Locals Choice 2013

And the Winner Is… More than 30,000 votes were cast for Ventura Blvd’s 2013 Locals’ Choice contest. Readers weighed in on their favorites in 40 categories—everything from tastiest sushi to friendliest bartenders. Discover the very best of our community on the following pages.   Retail BEST HOME DECOR ALDIK HOME Aldik is known for stocking […]

And the Winner Is…

More than 30,000 votes were cast for Ventura Blvd’s 2013 Locals’ Choice contest. Readers weighed in on their favorites in 40 categories—everything from tastiest sushi to friendliest bartenders. Discover the very best of our community on the following pages.

 

Retail

BEST HOME DECOR

ALDIK HOME

Aldik is known for stocking unbelievably real looking, high-end artificial trees and flowers, but shoppers also come here for unique accessories. The warehouse-size facility is jam-packed with ideas to spruce up the home—whether you are looking to create a faux succulent patio wall or an intimate, color-coordinated bedroom bouquet. Don’t miss their Christmas boutique.

7651 Sepulveda Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-988-5970, aldikhome.com
Finalists: Bedfellows, Dwell Floor Five, Mitchell Litt Home Furnishings, Rapport International Furniture

 

BEST GROOMER

SAM’S GREEN PAW

Everyone seems to be grinning at this spacious facility—the front desk folks, the day care area workers, the groomers—even the furry clients! Sam’s Green Paw is one of the only LED-certified animal care centers in the Valley—from the lead-free wall paint to the biodegradable shampoo to the state-of-the-art HVAC air filtration system. And unlike many “green” things, there’s no premium. Rates are on par with other facilities. And that makes pet owners smile.

11450 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-754-0900, samsgreenpaw.com
Finalists: K9s Only, Kriser’s, Pride ‘N Joy Pet Grooming, The Barking Lot Dog Grooming

 

BEST JEWELRY

POLACHECK’S JEWELERS

Browse among the glass cases at Polacheck’s and you’ll quickly note that it’s not your average jewelry store. Sure, they have a lot of sparkling diamonds and stunning gemstones, but there is a certain sophistication and elegance to the designs you just don’t see elsewhere. And their watch selection, for both men and women, is exquisite.

4719 Commons Way, Calabasas, 818-225-0600, polachecks.com
Finalists: Dejaun Jewelers, Harrisons Jewelry & Gifts, Matthew’s Jewelry Store

WOMEN’S BOUTIQUE

Stacey Todd

Retailer Stacey Todd caters to the chic, sophisticated women of the Valley (and some who come over from the other side of the hill!)
—women smart enough to know that less is more and that accessories are the key to upping the ante on any outfit. The shop carries high-end brands you don’t see elsewhere, like French designer Isabel Marant. Fashionistas also love her dazzling array of high-end footwear and jewelry.

13025 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-981-7567

Finalists: Billy’s, Dari, Jane, Jill Roberts

 

MEN’S SHOP

SY DEVORE

This boutique, which earned fame as the place where several of the Rat Pack members got attired, has been around for decades and there is a reason for its staying power. The bright, sunny space stocks casual menswear and shoes, including  Donald J. Pliner and John Varvatos. Two traditions since the ‘60s—an on-site tailor and a stocked bar—continue. Customer service has also remains top-notch.

12930 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-783-2700, sydevore.com

Finalists: Neiman Marcus, M. Fredric, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales

GIFT STORE

HENRY ROAD

This delightful shop, which moved to its new, larger location on the Boulevard this past spring, stocks an eclectic, interesting assortment of affordable items including coffee table books, jewelry, pillows (some covered in the owner’s own custom-designed fabric) and objets d’art. Some are whimsical; some are true collectibles. Henry Road is one of those “the more you look, the more you’ll love” stores whether you’re shopping for a wedding or hostess gift.

