Over the past year, we’ve said goodbye to too many restaurants. But despite the challenges, some restaurateurs have continued with their plans to open in the Valley. Here are seven of the most promising newcomers
A sandwich from Hank’s Bagels
Dave’s Hot Chicken
Four longtime friends caught fire with their Nashville-style hot chicken concept, which started underground in East Hollywood and sprouted nine Southern California locations and outposts as far away as Toronto. Their Sherman Oaks location (where Baja Fresh used to be) is scheduled to open in May and promises to deliver their one-two punch of spicy chicken breast tenders or sliders dressed with Dave’s sauce (chili-spiked mayo). The biggest decision for diners: whether to start with “lite mild” spice or crank up the heat to “reaper” level. Add American cheese to help to dull the delicious pain. Sides include mac and cheese, kale slaw and crinkle-cut fries.
14622 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks | daveshotchicken.com
Chef Trevor Faris and wife Kelley have built on the success of their Burbank outpost with a larger Sherman Oaks flagship at the former site of Blvd Kitchen. An open kitchen provides views of the bagel-making process in their “deli of sorts,” as they refer to it. Properly chewy bagels come in classic flavors like cinnamon raisin and sesame, plus nouveau offerings like rosemary sea salt and “everything” jalapeño cheese with a blizzard of flakes, salts and seeds. Bagels are available scooped or toasted, slathered with assorted cream cheeses and on sandwiches such as the Number 3 starring house-made gravlax. They also make terrific spicy maple-glazed bacon that goes well on almost anything, and they even added Friday challah. Order online pickup to avoid the lines on weekends.
13545 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks | hanksbagels.com
Hot and Cool North
The partners behind Leimert Park’s Hot and Cool Café have carved out a colorful, welcoming space at the base of the eco-friendly, mixed-use VERT complex in a cul-de-sac near Westfield Topanga mall. A whimsical outdoor seating area touts giant orange metal flowers and tree-slab benches. Specialty beverages are similarly delightful, including sour cherry lemonade and a Barry White latte made with espresso, white chocolate, blackberry, maple syrup and milk. Even their lemonade is unique, made with cherry rose great tea and agave. They also offer wraps and bake chocolate chip scones, pecan blondies and berry cobbler bars in-house.
6606 Variel Ave., Canoga Park | hotandcoolcafe.com
Khachapuri flatbread at Mazza Modern Kitchen
Photographed by SmallFoodBigPlate Photography
Mazza Modern Kitchen
This restaurant’s partners are from Russia and Uzbekistan and the chef is Lithuanian, resulting in a menu with classic dishes from the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. At Mazza’s stylish indoor-outdoor space on the second floor of the mall complex at Ventura Boulevard and Laurel Canyon, Florentine khachapuri is an Italian play on the pull-apart, boat-shaped Georgian flatbread featuring molten mozzarella, soft egg, braised leeks and more in a sesame seed crust. Mantee are large, pepper-dusted, Uzbek-style lamb dumplings served with tangy cucumber labneh and the chunky Moroccan tomato sauce, matbucha. Plov is nearly as fun to say as it is to eat: well-spiced Uzbek rice pilaf tossed with lamb, carrots and roasted garlic.
12050 Ventura Blvd., Studio City | mazzakitchenla.com
Obay Lebanese Cuisine
Obay Alnajad’s new homestyle Lebanese restaurant in a busy Encino strip mall specializes in shawarma. Spinning spits behind the counter roast stacked chicken thighs and beef chuck roast that both get beautifully crusty from the flames before they’re finely chopped. Obay’s shawarma works best in plates with fluffy rice pilaf, hummus and salad. They also grill luscious lamb chops and other kebabs, serve supple falafel with nutty tahini sauce and rotate daily dishes like stuffed cabbage. Don’t leave Obay’s house without trying their house-baked baklava, either the delicate walnut and pistachio squares or cashew-filled fingers.
17334 Ventura Blvd., Encino | obaycuisine.com
Above: The scene and some goodies from Sugar Taco
This plant-based Mexican restaurant from a group of owners that include actresses, models and influencers builds on the momentum of a Melrose Avenue location. Their mission statement: “Saving the world one taco at a time.” Salvation isn’t guaranteed, but the partners clearly know how to have fun. The Sherman Oaks spinoff features bold colors, cactus-filled planters and a wall of blue cans filled with pink and purple artificial flowers. Tacos, nachos, quesadillas and burritos come with a choice of plant proteins like seitan “carne asada,” soybean “pollo” and shredded jackfruit “carnitas.” Margaritas also factor into daily festivities, including passion fruit and ghost pepper versions. A case by the register harbors final temptations, particularly pillowy churro donuts.
15025 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks | sugartaco.com
Terra e Mare Ristorante
A fish and bull logo paints just two parts of the picture at this surf-and-turf Italian restaurant from the owner of Pagliacci in Studio City. It replaces The Bellwether. It’s a toss-up whether it’s best to sit on the covered patio, in a semiprivate banquette or at the high-energy counter facing an open kitchen. That decision probably just comes down to the occasion. House-made pasta is a draw, especially chitarra tossed with lobster or clams and saffron. Stay true to terra (the earth) by ordering a tomahawk steak with roasted potatoes for two, or wade into the mare (sea) with Tuscan-style cioppino.
13251 Ventura Blvd., Studio City | terraemareristorante.com