Vineland Avenue and Burbank Boulevard in North Hollywood is a famous intersection, at least to some. The perfectly silly Circus Liquor is there, with its polka-dotted clown sign lording it over everything else in sight. Of course, that sign (and its parking lot) gained a bit of notoriety in the mid-'90s as the spot where Alicia Silverstone's character in Clueless was mugged.
Nowadays, you'll find a lot more than just Circus Liquors at Vineland and Burbank. For one, there's a big brown strip mall on the northwestern corner, with a Fatburger right up front, beckoning in the hungry and disoriented. There are further delights inside the B-V Shopping Center, like a Middle Eastern borek shop with a single table, some fantastic Lebanese food and a Korean barbecue/noodle/sushi shop, all rolled into one.
Circus Liquor's Valley-famous signage will always rule this intersection, but peek around the corners of the adjacent strip mall, and you might find some pretty damn good eats there, too.
Sis is a storefront-only bakery that specializes in Armenian delights such maneishe and lahmajun, the pita sandwich–like treat that is traditionally topped with ground beef or lamb. There's basically nothing else to order from the cash-only counter, unless you include those boreks, which are soft, filling and a steal at $3 or less.
Those in the know — read, the large Armenian community of the Valley — call ahead to order the boreks, maneishe or lahmajun by the box, or spring for the mini versions to take to a party. Considering there's literally only one table with a chair haphazardly pushed into the front window area, you shouldn't be hanging out at Sis Bakery anyway. That is, unless you want to bask in the glow of the cold drink cooler, where Gazōz sodas are plentiful and you can buy your yogurt drink by the gallon. Sis Bakery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., except on Sundays, when it closes at 3:30 p.m. It does not accept credit cards. 11009 Burbank Blvd., #123, North Hollywood; 818-760-7520.
Just down the way is Arabkir Pastry Bakery, which focuses on the sweeter stuff. Glass cases take up nearly the entire room, with a small rack for breads and any day-old stuff in the corner against the window. There is, of course, lots of baklava to be found, along with an impressive array of cream-filled delights. Cookies abound and fruit tarts line the bottom shelves, bright and shiny from their sweetened glaze.
If you're looking for something more substantial, the cake case to the left has you covered. As with Sis, this is a takeaway place that does a pretty heavy call-ahead business, so don't expect to sit and enjoy, unless you're excited by the prospect of getting flakes of pastry on your shirt while you sit in your car with the air conditioning on. Arabkir is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays until 6 p.m., and is cash only. 11009 Burbank Blvd., #120, North Hollywood; 818-508-5222.
Continuing the sweets trend is Perfect Donuts, a wonderfully tacky space on the western edge of the strip mall. The glass-walled storefront comes with its own patio, although you may not like the dingy characters you share a table with. Inside is a wealth of competing culinary ideas; doughnuts and croissants share counter space with bananas and chips and premade foodstuffs, plus egg sandwiches on demand. If you want a drink, there's milk and soda and boba and smoothies and milkshakes and coffee and God knows what else.
So are these actually Perfect Donuts? It's hard to make such a claim in a fried dough city like Los Angeles. There is a great selection, though, including maple old-fashioneds, buttermilk bars and cake doughnuts for your sweet tooth. Pick one and then snag a small booth inside, or brave the world out on the patio. Or, if you've been conditioned by Arabkir Pastry Bakery, just shame-eat the stuff in your car and move on. Perfect Donuts is open Monday through Friday from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., and accepts credit cards. 11009 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; 818-763-7177.
101 Korean BBQ & Sushi is the sort of straightforward rice bowl, pot sticker and sushi spot we've seen before. As a lunch option, it's hard to beat places like this, where sub-$10 specials will get you miso soup, a small side salad, a pile of rice, steamed veggies and your choice of protein. Sushi roll lunches run about the same price, with simple spicy tuna roll and California roll combos, or five pieces of sushi and one of the aforementioned rolls. And if none of that suits your mood, grab a bowl of bibimbap or the gigantic platters of $8 kimchi fried rice.
Inside, the space is just as much a mishmash as the menu. For some reason, there are lots of bright pictures of fresh fruit all over the walls, alongside hanging Korean flags, a couple of lanterns and plenty of tile. The place also delivers, which means you don't have to leave your office building if you don't want to. Or get out of your bathrobe. 101 Korean is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and accepts credit cards. 11009 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; 818-985-5101.
If you've been to the B-V Shopping Center before, odds are it's been to munch on the Lebanese food at Hayat's Kitchen. The place is impeccable from start to finish, with creamy hummus and those addicting garlic fries to start you off with a bang and hearty bites of lamb shank to send you quietly into the night. The filet mignon shawarma is not only a delight, it's reasonably priced at $12. Or, if you're looking to overindulge, grab the 30-ounce Mix Grill, which comes with filets of beef, kafta, tawook and lots of grilled vegetables, all over an avalanche of rice. Lamb chops come in at $16, but you can easily leave Hayat's with a fully stomach and change from a $20 in your wallet.
In addition to the endless bounty that is Hayat's menu, the patio space and attentive waitstaff really seal the deal. Depending on the day, you'll find friendly locals enjoying hookah nearby under an umbrella, families wrangling their children into trying the kabob plates and the staff buzzing about, plates in hand, with smiles on their faces. For straightforward, fully realized strip mall dining in North Hollywood, it simply doesn't get better than this. Hayat's Kitchen opens daily at 11 a.m. and runs to 9:30 p.m. on most nights, 10 p.m. on Fridays. It also accepts credit cards. 11009 Burbank Blvd., Ste. #117, North Hollywood; 818-761-4656.
If you've never eaten the juicy, fall-apart burger goodness that is Fatburger (especially in the haze of a particularly lubricated late-night session), you should log off your computer immediately, think about what you've been doing with your life, and get thee to a Fatburger immediately. 11009 Burbank Blvd., #126, North Hollywood; (818) 760-6565.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Farley Elliott writes about food, drink and entertainment at OverOverUnder.com.
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