It’s the land of malls and skewered meat: welcome to our first San Fernando Valley blog post! (and featuring our blog’s first guest: our childhood friend, Julie!) Glendale is located in the eastern part of the SFV (or “the Valley”) and is bordered by Burbank, Griffith Park and Pasadena, and is the third largest city in Los Angeles County.

If you live in Los Angeles, you probably know it as one of the largest Armenian neighborhoods in the United States (Kim Kardashian has famously remarked that she might run for city Mayor in the not-so-distant future. No mind that Glendale doesn’t actually HAVE a mayor). It’s also home to a community of Scandinavians, the Glendale Galleria, and more kebab joints than you can count.

The neighborhood is a little sleepier than most, and even though it’s located just 10 miles north of downtown LA, you can still find the kind of small-town, family-owned businesses you usually don’t come across in the big city. And with 54% of residents born outside the United States, you’ll be lucky enough to enjoy a much more diverse array of food than in your average suburb.

Stop 1: La Goccia Espresso Bar

It was almost 11am when we stumbled into La Goccia Espresso Bar, making us excrutiatingly late for our first cup of coffee, and cranky as all hell. We ordered an Americano (caffeine, stat), a Cookies & Cream Latte (an interesting specialty) and a vanilla-infused iced coffee (the best of the three!) Although the man behind the counter was decidedly not Italian, the illy beans were. Quiet atmosphere and a wonderful selection of teas, too.

(101 N Brand Ave, Glendale)

Stop 2: Shopping on Brand Boulevard

We made sure to stop in to the some of the long-time, small business on the boulevard, including Laura’s Corset Shoppe and Brand Bookshop. Laura’s has been open since the 1920s, but has been owned by the most lovely lady named Haley for the past 27 years. She greeted us with a huge smile and talked about the special nature of her business – she specializes in bridal lingerie and bras for post-mastectomy patients. She sweetly asked if we might be interested in buying her business one day, as she explained that she never had a daughter and had nobody to which to bequeath her business. She was so earnest and darling, we’re seriously considering!

Although Brand Bookshop hasn’t been around quite as long as Laura’s, it opened its doors in 1985 and has managed to stick around, despite the great exodus of independently-owned bookstores in Los Angeles (and everywhere! OY.) This is one of the largest used bookshops in Southern California, and has a little bit of everything: erotica, poetry, history, interior design, you name it.

Stop 3: Sipan Bakery

With our caffeine fix satiated, it was time to take care of our growling stomachs. Sipan Bakery is a neighborhood gem, serving up some of the most fabulous and flavorful Middle Eastern baked goods in Los Angeles. The space is small and intimate – and a little warm (the brick oven, where you can watch your maneishe being made, sits on the right-hand side of the room).

Everything is fresh, and the owner is incredibly friendly (and funny! Lots of sauna jokes). We ordered the muhammarajune, a spicy cheese beorek (flaky, fried pastry with filling) and maneishe zahtar (basically a flatbread blanketed with the zahtar spice) – the dough used for their pastries is just delicious, and the hot sauce that was served on the side knocked our socks off. The bill – with 2 drinks! – came to just $10. DO NOT MISS.

(1250 W Glenoaks Blvd, Glendale)

Stop 4: Golden Road Brewery

One of our dearest friends was celebrating her 30th birthday at Golden Roads, and it was the perfect Southern Californian sunny day when we showed up mid-afternoon for some craft-beer-tasting and outdoor game-playing. This funky brew house opened in 2011, and is located in an industrial part of town, right next to the train tracks (note: you are supposed to raise a glass every time a train chugs by).

The place was jumping on a Saturday, with a great mix of 20 and 30-somethings, along with a host of young families in the shaded outdoor area. The food is solid, if not spectacular, and they serve an array of vegan and vegetarian options. We tried the Point the Way IPA, the Get Up Offa That Brown ale, and the Golden Road Hefeweizen, among others. The bartenders knew their stuff, and the game of Corn Hole really made for a spectacular afternoon.

(5410 W San Fernando Road, Glendale)

Stop 5: Brand Park

Brand Park is so much more than a park. Nestled on 31 acres, this gorgeous space is home to a brand new library, picnic areas, a softball field, and biking trails. Our favorite part – by far! – was the Whispering Pine Tea house and Friendship garden, a serene and perfectly manicured pocket of greenery in the corner of the park. We watched guests arrive for a small wedding overlooking the pond, and then wandered out to the barbecue area, taking in the Sunday smells of grilled meat and freshly cut grass. A perfect spot for pretty much everyone.

(1601 W Mountain Street, Glendale)

Stop 6: Mini Kabob

We’re not sure if you truly understand the term “hole-in-the-wall” until you visit Mini Kabob, a tiny joint with only 3 tables and decor that hasn’t changed in decades. We were greeted by the most adorable Armenian couple (the Martirosyans), who chatted with us about the Russian language and their world-renowed falafel.

We ordered the chicken kebab plate, hommus, falafel and eggplant caviar. The chicken was perfectly seared, slightly smokey and deliciously juicy. And Mr. Martirosyan was right about the falafel: it was one of the fluffiest we’ve ever tasted. We left feeling like old friends of the place, and already daydreaming about our next meal there.

Insider’s Tip: Cash only!

(313 Vine Street, Glendale)

The Details:

We did a lot of walking on our Glendale day, although some spots were far enough to warrant the use of a car. You can rent bicycles here.

A map of our day looks like this:

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