (and has just moved to a new location, with the same fish) with maybe the best uni in LA. You truly can’t go wrong with anything you order though, and Chiba deserves every ounce of the acclaim it’s received. Eat there.

Kobee Factory

Van Nuys

Sure it’s easy to find great Greek, Armenian, and Persian food in LA -- but not as easy to find great Syrian food. By far the best in Valley, Kobee Factory has hummus that will rock your world, as well as (shut up and taste it) incredible stuffed lamb intestines.

Girasol Restaurant

Girasol

Studio City

Jonathan Gold-approved, Top Cheftestant-run Girasol finally managed to stick in a spot where restaurant after restaurant was closing down, so it’s obvious they’re doing something right. And that something probably has to do with their maple-glazed pork belly sandwich. Or their autumn fruit carpaccio. Or their pan-roasted duck confit. Or...

Katsuya

Studio City

The strip malls in Studio City truly give Japan a run for its money. Katsuya is another gem, with some of the freshest fish you can find in pretty hefty portions. Nothing overly trendy like the other Katsuyas you’ve heard of, just incredible fish served by pro chefs.

Wilder Shaw/Thrillist

Go’s Mart

Canoga Park

For one of the most unique sushi experiences you will ever have (like shaved gold flakes on your fish!), you’ll want to head to this Canoga Park strip mall right away. Operating out of the back of a tiny, now-defunct Japanese market, Go has been doing the “awesome thing in a weird setting” thing since WAY before it was cool. Oh, and the sushi is consistently in the running for best-in-the-city from people like, uh, Jonathan Gold, so, there’s that.

Henry’s Tacos

Studio City

Speaking of legends, Henry’s has been going strong for over 50 years (even selling “gringo” tacos before the first Taco Bell). Though they relocated down the block due to some issues of the evil-landlord variety, the food still tastes the same as it always did. Their homemade hot sauce is the stuff of dreams, people.

Flickr/Joe Philipson

Hy Mart Sandwiches

North Hollywood

If you’re one of those sad saps who thinks Hy Mart closed forever when it left its spot across the street, we’ve got great news: they’re very much alive and still crushing it behind the H. Salt. The Foreman’s Special is by far one of the tastiest sandwiches in LA, so if you like chicken, serranos, jalapeños, and their always-killer “Ben’s” sauce, get over there... now. Again.

Iroha

Sherman Oaks

MORE sushi? Yep: this hidden spot in what looks like a transformed house is where you should take New Yorkers to blow their minds, not just because the fish is fresh, not just because they have odd cuts, not just because you can get out of there for less than $50 for a meal that’d cost them hundreds of bucks on the east coast, but because of all of these things.

Lal Mirch - Studio City

Lal Mirch

Studio City

If you’re worried about confusing Lal Mirch with one of the hundred Indian spots in Studio City or NoHo, it should be easy to remember ‘cause it’s one of the only ones that doesn’t have “India” or “Bollywood” in the name. It should also be easy to remember ‘cause it’s maybe the best Indian food for miles and miles.

Las Fuentes

Reseda

Do you like Mexican food in a ranchera-style setting, slathered in sauce and made with the sort of love you can taste (and not in a gross way)? You do? Go to here.

Les Sisters' Southern Kitchen

Les Sisters Southern Kitchen

Chatsworth

Mom’s too far east for you? Hit up Les Sisters in Chatsworth for an amazing pseudo-trip to The Big Easy. Their kitchen is bursting with Creole flavor so order yourself a couple hundred po-boys, along with Nola favorites like red beans & rice, hush puppies, and candied yams.

Lum-Ka-Naad Thai Restaurant

Northridge

“Lum-ka-naad” means “delicious food” in northern Thailand. What a coincidence, because that’s exactly what you’ll be eating at LKN. The giant selection of $8.45 lunch specials alone should be enough to lock this place down as one of the Valley’s best, but the food truly is some of the best in the city.

Flickr/Hsuanya Tsai

Mandarin Deli

Northridge

Right off the bat, no, we don’t know why this place is called a deli, but the food is maximum delicious so just cool it for a second. They do scallion pancakes better than almost anybody and their beef noodle soup is an absolute grand slam. Bring a lot of people because sharing is caring (and also you can eat more that way).

Mogo Chinese & Mongolian

Sherman Oaks

Killer Mongolian BBQ ain’t never hurt nobody. Especially when it’s all-you-can-eat. Their meats and and veggies are mega-fresh, and those sesame rolls? Lord have mercy.

Rustic Spoon

Universal City

A lot of the simplicity and passion gets lots in many of these upscale Thai restaurants, but that sure ain’t the case at Rustic Spoon. This rockin’ Thai spot from the Hungry Pig BBQ guy showcases old school dishes like chicken sa-te’, in addition to Pa-nang curry with Japanese pumpkin and cinnamon-braised chicken breast.