12240½ Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-762-8966, henryroad.com

Finalists: A State of Mind, Aum & Garden, Presence, Voyage et Cie

KIDS STORE

TOUGH COOKIES

This festive children’s boutique takes the Locals’ Choice award for the second year in a row. It offers a wide assortment of hip duds for the younger set—from newborns to 14-year-old boys and girls. Budding fashionistas enjoy unique brands, including T2 Love, Monster Republic and Joe’s Jeans. More often than not, you’ll find the owner, Shannon, behind the counter. She makes a habit of helping customers get exactly what they came for.

13638 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-0972, shoptoughcookies.com

Finalists: M. Fredric, Meant 2 Be, Un Deux Trois

NURSERY

SPERLING NURSERY

Whether you have a green thumb or are just hunting for some simple annuals, Sperling Nursery is a joy to visit. Filled with colorful, pristine plants easily identified by the large labels on the shelves (as opposed to having to find the tiny, white plastic card stuck in the soil), you’ll have a ball strolling the 11 acres of outdoor aisles. Don’t miss the quaint garden/gift shop inside.

24460 Calabasas Rd., Calabasas, 818-591-9111, sperlingnursery.com

Finalists: Green Arrow Nurseries, West Valley Nursery

 

Services

DRY CLEANER/TAILOR

STEAMER CLEANERS

This dry cleaner was rebuilt after a destructive fire a few years back. With modern, much fancier digs, the facility is open seven days a week and offers customers several “bells and whistles.” The super-clean space has a TV, coffee, candy and fresh popcorn on-site. Patrons say there is simply nothing Steamer’s tailor, Jerry, can’t do.

13646 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-906-2345, steamercleaners.com

Finalists: Encino Center Cleaners, Encino Dry Cleaners, Hill Top Cleaners, Milt & Edie’s Drycleaners

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS (PRIVATE)

CAMBELL HALL

Campbell Hall has long been known for its boys basketball program. It’s won several CIF and state championships over the past decade and has been the training ground for NBA players like Jrue Holiday and Justin Holiday. However it’s the girls tennis program that’s been making headlines in recent years. The girls tennis team has won   Division 1 Championships three of the last four years. And last year girls basketball won the CIF Championship—the first in Campbell Hall’s history.

4533 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Studio City, 818-980-7280, campbellhall.org

Finalists: Chaminade College Preparatory, Crespi Carmelite High School, Harvard-Westlake School, Notre Dame High School, Viewpoint School

KIDS HAIRCUTS

THE YELLOW BALLOON

Cutting kiddie hair can be tricky—if not downright unpleasant. But the stylists here have a unique skill set. They deftly snip away, whether your child is staring off into oblivion or howling his head off. An absolute must for baby’s first haircut. You’ll leave with a framed picture of the happy event, a certificate and a lock of hair all ready to be tossed in the memory box at home. Too bad other milestones can’t be this easy.

12448 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-760-7141, theyellowballoon.com

Finalists: Carmen’s Barber Shop, Floyd’s 99 Barbershop, SportClips, Outlaw By Jazz Barbershop and Salon

GYM

LA FITNESS

This impressive, brand-new facility sports everything a gym rat could want: state-of-the-art machines, indoor pool, racquetball courts, group fitness room, sauna, spa, kids club and a juice bar. Housed in a humongous facility, members can avoid that musty, claustrophobic gym feel found at many large, chain facilities. Classes are comprehensive, from Zumba to kickboxing.

6161 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, 818-988-7411, lafitness.com

Finalists: Arena Fitness, Equinox, Pulse Fitness Studio, Total Woman Gym and Day Spa

PILATES STUDIO

PILATE-OLOGY

Run by two women (both named Amy), this Pilates studio is known for its fun, upbeat trainers and wide selection of classes. The workout here focuses on “circuit training Pilates classes” aimed at giving clients strength training, cardio and traditional Pilates. Pilate-ology offers more than 50 group reformer classes per week as well as private and duet sessions. There’s a certain positive vibe here that indisputably puts Pilate-ology over the edge.

