You know you've found a real gem of an intersection when two competing strip malls face each other, each with their own unknown dining options. The intersection of Oxnard Street and Whitsett Avenue in North Hollywood is one such magical place, with donut shops, Thai places, and at least one tropical fish store on the premises (no word on whether the fish are edible). This week, we take a look at Oxnard Plaza on the southeast corner of Oxnard and Whitsett, where three distinct cuisines have come to roost -- plus possibly the strangest "bread" store you'll find.
Let's start by talking about what Thai Gourmet isn't. It's not the sort of wide-noodle 4 a.m. refuge you'll find along Hollywood Blvd. It's not the eyebrow-searing stuff that Jitlada has conquered, and it isn't the smoky, Singha-splashing place you can stumble across in Koreatown. There are bright windows that face the street, an effortlessly happy staff and a quiet, if compact dining room. The key here is not expect too much, in both good and bad ways. Don't expect to pay more than $8 for a lunch special, but also don't expect to be wowed by a plate of straightforward, spiceless Pad Thai. You might fare better with some of the seafood options, but there's nothing on the menu that really wows. Then again, you won't have to worry about elbowing heads just to make your way to an open table, since the lunch crowd tends to stay pretty light. Don't expect to recommend this place to out-of-towners, but for anyone in the area in search of a quick, cheap vote, Thai Gourmet fits the bill. The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and accepts credit cards. 12444 Oxnard St., North Hollywood; 818-762-6163.
Pacific Kosher Pizza is a bustling Israeli joint that keeps it kosher. It's a dairy restaurant, which means you won't find meat on the menu anywhere, but the nearly full tables are an indication that it doesn't' seem to matter much. Their namesake pizza is pretty unremarkable, especially by the slice. For $2.50, you get a cheesy triangle of thick, doughy pizza that rocks a serious sesame seed ring around the edge. There's also a cup of garlicky tahini sauce, which is shudderingly close to offering up a cup of ranch dressing. But for under $3, it's a filling little slice, and the gas-fired oven does produce a decently crispy crust. Most people seem to hang around Pacific Kosher Pizza for the light salads and simple sandwiches, although the pastry and dessert counter tend to get picked over pretty well too. The cheesy, flaky burekas are a hit, baked to a warm golden glow and studded with sesame seeds. Pacific Kosher Pizza is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., but closes early on Fridays and Saturdays to observe the Sabbath. They also take credit cards. 12460 Oxnard St., North Hollywood; 818-760-0087.
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King of Kebob:
Right next door to the Israeli pizza shop and around the corner from the Thai place is King of Kebob, a small Greek gyro shop that's been operating out of the same location since 1991. That's a long time for any strip mall restaurant, but their reasonable prices and high quality food have kept them around for more than 20 years. The family behind the counter certainly knows what works and what doesn't, which means the quick-eating sandwiches are all priced under $8 and emerge quickly from the kitchen, without sacrificing flavor. Thick piles of beef shawarma make for a salty, juicy, satisfying meal alongside a plate of frozen spuds and a can of soda. The provided hummus is fresh and pungent, if a bit on the thin side. The chicken is also a popular menu choice, served as a boneless and skinless plate of well-seasoned meat, or chopped up as shawarma for to-go orders. Which most orders tend to be, by the way, since there's only about three tables in the place and having the register six inches from your face doesn't make for great table conversation. King of Kebob is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and accepts credit cards. 12462 Oxnard St., North Hollywood; 818-980-4040.
Tucked into the corner of Oxnard Plaza is Premium Lavash. They must be real, because they've got an A rating in the window and everything. Right? I mean, a storefront that purported to sell fantastic lavash bread wouldn't, upon entering, be revealed as a haphazard toss of metal tables and a dusty register inside a 10' by 4' room. Right? They wouldn't only have two -- two -- bags of what look to be completely store-bought lavash bread, just sort of sitting on the counter as you walk in? RIGHT?! Premium Lavash is the sort of place where, if you told a local that you just stopped in for a peek, they would grab you by the shoulders and say "That place closed thirty years ago!" and a wolf would howl in the distance. Or, you know, you could just back away slowly, turn around and eat at any other place in the strip mall.12454 Oxnard St., North Hollywood; 818-232-7700.
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