Less Douchebags, More Parking

I love the valley! I could scream it atop the highest of Mullholland mountains!

If you are a Westsider for life, let me try to persuade you. I mean really y’all, there is more to the valley than people shooting porn- there are also a lot of people watching porn (probably because its so hot they can’t leave the house).

But I digress…

What is more “in” than being not “in”? Literally nothing. Nothing says trendy like being somewhere that isn’t trendy. Why do you think all the Kardashians and Biebers live in Calabasas where old retired people who ride horses live? Well The Valley is not a trendy Westside, reservation required, valet only, overpriced apartment, small portioned bougie-organic-grass-fed and placed in a golden box for 28 hours and massaged ’til tender and then served to you on a cut slab of rock for $54 a pop, clothes store (I have no idea what that is, I just got mad and this is what my fingers typed- I even like organic and grassfed but it just sounds stupid to request *).  The SF Valley is easy to navigate, everything is accessible, it caters to families and old people so it’s designed around comfort, you don’t have to worry about crowds, there’s a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy (stay tuned for my post on the best nature in the valley), there is endless shopping (upscale and thrift), and most importantly there are less douchebags, more parking.

There are several food and drink places strung across the valley that perfectly align with the SF Valley’s (unwritten) mission statement  of being casual & comfortable.

The Spotperfect for after 1am

17200 Ventura Blvd, Encino

The Spot is a hookah bar & lounge that is open until 3am on weekdays and 5am on weekends. Hidden in the back of the Encino Commons complex between Louise and Balboa, it is one of the original Encino hangs (it has been around for 10 years). They don’t serve alcohol so it is perfect for after hours & late night drunchies since they serve delicious appetizer sampler plates (onion rings, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks), over 40 flavors of hookah, and fresh cut coconuts to rehydrate you and take the ache out of that next day hangover.

Surly Goatperfect for date night

17337 Ventura Blvd #100a, Encino

The sister bar to the West Hollywood pub, Surly Goat Encino opened 2 years ago and is more calm in comparison to the sardine packed Friday Night situation at the WeHo location. Some nights I have been there and it is pretty slow and other nights it’s very crowded and hard to get a seat (especially when there is live music). There is pool, shuffleboard, a photo booth, Karaoke on Tuesday starting at 9pm, bar eats like tots & sliders, and reasonably priced cocktails with a wide bourbon, whiskey, & beer selection (good for date night). There is an outside enclosed patio which is nice for a daytime drink or those nighttime smokers.

Crave Cafeperfect for casual lunch

14504 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks

I’ll just say I crave the options. If your friends are never able to agree on a food genre, well Crave is open 24 hours, and has pizza, waffles, quiches, bagels, milkshakes, sandwiches, boba, burritos, salads, crepes, cakes, burgers, paninis, and even sushi (we get it – you name it they have it). They don’t serve alcohol, and it gets very busy around meal times so avoid the rush by going for a late lunch or late dinner. The salads are huge and the pizza is made fresh. You can lounge inside on couches or outside on the Ventura boulevard patio. This is the heart of Sherman Oaks so there is a lot of shopping and restaurants if you are looking to walk off your BBQ Chicken Pizza and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

El Torito Cantinaperfect for taco Tuesday

14433 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks

Taco Tuesday- duh. Every Tuesday from 2-10pm. They recently expanded their Taco Tuesday bar to include more appetizers and sides, all for the low price of $3 a ticket (which you trade in at the taco bar). On Taco Tuesdays they have karaoke in the bar, and the DJ will literally bring the mic to your table and you can sing while you stuff your face with chips and guac (it’s kind of my thing there).  At least three times I have yelled “I LOVVVE SHERMAN OAKS” to the tune of “I Love Rock & Roll” after consuming 3 v-strong cadillac margaritas.

tip: this location is huge so it is perfect for large birthday dinners and it is always a loud and fun environment

HQ Gastropubperfect for dinner & drinks on the weekend

20969 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills

This place is amazing, which is why its called HQ (“High Quality”). Designed around a music memorabilia collection & state of the art A/V equipment, this sports bar/ gastropub/ lounge opened about 2 years ago. It has a great menu that is very affordable, good music, a plethora of TV’s, great staff & service, an outdoor patio, and private rooms for events. It is also located within walking distance of three other bars, perfect for a casual bar hop.

