Looking for really good Mom & Pop shop-type restaurants generally found tucked away in strip malls (although strip mall not absolutely required if you have a good place!).
I'll start off with a little Portuguese Bakery (or so I thought). It's called Natas Pastries at 13317 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks (right next door to Casa Vega) A couple of tables outside, but not being a bakery person, I never paid much attention. From the outside it looks like a casual cafe for breakfast and lunch, but then driving by there was a sign that said $10 dinner specials. Now I was curious so I checked it out.
As you approach, all you see is basically a tiny little shop with a bakery case (and the pastries all look terrific -- but as I said, I'm not a bakery person), but THEN low and behold, through an archway to the left, the cutest little dining room!! Done beautifully with Portuguese tile, I was SHOCKED at what a great little dining room this was. And fairly elegant for what appeared to be a little cafe.
I had the $10 special (also available at lunch) which was half a chicken, salad and baked fries. The fries were actually rosoemary red skin potatoes that were cubed; not fries at all and they were not very good....too much oil and not cooked in a hot enough oven to get crispy. But the chicken was good and the salad, typical side salad stuff. The toasted homemade bread in the basket was exceptional however; and a neighboring table was slurping down a Portuguese vegetable soup that certainly looked very good. Menu items are intersting and large entrees ranged between $12 - $16. So while I can't say it's a home run on exceptional food quality yet....the jury is still out, I'll definately go back and try other things on the menu. The ambiance was certainly wonderful. Beer and wine are available.
And on the other hand, went to a little pizza place that looked like it could be a gem, Santino's NY Pizza on Woodman (jusst in from the corner of Ventura) and it was AWFUL! Now we did NOT order pizza and after seeing reviews on other sites, maybe this is the only thing they can do (but a lot of complaints on the pizza front too). We had a ceasar salad that was basically a bowl of romaine lettuce with crutons that tasted like they came out of a box at Ralph's. Totally worthless. I ordered eggplant parmesian...there was no parmesian! A few slices of breaded eggplant (dry!!!) sitting on a pile of spagetti with red sauce. The red sauce was ok, but the eggplant is clearly held on the side so it can either go on a plate or on a bun. My husband's chicken parmesian was dry and partially burned as were the cookies in the case on the counter. Santino clearly has no sense of quality, I think he'll just shovel anyting out to unsuspecting custoemrs. So ignore all the celebrity photos on the wall and avoid this place!
Let's hear what the other hounds have to say!! Let's find some great places!!!