There’s an old-fashioned sensibility to this foothill village, but subtle changes are under way

Photograph by Mindee Choi

The stretch of Honolulu Avenue that makes up Montrose’s main drag has appeared in dozens of films. It’s easy to see why: The picturesque storefronts, shady pines, and kids skipping down the street replicate our collective image of Main Street. Backed by the Verdugo Mountains at the north end of Glendale, the neighborhood feels isolated, even though it’s 15 minutes from downtown L.A. New businesses have hastened a slight departure from the Montrose of old (very slight, mind you—many shops are still closed Sunday).

1. Goudas and Vines
At this smart wine and gourmet foods shop, owner Brandon Kim will recall if you prefer an Anglim syrah or a Rombauer merlot. Pair obscure cheeses with wines on Friday nights, when a DJ spins lounge beats. You can sample any wine for $2 a glass on Tuesdays. » 2256 Honolulu Ave., 818- 249-9950.

2. La Cabanita
Once considered ground zero for authentic Mexico City cooking, this restaurant has lost a little luster but remains a neighborhood favorite. The setting is homey (terra-cotta floors, bright murals), the chiles en nogada (roasted poblano chiles with walnuts, pecans, dried fruit, and ground beef) is consistently tasty, and the margaritas are potent and frosty. » 3447 N. Verdugo Rd., 818-957-2711.

3. Grayson’s Tune Town
The independent shop carries all manner of amps and accessories, but the guitars—specifically the high-end special runs and custom pieces—are the draw. Many limited-edition models from such venerable manufacturers as Rickenbacker, Martin, Gild, Gibson, Fender, and Gretsch are not easily found elsewhere. Employees are knowledgeable and friendly but, alas, discourage browsing. » 2415 Honolulu Ave., 818-249-0993.

4. Once upon a Time Bookshop
The staff treats whippersnappers like discerning buyers at this 42-year-old shop, which has shelves on local history, cooking, and gardening. On Thursday nights, a pj’s-optional story time is accompanied by acoustic guitar. » 2207 Honolulu Ave., 818-248-9668.


Photograph by Mindee Choi

5. Montrose Bowl From the aquamarine facade to the stainless steel sign to the manual scoring, this eight-lane alley is a set designer’s dream. It’s a popular spot for private parties ($225-$700); we only wish evenings and weekends weren’t booked six months in advance. But from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, anyone can bowl if the lanes aren’t reserved. » 2334 Honolulu Ave., 818-249-3895.

6. City Hall Coffee Shop
The mugs hanging on the rear wall belong to regulars, who return daily to fill them with fresh-brewed coffee and order no-nonsense diner classics (we swear by the omelettes). Nabbing a seat at the counter isn’t easy during the breakfast or lunch rush; check out the sports memorabilia while you wait. Forget about dinner—it closes midafternoon. » 2327 Honolulu Ave., 818-248-4905.

7. About Antiques
At this shop, displays are artfully arranged, so it isn’t difficult to unearth the quirky medical ephemera, Amish clothing, vintage tableware, and country furniture. » 3533 Ocean View Blvd., 818-249-8587.

8. Jane’s Cakes & Chocolates
Housed in a courtyard, Jane’s offers classes in cake, candy, and cookie decorating. No treats are available on-site, but you can snag leftovers from the free demos if you’re lucky. » 2331 Honolulu Ave., 818-957-2511.

9. Gourmet a Go Go
Whether you’re heading home or to a hike in the Verdugos, skip Whole Foods and opt for a farmers’-market-fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwich or a curried chicken salad from this healthy takeout spot. We love what’s in the freezer: Soups such as tomato-goat cheese are flavorful, not heavy; many items conform to the calorie-conscious spa menu. Consult the Web site for each day’s hot offerings. » 2263 Honolulu Ave., 818-248-2100.