Hidden Gem

Toluca Lake, with its combination of smalltown charm and chic new eateries, morphs into a bustling, popular hub.

​Toluca Lake used to be known as the home of Bob Hope (priced at $12 million, his five-acre compound is on the market) and the location of the exclusive Lakeside Golf Club where you can see A-list celebs like Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine on the greens. But the enclave, which boasts a lake complete with ducks, fountains and boating, has undergone a fancy face-lift in recent years—and the rest of LA seems to be taking note.

Situated on a 1.22-square-mile tract with proximity to four major studios, home prices are below those on the Westside—luring celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Steve Carell and Melissa McCarthy over the hill to buy property.

Bob’s Big Boy and the Trader Joe’s used to be the only places you’d find a full parking lot, but a slew of exciting eateries have popped up along main drag Riverside Drive.

Two restaurants, Sweetsalt (casual and small with tasty café fare) and Cascabel (gourmet Mexican tapas) were among the first to open their doors. Both are owned by Top Chef alum Alex Eusebio. More recently Foreman’s Tavern, owned by the same folks behind Laurel Tavern, settled into the old Lucy’s spot. Foreman’s offers woodfired smoked meats and an expansive selection of whiskey. Other newcomers: Catcher in the Rye, a literary-themed craft cocktail bar and Aeirloom, an organic bakery.

At the Rose and Sage boutique, Soraya, the owner, has a keen eye for stylish clothing and accessories that are mid-priced and attract moms as well as daughters.

At the far corner of town (technically in Burbank but just over the line), the jam-packed, bright and airy Olive & Thyme will remind you of Joan’s On Third (fyi—they too have a killer short rib sandwich). Order from the list of farm-fresh salads and sandwiches or prepared food-to-go.

Not everything is new. The diner Paty’s and Smoke House restaurant are longtime favorites among locals, Warner Bros. executives and celebrities. George Clooney stopped in to Smoke House so often when he was shooting the TV show ER that he named his company after the place. The eatery has been serving killer martinis and New York strip steaks (with the friendliest bartenders in the Valley) since 1946.