13630 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-501-5858, pilate-ology.com

Finalists: i heart fitness XO, Pilates Plus, Pilates Sports Center, Pure Pilates

YOGA

BLACK DOG YOGA

There’s a lot to love about the Hatha-oriented Black Dog, with nearly 100 classes a week and 30 teachers. Some classes are traditional; others are taught to rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop music. Yoga lovers are also attracted to the spacious, above-ground free parking lot and socially conscious owners. A portion of the proceeds from some classes goes toward local charities.

4454 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-330-0331, blackdogyoga.com

Finalists: InYoga Center, Rising Lotus, Yoga Shelter, YogaWorks

VET

STUDIO CITY ANIMAL HOSPITAL

Treating a veritable Noah’s Ark of animals (an exotic animal vet is on staff), Studio City Animal Hospital is revered by clients. Pets are treated with gentleness and respect, and doctors, readers tell us, are known for their compassion and well thought-out decisions. Pets can be an important part of a family—and they know it.

11800 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-769-1338, studiocityanimalhospital.com

Finalists: Encino Veterinary Clinic, Limehouse Veterinary Clinic of Holistic Medicine, Sherman Oaks Veterinary Group, Tarzana Pet Clinic

 

Food & Drink

BARTENDERS

THE FEDERAL

What makes a great bartender? Regulars at The Federal are quick to point out a positive attitude and bartenders who actually like their jobs. This freestanding, two-story brick building houses four separate bars. Whether it’s their “on-the-side gig” or primary job, bartenders here have infectious smiles and go out of their way to make patrons feel relaxed and at home. Attention bartenders everywhere: It’s okay to be nice—it can even garner an award!

5303 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-980-2555, thefederalbar.com

Finalists: Black Market Liquor Bar, Boneyard Bistro, Larsen’s Steakhouse, Laurel Tavern, The Local Peasant

STEAK

MORTONS’S STEAKHOUSE

Let’s face it—there’s nothing more satisfying than ordering a brilliantly icy vodka martini followed by a creamy cup of lobster bisque capped off by a perfectly cooked Cajun rib eye. And there lies the beauty of this carnivore emporium: It simply delivers. For the coup de grâce, order the Grand Marnier soufflé. Order it as soon as you sit down; it takes time to achieve its knee-weakening perfection.

3400 W. Olive Ave., Burbank, 818-238-0424, mortons.com/burbank

Finalists: Fleming’s Steakhouse, Kate Mantilini, Larsen’s Steakhouse, The SmokeHouse

BREAKFAST

JINKY’S CAFE´

Last year this popular spot won Best Kids Breakfast, but this year, they take the whole kit and caboodle. Jinky’s serves simple, no-frills, homemade fare in a no-muss, no-fuss vibe that simply rocks. The chocolate chip pancakes are to die for. Omelets are fresh and perfectly cooked. Vegan and gluten-free fare is also available.

14120 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-981-2250, jinkys.com

Finalists: Art’s Delicatessen & Restaurant, Cici’s Café, Crave Café, Sweet Butter Kitchen

SUSHI

KATSU-YA

This emporium may be part of a chain, but it remains adored by sushi connaiseurs, mostly due to its consistency and large portions. The well priced Katsu-ya plate, for either lunch or dinner, is a favorite; it combines a sampling of all of Katsu-ya’s signature dishes. Fans speak in reverently hushed tones when describing a few of the famous entrees: Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice, Albacore with Crispy Onions, Baked Crab Roll and Rock Shrimp Tempura.

16542 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-788-2396, katsu-yagroup.com

Finalists: Asanebo, Iroha Sushi of Tokyo, Kiwami Restaurant, Sushi Yuzu

OUTDOOR DINING

FIREFLY

Emerald green ivy cascading down the hillside lit by amber-colored lanterns. Sounds like a vacation destination, but it’s actually close to home … at Firefly. Candlelight, fireplaces, Moroccan shades and cabanas swathed in drapes set a romantic scene. Open only for dinner, Firefly caters to the hip single set (restrooms are unisex)  and date-night couples. The mussels and fried olives are legendary.

