The San Fernando Valley had a culinary moment way back when it introduced sushi to the U.S., but it hasn't been known as a dining destination for years. But it looks like the Valley is getting some culinary action once again.
Ventura Boulevard is the Valley's main commercial artery. It's where most of the well-known sushi restaurants (Asanebo, Kazu, Kiwami, Iroha, original Katsuya) live, mainly in Sherman Oaks and Studio City. The wonderful but understated Lebanese/Armenian/Middle Eastern neighborhood joints radiate out from there.
This latest crop of restaurants is also pretty thematic. This time around, it's gastropubs that are causing the sensation. Here are some of the best:
Hear more about the Valley's restaurant scene on KCRW's Press Play.
Tipple & Brine: A lot of oysters. And oyster shooters! And dishes you aren't surprised to like, such as burrata and bacon on buttered toast. (Toast is so hot right now. No, seriously.) And of course cocktails and an interesting beer list.
Black Market Liquor Bar: This one opened in 2011 and really got things cooking, as it were. Chef Antonia Lofaso, a "Top Chef" favorite, grew up in the Valley; her first job in the food industry was at Hot Dog on a Stick at the Galleria. With Black Market, she wanted to bring upscale food to this side of the hill. "It is not so much about kickstarting the trend; it was about wanting to bring a great culinary experience to an area that truly deserved it. The Valley was known for their sushi restaurants and now it has blossomed into something more and I couldn't be more proud." And indeed, the menu is upscale, and a little daring: deviled eggs are quail eggs, with tuna. The fancy toast: smoked trout with pickled vegetables.
Laurel Tavern -- This chef favorite opened in 2008, which is twelve lifetimes ago in restaurant years. You'll get good renditions of pub favorites here: a lot of meat, even more starches.
The Local Peasant: Though it wasn't the first Valley gastropub, it is the most heralded (and it even has a second location, up in Woodland Hills). Eat pretzels and burgers here.
Barrel & Ashes -- More of a barbecue place than a true gastropub, Barrel & Ashes deserves a mention just because it is so darn good. Plus, bbq and cocktails is an all-too-rare combination.