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Niche shops, toy stores, and outdoor cafés take root in the classic San Fernando Valley neighborhood
It’s been 25 years since Frank and Moon Unit Zappa memorialized Encino as “like, so bitchen” in the hit song “Valley Girl.” Despite the influx of big-box stores, the community retains much of its retro Valley charm: Citrus trees dot suburban yards, kids are the accessory of choice, and joggers pound the sidewalks. These days a new group of ethnic restaurants and specialty boutiques are joining the mom-and-pop shops along Ventura Boulevard, making for a harmonious mix of young and old.
1. Tapia Brothers
A roadside farm stand that sells fruits, vegetables, and flowers is a fun place to bring the kids, who can visit with the chickens and goats or pick through the great pumpkin patch in the fall. Come spring, tomato lovers flock here to choose from hundreds of plant varieties. » 5251 Hayvenhurst Ave., 818-905-6155.
Photograph by Elon Schoenholz
2. Gregory’s Toys
Alongside the store’s mini choo-choo train and interactive princess castle are handcrafted Melissa & Doug puzzles, kid-size brooms, dress-up sets, Bruder trucks, and lots of paints, pads, and crafts for young artists. You can also purchase tickets for the popular merry-go-round just outside. » 16101 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 135, 818-906-2212.
3. Blush, a Trendy Boutique
Any place that calls itself trendy usually isn’t. But this shop carries spot-on seasonal fashions—flirty dresses, girly tees, funky skirts—all priced below $100. New stock arrives each Wednesday, and owner Sherry Thomas-Blaka can show you which tank to layer under that stylish jumper. » 16101 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 220, 818-788-3893.
4. A Mother’s Haven
This cheery boutique stocks the essentials for those first sleepless months with the new baby, including nursing bras, slings, burp cloths, pacifiers, toys, and onesies. Moms can also take classes on infant massage and sign language for tots. » 15928 Ventura Blvd., 818-380-3111.
This Italian deli’s friendly staff is enough to draw you in, but the hefty subs on house-baked rolls might make you a regular. Pick up homemade caponata, frozen ravioli, and imported pastas, olive oils, and other pantry staples. For dessert, head two doors east to Nicolosi, where you’ll find the area’s best cookies. » 17548 Ventura Blvd., 818-981-4466.
Israel meets the SFV at this popular Mediterranean restaurant with patio. We’re partial to the batata salad with fried sweet potato, and the mint lemonade is perfect for scorcher summer days. Tasty baked goods like pizzas and melawach (a Yemeni bread) come out of the woodburning oven. » 18047 Ventura Blvd., 818-757-0477.
For 61 years this Valley institution has been dressing up boys and young men. The store specializes in Italian suits and elegant shirts, ties, and belts. » 17037 Ventura Blvd., 818-788-9170.
The supreme shop for runners carries shoes from Brooks, Saucony, Asics, and Nike. There are also reflective vests for nighttime and predawn jogs, metatarsal lifts, and Nip Guards. » 16545 Ventura Blvd., 818-986-8686.
Photograph by Elon Schoenholz
9. Sepulveda Basin
This 2,000-acre recreation area, which straddles Encino and Van Nuys, is home to the Anthony C. Beilenson Park and its centerpiece, Lake Balboa. The grounds—designed for flood control—also feature three public golf courses, a model airplane field, a cricket court, an archery range, a velodrome, a dog park, and a lovely Japanese garden. » Burbank and Balboa Blvds.