The old-school themed restaurant was a peculiarly mid-20th-century American institution, wherein a straight-up steak house operated within an exotic, painstakingly dressed setting. In the bleak, post–Trader Vic's era, Glendale tiki shrine Damon's Steakhouse is perhaps the highest-profile survivor. But deep within the darkest heart of the San Fernando Valley (well, the Granada Hills–Mission Hills cusp, really) there lies a stunning example of the form — the long-running, Afrocentric beauty known as the Safari Room. The exterior resembles nothing so much as a postapocalyptic stack of whitewashed bricks, and the witch-doctor-emblazoned signage leads one to expect a crummy dive bar. But one glimpse inside the door reveals a trove of mid-century exotica: a tall row of spears, ceremonial masks and tribal shields. Divided between a long, dark bar and cocktail lounge on the left and a dining room on the right, packed with black, leopard-skin-trimmed banquettes, the Mogambo motif is magnificently executed throughout, up to and including some formidable weaponry (the high-caliber elephant gun mounted on the rear wall was reportedly the original owner's hunting piece). The only thing lacking is some big-game taxidermy. And the food is first rate, with every sauce, dressing and gravy “proudly” prepared on site. Getting stranded in the jungle has never been so enjoyable.

—Jonny Whiteside

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