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Blink and you might miss this tiny enclave, which straddles L.A. and Burbank. It’s worth a longer look
The homes and yards are showy, dotted in places with old walnut trees; in the 1890s, Nevada mining mogul Charles Forman planted his Valley ranch with orchards and named it Toluca after the Paiute word for “fertile.” By the late 1920s, Toluca Lake was on its way to becoming a bedroom community for nearby Warner Bros. and Universal Studios. Celebrity residents abound; among them was Bob Hope, whose widow, Dolores, still lives in the family compound. Shoppers can easily walk the retail strip on Riverside Drive, but there’s no public access to the namesake lake; it’s been surrounded by private homes for decades.
The always packed spot has many specials: fried Japanese eggplant with a shrimp and scallop medley, grilled lotus root with ground chicken skewers. But there’s nothing wrong with going right to the impeccably fresh sushi. The blue crab hand roll rivals the legendary version at Sasabune. » 10118 Riverside Dr., 818-763-8355.
2. Sweetsalt Food Shop
At his sandwich-and-salads place, chef Alex Eusebio plays matchmaker with meat and cheese—serrano ham with Brie, chorizo with manchego, duck confit with goat cheese and lavender honey. Truffle-grapefruit and strawberry-bacon are among the dressings for the salads that patrons create themselves. The soups chalked onto the blackboard are the most seasonal of the offerings. » 10218½ Riverside Dr., 818-509-7790.
From bath to baby and other domestic bliss, this gift shop has it all. Swedish egg soaps, Italian bubble bath, and binchotan charcoal air purifiers show a global bent. Fallow deer adorn rompers. Kimono fabric is embedded in colorful hairpins. Pewter ware from local artist Tamara Hensick complements vintage spoons stamped with salutations like Cheers. We wanted the gold chicken feet, though we’re not sure what to do with them. Owner Paulanna Cuccinello took over the space from her father, Anthony Chimo, whose floral shop had been a fixture since 1948. » 10139 Riverside Dr., 818-508-7708.
4. Smoke House
George Clooney likes this trapped-in-amber restaurant so much, he named his production company after it. The garlic bread is addictive, and the sides are classics: creamed spinach, au gratin potatoes. From 4 to 6 (3 to 5 on Sundays), meals are 25 percent off. » 4420 W. Lakeside Dr., 818-845-3731.
5. Generales & Generales
Sylvia and Peter Generales are happy to show off the ultra 1970s designs of her father, Van Ohanian, who established the store in 1969 and started his jewelry career as a boy in Jerusalem making baubles for tourists. The store features such lines as the elegant filigree pieces of Konstantino, and there’s a corner for 18-year-old son Markos, whose Macedonian sun pendants are show-stoppers. » 10141 Riverside Dr., 818-763-9768.
6. Cinema Secrets
Halloween is the peak season for this beauty supply house, which stocks costumes, wigs, and an array of special-effects makeup (slime! pus! snot!). The friendly staff performs expert makeovers using the store’s brand of cosmetics. The big seller? The Genie, a collagen-based product for wrinkle banishment. Check out the shelves of books on how makeup artists fool the eye. » 4400 W. Riverside Dr., 818-846-0579.
7. Falcon Theatre
This colonial-style building is home base for the Troubies, whose musicals are geared to children but feature a lot of inside jokes for adults. Director Garry Marshall is the theater’s founder. » 4252 W. Riverside Dr., 818-955-8101 .
8. Bob’s Big Boy
It’s not the first of the iconic coffee shops (that one was in Glendale), but it’s the oldest member of the chain still standing. On Fridays classic cars converge at the 1949 landmark; on Saturdays and Sundays you can drive into the original stalls and carhops take your order. » 4211 W. Riverside Dr., 818-843-9334.
9. Weekendz Only
Mothers and daughters alike frequent this popular clothing store. Owner Blaire Davies carries designer denim: Burning Torch, J Brand, 7 for All Mankind, Genetic. On the racks are pieces by Nanette Lepore, Trina Turk, and Rebecca Taylor. While you can drop a few hundred on a coat or dress, scads of items are under $70. Fridays feature the “color of the day”; Davies selects a hue, and anything in that shade is 20 percent off. » 10139 ½ Riverside Dr., 818-752-3695 .