Mom's BBQ House

Mom’s Bar-B-Q House

Valley Glen

If you’re like us, sometimes you want southern BBQ to go along with your Deep-South soul food. Mom’s knows this. That’s why they sell BBQ goodies like pork ribs and chicken, as well as comfort food like cornmeal-fried catfish and snapper. And their collard greens? Fooooooooorget about it. Apologize to yours, because it looks like you’ve got another mom to love now.

Pita Kitchen

Sherman Oaks

This-long-standing just-off-Ventura stand has one of our 50 must-eat dishes in the city; it’s become even more of a treasure since an imposter PK opened up over the hill, reminding us of why trips to the Valley for chicken kafta are definitely, 100% worth it.

Salsa & Beer

Lake Balboa

Word seems to have gotten out regarding the deliciousness factory that calls itself Salsa & Beer, so the lines can get kind of crazy at both the Lake Balboa and NoHo locations. But don’t let that sway you: their bacon-wrapped shrimp and asada molcajete plates are absolute nonsense. (Also: we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you that their bean dip is the best in LA.)

Scratch Bar & Kitchen

Scratch Bar & Kitchen

Encino

Current Top Cheftestant Phillip Franklin Lee wanted to open his latest tasting-menu-focused restaurant in a part of the city with no competition, and he nailed it: a strip mall’s second floor in Encino’s about as unlikely a ‘hood as you can get. But reviews have crushed, and all of a sudden the dining scene in Encino’s among the most exciting in the city. Boom.

Santino’s NY Pizza

Sherman Oaks

When it comes down to New York pizza, the only reviews that matter are those of actual New Yorkers... and you’d be hard pressed to find an East Coaster who doesn’t give it up for the authenticity of these slices. New York is alive and well in Da Oaks (people call it that right?), you guys.

Wilder Shaw/Thrillist

Sushi Don

Valley Village

We know it looks gross from the outside, but haven’t you learned anything about food in LA strip malls? WELL LEARN ALREADY! You’ll be glad you went in once you taste their spicy tuna on crispy rice, and anything else on their specials menu (especially the Japanese scallop and black cod). 

Vinh Loi Tofu

Reseda

It may have just made our best vegan list yesterday but there’s no reason to leave it off this Valley list too, because here’s the thing: if all vegan food tasted this good, there’d be no reason to eat meat. Every dish here is a knock-out, but the real key is to leave it up to the owner, Kevin: just tell him how hungry you are and he’ll fix you up something (or somethings) that will blow you away.

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Wilder Shaw and Jeff Miller both grew up in the Valley and were unknowingly training for this story their entire life. Ask them about other Valley secrets on Twitter at @WilderShaw_ or @ThrillistLA and Instagram at @wildershaw and @jeffmillerla.

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1. Amir's Falafel 11711 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

Don't let the strip mall vibe fool you, Amir's has great Middle Eastern food across the board. Great falafel and creative salad are king at this small deli, as is the fabulous chicken shawarma.

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2. Barone's 13726 Oxnard St, Van Nuys, CA 91401

Founded in 1945, Barone's serves up rectangular, Neapolitan-style pizza, as well as a wide array of other Italian specialities, in which red sauce reigns. The decor draws style cues from 1940s diners, with overstuffed red vinyl couches and jumbles of framed photos.

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3. Bill's Hamburgers 14742 Oxnard St, , CA 91411

Bill Elwell has been cooking up burgers for 50 years in this unassuming shack, and they're almost good enough to make you forget all about that In-N-Out place. Treat yourself with one of Bill's bacon, pastrami, and four cheese hamburgers, and you'll never look back.

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4. Black Market Liquor Bar 11915 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604 (East Valley)

Black Market's a mid-sized Studio City gastrobistro that's merged the talents of a Top Chef All-Star, the dude from Harvard & Stone, and the former GM at Bardot, with a moody interior that looks like a bar Van Helsing might pre-game at before taking on the Count, featuring intricately paneled windows, a multi-tiered mirrored bar, and a half-dome exposed brick ceiling.

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5. Domingo's Italian Deli & Grocery 17548 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91316

This family-run, Encino staple supplies sausages, ravioli, sauces, breads, and other Italian goods. However, Domingo's is known for its stacked, handmade sandwiches. We suggest the caprese, which is topped with artichoke hearts and homemade giardiniera.

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6. Feu Pho Kitchen 11310 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

Don't be fooled by the crisp, springy interiors -- this place serves up the type of satiating dishes usually reserved for hole in the wall haunts and best-kept secret spots. Some come for the big bowls of pho, and some say Feu's chicken sandwich is the best they have ever had.