11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-762-1833, fireflystudiocity.com

Finalists: Bow & Truss, Ca’Del Sole, La Loggia, Stanley’s Restaurant, Sweet Butter Kitchen

YOGURT

MENCHIE’S

This Valley-based chain may have gone global, but their high standards remain intact at each of the four local branches, including this one. This year the shop on the Boulevard near Woodley in Encino wins honors. Customers love being able to serve themselves from the “fixin’s bar” with its ample supply of candy, crunchies and fresh fruit. Flavors constantly rotate, so the palate stays entertained.

16027 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-708-0316, menchies.com

Finalists: Chill, Groovy Spoon, Yogen Früz, Yogurtland

PIZZA

VITELLOS’S EXPRESS

What do you get when you marry the best of Italy and Greece? No, not a Luciano Pavarotti/Arianna Huffington love child but the Italian/Greek pizza at Vitello’s Express. The killer pie here is the pizzeria’s Greek version—a mind-bending pile of Mediterranean yumminess. Another signature dish: the ultra thin-crusted Pizetti, which is best devoured right outta the oven. They make their dough fresh every day.

13702 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-788-5005, vitellosexpress.com

Finalists: Mulberry Street Pizza, On The Thirty, Pizza Rev, Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill

HEALTHY FARE

HUGO'S RESTAURANT

Hugo’s, for the second year in a row, takes top honors in this category. It is a simply strategy: The food is scrumptious, and it’s actually good for you. Whether you are a Celiac sufferer or you just watch what you eat, this is healthy gourmet fare at its best—from pancakes (almond energy or blueberry … we’re talkin’ eyes-roll-back-in-your-head flavor) to the phenomenally fresh, veggie-stuffed omelets. Excellent selection of teas too.

12851 Riverside Dr., Studio City, 818-761-8985, hugosrestaurant.com

Finalists: Madeleine Bistro, SunCafé Organic Cuisine, Vegan Plate, Veggie Grill

TACOS

HUGO’S TACOS

There’s a reason why one of the biggest celebrity-spotting places in the Valley is Hugo’s Taco’s. (Recent sighting: Ryan Gosling!) Hugo’s serves up mouthwatering, perfectly dressed tacos every time. The white beans are pipin’ hot, and the guacamole is perfectly seasoned. Snag one of the few parking spaces, grab a table on the patio (only outdoor dining here) and people watch while you munch.

4749 Coldwater Canyon Ave Studio City, 818-762-7771, hugostacos.com

Finalists: El Tapatio Markets, Henry’s Tacos, La Fogata Mexican Restaurant, Loteria Grill

ITALIAN

VITELLOS’S RESTAURANT

A stunning makeover recently transformed this traditional Italian eatery from a neighborhood joint to an airy, modern, happenin’ trattoria. We particularly love the Chicken Picatta, the super thin-crusted Margherita pizza and the Eggplant Parmigiana —and the general consensus is that their chopped salad rivals La Scala’s. The best part? You can make a night of it here. After your cannoli, head to Upstairs at Vitello’s for live jazz.

4349 Tujunga Ave, Studio City, 818-769-0905, vitellosrestaurant.com

Finalists: Ca’Del Sole, Firenze Osteria, La Cava, La Pergola Ristorante

NEW RESTAURANT

TUNING FORK GASTROPUB

With a focus on fresh, local, seasonal fare, Tuning Fork is a great place to bring the entire family or meet a bunch of friends and hang out. We love the cozy location—just off the Boulevard where the Sunday Studio City Farmers Market is. Nice lighting, big windows so you can look out into the street and comfy booths are other pluses. The perfectly cooked mushroom truffle burger on a fluffy brioche bun and the mac ‘n’ cheese are high points. Thoughtful selection of craft beer and wines as well.

