The San Fernando Valley is a vast expanse of largely suburban neighborhoods, built on the back of an expanding Los Angeles metro area and rising home costs. The growth of California’s highway system pushed the reach of tract home developers, strip mall retail outlets, and local restaurant owners deeper and deeper into the 818, the latter leaving footprints like the iconic roadside burger stand Bill’s along the way. The Valley is still overrun with standalone burger, taco, ice cream, and sandwich stands, many still carrying the Googie swoops and hard lines popularized during the 1950s in America. Here are four fantastic food stand options to try right now across the greater San Fernando Valley.
The half-century old Yaki’s in Burbank actually carries the longer title as the “Original Teriyaki Bowl,” thanks to its wide menu of loosely Japanese-Hawaiian rice bowls and sides. The burgers are pretty decent too, but most folks come for the sweetened and grilled chicken, either chopped over rice or served as a standalone sandwich — add pineapple. Don’t sleep on the Bulldog though, which is nothing more than a hot dog wrapped in American cheese and a wonton skin and deep fried. Bite with caution. 904 W. Alameda Ave., Burbank.
Munch Box is a legend in Chatsworth, the neighborhood tucked up into the northwest corner of the greater San Fernando Valley. Situated at the base of a bank of sun-bleached, rocky hills, the Googie-style stand still beckons to generations of local diners with its long yellow swoop that practically hangs out over the street. Munch Box dates to 1956, and earned heritage status in 2003, ensuring future generations will be able to swing past for cheese fries and what may be the best chili cheeseburger in the Valley. 21532 Devonshire St., Chatsworth.
North Hollywood’s food scene is surprisingly complex, turning from gastropubs to famous holdovers like Idle Hour to La Ramadita, a tiny turn-off stand nestled up against Vineland Avenue. The specialty of the house is the torta ahogada, served on dense but pliant bread that’s soaked through with a fiery thin salsa. This is a Guadalajaran delicacy done to perfection with thick chunks of pork, sharp white onion, and plenty of heat. It’s served with pride and eaten purposefully under a canopy of tarps right off the side of the road, as sometimes the best food is. 5938 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood.
Cupid’s Hot Dogs
The original Cupid’s Hot Dogs was in North Hollywood, and dated to 1946 — a date the mini-chain still hold on to today in their origin story. That location closed, however, making the 1960s-era Canoga Park corner stop the oldest Cupid’s around. Like all great food stands there is no seating inside, just an order window, kitschy sign, and some bolted-down seats off to one end. The primary order here is a chili dog, served with a snap and some thin, mellow chili and a side of chips. It’s perfect summer season food, eaten over some battered red tables in a courtyard just steps from the street. 20030 Vanowen Street, Canoga Park.