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7. Boneyard Bistro 13539 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Located in Sherman Oaks, this place is a triple threat after establishing its identity as a BBQ joint, beer garden, and gastropub. You haven't lived until you tried the slow-cooked hickory-smoked pork baby back ribs. Or, equally, the mega platter.

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8. Ca'Del Sole 4100 Cahuenga Blvd, Toluca Lake, CA 91602

This rustic, Italian restaurant boasts traditional antipasto, an assortment of fresh pasta, and an impressive wine list. Customer favorites include the homemade gnocchi, duck, oxtail ragu, and -- if it's your thing -- ciopinno, or fish stew.

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9. Forman's Tavern 10149 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake, CA 91602

This casual, homey, Toluca Lake tavern from ACME offers unfussy menu items, like brussel sprouts with orange citronette, Sriracha aioli, and shaved parmesan. Also worth ordering is the crispy chicken sandwich, grilled meats, and whiskey varieties.

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10. Carney's 8351 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069 (Hollywood)

Founded by a husband and wife duo in 1975, Carney's is the end-all-be-all for LA hot dogs. Rivaling Pink's, their unique sausages will bring you back down to Earth, all with a side of chili fries.

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11. Daichan 11288 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604 (West Valley)

This strip mall challenges everything we believed with THREE spots that are more than just tolerable -- in fact they're seriously good. But for home-made japanese food and awesome poke bowls, go to Daichan. The self proclaimed "Japanese soul food" includes menu items like Hawaiian ginger chicken and house-made cucumber miso.

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12. King's Burgers/Got Sushi? 9345 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324 (Mid Valley)

At this Northridge burger joint, a sashimi bar is squeezed into a corner of the restaurant, and surprisingly, quality at either spot is not compromised, but elevated. Try the snapper in creamy cured uni, and if your friend is looking for something different, he can indulge on the loaded pastrami burgers.

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13. Casa Vega 13301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91316 (Mid Valley)

Sometimes, you don't want to go to the hot new Mexican restaurant where bartenders are called mixologists and the menu is filled with unrecognizable small plates. You want the Spanish-roofed restaurant that feels like 1950s Mexico in an unironic way, where old-school bartenders make strong drinks with no-name tequila and every table has a side of rice and beans. That's when you go to Casa Vega, a 60-year-old bar and restaurant in Sherman Oaks where uncomplicated burritos and fajitas are the plates du jour and the signature margaritas flow like water.

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14. Chiba Japanese Restaurant 7515 Lankershim Blv., North Hollywood, CA 91605

Many people consider Chiba to be the best sushi in the Valley, and many people are probably right. If you're really watching your wallet, you can get a $10 bento that features sashimi, shrimp, vegetable tempura, salad, rice, and miso soup. But if you're just tossing your wallet in the air, for $29, you can get yourself the Jyo Nigiri -- a 10-piece, chef’s-choice plate featuring toro, sweet shrimp, and maybe the best uni in LA. The new location features an extended parking area and a patio. They've also upgraded to a full liquor license which is a win for everyone.

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15. Kobee Factory 14110 Oxnard St, Van Nuys, CA 91401

If you’ve never had Syrian food, Kobee is the place to start. The meat quality is absolutely out of control, as is the hummus, and... well, EVERYTHING. If you’re on the adventurous side, hit up the lamb intestines filled with rice, minced lamb, and spices.

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16. Girasol 11334 Moorpark St, Studio City, CA 91602 (East Valley)

CJ Jacobson's (of Top Chef fame) Studio City restaurant is a tried-and-true fine dining destination. You'll be hooked on the sophisticated California menu from the moment you taste the house-baked bread, and the rest of the starters and mains will have you back in no time. It's a fancy spot though, so you might want to invite your parents to cover the bill.

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17. Katsu-Ya 11680 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

The first location of the sushi institution, Katsu-ya on Ventura has delicious baked crab hand rolls and spicy tuna crispy rice that stand out from the competition. With fresh cuts, bento boxes, and a variety of Japanese dishes...it's not so so bad for a strip mall sushi.

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18. Go's Mart 22330 Sherman Way, #C12, Canoga Park, CA 91303

This semi-hidden spot in Canoga is doling out some serious sushi eats, from a strip mall. You can't go wrong with any of their hand rolls, sweet shrimp, or soups.

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19. Henry's Tacos 4389 Tujunga Ave, Studio City, CA 91604 (East Valley)

Henry's Tacos is a 50-plus-year-old "gringo" taco eatery that once was housed in a roadside stand created via a form of architecture known as "googie," but is now in a patio-abetted window just across the street from its original location.

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20. Hy Mart Sandwiches 4795 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91602 (Hollywood)

Hy Mart Sandwiches kills it with some of the tastiest and most inventive sandwiches in the Valley. And if they tell you sandwich will be spicy, expect fire. This mom & pop establishment isn't joking around when it comes to flavor. Bonus points to the fact that most sandwiches here are under $10. Score!