12051 Ventura Place, Studio City, 818-623-0734, tuningforkgastropub.com

Finalists: On The Thirty, Peasant Wine Bistro, Spoonful

WINE SELECTION

VENDOME

A trip to Vendome is almost as good as heading to Napa. You can sip and swish to your heart’s desire. Wine tastings are held Friday and Saturday evenings, or you can give them a call to schedule your own private event. In addition to the expansive selection of wines, there’s also an impressive list of beer and spirits. The knowledgeable staff is friendly and down-to-earth; they’ll go to just as great a length to help you get a $15 bottle as a $50 bottle.

11555 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-766-5272, vendomes.com

Finalists: Duke Of Bourbon, Flask Fine Wines, Total Wine, Woodland Hills Wine Company

DIVE BAR

THE FOX AND HOUNDS

If you’re into British cuisine (no, it’s not an oxymoron), cool, frothy pints and all things pubby, this is your place. Refreshingly, The Fox and Hounds isn’t trying to be your local dive bar. It just is. With 16 imported beers on tap, five different ciders, 11 HD TVs, heated outdoor seating and live weekend music, it’s a place you can stay all night. Regulars rave about the Monday and Wednesday Trivia Nights.

11100 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-763-7837, thefoxandhounds.com

Finalists: Foxfire Room, Ireland’s 32, Springbok Bar & Grill, The White Harte Pub

ROMANTIC RENDEZVOUS

INN OF THE SEVENTH RAY

When you want to relax and linger over a meal and savor your partner, nothing beats this secluded, elegant spot. With a bouquet of wildflowers on each table, this rustic Topanga hideaway was made for lovers. Tables are far enough away for private conversation, and you can hear the nearby creek trickling. The California cuisine menu, comprised of locally sourced goods, is modern, thoughtful and tasty. Try the rack of lamb or the Vegan Love Fest.

128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd., Topanga, 310-455-1311, innoftheseventhray.com

Finalists: Artisan Cheese Gallery, Firefly, Raphael, Upstairs at Vitello’s

DRAFT BEER SELECTION

BLUE DOG BEER TAVERN

Blue Dog opened four years ago, but since day one it has fit like a comfy old shoe. Both chill and bustling, it’s a craft beer lover’s paradise with selections meticulously chosen by the owners. Their carefully culled “Permanent” list was chosen after taste-testing hundreds of craft beers from across the globe and getting customer input. There’s also a rotating selection that focuses on seasonal flavors as well as up-and-coming breweries. 4524 Saugus Ave., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2583, bluedogbeertavern.com

Finalists: Boneyard Bistro, Laurel Tavern, Stout Burgers & Beers, Tony’s Darts Away

 

BURGER

THE STAND

This family-owned and operated eatery is often packed with Little Leaguers noshing on hot dogs, but true foodies know not to miss the burger. The five-star burger here, in our opinion, is “The Chimmy.” A generous portion of perfectly grilled, top-quality meat topped with a homemade, zesty, herb-infused Chimichurri slaw. A super-soft bun with a hint of cilantro-lime aioli is the icing on the cake. The best part? At a bargain $7.75, it’s plenty for two.

17000 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-788-2700, thestandlink.com

Finalists: Blue Dog Beer Tavern, The Local Peasant, Stout Burgers & Beers, The Six Restaurant, Umami Burger

SANDWICH

Il TRAMEZZINO

Though Il Tramezzino has tasty pasta dishes and crisp salads, most folks come here for the sandwiches. The most popular are the Grilled Breast of Chicken, filled with sun-dried tomato and avocado, and the arugula-laced Sicilian. Regulars love the fact that you can get a half-sandwich with a soup or salad. On a pretty day, take your delicacies outside to the pretty patio to watch all the pretty ladies heading to the chic boutiques nearby.

