It's not as famous as Ventura Boulevard. It's not as useful as hill-crossing roads like Laurel Canyon and Sepulveda. It doesn't hit as many neighborhoods as Victory. Still, if you want to drive down one street that's truly representative of 818 life, you should hit up Reseda Boulevard.
Reseda Boulevard isn't long; the entire route runs a little more than 12 miles and hits only four neighborhoods. Hilltop parks in posh neighborhoods bookend the street. In either direction, you'll wind downhill, toward some semblance of normal life, where you will bounce between commercial and residential blocks. You'll see Tarzana, Reseda, Northridge and Porter Ranch, all of which are far more interesting than one might assume.
Maybe I'm biased. I grew up in Northridge and probably spent more time on Reseda Boulevard than I did at the local mall. It wasn't a destination. During my teen years, it was just the closest street where my friends and I could buy records, grab coffee or see movies for really cheap. Those places are gone now, but there's still plenty to do here. Here are 10 reasons to explore the Valley by cruising down Reseda Boulevard.
1. Reseda Boulevard is representative of the Valley's ethnic diversity.
The San Fernando Valley's ethnic diversity is perhaps its greatest feature. This vast collection of neighborhoods is home to large Latino, Korean, Armenian and Persian communities, among many other ethnic groups. Much of this diversity is visible when you're grocery shopping on Reseda Boulevard. Sure, there are the usuals like Von's and even a Gelson's, but there are cool ethic grocery stores too.
In Northridge, you'll find Galleria Market, a large Korean grocery store that also houses boutiques, a bakery and a food court. (If you've been to the Galleria Market in Koreatown, it's worth noting that the Northridge outpost has a larger food court.) Further south in Northridge is Bombay Spiceland, which specializes in Indian, Pakastani and Sri Lankan food. Head a bit down the street and you'll find Family Halal Meat Market, which is very close to a Vallarta Supermarket. Once you reach Tarzana, you'll find three grocery stores surrounding the Reseda Boulevard Orange Line stop, one Persian market and two Russian markets. Bazaar mixes Russian and Armenian products. If you like unusual soft drinks, pick up a tarragon soda while you're there.
2. There is no shortage of places to eat on Reseda Boulevard.
There are restaurants galore on Reseda Boulevard, enough to fill you with hunger pangs should you ever get stuck in a traffic jam here. Like the grocery stores here, the restaurants reflect the diversity of the area. If you have a taste for anything from kabob to ramen to pad thai, you'll be able to find something to satisfy your cravings.
Ramen Nippon in Reseda was one of my go-to spots when I lived in the Valley. It's easy to miss, as the restaurant is tucked into a tiny mini-mall, so watch for it when you hit 6900 Reseda. Pita Pocket, in a Von's shopping center at the Nordhoff intersection in Northridge, is another personal favorite. In fact, I stopped there on a recent rainy Saturday when I drove around the neighborhood thinking of nothing but a big, soft laffa sandwich with fries wrapped inside the bread. The same shopping center is home to Delicious Bakery, where my family has been buying turtle cookies for longer than I can remember. Further north is King's Burgers/Got Sushi, which is a great place to hit up when you and your friends can't decide whether you want ground beef or raw fish for dinner. Reseda Boulevard's restaurants and bakeries probably deserve their own list, but we'll stop here. You get the point — Reseda Boulevard might add an extra inch to your waistline.
3. You can check out the view (and maybe get an E.T. flashback) at Porter Ridge Park.
Because this is my home turf, there are a lot of memories that hit as I drive down Reseda Boulevard, and some of those revolve around the parks situated here. Northridge Park was where I swam. Reseda Park was where I attended Girl Scout day camp. However, it's Porter Ridge Park that holds the most childhood magic.
Porter Ridge Park sits at the northern dead-end of Reseda Boulevard. It's a very small park surrounded by houses. Like a few other spots in Porter Ranch, it was a filming location for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. I saw the movie in a theater when I was in kindergarten, which I remember mostly because it was so hard to keep from crying during the movie. Maybe a year or so after that, word on the elementary school playground was that the movie we loved had actually been filmed near where we lived. That's the weirdest thing to process when you're all of 6 years old — that movies are fake but there are real elements in them that you know.
Porter Ranch has changed a lot since then. There are more houses now, but the park is still there. On a clear day, you can catch a great view of the Valley from the hilltops. It was rainy on my last trip there, but you could catch a peek in the tiny gaps between the gray clouds.
4. If you're from the Valley, you will get nostalgic.
There's a shell of a former Foster's Freeze that still stands on Reseda Boulevard, its facade chipped and tagged with spray paint. I got ice cream here many times, but mostly I remember it as a marker for shopping trips at Record Trader. I think about all the records I bought at that store and how the staff was so cool that they helped me get my hands on a Current 93 CD that I couldn't find anywhere else. This happens a lot on Reseda Boulevard. In Northridge, I remember Tempo Records, where I also bought a lot of music you might not expect to find in the suburbs. I think about Common Grounds, a now-defunct, CSUN-adjacent coffeehouse where I spent many teenage nights. I flashback to Golden Apple, where I started buying indie comic books.
