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Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Lake Balboa and Reseda

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In our coverage of the iconic restaurants of Sherman Oaks, we include mention of some of the snobbery of locals not wanting to have to put a Van Nuys address on their mail. This lead to rezoning a wealthier area of the neighborhood to make that happen. Lake Balboa is another area that was once Van Nuys, and a new neighborhood name was created to improve property values. Lake Balboa has only been legit since 2006. It’s a beautiful area, with bike paths, a park, and a serene Japanese garden. Though drought has severely affected the health of the once plentiful cherry blossom trees, the area is still lush compared to most neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley.

​Reseda, on the other hand, has its roots planted deeply in the history of Southern California and is a major player in the identity of the Valley. The neighborhood’s economy has gone through ups and downs, largely affected by two historic earthquakes, such as The Northridge Earthquake of 1994.

Today, there are many efforts and millions of dollars of bond money in place that aim to revitalize the area, from beautifying classic signs and community clean-ups, to the possible construction of an ice rink. Reseda may not be much to look at, but there are still some wonderful places to eat that make a trip into the Valley well worth it.

Millie’s Restaurant and Bakery

Both the exterior and interior of Millie’s Restaurant and Bakery look like a truck stop straight out of the Midwest. On every table you’ll find one of those wooden i.q. test toys you’d usually see at places like Cracker Barrel. The menu is what you would expect of an American diner in Southern California, with turkey melts, standard breakfasts, and burritos. Some years ago they added a healthier options portion to the menu, but if you’re going to Millie’s to eat, it’s probably not to improve your figure. The thing the locals seem to love best at Millie’s is the dessert case, with fresh baked pies and cakes, usually ordered a la mode for full effect.

Millie's: 16840 Vanowen St., Lake Baloba, CA 91406, (818) 785-3894

Millie's
Millie's. | Photo: Courtesy of Lior Ainbinder on Instagram 

Zig’s

Yes, there are more than diners in Reseda. But, the differences between Zig's and Millie's are plentiful. Opened in 1954 by Arnold “Zig” Zigman and his wife, Mary, this classic American diner has changed hands four times and has managed to only change minimally outside and in. The latest owner, George, who boasts that he’s the first Polish owner (all previous being Greek), is dedicated to keeping everything on the menu fresh and homemade. Reseda is a decidedly blue collar neighborhood, and the prices at Zig’s (home of “The Bullet” and “Ton of a Bun”) remain reasonable enough that there are patrons who have been regulars since they were children who now bring in their grandchildren. There’s a cozy, familial atmosphere at Zig’s, with its plain exterior, horseshoe shaped counter and roomy booths, and a wait staff that won’t ever let your coffee mug go empty. There’s a “South of the Border” menu in addition to classic hamburgers, chicken-fried steak, and “wet fries” (fries smothered in sausage gravy).

Zig's6821 N White Oak Ave., Reseda, CA 91335, (818) 343-3679

Zig's Restaurant Exterior
Photo: Courtesy of Zig’s Restaurant

Vinh Loi Tofu

There is nothing boring about Vinh Loi, from the story of owner/chef Kevin Tran, to the oddly shaped, cramped dining room, to the various triathlon medals adorning the teal and orange walls. Raised in the jungle of Vietnam, Tran arrived in Los Angeles at age 17, and he hasn’t slowed down since. Speaking to him is an intense but pleasant experience, and he has a knack for remembering his customers that brings the Angeleno crowds back for more. But it isn’t heart alone that inspires the restaurant and tofu factory to constantly be full of diners who feel like they’ve discovered a strip-mall secret deep in the Valley. Tran’s menu is nothing short of amazing. This is a perfect spot for hardcore vegans, health food enthusiasts, Thai food fans, children, meat lovers, and basically anyone with a mouth. The meatless meats are textured, colored, and flavored so masterfully that you’d question if you’re being lied to. With well over a thousand reviews on Yelp, Vin Loi still maintains a 4.5 star rating, which speaks volumes about the service, the experience, and the food.

Vinh Loi Tofu18625 Sherman Way #101, Reseda, CA 91335, (818) 996-9779

Bahn Mi from Vin Loi Tofu
Photo: Courtesy of EssentialWanderings.com​

Miss Donuts

The people of Los Angeles deeply love their donuts, to the point that we even voted the Donut Man donut Los Angeles’s most iconic dish. Someone new to the city might marvel in the sheer amount of donut shops on any given street. Miss Donuts, somewhat famous for being the location of a particularly epic scene in Boogie Nights with Don Cheadle, doesn’t get overly ambitious with their donuts, featuring your standard glazed, jelly filled, and a much-hyped fresh fruit tart. But, like the majority of Valley donut shops, Miss Donuts serves more than just donuts. Their tamales and empanadas are a local favorite.

Miss Donuts18231 Sherman Way, Reseda, CA 91335, (818) 609-0169

Miss Donuts in Reseda
Miss Donuts. | Photo: Courtesy of The Social Trust on Instagram

The Great Wall Chinese

It was a tough call between Tampa Garden Chinese Delight and The Great Wall. Both are iconic Chinese restaurants in the Valley, and while Tampa Garden wins people’s choice on overall flavor, The Great Wall, with its red double doors and ornate interior, has a stand-out quality in the neighborhood. The dining area is massive, they’ve got a full bar, and an impressive chandelier hangs from the gold-leaf embellished ceiling. Since opening their doors in 1984, the Mandarin and Szechwan style restaurant has amassed very loyal patrons who look forward to special nights out as well as the very affordable lunch specials.

The Great Wall Chinese18331 Sherman Way, Reseda, CA 91335 (818) 996-8900

The Great Wall Chinese
The Great Wall Chinese.  | Photo: Courtesy of Allen Quindiagan on Instagram

Honorable mentions: Humblebee, Sako’s Mediterranean Cuisine, Salsa and Beer, Tampa Garden Chinese Delight

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