Valley Gems

The San Fernando Valley, to the northwest of downtown Los Angeles, encompasses over half of LA's acreage, plus outlying cities like Burbank and Calabasas; it's a sprawling, diverse place that offers roadworthy food lovers an abundance of good eating.

Ryan Forbes

The San Fernando Valley, to the northwest of downtown Los Angeles, encompasses over half of LA's acreage, plus outlying cities like Burbank and Calabasas; it's a sprawling, diverse place that offers roadworthy food lovers an abundance of good eating. If there's one food the Valley can claim as its own, it's sushi, and at the center of Studio City's renowned sushi strip is Katsu-Ya (11680 Ventura Boulevard; 818/985-6976; www.katsu-yagroup.com); chef Katsuya Uechi is now known for a chain of Philippe Starck-designed restaurants, but this humble original location is what inspired all the fuss: here, regulars crowd in for dishes like spicy tuna on crispy rice and strips of albacore with crunchy fried onions and a tangy shallot vinaigrette. At Tarzana's Hummus Bar and Grill (18743 Ventura Boulevard; 818/344-6606; www.hummusbargrill.com), bakers flatten balls of laffa dough and slide them into giant steel ovens; the flat bread accompanies the impressive spread of 12 Israeli salads including tabbouleh and a smoky baba ganouj. At the Saturday parking-lot barbecues at Burbank's Handy Market (2514 West Magnolia Boulevard; 818/848-2500; www.burbankshandymarket.com), beef tri-tip, chicken, and baby-back pork ribs get wrapped in foil and handed off to customers as quickly as more can be thrown on the hot grills. Peer into the kitchen at the Canoga Park branch of Carrillo's Mexican Deli (19744 Sherman Way; 818/887-6118), and you'll see women hand-forming the taqueria's chewy, fragrant corn tortillas, sold hot by the dozens, and also wrapped around tender carnitas. Decades before George Clooney named his production company after the spot (a favorite cocktail hangout), the Smoke House in Burbank (4420 West Lakeside Drive; 818/845-3731; www.smokehouse1946.com) was offering sizzling steaks, cheese bread, loaded baked potatoes, and stiff martinis, which come with a bonus carafe on the side. Gelato Bar in Tujunga Village (4342 1⁄2 Tujunga Avenue; 818/487-1717; www.gelatobar-la.com) crafts 24 flavors of its namesake frozen treat, including Spicy Chocolate, Blood Orange, and berry-cheesecake Frutti Ricotta; the colorful, Umbrian-inspired shop is run by Gail Silverton, sister of Nancy Silverton, of LA's acclaimed Pizzeria Mozza. —Lesley Bargar Suter, dining editor for _Los Angeles magazine_