If you grew up in the Valley, it's hard not to get nostalgic. You'll start to miss the things that no longer exist and be flooded with memories about the things that are still there. You'll recall the kid party scene at Chuck E. Cheese's and Shakey's. Just when you think you're over the childhood flashbacks, you notice that a couple walking past your parked car are the parents of one of your elementary school friends. Their faces are older but their hairstyles haven't changed. The Valley is weird. You can never truly escape it.
5. You can check out arty glass pipes.
I've previously written about Captain Ed's Shoppe for L.A. Weekly. The pipe palace is a longtime local staple whose stock has evolved as weed has grown more mainstream, and it's worth a stop if you're on Reseda Boulevard. The store carries both budget-friendly and splurge-worthy smoking accessories. Even if you're not in the market for a high-end pipe, you'll want to see work made by glass artists like BMFT. Check the flier pile for announcements on upcoming shows in the store-adjacent gallery. 7011 Reseda Blvd., Reseda. (818) 996-1222, captainedsshoppe.com.
6. You can nerd out in Northridge.
I used to nerd out on the stretch of Reseda Boulevard surrounding Rayen Avenue in Northridge. It's long been a home for stores that cater to fans and hobbyists, although the names and content of the stores have changed. The anime store is long gone, but Smith Brothers' Hobby Center remains. The store was busy on a recent Saturday as people combed aisles filled with kits and parts, model airplanes hanging overhead. Outside the story, salespeople chatted about drones with passersby.
Golden Apple Comics has long since shuttered its Reseda Boulevard location, but comic book readers will be happy to find both Earth-2 and Njoy here. The latter is both a comics and game shop and it was packed on a recent Saturday, as folks had gathered for Yu-Gi-Oh! and Dungeons & Dragons sessions.
Sneakers nerds also have a spot in the neighborhood with Reload. The store, across Reseda Boulevard from Njoy, is heavy on Nikes, particularly Air Jordans.
7. You can party on Reseda Boulevard.
Yes, some of the spots here are open late and cater to the grown-up crowd. Paladino's, which I mentioned in my list of Orange Line stops, is one of the better known clubs in the Valley and offers live music, including tribute bands, on select nights. Petie's Place, also near the Orange Line station, hosts Jimmy McConnell Super Big Band on Sundays and a variety of other live music and comedy events on other nights of the week. Further north is C. Frenz, Reseda's own gay bar, which hosts the free Sunday night drag show Divas of the Valley. Not feeling like drinks? There is a small handful of hookah bars scattered along Reseda Boulevard as well.
8. You can play ping-pong, too.
Drive down Reseda Boulevard and you'll find gyms, martial arts schools and other places where you can keep fit. Perhaps the most unusual sporting facility here, though, is USA Valley Table Tennis, a clubhouse dedicated to ping-pong. For a $10 cover, you can hang out with your friends and play as many matches as you'd like. It's open until 11 p.m. daily, so you can stop by after work or on a weekend evening when you want to do something more active than guzzling beer. Classes are available for those who want to learn the game, and the space is available for party rentals. USA Valley Table Tennis, 7020 Reseda Blvd., Reseda. (818) 757-7201, usavalleytabletennis.com.
9. You can visit Marvin Braude Mulholland Park.
The southern end of Reseda Boulevard heads into the hills of Tarzana and then ends at Marvin Braude Mulholland Park. The large park has hiking trails and other features that appeal to people who like to pretend they don't live in a major metropolis. I'm not a fan of that, but I am a fan of looking at the Valley sprawl from the Santa Monica Mountains. You can get a gorgeous view from the parking lot — no hiking necessary.
10. There are hidden treasures along Reseda Boulevard.
Say what you will about L.A. shopping centers with their chain stores and generic designs, but sometimes there are cool finds hidden inside the stuccoed monstrosities. Sometimes, it's worth it to park and search, even if all you can see from the street is the anchor store, a fast food drive-thru and a lot of cars.
For example, there's this shopping center on the northeastern side of Reseda and Nordhoff. It's a mess of a shopping center, the kind with a parking lot that immediately results in a fit of road rage. It's worth the frustration, though, because there's a beauty supply store semi-hidden from street view that is fantastic. Starr Beauty has an awesome, hip selection of cosmetics and a wide variety of over-the-top fake eyelashes. They are more than well-stocked with Nyx products, including lipsticks in unconventional colors. They also carry Kryolan makeup and have a great selection of makeup brushes. It's easy to lose track of time in here as you obsess over your eyeshadow purchases. Starr Beauty, 9301 Reseda Blvd., Northridge. (818) 885-1085, starrbeauty.com.