Welcome to a series about the best dishes to eat in various neighborhoods across Los Angeles. Today we’re heading to the Santa Clarita Valley, a once-sleepy suburb now bursting with culinary growth. From decadent Armenian pizza to unusually sweet omelettes, here now are Eater contributor and 31-year SCV resident Sean L. Malin’s favorites in the valley.
Quesabirria and consome de res at Guanatos Tacos
Trendy cuisine has a habit of skipping over the SCV, so locals sometimes get over-excited when they see new visitors hawking popular dishes. Guanatos Tacos, however, has earned its reputation among the city’s best for its quesabirria par excellence. Briny with the drippings of house-made habanero onions and scorching on the first bite, these hearty quesabirria require three or four orders to fully satisfy on their own. Now, add a carton of consome de res — a red sauce-based concoction caught between a broth and a dressing, and sometimes served with chorizo — and you have the most flavorful drive-thru meal available in the entire valley. 21525 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita.
Tea’s omelette at Egg Plantation
Choosing between savory or sweet to start the day can be an impossible task, so Simon and Shannon Mee of Newhall’s brunch spot Egg Plantation offer a compromise. The peculiar Tea’s omelette reads like Dr. Frankenstein’s preferred morning meal: “egg whites, bacon, papaya, shredded coconut, cream cheese, blueberry and cherry pie filling, and cheddar cheese.” But this dish performs a high-wire act, skirting between the saccharine fruitiness of the pie filling, the bright and sour cream cheese, and the primal savoriness of cheese and bacon together in each bite. 24415 Walnut Street, Newhall.
Mole fries at Nealie’s Skillet
On the western outskirts of SCV, this maddeningly underrated cafe from Haydee and Neal Scott (a.k.a. “Nealie”) churns out mini-masterpieces regularly. Though primarily known for out-of-the-box skillets — regular specials feature alligator sausage, spinach dough balls, and ketchup hollandaise — the Scotts’ real secrets are in the sauce. Haydee’s mole, a complex blur of sweet and smoky, complements just about everything on the menu: fries and tots, poached eggs, and homemade Italian bread. Take time to explore elsewhere, too, since the mole is only the richest of several other complex and lovely sauces, including a stunning Alfredo that the Scotts produce in-house. 25858 Tournament Rd., Stevenson Ranch.
Mom’s favorite green beans at Mom Can Cook
After 15 years in the same U-shaped strip mall, the proprietors of Mom Can Cook announced in 2018 that they were passing the business to their cousins. Santa Clarita residents panicked that the valley’s most renowned (and most charming) Thai kitchen would soon move, or worse, decline in quality. Thankfully, the new owners remained loyal to its previous head chef’s beloved recipes, and in some cases, even worked to refine them. Among its key accomplishments is the new-and-improved Mom’s favorite green beans, a rich, delightfully crunchy stir-fry with hints of garlic. Piled high with tenderized sweet beef and a garnish of onion flakes, one large mound of these crispy legumes is enough to make them your favorite, too. 18358 Soledad Canyon Rd., Canyon Country.
Sopa de tortilla at Sabor Cocina Mexicana
Sabor has the tough hurdle of facing away from Valencia’s main thoroughfare and in towards a mega-church across the street. But it would be a mistake to continue sleeping on executive chef Leticia “Lety” Hansen’s clever deconstruction of traditional tortilla soup. First, she plates sliced chicken breast tartare-style beneath avocado, roasted sweet corn, cheese, and herbs. Then the golden brown broth is poured out of a silver teapot, melting the cheese on contact and infusing the fowl with lime, garlic, and cilantro. The result is an elegant sopa of palpable texture — chunky, spicy, and thick. 23953 Newhall Ranch Road, Valencia.
Butterscotch toffee pecan ice cream sandwich at D.W. Cookie Company
At the delightful D.W. Cookie Company, there are no wrong choices, only personal preferences. Founder Devar Ward makes each cookie from real butter and bakes them onsite in between mixing his own ice cream and custom-made cakes. Yet Ward is never in a rush because D.W. constantly sells out of its fresh cookies long before it closes. The solution to such high demand? Seek out that day’s fresh ice cream sandwiches, toothsome desserts that double both in size and savoriness as full meals. Ward makes his signature butterscotch toffee pecan cookies on Thursdays, and dark chocolate blueberry cookies (which are just about as decadent) on Fridays, but he’s also known for his flexibility: so long as orders are placed early enough in the day, D.W. will cater to virtually any personal request. 18962 Soledad Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita.
Lahmajune at Anna’s Armenian Bakery
Tony Ananyan likes to help visitors to his hole-in-the-strip-mall boulangerie find their perfect Armenian pastry. “Sweet or savory?,” he might ask as you step through the door. Or perhaps, “Just for you or someone else?” Inevitably, those seeking an affordable and filling midday treat will be pointed to Anna’s signature lahmajune, a 2-D relative of pizza topped with minced meat and a well-spiced medley of mixed herbs. So pleasant is this exquisite flatbread — crunchy but not crumbly, rich but not heavy — that it has already secured a place among Canyon Country’s culinary legends despite only opening in December 2021. Do not forget to ask the eponymous Anna for a spritz of lemon on your lahmajune to give it that extra acidic bite. 16507 Soledad Canyon Rd., Canyon Country.