When Lindsay and I first met in Calgary, Canada and discovered we weren’t just from Los Angeles, but living 10 minutes from each other in the Valley, our friendship was sealed in fate. When we’re not on the road checking out cool places to eat, drink and see, you’ll find us exploring L.A.’s new hotspots. Luckily, with the slew of new restaurants on Ventura Blvd (and one speakeasy bar) opening up, it’s been action-packed in our own backyard (and we even manage to match our manicure colors when we go out!).
Until recently, San Fernando Valley aka “The Valley”—northwest Los Angeles with Ventura Boulevard as the main thoroughfare—was great for ethnic eats, like sushi and shawarma. And that was about it—certainly nothing worth the drive to draw the non-local foodie over the canyons. Yet, in the last nine months, the Valley is heating up with gourmand goodness.
Here our are nine favorite bars and restaurants in the Valley worth the trek:
1. La Ventura – Mexicana-meets-mod cuisine. Casual and convivial, with food so solid, you’ll be back in no time.
When to go: Business Lunch, Meet the Parents, Group Dinners
Chef: Jeffrey Saad, finalist on The Next Food Network Star Season Five/host of Cooking Channel’s United Tastes of America
Must Eats: Mole Duck Confit (not a regular menu item but can be requested), Lobster-Chorizo Fondido, Housemade Churros.
Must Drinks: Cocktail menu designed by Rhino, try the Creamy Margarita (made with egg and mezcal).
11929 Ventura Blvd, Studio City; Open daily lunch/dinner
2. Tipple & Brine –It’s probably the first trendy restaurant in Sherman Oaks’ culinary history, with California-inspired eats, craft cocktails and an artisan wine/beer menu.
When to go: First Date, After Work Meetup, Monday for $1 Oysters
Chef: Mike Williams (formerly of Tasting Kitchen and The Parish)
Must Eats: Lamb Shank, Oyster+Scotch Luge, Duck Fat Potatoes
Must Drink: Scott Free (Scotch, Maraschino, Bitters, Lemon & Orange Twists); Queen Bee (Gin, Lemon, Honey, Champagne)
14633 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; Open nightly; Happy Hour: Tues-Fri 4-7 p.m
3. Tunnel Bar – Speakeasy feel, with a hidden entrance (enter in the alley, look for the eerie blue light on the second floor) and a dark, sexy interior.
When to go: First date, Pre-club stop, Birthday/Bach Party
Head Bartender: Daniel Zacharczuk (in photo above)
Must Drink: Craft versions of 70s classics like Alabama Slammers and Hurricanes.
14633 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; Open Thurs-Sun, 7 p.m. – 2 a.m.
4. Tipsy Cow – A gastropub with a playful edge featuring elevated classic bar food favorites.
When to go: Post Hike, Guys Night Out, Casual Lunch/Dinner
Must Eats: Blue Cheese Tots; Bourbon Brine Fried Pickles; Tipsy Burger
Must Drinks: Don Draper (bourbon, chipotle syrup, coffee ice cube, bitters); Mother Fluffer (marshmallow milkshake)
15005 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; Open daily lunch/dinner; Happy Hour
5. Sun Café – The relocation two blocks down to a light-drenched, ranch-style house with a stunning patio offers an upgraded encounter with the beloved, mostly raw, plant-based restaurant.
Chef: Ron Russell, co-owner/chef
When to Go: Weekend Brunch, Post Workout, Detoxing,
What to Eat: Sun Nachos, Farmers Market Pizza (tempeh bacon, figs, arugula), Pad Thai
What to Drink: Abbey Float (Belgian Ale, cherry cola, vanilla cashew ice cream), Mint Shamrock Shake (spinach, bananas, cacao, cashew, agave), Artisan wines/beers.
10820 Ventura Blvd, Studio City; Open M-F 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Weekends 10 a.m
6. Granville Café – Goodbye to Good Earth, say hello to Granville’s third L.A. outpost Cuisine is quintessentially Californian: organic produce, hormone-free meats, global flair, vegan options, artisan tipples.
When to Go: Business Lunch, Casual Date, Happy Hour, Family Outing
What to Eat: Bacon Blue burger, Housemade potato chips (like Kettle Chips on crack), Mac & Cheese, Kitchen Sink Omelet
What to Drink: Spa water (it’s free, but you have to ask for it), Picante Pineapple Margarita, Craft beers.
12345 Ventura Blvd, Studio City; Open Daily, Weekend Brunch begins at 9 a.m; Open till 2 a.m. Fri/Sat.
7. The Gadarene Swine – Opened September 9, ethereal plant-based dishes are artfully presented in garden planters-turned-plates. Where ‘eat your veggies’ is actually so fun, you may ask for seconds.
Chef: Phillip Frankland Lee, owner/chef of Scratch|Bar, Beverly Hills
When to Go: Epicurean Adventure, Vegan/Vegetarian Meal, Date Night
What to Eat: Fried olives, 10-item Omakase tasting menu at the bar
What to Drink: “Compost” cocktails – juice from leftover veggies spiked with soju, sherry or sake.
11266 Ventura Blvd, Studio City; Tues-Sat 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
8. Murph’s Service Station – Goodbye Mad Bull Tavern, hello 1950s Americana diner. Opening September 15, there’s a heavy dollop of southern comfort eats, plus sassy cocktails to boot.
Chef: Mike Williams (also of Tipple & Brine)
When to Go: Comfort Food Cravings, Guys Night Out, Dinner with the Fam, Late Night
What to Eat: Pig’s Ear Fries, Fried Chicken Biscuit Sandwich, Fried Green Tomatoes
What to Drink: Murph’s Vanilla Coke (Rum, Giffard Vanilla, Mexican Coke, Bitters), This Cake is a Lie (vodka, Crème de Cacao, lemon, almond syrup)
14649 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; M-Fri 4 p.m.- 2 a.m.; Weekends open at 11 a.m.- 2 a.m.
9. Joan’s on 3rd – As the second outpost in almost 20 years since the iconic, Third Street gourmet grocer/bakery/deli opened, it’s the biggest foodie news of the Valley this year. It’s slated to open mid-September.
Chef: Joan McNamara
When to Go: Weekend Brunch, Post Workout, Coffee Date, Afternoon Pick-me-Up
What to Eat: Omelets, Chinese Chicken Salad, Mac & Cheese, Magic Bars
What to Drink: Espresso drinks, Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
12059 Ventura Blvd, Studio City; Open daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m. M-Sat; Sun 8 a.m-7 p.m.