The phrase "breakfast in the west San Fernando Valley" may not have quite the same ring to it as, say, "springtime in Paris." But if you're bleary-eyed, hung-over or just plain hungry, the suburbs can provide some great meals to start your day. Whether it's a classic dish like eggs and hash browns, or something more exotic, such as spicy shakshuka, the SFV offers an array of praise-worthy breakfast choices. Coffee and a little something sweet? A plate with a meal to keep you fueled all day? We started at the far west end of Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills and worked our way east into Tarzana, taking a detour to check out some places off the main drag. Turn the page.
10. Bobby's Coffee Shop:
The crowd outside the door on weekends attests to the popularity of this modest SFV landmark, where customers have been lining up since 1949. "We have people who have been coming here since before I was born," says owner Joe Shabbouei, who took over five years ago. There are from-scratch buckwheat and buttermilk pancakes, plus extra-thick French toast. But the Ranch Breakfast is ranked the number one selection by far, with two eggs, homemade hash browns, bacon, coffee, toast and endless coffee. Presiding over the grill is Juan, who has been there for 25 years. When we visited, he had already cracked 400 plus eggs that morning. 22821 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-225-1325.
9. Doan's Bakery:
Karen Doan started out three decades ago, baking for a friend's restaurant. 16 years ago, she and her son, Eric, opened their bakery storefront to the public. There's a comfortable vibe here, where you can sit inside or out and linger over the paper, drinking coffee and indulging in something sweet. The cinnamon rolls are highly recommended. When you order, your roll is heated up in the oven, which creates sinfully gooey swirls of sticky syrup. The muffins and scones also are customer favorites -- and who says you can't have cupcakes for breakfast. 22526 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-591-9236.
8. Leo & Lily:
When this café opened in 2011, it became an instant hit with locals. "The whole concept here is eating organic and fresh," says owner Guy Zaradez of the menu, which fuses European and Mediterranean flavors. For breakfast there are many savory and sweet choices, including four kinds of egg benedicts, borekas and an oatmeal muesli with figs, pistachios, anise and raisins. A top customer pick is brioche French toast, coated with corn flakes and plated with puddles of banana butterscotch mousse over nutella crème. There's seating inside or on a patio out front. 22420 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-222-6622.
7. The Baker:
As soon as you sit down you'll be presented with a basket of homemade bread, served with olives and an addictive herbed feta cheese. You can easily get carried away and fill up on this, but try to save room for an omelette, crepes, breakfast sandwich or burrito. The specialty here is the Middle Eastern dish shakshuka, with eggs poached atop a sauce made of tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic and onions. It has a kick to it, nicely balanced by the refreshing cucumber and tomato salad on the side. Sit for a while, then order a coffee and homemade pastry. Challah can be pre-ordered and picked up on Fridays -- and on Fridays the café also serves challah French toast. 21600 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-340-1987.
The mission of this cozy spot with a few tables is "to bring a taste of France to you." Thus there are many tres bien French baked goods, such as pain au chocolate, madeleines, brioches and mixed berry crepes. In addition to sweets, there also are savory selections. All ingredients are organic and preservative free. Fresh breads are made hourly and can be special ordered with your choice of size, shape and flour. Challah is sold on Friday. 19973 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-610-8478.
Open less than a year, this down-home eatery serves some of the best mole in town, made by a cook who comes to the kitchen just to create the glorious Mexican sauce. Everything else is homemade too, and most dishes are Oaxacan-style, including sweet corn on the cob, covered in homemade mayonnaise, cheese and chili powder -- and, yes, you can order this for breakfast. There's creativity and attention to detail in all the main dishes, sides and drinks. The aquas frescas change frequently -- when we visited, two flavors were offered: hibiscus and a horchata with diced cantaloupe. 6551 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-887-7159.
Tucked away in the back of a small grocery store, this vegetarian café has been a SFV institution since 1970. In addition to the regular menu, there are daily specials, determined by the chefs' imaginations. The day we visited there was a whole wheat chipati, stuffed with a bunch of good stuff, like black beans, tofu, "sausage," guacamole and homemade ranchero sauce.The portions here are big, and the kitchen will happily divide up an order for sharing. Most dishes can be made gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan. Seating is inside or out on the patio. 21875 Sherman Way, Canoga Park; 818-348-3240.
2. The Little Cafe:
As the name suggests, this is a small, bustling spot. We popped in a few minutes before closing and every table was taken, with no one making moves for the door. Owner Reza Pourfarzib has been at the helm for 30 years and has many devoted regulars, who all recommend the same thing: Whatever you order, make sure you get the home fries, either regular or with peppers and onions. You can create your own omelette or scramble from a long list of add-ins. Hit the ATM before coming here, because credit cards are not accepted. 19204 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana; 818-705-8335.
1. CiCi's Café:
If you tend to be indecisive, you're going to be in trouble at CiCi's -- which has 16 kinds of French toast, 18 crepes and 30 egg dishes. And then there are the dozens of pancakes. How about green tea tiramisu pancakes? Or buttermilk pancakes with banana flambé, or something called Show Biz, which comes with dried cranberries and caramelized walnuts, lemon sauce and whipped cream. There are plenty of healthier options too, but who wants egg whites after reading through three pages of pancakes? Open for six years, CiCi's has a huge following, so get there early to avoid the crowds. 18912 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana; 818-881-6704.
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