Lakeside Cafeperfect for brunch on the weekend

16817 Ventura Blvd, Encino

This is the brunch spot of the valley (though many don’t know it). Right there on the corner of Balboa and Ventura, is a hidden gem. You can sit outside by a natural springs that is shaped like a giant guitar. It is built on Los Encinos State historic land, where some of the original structures still exist (there is a museum you can visit after lunch or while waiting for a table). A description of what was once the Fernandeno Indian village was recorded as part of the 1769 Portola Expedition, so it is full of history, and what a better place to appreciate  history than drinking endless mimosas for $14. The food is great and they have happy hour everyday from 3-6pm.

The Standperfect for casual lunch or dinner (family friendly)

17000 Ventura Blvd, Encino

A block down from Lakeside, is The Stand (which is a block away from The Spot- could we get more creative guys?) It is a “hotdog” stand in that they specialize in hot dogs (over 8 types or you can DIY), but they have everything from burgers & sandwiches, t0 salads & loaded fries. This is a peaceful place to sit outside in the shade (it’s very Austin TX with the picnic tables and string lights). They have a good craft beer and wine selection and it’s super cheap.

tip: try the fireflies they are ta-die for (warning: you will probably self combust)

The Federal– perfect for brunch or dancing on the weekend

5303 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood

The Federal bar is in an old building that used to be a security bank in the late 1800s (I am a sucker for history). They have hip hop upstairs on Thursday, and it usually turns into a pretty crazy dance party on the weekends. There is usually a $5 cover to get upstairs, but if that irks you, then the downstairs saloon is a two-bar, live music, prohibition style speakeasy which is always very busy.  My fave thing at The Federal is their “One Entree & Bottomless Mimosa” brunch which is only $20. I guess you can dance all night, and sleep in your car and come right back for brunch if that is your style (PS if it is your style, you are a real trooper and A+ for being in public at all).

I will continue to update this list as I discover more no fuss, easy going valley hangs. These are just a few of the places that I suggest when people ask me, “Wuz good in the valley?”

*Footnote- I also do love the Westside, I am just a born & raised valley girl so I definitely feel the need to defend from the haters

The Rise and Fall of the Valley Bar Scene

I have been super happy about the new generation of lounges, bars and cool hang outs that have started to repopulate the boulevard- mainly in Sherman Oaks. Murphs, The One Up, The Woodman, Tipple and Brine, Tunnel Bar, Bow & Truss, to name a few. Actually all of these places are WONDERFUL, but as gastropubs only.

The Problem

What happened to the grungy, out all night, meeting fun people, going to a house after party, valley scene? For the most parts, these bars close down by 1am, sometimes even midnight. I talked to a manager at one of the spots who said that as soon as they have hit their goal profit for a night, or have had a good night- they close.

I get it, it eliminates the late night drunks and shenanigans that come with that (cops, puke, fights, yelling), but come one guys, what about the people?? Who remembers Smiles? That place was as close to Anything Goes as you could get… no wonder it got shut down.

The Pros

– A more mature crowd- less drunk idiots and creepers

– Delicious and well made food and drinks

-Parking that is more convenient than over the hill

-A slew of bars near each other for hopping

-GAMES! Most places feature games, either board games like at Bow & Truss, actual arcade games like at The One Up, or pool tables at Brickyard in North Hollywood

The Cons

-These places are catered to already formed groups, it seems harder to meet new people. Most bars are not set up for cross mingling and feature secluded tables or couches

-Early closing time- Most people don’t leave their house until 10 or 11 so that doesn’t give much time.

-Every bar is the same- same hipster look and same vibe (the majority)

-No dancing… forget about it- head to Skinnys for that

So boo hoo… now we have to settle for good drinks, and good food- and an early night. These hipster bars and speak easy’s that used to be a dime a dozen a few years ago now seem to be the norm. I guess we will have to get our kicks elsewhere- but I am also not 21 any more, so maybe I should just accept a more mature atmosphere and good conversation over a Moscow Mule and a Grass Fed Beef Slider Trio.

[PS This does not put an end my continual quest to find the best night adventures LA and the valley have to offer]