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21. Iroha Sushi of Tokyo 12953 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

Located in a converted house on Ventura Blvd, this sushi-war survivor’s been holding it down for decades. Offering both trendy dishes (yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño) and Japanese standards (such as bento and tempura), it's no wonder that Iroha has stood the test of time. Be sure to try spicy miso and spicy tuna on crispy spice. The nigiri, too, is highly praised.

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22. Lal Mirch 11138 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

Lal Mirch is a no-frills eatery that serves authentic Indian cuisine -- including a variety of vegetarian options -- in cozy digs. Popular dishes include chicken biryani, sagh paneer (spinach and cheese), and, for dessert, rice pudding.

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23. Las Fuentes 18415 Vanowen St, Reseda, CA 91335

You're gonna walk in to this casual, under-the-radar Mexican joint, sit down, order a giant burrito, covered in ranchera sauce, topped with ooey-gooey cheese, and wonder "why haven't I been here before, again?"

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24. Les Sisters 21818 Devonshire St, Chatsworth, CA 91311

Hearty and whole-hearted southern cooking -- everything you know and love about cajun from collards to crispy fried chicken, served in a N'Awlins inspired setting.

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25. Lum-ka-naad 8920 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324

Meaning "delicious food," in Thai, Lum-ka-naad lives up to its name by being one of Northridge's premier spots for noodle dishes. The cafe also offers a range of regional Thai options -- like muk yung (grilled squid) and larb pla duk (pan-fried minced catfish).

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26. Mandarin Deli 9305 Reseda Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324

It's a little unclear as to why this place is called a deli, but the homemade beef noodle soup is so good we don't really care. As are the scallion pancakes. And really most things on the bible sized menu. We think that this deli is one of the best in Los Angeles, but we highly encourage you to stop by and decide for yourself.

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27. Mogo's Mongolian BBQ 4454 Van Nuys Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Nestled in a strip mall, this small, all-you-can-eat joint totes some of the best Mongolian BBQ in Los Angeles. But if perfectly 'cued meats aren't your thing, Mogo's supplies an assortment of vegetarian options.

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28. The Rustic Spoon 4384 Lankershim Blvd, Universal City, CA 91602

Modern Thai cuisine practicing a culinary craft that aims to redefine classic curries and cocktails. Cult favorites include the rose mojito, the green jungle curry, and the Roti bread, a flatbread made from stoneground wholemeal flour.

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29. Mom's BBQ House 14062 Vanowen St, Van Nuys, CA 91405

The menu at this casual spot ranges from BBQ to Southern comfort food, including amazing catfish with collard greens and mac. Mom's BBQ house is one of our favorite places for an authentic Southern meal in LA. It's about as close to a real Southern BBQ house as you'll get in California, if we're being honest.

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30. Pita Kitchen 14500 Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91403

The chicken kafta plate is the way to go -- order it without rice, load up on hummus/baba ghanouj/eggplant "salad" (marinated to the point of being unrecognizable as a vegetable), and you'll have two to three meals' worth of amazingness for $11.

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31. Salsa & Beer 6740 White Oak Ave, Lake Balboa, CA 91406

You like bacon-wrapped shrimp? You like steak molcajete? You like beers the size of your face? You like the best freaking bean dip LA has to offer? You do, don’t you? You do. That's Why Salsa & Beer will become your new favorite place for an authentic Mexican meal in Los Angeles.

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32. Scratch Bar & Kitchen 16101 Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91436

This restaurant is a creation of Top Chef's Chef Phillip Frankland and serves dishes like pandon, passionfruit panna cotta, house-made cheese, and other delectable dishes with a twist. The Scratch Bar is one of the best places to grab a bite in Los Angeles, and we highly suggest that you add it to your food bucket list right now.

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33. Santino's Pizza 4319 Woodman Ave, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Voted "Best Pizza in LA" by The Huffington Post, Santino's confirms that east beats west, at least in the bread/cheese/sauce category. But don't expect creativity at this place -- Santino's has mastered the simple, classic pie with traditional toppings.

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34. Sushi Don Sasabune 4816 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

Unassuming strip mall Japanese food restaurant whose menu of sushi and rice bowls draws customers from beyond the valley.

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35. Vinh Loi Tofu 18625 Sherman Way #101, Reseda, CA 91335 (West Valley)

Vinh Loi Tofu is a bright, flavorful spot for vegan fare in the Valley. What this pint-sized eatery lacks in size it makes up for in taste; the extensive menu features super slurpable ramen, zesty noodle dishes, and veggie banh mi, among other things. Who knew mock meat would taste this good?

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