13031 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-784-2244, iltramezzino.com

Finalists: Artisan Cheese Gallery, Art’s Delicatessen & Restaurant, The Carving Board, Jerry’s Famous Deli, Jersey Mike’s Subs

HAPPY HOUR

Casa Vega RESTAURANT

It’s late afternoon, and you’ve been fighting freeway traffic. You’re parched, hungry and you need your happy back. Help is just an exit ramp away in a low-slung, white adobe building that’s been on the Boulevard for more than 50 years. You walk inside and up to the bar. The Casa Margarita (Ventura Blvd’s Locals’ Choice 2012 winner) is only $4.95 til 7 p.m. The famous Lobster Quesadilla and the Queso Fundido dip are both half price. All the appetizers are 50% off ‘til 7 p.m. Before you know it, your happy is back.

13301 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-788-4868, casavega.com

Finalists: Mad Bull’s Tavern, River Rock Lounge, Rocco’s Tavern, Spoonful Restaurant

JUICE BAR

PRESSES JUICERY

This juice bar, one of several that has popped up along the Boulevard in the past year, serves delicious beverages with clever ingredient combinations. Where else can you get an 8-ounce bottle of juice ($7 each) with cucumber, pineapple, lemon, coconut and aloe vera? Their drinks (made with cold-pressed juice, which is apparently healthier) are blended daily and can be personalized. Pick them up at the shop or order online and have them delivered to your doorstep.

13033B Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-784-8255, pressedjuicery.com

Finalists: Juicy Ladies, SunCafé Organic Cuisine, Totes Juices

 

Beauty

HAIR SALON

BUTTERFLY LOFT & SALON

In increasing numbers, Valley women—used to driving over the hill to beautify tresses—are staying put. For many, this salon is why. The stylists here rival the fanciest names on the Westside (trust us, we’ve slid down that pricey hole numerous times), and the location can’t be beat. The airy, light-filled space is adorned with pretty paintings—making patrons feel like they’re about to get a docent-led tour rather than roots dyed. And forget about the pricey valet charge. Park in the ample lot yourself … get this: for free.

17401 Ventura Boulevard, Suite B19, Encino, 818-386-1100, butterflyloft.com

Finalists: Capella Salon, Onyx Salon, Salon Sin É, Salon True

MED SPA

BLUE MEDI SPA

The attraction of this second-year-in-a-row winner is simple: It’s one-stop shopping for the latest beautification treatments, from lasers to fillers. The ultra-modern, immaculate facility offers a friendly, professional staff. Most clients request appointments with favorites. There is also an excellent brow shaper on staff, who was trained by Beverly Hills’ Anastasia.

14622 Ventura Blvd., #118 Sherman Oaks, 818-783-3600, bluemedispa.com

Finalists: Belle Visage, Kalologie, A E Skin

NAIL SALON

HANDS TO HOLD

Along with its wide selection of (mostly OPI) polish colors and a staff that remembers personal preferences, Hands to Hold is known for its focus on cleanliness. Regulars love the “personal box” amenity; they’ll set aside a box of utensils under your name, used only for you, at no extra charge. Make an appointment for the weekends or be prepared to wait.

17401 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-986-5867, handstohold.net

Finalists: bellacures, Chinois Beauty Bar, Cozy Toes Nail Spa, Nail Garden

DAY SPA

DTOX DAY SPA

Dtox Day Spa has a cozy, intimate feel with a big spa menu of amenities. Its zen-tastic vibe, yummy snacks and co-ed dry sauna and eucalyptus steam room are nothing short of addictive. The five-star treatment here is the Signature Experience Massage: hot stones, aromatherapy oil, sea salt/butter foot scrub and a warm oil scalp treatment.

17401 Ventura Blvd., Courtyard B-13, Encino, 818-574-3700, dtoxdayspa.com

Finalists: Glow Skincare, Burke Williams Day Spa, Nadia Thibault Massage Masters